“Being single can be amazing", or so eHarmony would like us to believe. A strange opening gambit, perhaps, for an advertisement for a dating service promising to have all us hapless singles married off before our ovaries give up and we are left to sit alone with only the company of the late night shopping channels enticing us to buy sparkly things to distract from our loneliness.
Too far? Quite possibly. But after my own recent run-in with online dating and that all-too-smug smile of the eHarmony’s blonde poster child singed onto my retinas, I have issues to raise.
Firstly: bravo to the eHarmony marketing team for shying away from the usual template of couples frolicking on a deserted beach before falling into each other’s knitwear-clad arms to watch the sun set on their wonderful love-filled day - and on my faith in humanity. Do these people actually exist? Who is providing such a steady supply of Aran knitwear? The problem with these adverts in appealing to singles such as myself is that 1) I look terrible in knitwear, and 2) I live in London, where there is a distinct lack of beaches for me to frolic upon and the sunset is almost always predictably overlaid with a thick coating of smog. Clearly, eHarmony have cottoned on to this fact and, in the advert in question, opted to target a more young-lady-about-town demographic. But heaven portend such liberated ladies-about-town would ever dare to admit they might quite like a boyfriend, so those cheeky things at eHarmony went all reverse psychology on us.
“Being single is amazing” - look how much fun you’re having alone - “but if you’re going to give it up...” – as if being single is a nasty addiction. Like coke, when you're at the stage where you become all skeezy at work and everyone stops inviting you out anymore. Or cake, when you're clinically obese. You HAVE TO STOP NOW. It might look like fun, but underneath is the cold, dark reality that you need to escape - and here are eHarmony to help you! Grasp their helping hand! Thankfully, their marketing team are at hand to help us meet a handsome chap who will emerge from the bustle of the city with a glint in his eye and...wait, is that more knitwear?!
I must say, eHarmony, despite your admirable attempt to revolutionise the advertising of online dating, it has all unfortunately misfired. And this is why.
Being single is not amazing. People who are not having sex do not buoyantly leap from yoga class to the bar with their attractive gal pals, all with an effortless flick of blonde curls. People who are not having sex go out too much, drink Stella and reminisce about the last time someone lay on top of them. Or there are those who, after one too many inevitable mushroom cloud emotional aftermaths, never want to have sex again. I tend to straddle both options – in that I do not straddle anyone anywhere near as much as I would care to.
So after observing several of my lady friends who had entered into online dating and actually met some decent people, I admitted defeat and signed up. Being the cheapskate that I am, combined with my overriding pessimism and refusal to admit online dating was where my needs were taking me, I opted for the free options. This was probably my first mistake.
DON'T be scared of me, girls. This was one of the first descriptions I read. In truth, my fear did not come from the content of the sentence but more from asking: why was the capitalisation necessary? For anyone interested in dating online, a word of warning – grammar is never high on the agenda. Needless to say, I was scared and moved swiftly on, scrolling through the pages of my apparent matches with all their calculated-but-still-unfortunate angles, torso shots, and a disturbing number of photos that were clearly taken in bathroom stalls. Second most popular choice was lying on a pillow, which I could only presume was an ingenious tactic to allow browsing ladies to spoon their laptop for a trial run of what being in bed with this sensitive soul would be like. Mmm, relationshippy.
I uploaded some of the few photos I have where my fringe is doing good things, both eyes are open and I am not gurning, and wrote a wonderfully witty paragraph about my good self including what I thought to be a rather hilarious, yet subtle, reference to George Orwell. Just to sort the wheat from the chaff, if you will. In other words, despite what I initially saw, I behaved like a good sport and dove right in there.
Here is a selection of responses I received:
Your sexy – please don’t talk to me until you have acquired a grammar book. And then a dictionary. And then mentally matured another decade.
Love a Northern accent – that’s kind; you’ll be excited to hear I am often mistaken for a Gallagher sister (NB: This is a lie.) I wasn't aware that when I typed normal words into my computer, they came out all phonetic, but that's technology made Oop North for you, eh?
You look so sweet your going to put sugar out of business – this one pretty much speaks for itself.
Daaamn. You got one free ticket to boom town – BOOM TOWN? Why thank you, I’ve always wanted to go there. I can see your mother in the background of your profile picture - will she be coming too?
Straight to the point. Straight to boom town. But I guess that’s where we all want to go; otherwise we wouldn’t have signed up, right? Obviously being single is amazing and all, but who wouldn’t want a free ticket to boom town? I know I do.
After a few days, when the trauma of the above had slowly and painfully abated, and an email prompting me to check my New Matches wherein I would undoubtedly find my true love, I reluctantly signed back in. Perhaps I had judged too quickly; just because none of my suitors so far had recognised my Orwellian pun or my encyclopaedic knowledge of Wes Anderson films, doesn’t mean he isn’t out there somewhere in this proverbial sea full of fish. In fact, if the site name was to be believed, there should be plenty.
The first message I read upon my return:
I hear the internet can be a dangerous place.
Yes, thanks for reminding me. Delete profile. My dating antics are dangerous enough as they are.