Make mine a yes

I was on holiday in New York recently (ooh, get me, lahdeedah!) and it was fucking fantastic. I was there once before three years ago and then I loved it for its architecture, atmosphere, yellow cabs and cultures. This time I loved it for the ridiculous, mind-bending, giggle-making, eye-popping experiences it gave me.

I did things that if told about beforehand, I admit I would have said no to. With a heady mix of peer pressure and ignorance pummelling my brain, I said yes. And yes was good.

After a year in which, being bravely and exposingly honest for a moment, I’ve suffered and overcome the worst health of my life, this trip was a beautifully-timed lesson in remembering to step outside my norm, be more willing, cut the negatory – in short, do more.

But here’s the rub: I’m in the middle of an experiment which essentially involves me doing less – less looking, less ogling, less flirting, less eye-contacting, less chasing, less chatting, less enjoying. It’s all about saying no when all I really want to do is say yes. (Not to everything, mind. You know, in case someone on the interfuck wants to film me re-enacting some of Catherine the Great’s legendary manoeuvres in an isolated hut that once housed the Unabomber. Or something.)

Catherine the Great

Old Cath: She's got a Shetland pony under that frock.

I don’t want to be checking my behaviour every five minutes as the not-looking rules make me do. I want to say yes to all the good things, see where they take me, try out some world, do shizz. Jesus! I’m in danger of turning into Danny bloody Wallace but without the monobrow and meeja specs. (Not that I’d sniff at his book deals.)

Reaction to the announcement that I was thinking of stopping not-looking has been mostly of the lovely and pride-making “Oh, but I really enjoy reading your blog” kind. A couple of people have mocked how little of the full year I actually sustained it for. Well, here’s a revelation for you – I knew I’d never keep this gig up for 12 months. The writing, yes, I could easily do that; that wasn’t going to be the problem. But the not-looking? Hmmn…

I’d thought what would prevent me gestating my not-looking baby to full term was going to be the length of time it would take me to stop looking. I’d imagined it taking so many months to wean myself off the desire to look at men that I’d simply be defeated by the task. Shockingly – for me far more than for anyone else – I managed to stop within a matter of weeks. Hurray, right? No, not hurray. Not by a long chalk.

Very very very interesting chalk. Hugely interesting. Aren't you interested in it?

A long chalk. Sorry, this post didn't lend itself to images but I didn't want you to get bored.

The ‘achievement’ of not-looking has made me realise several things about me and my situation: I don’t like telling myself no; I don’t like restricting my movements; I don’t like keeping to stupid sodding rules; I don’t like holding back on learning about people because I can’t look at them, ask about them, have a little giggle-flirt with them; I don’t like preventing myself pushing the odd button and boundary; I don’t like staying in because I can’t be bothered; I don’t like wondering what might be; I don’t like missing out.

For the perspective not-looking has given me, I am absolutely, categorically, undeniably pleased I started out on this whole venture. But at this tranquil point at the end of a tremulous year, I think it’s time to stop doing things I don’t like and start doing things I do. Not-looking feels like a negative and I want a positive.

With that in mind, I’ll not leave you bereft. Soon I shall unveil a new plan. I hope you’ll like it. It shares a common idea but has a different way of looking at it. Intrigued? Good. Just not too much; it’s a lot of pressure for a little person.

You’ll have to wait while I get it all sorted out before I tell you what it is, though. Plus I really need to put some washing on. And clean my flat. Seriously, it’s a wreck. Embarrassing almost. Crumbs everywhere. Dust you can write your name in. It’s highly likely I’ll be out a lot more in the near future and it’s best I get it ship-shape while I can.

So until next time, if you see me looking I’m allowed now, ok? Yes.


Last weekend I met a man and we talked until the sun came up. This is the prelude to a tale of sweeping romanticism, of unsure glances becoming hesitant approaches, of close brushes becoming deliberate touches, of hopeful rushes becoming certain kisses. This is the prelude to a tale that never played out, and it never played out because of me.

This man – code name George – was part of the group I was out at the pub with. His looks could be described as appealing, but on hearing talk that he had a girlfriend, I immediately placed him within the ‘I don’t cut lunch’ divider of my mental filing cabinet. I firmly believe there are enough men in this world that I don’t need to borrow someone else’s, so he became just another of the nice-to-meet-yous among the group, part of the lively social wallpaper and nothing more.

The night rolled on to its conclusion, with inevitable scrabbling for taxis or, in my case, the night bus (oh! unbridled joys) all the way from north to south London. Two boys in the group were taking the same route – George and a guy whose face and mannerisms were so similar to my longest-term ex it was almost disturbing. (That’s Wiseau-worthy detail, so don’t be disappointed if I never refer to it again.)

George rainbow

You'd not think him a big drinker to look at him

As our journey meandered, lurched and dragged its way to our alighting stop, George asked what booze I was stockpiling. Gin, I said, just gin. He invited himself to mine. I made various loaded comments about his girlfriend: wasn’t she expecting him, wouldn’t she worry where he was, shouldn’t he really just go to her house? He said it was fine and, since I already knew this was going nowhere for me and I felt I’d have no problem maintaining my resolve, gins at mine it was.

Suffice to say, nothing happened. We actually did just talk and drink gin, which when it’s 4am and you’ve already had a skinful is really not advisable, let me tell you. Then, sometime later, I became concerned by the blue-tinged light glowing around the edges of the window blinds. Some kind of alien invasion out in the car park? No, daylight. We’d stayed up chatting until dawn.

It was poetic and fun and indulgent and foolish (or at least the three hefty gins and 5am popcorn were). It could have been romantic, but it wasn’t. Things could have happened, but they didn’t. I could have overcome my resolve, been the bad person, had me some fun – when he asked “How big is your bed?” I was pretty sure the option was there. But no, despite the Hogarthian amounts of gin coursing through my veins, I chose to play it safe, protect my interests, risk nothing.

While I am perfectly happy with the decision I made not to let the booze take over, the whole episode did make me realise that not-looking is forcefully keeping me in a very safe place. I’m like the Anne fucking Frank of the man-hunting world, having the bookcase wedged tight across my love-life by the benevolently not-looking Miep Gies. Sure, it’s a safe place to be but (ignoring the minor death-camp hiccup in this otherwise blinding analogy) I really am missing out on rather a lot.

Not-looking is conducive to risk-aversion. (Golly, doesn’t that sound thesis-worthy.) It’s a pretty passive pastime: it involves me waiting for men to make the moves; it requires me to do nothing other than sit back and wait for something to happen. At the best of times, I am fundamentally shit at waiting, so in that respect I take my hat off to not-looking for its good influence. But, and this is a big BUT (though perky, womanly, firm yet malleable), by remaining passive there is so much I’m missing out on.

The principle of risk and return is an oft-observed and well-documented truism. Risk very little and your return is maintained dignity with a small side order of what-might-have-beens. Risk a lot and your return will be a pot-luck main course of either soul-creasing regret or winner-takes-all elation.

Risk goat

Are you a horny fucking goat?

I’ve droned on recently, quite a lot, about how things, men, life, have seemed to become dull, boring and two-dimensional. Now I realise a big reason for that is my lack of risk-taking in the love game. I’d grown used to the highs and lows and the dabbles with hopes, to the attractings and repellings and the gambles with chance. After 15-20 years of that in my life, it’s hard to give up. And the thing is, I don’t want to.

When you put yourself out there in the search for love, ask the question and wait for the response, of course there’s a chance the answer will smack you in the face like the pavement-hovering wing mirror of a passing bus. That’s the price we all pay for the chance to play for the jackpot. But by taking the safe route and not-looking on the sidelines, you’ll always wonder what the answer was going to be – a far bigger price in my book.

We’ve all suffered some heart-smooshes, all chanced our arms and had them swiftly Nelsonised, but none of us was dispatched by Belsen typhus as a result. Not even Miss Havisham, though that whole sitting in a wedding dress for 40-odd years thing was prrreetttty frrreakkky.

The fact is, it’s fun. Asking, hearing, going woopty-doo!! or fucking-ugly-cunt-thick-shit-never-liked-’em-anyway-not-good-enough-for-me. All of the asks – the unsure glances, hesitant approaches, close brushes, deliberate touches and hopeful rushes – they’re all as colourful and three-dimensional as the answers they receive. And life, like art, is there to make you feel. Even if what you feel is the hangover of a pisshead in the middle of a Hogarth etching.

Which is why I think I’m giving up. Not-looking, that is. Not gin-drinking. Hell no. I heart the gin.

3D’s company

Something I’ve discovered from not looking is that I’ve become objective about the men I see, meet and talk to in a way I never was when I was actively looking. But this change – from partisan participant to independent observer – is a true double-edged sword.

On one edge, I no longer see potential in just anyone; there has to be something quite compelling about a man. And for me, compelling means much more than looks now that the visual element has been downgraded. He has to be interesting and outgoing and smart and funny – in essence, he has to have a personality. This edge of the sword is the good one; it’s saving me from wasting my time on beautiful unsuitables.

But on the other edge, I no longer see potential in anyone at all. Because I have to wait to be drawn into eye contact or invited into conversation, it’s down to men to catch my attention. Their personalities aren’t brought into relief by my expectation, flirtation or flattery; they have to do it themselves. And so far, none of them has managed.

No men I’ve met since I’ve stopped looking have seemed to have much depth to them. As I said before, in general they now seem a bit two-dimensional. Scathing I know, but someone has to be pretty special (not in a window-licking way) to pique my interest. Needless to say, this edge of the sword is the bad one; it’s making me bored.

Perhaps it was always a case of two dimensions, even before this not-looking experiment started, but I was looking too hard to notice. Perhaps it was only my initiation, input or investment into someone that highlighted their depth, facets and colour, and generated a genuine interest in me. To put it simply, I am their third dimension.

My own personality – the things I say, the jokes I make, the eyelashes I bat – is what brings someone else’s personality to the fore. It makes sense really. It could well apply to friendships too. If I made no effort to spark up conversations, engage the other person, entertain them, make them enjoy talking to me, I wouldn’t like the people I like and have the friends I have.

If we find matches in friendship like that, surely we find matches in love like that too. And does that maybe say that not looking is not going to work?

I think I’ve stopped looking. I know, I didn’t expect it either. You’d think I might be happy about this, finally achieving my goal and being able to start testing the ‘It’ll happen when you’re not looking’ theory properly. But I’m not happy. In fact I think it’s nothing but a bad thing. A really bad thing.

Along with not looking for a man has come a significant feeling of not caring if I find one. This was supposed to be a good thing, a triumph even, but not caring feels like I’ve given up. In all honesty, I think I have given up.

It’s not a fun-and-shiny sort of given up – tra-la-la look at me, I’ve got a fabulous life and I’m not remotely bothered whether there’s a man in it. It’s more a won’t-find-a-man-because-men-don’t-exist sort of given up. I set out to stop looking around for men, to block them out of my mind, to cease expecting to meet someone interesting and I’ve achieved all of those things. At a price. The price of the gradual disappearance of hope.

It helps if you know my surname is Lemon

I'm not trying to juice myself, it's just a cry for help

I know that sounds a bit dramatic. Please don’t have images of me sitting fully clothed under a running shower, knees clutched to my chest, rocking back and forth. I don’t feel that way about it at all. I still have a lot going on, many things I’m happy about, great friends, fun plans, have the odd bugbear but don’t we all.

The hope that’s disappeared is not the kind of hope attached to my entire future; it’s specifically the kind of hope attached to boys and the meeting thereof. It’s the kind of hope that adds a little edge, a bit of buzz, a certain frisson to a night down the pub or an invite to a party or a sunbathe in the park or a meandering queue at the checkout. The sort of hope that whispers inside your mind, “There’s always a chance.” For me now, that voice has become an almost imperceptible but echoing “meh”.

All of the blocking, stopping, ceasing I’ve done over the past two months has gradually eliminated men from my consciousness like a very selective love-lobotomy. I still physically look at hot men but only in the same way as I’d look at them in photos or in a film or on TV. I just don’t mentally look at them, I’m not considering them if you like.

My looking at them isn’t interactive or participatory, it’s detached and observational – they’re on telly and I’m on my sofa, following the story but aware I can switch them off whenever I want. Little combinations of electricity and binary. Two-dimensional visuals with no real substance. Flat.

I feel a bit like I’m in a vacuum. A nice, safe little vacuum. That’s why this situation, this achievement of not looking, is so bad. It’s just so nothingy, so devoid of feeling, and if life is about anything, it’s about feeling. Happy, sad, giggly, tired, interested, shocked, amazed, confused, intrigued, afraid, titillated, lusty, excited, rampant, did I say titillated? I don’t want rollercoasters but I don’t want feet flat on the ground either.

Metaphors aside, hubba hubba

I don't care what you're selling in your little wet t-shirt, Franco, I'm not interested.

The feeling of boy-hope is missing; that edge, that buzz, that frisson is missed. Of course, the flipside of boy-hope is boy-disappointment, but feeling disappointment is still feeling something, and I’d take that over feeling meh at men being no more than fellow organisms to be dodged on pavements and ignored in bars.

I’m not really sure what to do with this little turn-up for my books. Is it just part of the experiment? A stage to be got through and soon I won’t notice it any more? Or is it the top end of a slippery slope? Is my disappearing boy-hope like a contagious disease that will take hold in other parts of my life?

Perhaps it’s normal and it’s just all the people who said “It’ll happen when you’re not looking” decided not to tell me this is how you feel when you really, actually, genuinely aren’t looking. No wonder you see so many pretty girls plumping for ugly boyfriends. Almost anything would better than feeling this kind of nothing – even feeling an ugger.

(*You win a point if you identify the song. You lose a point if you think I actually like the artist.)

Axis of evil

If I had a religious bone in my hot little body I’d be hallelujahpraisethelording right now – London has had a weekend of sunshine. On both Saturday and Sunday, the sun came out for unbroken periods of anywhere up to 20 minutes and temperatures soared into double figures (mostly 15).

Thousands of Londonders whipped off to their flimsies and strutted about the city’s parks and commons, swilling mostly-warm Magners and decadently gobbing on strawberries (grown in Israel). Yes, Summer has arrived and it’s called Spring.

But I’m not here to talk about the weather – I’m here to bloody moan about it. And not just moan about its chill breeze pissing on the chips of my sundress-and-flipflops ensemble, no no no. I’m here to moan about it for a far bigger, far more obvious, far more important reason. I’m here to moan about what the weather is doing to men.

Yes, that’s right, men! Men who see fit to strip down to their floppy cotton shorts and their tight-fitting t-shirts; who don their sexy-face sunnies and their cute little caps; who cavort and rambunction with frisbees and balls, rippling their shoulders and flexing their biceps; who apologise with winks for wayward throws and have naughty little playfights during which they swear a bit and pretend to kick the living shih-tzus out of each other. It’s precisely this that the weather is doing to men and I’ve got a big goddamn problem with it.

Misery has become MEN emerging into the SUN wearing far fewer CLOTHES and putting on a SHOW of what can only be described as REALLY FRICKIN’ HOT FEMALE-ORIENTATED PORN! (Or what would be porn if porn-for-women really existed, and I mean really existed.) My not-looking life has just become a thousand times HARDER. A thousand times TANNED-ER, TONED-ER and HARDER. Am I shouting? GOOD! Does the Earth not know what it’s doing to me with all this tilting on its axis?!

Spin spin sugar

So that explains that then

I had, as a matter of fact, been doing really jolly well in the not-looking FAIL stakes. Numbers had been hovering between zero and two for a good fortnight. Very well done me! Only now they’ve bobbed back up again. Right back up. We’re probably talking a good half dozen a day since the middle of last week. And all because the sun has got his hat on and the men are coming out to play.

And it’s not just that the rising temps and beating rays encourage men to show more of themselves – as my friend Anna remarked just this sunny Saturday, there actually seem to be more of them out there. It’s like they’ve been hibernating all winter, curled up amongst straw in sturdy cardboard boxes like a creep (you couldn’t make it up) of George-the-Blue-Peter-tortoises, and now Yvette Fielding, Caron Keating and that ginger bloke with the daft glasses have come to reintroduce them into the big, bright world of women.

Wot no George?

George was unavailable for this pic as he was too busy getting his rocks off

I don’t mean to be mean but, well, actually, I do. I would be perfectly accepting of this seasonal exhibition of manflesh if I wasn’t the only human on earth prevented from buying a ringside seat. It’s just not fair in a stampy-foot, thumpy-fist, pouty-face, dishevelly-hair kind of way. Just. Not. Fair.

I want to lech and eye-up and observe and spectate and spy at from behind my dark glasses. Absolutely none of that is within my rules. Am I to stare blankly into space for the next 4 months? Am I to ignore the displays of gradually declothing manmeat as the weeks roll April into August? Am I to ignore my very basest female urges? Am I to miss out on all the freaking fun? Er, yes, apparently I am. It may be tortoise rutting season but I’m still in my box.

The only way I’ll get out of this cardboard prison, especially now that Keating’s no longer with us, is if some boy tortoise tempts me out with his limp lettuce. And given my entire life experience with men’s chat-up skillz, that is really, really, cataclysmically unfuckinglikely.

So, I’ve sort of thought of a little kind of plan. A bit of a mountain-to-Mohammad diversion, if you will. I can’t eye men up, I can’t giggle in their general direction, I can’t ask to borrow their bottle opener, I can’t flirt across their crowded frisbee circle. But I can catch their tactics and throw them back at them.

They wear shorter trousers, I wear shorter skirts. They wear tighter t-shirts, I wear tighter tops. They show more chest, I show more chest. They whip their tops off during a game of footie, I… don’t really like football, sorry.

But yes, you see where I’m heading here. As Henry Louis Mencken once said, “Temptation is an irresistible force at work on a moveable body.” And men have very moveable bodies, especially when there’s a football or a frisbee or a big pair of hooters to chase.

No girl is an island

I know it’s been a while. There are a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve been a bit ill and whinging, moping and feeling sorry for yourself really take up your time; and 2) It was Easter so I’ve been home to experience some motherly love and a fridge that actually has food in it. But, as well as an endless cheese supply and intravenous gin, home also means an enforced state of complete and utter not-looking.

I was brought up on a little island, roundabout here. It’s a pretty place with lots of beaches and flowers and cliffs and things. In summer the sun shines, when it’s not raining, and the tourists burn like hog roasts. About 65,000 people are crammed into 30 square miles of space, which to give you an idea is about the same size as the centre of Nottingham. There the comparisons end though. There’s no sea in Nottingham and there’s no gun crime in Guernsey. It’s a fair trade in the circumstances.

But when I hit 15, this non-ballistic sea presented a major problem: it’s quite big and deep and does a jolly good job of trapping you on small land masses. (I am the next Attenborough.) And all that trapping doesn’t just trap you, it traps everyone else too. So basically, after a decent amount of time, say 15 minutes, you know everyone on your small land mass or you know someone who knows them. Or, beyond the age of 15, you know someone who’s snogged them. After 16 that becomes shagged them. After 21, had kids with. After 25, divorced from. Island life does not make for rich pickings in the love department.

I think the last time I snogged a Guernsey boy was in 1997. (Please, someone, correct me if I’m wrong.) Among my snogs to that point were a bloke who it later transpired had snogged my sister a few weeks before (I’m shuddering at the thought) and another who’d just snogged my mate, and I mean just. I’m sure there are other similar eye-scrunching episodes but I don’t want to think about them long enough to remember. We all do daft things when we’re young but these, in hindsight, were more than a little bit wrong.

Being a small community with a big sea to block it off from DNA infiltrators, this sort of snog-swapping goes on until much later in life. I would probably still be part of it if I were single and back on the Rock. I would probably have to be. On the evenings I went out during my last visit, I wasn’t even tempted to give a bloke the proper once-over – no-one presented any allure, or certainly nowhere near enough to warrant a rule-break.

There was limited choice available when I was 15, when everyone was still single and ready to suck the face off almost anyone else, provided they were of the appropriate gender and used a bit of Clearasil. When you get to 31, that small field has – between marriage, emigration, sexuality-swap and untimely death – slimmed down a lot. When you subtract all those who’ve exchanged fluids of some kind with a friend/enemy/neighbour/kid-you-used-to-babysit-for, there’s essentially no-one left.

On a night out, a friend of mine was telling me her brother was on the look-out for a nice young lady and bemoaning the fact there were no girls left on the island who didn’t have some kind of history with someone he knew. Later I realised, even if I lived on the island, I couldn’t go there – he once went out with one of my good schoolfriends. The tangled web is woven pretty tight on the island.

Don’t get me wrong – and please don’t any of my island friends send me a barrage of bloney abuse – Guernsey is great. Here, let me show you.

Fancy a dip? Don't forget to slather yourself in goose fat

Fancy a dip? Don't forget to slather yourself in goose fat.

Centre of pic - boys' college. Many a day spent hitching my skirt shorter past there.

Ah, a beautiful tax haven glinting in the sunshine

Guernsey cows - cuter than Guernsey boys

Guernsey cows - cuter than Guernsey boys

Guernsey is genuinely sunnier than the UK, you can see France on a clear day, the sea is clean, the beaches are amazing, the seafood is fresh, booze is cheaper, tax is lower, people are more relaxed, the only thing you have to worry about when walking home late at night is rats, and nowhere’s more than a 15-minute drive. It’s just that, well, nowhere’s more than a 15-minute drive. Unless you want to see a comedy show or some sculpture or a gig by a band with an actual record deal. Then it’s a 15-minute drive to the airport, a 45-minute flight to Gatwick and a 30-minute train journey to central London.

Clearly hauling ass off the island at 18, and barely making a reappearance for longer than a week since then, hasn’t worked out for me in terms of the man thing. But I’ve done a lot of personal, if not physical, growing instead. I got a degree (no unis on Guernsey), worked in the Valleys of south Wales (no unemployment on Guernsey), saw a dead tramp floating in a river (only 2? tramps on Guernsey), saw a river for that matter (river + island = 2 islands), went on strike (illegal on Guernsey), got some letters after my name (not all available on Guernsey) and entertained a number of menfolk, none of whom had snogged anyone I knew before (not available on Guernsey).

I’ve no doubt moving back to the island would immediately and completely zero my FAILs. I wouldn’t look at all. Not once. I wouldn’t want to look because of the reminders of transgressions past, and I wouldn’t have anyone to look at because even the transgressions past are married now. And a bit fat.

But I am as certain as I can be, with no empirical evidence whatsoever, that not-looking on Guernsey would get me no closer to finding myself a lovely chap than to continue looking my little buns off here in London. And at least here in London, I can unsuccessfully look my little buns off at a Daniel Kitson show or at The XX gig at Somerset House or with the beautifully unreal realism of Meredith Frampton at Tate Modern. Or, indeed, whinging and moaning about being ill, at home, alone, like a hermit. (Not one from Herm.)


There’s no big talk in me saying this: one of the rules of engagement in my experiment I know I will never break. It’s Rule 7 – No internet dating.

I’ve done this quite a bit in the past, having started out with the interbobular hook-ups in spring 2007. I thought it was a good way of increasing my chances of meeting a good egg. Pretty understandable. Nothing unusual there. In the following two-and-a-half years, I made guest appearances on four different dating sites for a total of about 10 months, never staying all up in men’s e-faces for more than two months at a time.

I can’t remember exactly how many men I met. I did just try to scribble their names in a list but (shamefully?) can’t remember them all. (I can, however, remember the name of every guy who’s poked me. I think… Yes, yes, I can. I just checked.) Anyway, at a pretty reliable guess, I probably dated about 20 men.

All except two of the 20ish meet-ups were either one-date wonders or went no further than date three. One moderate stand-out made it to six dates, another to three months. Out of all of them, I think I called it a day on the majority, the minority on me, and there were only maybe three of those that I was sad about. One of them was the three-monther, which is the only one to remotely qualify for the title of relationship. Even Carol Vorderman could work out those are not exactly the greatest odds.

(Had to be done.)

But apart from the fact that, for me, internet dating has proved a spectacularly abortive method of finding a relationship, there are many, many, many other aspects which make the whole thing a bit of a fucking drag. Let me enlighten you – if you’re one of the 14 people left on the planet who haven’t tried it yet. (This does get a bit epic, so put the kettle on, yeah.)

The judgements
When I started internet dating, I came into it all shiny-happy-open-mindy, not wishing to rule anyone out for any overly-stringent reasons. But the whole set-up of internet dating forces you to make conscious judgements about people from the outset.

Anyone who knows me will know I am a pedant. A know-all and a pedant. Especially when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar. I’m not in the least ashamed of my status. In fact, I’m proud of it. For me, his ability to string a good sentence together was of paramount importance in my search for a nice young man. I’m also a tallist. I like tall men. I think it’s some Darwinian force preventing me from having midget offspring. So those were two definites going on my “I Want” list for internet dates.

But when faced with questions about the job, income, politics, religion, drinking levels, desire for children and number desired(?!) of my potential Eggbert, I was driven down a far rockier path of judgement. I suddenly had to answer questions about factors I’d never even considered before.

In merely putting up a profile, you have to express preferences for age, height, body type, location. Any of those is, in itself, a judgement. You could just leave all the criteria blank, but if you do that you may as well stand at Piccadilly Circus with a sign round your neck saying ‘Single. Wanna bit?’ and be prepared for all-comers. The thing is, when you get into the selection-criteria game, it’s very hard to stop. It’s like poker without the big cash prizes, although the untelling faces are definitely the same.

All sites then use the boxes you’ve ticked to generate some form of compatability score, so when you flick onto someone’s profile you’re immediately given a superficial reflection of how closely they meet your wants. It’s all too easy for your eyes to dart towards this, your brain to think “Hmph, 76%?” and your judgement to say, “Not worth your eye-time, girlfriend.” That’s if you even get to see someone, because the profiles returned in your searches also heavily reflect the box-ticking you’ve done.

Basically, internet dating makes you judge very fast whether to bother even reading five paragraphs about someone, let alone writing them an email or actually meeting them, based on a badly-calculated percentage derived from a badly-defined set of criteria clicked on by a badly-in-need-of-a-shag you. And, remember, for all the open-mindedness you employ – or want to employ – chances are those who are on your receiving end are probably judge-judge-judging away based on their own handful of shoddy tick boxes and a few well-angled snaps.

The Hobson’s choice
Internet dating is fun for a couple of weeks. Really fun. Scrolling through hundreds of eager faces, chortling at their jokes, reading their tales of derring do, learning of their unusual pastimes or left-field taste in music – it’s like you’re in a good bar that’s rammed with people and you’re absolutely guaranteed a comfy seat to look for the best. People will also look at you, maybe send you a few messages, you’ll send some yourself and await their replies. Will they, won’t they, do they, don’t they – it’s all tantalisingly exciting. At first.

But after the first couple of weeks, it feels more like you’ve wandered onto the set of Cheers, because in this bar everyone knows your name. And you know theirs. And their photos. And their unimaginative headline. And their dullard hobbies. And their same-as-everyone job. And their “I hate talking about my self”. And their “I never know what to say”. And their total inability to spell – OH MY GOD! THE SPELLING! And their complete ignorance of even half-decent grammatical constructs – JESUS! THE GRAMMAR!

Get your house in order, big man

I feel a smiting coming on, and it ain't from up above.

It’s like being stuck on the most uninspiring fairground ride that just keeps going round and round and round and round and round and… Within a couple of weeks you’ve seen (and maybe done if you’re a slag) it all, so all there’s left to do is sit and wait for the newbies to arrive which, given the trickly pace at which they do so, you may as well go and do in an actual pub.

The repetitiveness
So all this dodgy-dating, identikit-browsing and judgemental-searching has been going on for a few weeks. Every day you log on to your email. You might have a few alerts from your site telling you about new messages or indicating percentage ‘matches’. You click through. You log on to the site. You go to your inbox there. You read the few messages. One might be interesting. The rest will be dull. Or odd. Or ctrl-C/ctrl-V. Or dirty. Or from a septuagenarian with five kids. A dirty one.

The one that’s okish you’ll follow up on, click through to their profile, check out the compatability score, flick through the pics. If they’re moderately attractive you might read the blurb. You’ll see a glaring spelling mistake or a liking for Michael Bublé or a “Where to start? I never know what to say”. You’ll hit the ‘new search’ button faster than your snappiest snap judgement. You’ll click on another profile, check out the compatability score, flick through the pics… Now repeat this process 20 times a day, every day, until you get it right. Yes, you’re a young, attractive Bill Murray and this is Dating Groundhog Day.

The people
Let’s not be too theoretical about things though. Here’s some good, real-life evidence in case you’re still unconvinced: a brief précis, a few lowlights if you will, of some of the people who’ve sapped hours of my valuable life on internet dates. Gawd love ’em. Someone has to. I’ve given them all appropriate film and TV pseudonyms, as much for my own amusement as their anonymity.
Ensemble cast: Left it to me to have the conversation because, although they remembered their fancy suit and clean shirt, they forgot their fucking personality.
Incredible Hulk: Three stone heavier than in his clearly ancient pictures who, after eating bar snacks, sat back triumphantly in his chair and picked his teeth. For 10 minutes. Right to the back.
Private Frazer: Sulked through the first bottle of wine and, as he cracked open the second, informed me, “I’ve had a shit couple of weeks.”
Dirk Diggler: So focused on his prime objective he nigh-on rammed my head into his lap before I’d finished my first drink
The Hooded Claw: Confirmed my belief that blurry photos in which faces are partially obscured by beer bottles indicate huge insecurities about appearance.
Astro Boy: Had a bit of the former-child-star about him, if you know what I mean. But then he was the former child star of a kids’ sci-fi TV show. My advice: no actors, especially those whose careers are dead.
The Man Who Cried Wolf: Keen-beaned through the first date then rang the next day all over-emotional to treat me to a 20-minute diatribe on how he’d not got over his perfect ex.
Dr No: Wouldn’t take no for answer. Still wouldn’t take no for an answer. Didn’t take me pushing him off me for an answer either. Just about took no for an answer when I wriggled to the floor and grappled to my feet, giving him the look of death as I pulled my hair out of my face. After accusing me of frigidity, as expected, he then announced as I opened the door, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.” “I’m not,” I tersely replied and pushed it in his face. (A six-month break from internet dating ensued.)

So yes, as you can see, it’s no e-picnic out there in Interbob-datey-land. I don’t deny that it can be fun and I don’t deny that other people have found love through it – I just happen to find it more unfun than fun and I just happen not to know personally one single internet couple that has stayed the course to marriage/house-buying/civil partnership.

If you disagree with me, tell me about it. If you want to know another – extremely funny and well-worth-reading – side to the internet dating story, go and pay my friends over at The Dates of Wrath a visit. Get your info and make up your own minds, just remember that I’ve tried it extensively and, well, look what I’m doing here now. And if that doesn’t convince you…