She knows what she’s on about, that Simone

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‘Why has Philippe always gone for women of that kind – smooth, standoffish, pretentious? To prove to himself that he could attract them, no doubt. He was not fond of them.’

That’s a quote from Simone De Beauvior’s short story The Age of Discretion (which I am reading now at a sun-strewn table in a coffee shop near Harvard, because my life is just endless glamour and intellectual feminist discourse). It’s not just Philippe with that problem. We’ve all done it, babe.

Simone, you nailed it again.

Part 165: Going Digital

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I’ve written a few things about online dating since I started this blog (nearly four years ago, if you can believe it). I was adamant it wasn’t for me. No, no – too depressing, I always said. Too bleak, try-hard and ultimately unhopeful. The cynical capitalist co-option of our base needs. It wasn’t that I didn’t dabble, now and then, but I treated online dating like I treated recreational drugs – meh, if there’s nothing better to do – but I wasn’t going to give my life over to it. (And much like recreational drugs, the first time I tried taking online dating seriously I had a traumatic experience that put me off for several years. You can read about that here, if you’re bored enough.) But that was then. I had unexplored romantic options in the flesh world (friends, neighbours, acquaintances). I was 28, lithe and, while I was neither clear skinned nor sober, my nails were professionally groomed and there were no hairs growing from chin or nipple.

I’m 32 now. I am at least a stone heavier than I was four years ago and I’ve stopped having my nails done in beauty salons. Long black hairs keep sprouting from once-smooth body parts. My chin is still covered in spots. I’ve exhausted my romance options with friends, neighbours and acquaintances. All the men I ever wanted to sleep with keep proposing to women who are better looking than me (though I strongly doubt any of their soon-to-be wives have a firmer arse, or a more comprehensive collection of the literary works of Kate Atkinson than I do. So who’s really losing?) I’m 32. I haven’t ever participated in anything resembling a functional relationship and I’d quite like to, now that I’ve more or less sorted my shit out.

Quick, someone, love me before my womb shrivels up and I grow a full beard, or die.*

What I’m trying to tell you reader, is that I’ve rethought my stance on online dating and thrown myself in headfirst – albeit bearing in mind the advice of my new friend Michael, who told me that I was going to have to be far less discriminating (it doesn’t matter if they have a beard, wear sunglasses indoors, or are called Gareth), and, paradoxically, less promiscuous than I might usually be with regards sex and relationships.

It’s going alright. In that it’s going terribly, obviously, but I’m ok with that. One of the good things about spending a long time single is that you become intimately acquainted with the bad and baffling behaviour of the opposite sex, so that it no longer has the power to hurt you for more than a fortnight, and then only if they were really hot/facilitated an orgasm.

There are the ones who text too much (almost always when you’re not bothered), or not at all (when you are). The ones who tell you how beautiful their ex girlfriend was, or about the hot Brazilian they fucked last week and are quite keen to hook up with again (‘I’m only being honest’). The ones who don’t turn up. The ones who went out with your sister for five years, and then try to start a sexually charged correspondence at 6am on a Sunday morning. The ones with Chinese tattoos they’ve forgotten the meaning of. The ones who say, ‘come on Kate. You can want to sleep with someone and nothing more, let’s get real about our situation’ even though you’ve been fucking them on and off for eight years, and they once told you they loved you and wanted your babies. The ones who call the mother of their children a ‘twat’ when you ask how they’ve managed to stay civil post-breakup. The ones who sleep with you and then leave it five months before sending a Facebook message asking ‘what’s up?’ The ones who don’t know what a gif is. The ones who borrow £60 and never give it back. The ones who threaten to stab a bloke on the street when he stares at you for a beat too long. The ones who play the tuba at you when there’s a post-coital lull. The ones who won’t massage your feet, even when you tell them you’re really into that. The ones who are, in fact, married. The ones who say ‘you’d love my cousin, I can’t wait for you to get to know her,’ even though you only met them 15 minutes ago, and they have no back teeth.

I’ve seen too much. And online dating cannot defeat me.

Most people are basically nice, but profoundly fucked up. They just want to be loved and accepted for who they are inside and the universe has, thus far, been indifferent to their needs – which leads them to do terrible and inconsiderate things**. And that’s ok, just so long as you acknowledge that you can’t fix them all, babe. You are gonna have to kiss a lot of frogs and, anyway, princes are overrated (cf. Prince William’s hairline).

When I say it’s going alright, what I mean is that I’m a brilliant first date. Not to boast or anything (and if you’ve seen me in person over the last couple of months I will have already told you all this, so feel free to skip this paragraph) – but I am. The fundamentals of my personality mean I make a great first impression: I’m funny and fun and interested in other people’s lives. I’m weirdly knowledgable on wide range of topics, so I am never conversationally phased. I’m extroverted, but laid back enough in social situations that I put men at ease when they’re visibly nervous. I’m hot, so that men want to see me naked, but not so hot it intimidates them. I am non-judgemental (at least to their face), and most of the time I don’t fancy them, which is clearly the world’s most potent aphrodisiac.

The only thing is, I keep taking all my dates to the same pub and the other day the barman gave me a look that indicated he suspects I’m a sex worker.

Unfortunately, my dating-charisma fails somewhere around the end of the second date and the beginning of the third. I’m like one of those race horses that leads until about 100 yards from the finish line, where they slow to a crippling halt. I simply don’t live up to whatever expectations I set early on – because it soon transpires that behind all the wit and leopard print is a woman who just wants to eat cured meats in her underwear (no that’s not an innuendo), re-read Harry Potter and find a landlord willing to accept dogs.

And that will not fly with your average 21st Century lothario. Even online.

*It doesn’t say that on my online dating profile. It says ‘I’d like my next boyfriend to be good with gifs.’

** I too have done terrible and indifferent things in the face of rejection and fear.