Having spent a significant part of my adult life internet dating, there are several things I have learnt. Pre-internet the choices were simple. You met a man, you felt chemistry, you hooked up, job done. There were no carefully selected 'recent' photos (Is that a Live Aid T- shirt you're wearing?) 'Honest' profiles, (39 years old ... he's 42. 5'8 ... He's 5'6.) And there were no expectations. Because you knew what to expect because you'd met, in the pub, through a friend or at an Alison Moyet concert.
Now, however, the lists are long and the questions are plentiful, for those of you that have ever tried to fill out an online dating profile, trust me, you'll need annual leave to get halfway through it; and with information comes expectation.
Single people online are no longer simply daters, they are competitive brands.
Technology, social media and internet dating has dramatically increased our access to 'meeting' other people and to the number of those other people we are able to meet. Before even getting out of bed we can be communicating with someone we've never met before, know what they look like, what they do, their most recent holiday, their perfect date night, body type, eye colour, favorite film, that their glass is half full, that they prefer a Burrito to a spring roll and once, skydived for Cancer Research in the south island of New Zealand ... and that's before you've even brushed your teeth. (And, fellas, when you specify on a dating site that you're looking for a serious relationship don't be surprised when your date then expects you to want, you guessed it, a serious relationship.)
But, here's the thing, a dating site is essentially a shopping list, and a dating profile is a product, people are selling themselves as a brand, ever seen a introduction starting 'Miserable bastard, with premature ejaculation and reoccurring athlete's foot'? No, I didn't think so.
Singles are selling themselves and when they get a good personal review they expect a good product. And here in lies the problem. The higher a bench mark we set on a date the more likely it is to fail. We have already met our ideal match in our mind (Or, if your a 38 year old woman, got married at Marylebone town hall, honeymooned in Mauritius and had two children who have just started Montessori school.) So the reality? ... It's more likely to be a disappointment.
The key to a successful date is simple, expect nothing, and you wont be disappointed.
I'm all for a short conversation pre-date, but email tennis for 3 week prior? Endless whatsapping and texts to and fro? Forget it. The only way to know you're on to a winner is to meet. Chemistry cannot be photographed, written or whatsapped it can only be felt.
Sure, find out the basics, get a feel for the person and reassurance yourself they're not into asphyxiation or naked yoga (both, to my mind, equally as terrifying.) But in reality, a half an hour chat over a beer and a packed of dry roasted peanuts will tell you infinitely more about a person than any carefully constructed (read - edited/exaggerated) dating profile ever will.
How do I know? Because the most exciting, dynamic relationships I've ever had are with people who I wouldn't look twice at on a dating site. The Peruvian surfer who didn't own a pair of shoes, the 55 year old glazer who could drink Oliver Reed under the table or the Australian backpacker who was shorter than my 12 year old nephew. What did they all have in common? They weren't selling themselves as a brand, and so I had nothing to buy into. I expected nothing and got the golden ticket ..... Chemistry.