Adventures In Dating: The Opening Gambit

11 Jan

To be completely honest, when it comes to dating I fall flat at the first hurdle – the opening gambit. That initial communication and interaction between you and the object of your affection. I struggled with it as a teenager (not helped by being a social prisoner of an all-boys school) and when I hit university I was in a relationship and so never took anyone as a serious candidate, thus completely failing to learn how to read signs of approval or interest.

That has unfortunately stayed with me, to the point where even when a woman is making her expression of interest very clear, I find it hard to resist the temptation to interpret it all as some warped ruse.

Because I don’t currently have a regular place of work to go to, filled with an assemblage of interesting people to flirt with and watch their reactions, if I am to ever find love again, chances are it will be initiated through the internet – a very scary place to step foot these days indeed.

Dateless on Date Night

Dateless on Date Night

Now we are safely into January I can confirm my predictions about the festive dating scenario, with my only festive fling being with a box of chocolates. And in well over a month of Tinder tinkering I’ve managed two matches. Plus a very futuristic encounter with a bot. My self-esteem would be well and truly shot if I’d actually thought that the possibility of making a connection with someone lay with that particular app.

I’m left looking at the future and an assortment of faces via a selection of other websites. As a currently ‘separated’ man (ie. not yet legally divorced, but with that in progress), I am hardly cream of most viable women’s crop. It isn’t something I try and hide by any means (bearing in mind that I’ve made friends through these networking sites rather than lovers so far), but if one is being honest and base, it probably doesn’t do me any good if my only ambition is to get my end away (which it isn’t). Leave it too long and you come across as secretive – open with it, and chances are they’ll never stick around long enough to find out how wonderful you actually are.

From conversations I have had with a number of women via these websites, it seems that for many men, their tactics are no more elaborate than bombarding the profiles with ‘Whassap?’ type messages, swiftly moving in for a seedy proposition, and more often than not include pictures of their penises.

I must have missed something along the way when learning how to interact with people – but I’m pretty sure that sending pictures of your nether regions to a woman before she has asked is very much a faux pas. Female profiles seem to earn unwarranted attention without any effort at all, they don’t have to have any substance, and believe it or not don’t even have to have a picture in order to attract a lasciviously minded fellow.

In stark contrast, in all the years of having social networking and dating profiles, I have yet to be sent graphic pictures or propositions via any of the sites. Whether in possession of a pic or not.

So you’re left in the vague hope of making some sort of impression via that old traditional tool – the face yer parents gave you. Not being a terribly narcissistic person (stop laughing at the back). And I guess there’s not an awful lot you can do about that. You quickly learn to spot those people who are either hiding their identity or have body/image issues – they fill their profiles with pics of animals, quirky quotes, and abstract images of eyes, lips and the like.

According to articles in the press over the last week or two the space between Christmas and Valentines Day is the period during which dating networks see the most activity. Must be that shop-induced frenzy over Valentines cards, and other red-coloured novelties which drives it. The singletons can’t take their solitude among that purchased love.

Of course I can be cynical – I’m as unlikely to encounter anyone who wants to spend time with me in a more-than-friends way by Feb 14th as I was over Christmas. And if truth be told, I’m not out looking for it either. I still don’t know what to do with a woman – far too late a developer.

As I’m sure I’ve pointed out before, when I do meet up with women for initial meets (nearly always coffee – is safe, public, and judgement isn’t clouded through nerves and imbibing), I’ve traditionally gone about it all the wrong way. I mean, you’re meeting, you’ve probably met via a dating/networking website, but that doesn’t mean its a date, does it? So you’re just meeting up with someone new, and get to chatting, and when you hit it off you become friends. That’s friends. Not friends who fuck. Which is something else entirely. And of course, as friends who know me of old can affirm, I’m a terrible flirt anyway – particularly when comfortable. So I’m utterly unable to read the signs.

I suspect that even once my divorce is signed, sealed and that book is finally closed for good, I’m still going to have all these issues. The stories I hear about couples meeting, hook-ups, and drunken fumbles with strangers are utterly alien to me. Though the first impressions there are undoubtedly physical. Or are they?

As an anecdote on the subject – I was sitting in a bar in central Belfast back in October late at night, off the bus from Derry and waiting on my ride home, and being talked to by random drunken men (please, can’t you see I’m not comfortable – if you must talk shite, go find someone else!). The middle-aged bloke to my left was suitably drunk and negotiating the purchase of his final pint before closure. A middle-aged woman, in her LBD, sidled up beside him and after basic introductions started chatting about nothing in particular. The next thing I know, the two of them are locking lips and happily making out. About ten minutes later her slightly more sober chums  came over and took her away (well, it was chucking out time).

I’d have been taken aback if they were young student types just liaising, but old uns?!  Is this how it’s done?

I think watching endless films and television shows and reading about misconstrued situations in bars, allegations of unwanted interest, and a couple of well placed rejections, have probably frightened me away from being so bold. Certainly for a first move! And of course, once you’ve friend zoned yourself it is utterly impossible to escape its hold – why would you risk a friendship for a romance?

So, determinedly dateless on date night, I maintain my curiosity and dabble with various profiles in the hope of continuing to expand my social network, but hold no more hope in finding a fumble or love through them than I did in my chances of finding a female mate while attending my secondary school.*

* Attending an all-boys school made meeting an age-appropriate female there very tricky. Though in fairness, I did meet one girlfriend on site. But that’s a story for another day.

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