DATING I met my girlfriend on the Internet
by Johnny Gasoline
I met my girlfriend on the internet. This lies somewhere between
having genital herpes and membership of the Ku Klux Klan in the
scale of ‘things not to reveal about yourself’ at trendy
parties, as I recently discovered in rather embarrassing circumstances.
A relationship born in the pub, fuelled by alcopops and ignited
by two peoples’ need for mutual support to remain vertical
is more socially valid than one that begins online - fact. I don’t
care, mainly because after a barren patch stretching back several
months I am finally getting some on a regular basis. It does strike
me as odd however. I’ve never been much good with that chatting
up business. Never know how to start. Any opening gambit is doomed
to sound like a lame pick-up line, mainly because that’s what
it is and I simply don’t have the bluster or verbal dexterity
to carry it off without looking and feeling a complete tit.
Big City Nights
Living in London simply exaggerates the problem since everyone is
permanently on Def Con 3 for the next weirdo to cross their path.
Only the other day I was sitting on the tube opposite a man with
no shoes who kept bursting into a very loud song about how happy
he was to be on the freedom train. No one had the heart to tell
him he was actually on the Picadilly line to Uxbridge. In fact no-one
looked at him at all. That’s the strange thing about the tube.
You can do absolutely anything short of killing the person next
to you with a hammer and no-one will bat so much as an eyelid.
Scientific studies show there is exactly one loony for every train
on the London underground at any given time. Each one is different
but you can only recognise them after the doors shut, leaving you
stuck with them for the duration of your journey (subway loonies
never leave the train). Theoretically you could always move to a
different carriage at the next stop, but no one ever does for the
exact same reason you never establish eye contact with subway loony.
That being the fear of coming to their attention, and that is a
tube traveller’s darkest nightmare. As a result everyone wanders
around London in a perpetual state of paranoia manifesting itself
in apparent none awareness of anyone around them. You’re never
more alone than when you’re alone in the big city.
language of the chat room is, to the untrained eye, unintelligible
It’s no wonder internet chat
rooms have become so popular, but they can also be incredibly baffling
for the ‘newbie’. For a start no one is called Dave
or Nigel or Sarah. Everyone has names like sexxxy_princess_uk or
hardcock69, and the language of the chat room is a curious mixture
of acronyms, swearing and assorted brackets and colons that signify
facial expressions and emotions. It is, to the untrained eye, unintelligible
pointless drivel, but to the net savvy, perfectly lucid pointless
drivel. As an experiment I once entered a chat room with a girly
sounding name and within seconds was buried under a deluge of messages
from men. One of these - no kidding - was “Do you come online
often?” I could give him the benefit of the doubt and assume
he was being ironic, but I doubt it. I didn’t reply.
A magical mix of desperation
I did not meet my girlfriend in a chat room. I actually met my girlfriend
on a dating site. Yep, that wheeze you just heard was the shrivelled
husk of what remained of my credibility winking out of existence
in a puff of scorn. It’s funny, but despite the fact almost
everyone under the age 40 goes online at least semi regularly, the
perception of a net user is still of NHS specs, spots and unwashed
hair. It’s alright to do it, but never talk about it in public
- like masturbating over pictures of rock formations.
So, taking the two most desperate means
of meeting people – the net and the dating agency –
and rolling them into one equals one pathetic loser who’ll
do anything for a date and probably frightens small children on
the bus, right? Dating sites aren’t like I imagine an actual
dating agency would be. I say ‘imagine’ because I’ve
never been to one, oh no, not that desperate! No, the average dating
site let’s you write a few words, post a picture and say what
you’re looking for, job done in ten minutes.
I stumbled on the concept one evening while surfing bored when one
of those irritating pop-up ad banners appeared. For the one and
only time in my life I didn’t immediately close it in irritation.
I clicked on it and was transported to a decent enough looking site
offering me 70 000 women around the world. What the hell, I figured.
I conjured up a mildly witty and not too inaccurate profile of myself,
uploaded a picture that just happened to be sitting on my hard drive
and had forgotten about it by the next morning.
Two days later three messages from
my date site appeared in a cunningly anonymous Hotmail inbox I keep
for such things. Three birds after a piece of me already. The first
one was too old, the second one was fat and had only replied to
tell me I didn’t know what I was missing because I put ‘slim’
as one of my dream date’s characteristics. I’m not trying
to be mean or anything, but at the end of the day it’s whatever
floats your boat. I don’t like Turkish Delight or bananas
finally walked in the appropriate bar fully expecting to be
gored by Godzilla’s less good-looking sister."
The third entry sounded human, about
the same age, well travelled, and gainfully employed, no picture
though. Now you’re thinking exactly what I was thinking –
that no-one is going to be replying to ads on a dating site unless
they’ve got some serious baggage with them. And no picture
means she must be a right munter! Then I thought, hang on. I regard
myself as a reasonably ok looking, well-balanced, self-supporting
individual and I’m doing it. I don’t think I can be
the only one.
I realise Hitler, Fred West and Jeffrey Dahmer probably all had
similar opinions of themselves, but I’ve yet to start a world
war, have sex with a corpse or bury body parts under my patio -
so, before another negative yin materialised to discredit my positive
yang, I sent a reply, asking for a picture. The next day another
email arrived, this time with an attachment. What manner of beast
would be revealed I wondered as the picture started to reveal itself,
bit by bit. Bloody 56k modems. A few seconds later and there she
was. Real and, er, fit!
Cupid, please hear my cry
A few more emails were exchanged before we arranged to meet. A busy
pub in central London was selected to provide ease of escape if
things didn’t go well; from my point of view her turning out
to be a man for example. As the appointed hour approached I was,
I’ll grant you, nervous. My brain, in that curious way that
brains do, had subconsciously concocted a selection of the most
fiendishly nightmarish ways the evening might pan out and drip fed
them to me all day long until I finally walked in the appropriate
bar fully expecting to be gored by Godzilla’s less good-looking
sister whose only saving grace was that her beard acted as a filter
to take the edge off her weapons grade halitosis. I ordered a nerve-steadying
drink. Being a veteran of one previous blind date in my life, I
had learned well the lesson that the best way to deal with these
situations is not to get leathered before she turns up, so I fought
the urge. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
We’ve been going out for two
months now and still no sign of any bunny-boiling tendencies, which
I take as fair indication that things went okay. I never had to
sit through an embarrassing interview or fork out a huge wad of
cash as you would at a bricks and mortar dating agency. The net’s
a bit of a lottery, but the advantage is you get to make your pitch
without any pressure. After all that’s all a chat-up line
is. You have five seconds to convince the person you’re worth
talking to? Meeting someone from the net you don’t have to
worry about all that. You make the pitch without embarrassment because
you’re anonymous and if you get as far as a meeting then you
know you’ve got their undivided attention for at least a couple
of drinks. If you blow it then you’ve only got yourself to
A couple of weeks and three dates after
our first meeting I was at work and happened to mention my girlfriend
in conversation when the net monkey who sits opposite me looked
up over the top of his monitor, I swear this is absolutely true,
and asked me “Did you say you’re having an offline relationship?”
I suspect he thought me a little sad.
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