Though Spring certainly hasn’t sprung, and the birds and bees (and poor old Somerset cows and sheep) are so waterlogged that there’s little love action going on, the arrival of Valentine’s Day still naturally turns one’s thoughts to love. And thus, last night, in the Pig’s Ear in Chelsea, the topic of conversation did just that (more specifically, it turned to the reasons why our friend Richard has yet to find it).
It’s not that he’s a bad catch: Richard (who bought the night’s first bottle of Claret) is a sweetheart: generous, warm-hearted, diffident, and charming. Still in his 30s, he’s tall and well-built (verging on nicely cuddly), and makes up for the paucity of his hair by having lovely, expressive, soulful eyes. A successful entrepreneur, he’s comfortably off, so doesn’t have to worry about the rat race, which means he has time to pay attention to friends and family. He even loves kids, for God’s sake, and is the go-to-guy when his beautiful girl friends are looking for a godfather for their offspring.
So, what’s going wrong?
Well, by the time the three of us (me, Richard and our friend Annie) had downed our second bottle of wine, the reasons had become a little clearer…
Light started dawning when he shared an ongoing text conversation he’d been having with a prospective date – a close friend of one of his many girlfriends, who’d decided they’d be perfect together. A couple of dozen texts, sent and received over a three-month period, with many a tentative plan to meet, had all come to nought. What had gone wrong? Well, firstly, why not just ring her, and have a proper conversation? Who wants to chat about nothing very much to some stranger they’ve never seen and not yet talked to? You have to act sometimes, rather than keep life at a distance.
The perils of being a wing-man
We remembered then that his best friend is a charmer: handsome, and far from diffident. They hang out together all the time, and Richard always takes the role of wing man, and, as is traditional, never gets the girl.
So we asked him about internet dating, something I have positive personal experience of, as nine years ago I was lucky enough to find my true love on a dating site (Dating Direct, since you ask). We were early adopters, and the scene has developed massively since then, with one in five UK relationships now estimated to have started online, and more than nine million Brits registered with a dating site. There’s a plethora of sites to choose from, from Guardian Soulmates to Match.com, eHarmony to My Single Friend. And, of course, there are special interest sites, such as Be Naughty and MySugarDaddie (sic), PositiveSingles.com (for the HIV positive), farmersonly.com (with all this rain, they need a little sunshine in their lives), uniformdating.com. There’s even one called DiaperMates.com, to bring those who like to dress up in diapers, and those who like to change diapers, together…
Anyway, I digress. What’s clear is that there are lots of options for those looking for love. So, we asked Richard: which dating services do you use? Match.com? eHarmony? Dating Direct? It turned out that this wannabe family man was trying to find love on Tinder. Tinder! The straight equivalent of Grindr, an app whose every pouting picture contains a promise of commitment-free shagging, mind-numbing hangovers and long-lasting regrets.
We asked Richard if he was just looking for a shag. But even as we asked it, we knew that wasn’t it true. He’s an innocent. An old-fashioned guy, more interested in companionship and family than in pulling.
Then Richard mentioned that he’d tried speed dating, and we laughed: we couldn’t imagine how a date like that would go. So, laughing, I persuaded him and Annie to role-play a speed date.
Richard started, and his questions were perfectly polite: “How are you?”, “What do you do?”, “So, what are your plans for the weekend?” Somehow, though, they dead-ended the conversation. So I got Annie to ask the questions, and she turned out to be a natural: “If you were given £10k tomorrow, what would you do with it?”, “If you could live anywhere in the world, money no object, where would you go?”. Faced with such unexpected questions, Richard’s conversation flowed, although his answers were rather eccentric – he said, for instance, that he’d like to live on the back of a whale, and travel around the world and hang out with other whales, ending up in Antarctica, carving himself a fishing hole. But though this whimsical answer is fun, there are few girls not of the Inuit tribe who’d want to marry and raise kids with a a guy who lives by an ice fishing hole…
The moral of the story
If you’re looking for love, it helps if you know what you’re looking for and look for it in the right places…
Here, from TED, is an investigation into love: http://www.ted.com/playlists/143/in_the_mood_for_love.html.
And, if you need some encouragement, here are a few good reasons to search for it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/14/this-is-your-body-on-love_n_4780934.html?ir=GPS%20for%20the%20Soul.