In 1992 the lonely hearts section of the internet was dominated by the kind of socially inadequate wackadoodles that collect badger porn and stroke your bottom on public transport. Fast forward 20 years and these websites are fronted by attractive young professionals with long swishy hair and pearly white TV presenter smiles. Unlike nudist resorts, which are more likely to attract sexually deviant Walrus lookalikes than the glamazons featured in the brochure, these adverts are successfully appealing to the intended market.
I've never tried internet dating. Partly because I wouldn't know what to write in the profile page (slightly neurotic blonde seeks non weirdo for potential sexual relations with the light off?) But mostly because I find the whole process a bit too clinical. Prospective dates can now be categorised and managed in a similar way to your grocery list. Too fat to fit this week's requirements? Too short? Wrong colour hair? Just click the 'next' button and move on.
Whatever happened to the romance and chemistry of an unexpected encounter? Not the saccharin romance that inspires Care Bear themed wedding websites or Facebook declarations of love. I mean the private, old fashioned kind of romance that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside (without the need for a strategically placed bucket).
My last date felt more like an audition for the latest Simon Cowell endorsed talent show than drinks with a moderately attractive man. Having already established his preference for blondes he asked me if I smoked. "I don't date smokers. Or vegetarians." As a carnivorous, emphysema free (chemically assisted) blonde, I never found out what would have happened if I'd answered yes. Presumably he would have whipped out his 'perfect woman' checklist, calculated my new score and promptly switched my light off in a manner akin to a Take Me Out blackout.
Two years ago a male acquaintance joined Match.com in a bid to find a suitable lady friend. Shared interests and hobbies were a pre-requisite of course, along with model looks and a porn star's sex drive. Despite having an arse large enough to require its own post code, he immediately dismissed girls bigger than a size 10. After suggesting at least 20 women, I gave up assisting his pursuit of love in favour of watching him send dozens of grammatically incoherent messages to the type of coltish beauties worthy of a part in the next Bond movie. Needless to say, he didn't get a single response. It makes you wonder if men really want a human girlfriend, or whether they'd be happier in their bedroom with a pint of Stella and a dog eared Playboy centrefold?
Eventually I'll probably have to give in and join the internet dating brigade, if only to prevent a Bridget Jones style 'eaten by Alsatians' scenario or worse, relationship advice from my mother. At least there's a money back guarantee if I don't find true love in six months. Perhaps by the time I sign up they'll have introduced a returns policy for customers who happen across less desirable users. I could even round up said scoundrels and start my own 'bargain basement' website, offering desperados the chance to search through my catalogue of philanderers and certifiable weirdos. Sign up kids! Chlamydia comes free with the first month's subscription.
Potential business propositions aside, friends have assured me that online dating is a wonderful way to meet new people. Especially in London, where running naked through a tube carriage waving your winky at other passengers is more socially acceptable than engaging a stranger in conversation. Of course if I do try it, I'll be working to a list of stringent criteria. Bumpy noses, (moderately) hairy backs and a penchant for candle lit baths I can cope with. But shallow perfectionists seeking the 'ideal' woman? I'll pass thanks.
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