So, as I’ve explained before, I’m normally rather picky. Scrap that, I’m extremely picky! In six or so months online dating, before everything with Henley Boy, I had only met up with one guy for a date.
I know what I like in a guy … and if they get past that initial filter, then I also like to think I’m a pretty good judge of character, so if anything in their first few messages comes across as a bit odd, I normally sever all conversations.
Henley Boy was the second ever guy from a dating website I gave my phone number to. I met him on Plenty of Fish … a site I picked, because it seemed like a site that ‘normal’ guys used. I had demoed some of the paid sites before, and the profiles all seemed to be of guys who probably don’t normally talk to women in the real world, or men a lot older than me. I wanted to use a site where the guys would be relatively similar to me – ‘normal’ people, who socialise, live normal, fun, active lives, and are confident enough talking to the opposite sex, but who just want to widen their social ‘net’. And knowing that two close male friends of mine, both of whom I consider normal, sociable and attractive, found girlfriends on Plenty of Fish, the free dating website seemed like an obvious choice.
But the problem with Plenty of Fish, is that it serves two purposes. There are people on the site, like my friends, genuinely seeking a relationship, but there are also a LOT of people who use the site just to get hook-ups. The site costs nothing to join, and is one of the most popular in the UK. Why go clubbing to find a shag, if you can go online from the comfort of your home, and check out hundreds of times the number of suitors than you could ever meet in one night in a club?
So, for six months, I was pretty careful to try to seek out the eligible guys looking for a relationship, as opposed to those simply looking for another notch on their bedpost!
None of my closest female friends currently use POF, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but my profile seems to get a fair bit of attention … the number of views and messages you get goes up the more often you use the app, but I probably get around 20 messages a day on average. Those of you following @30dates on Twitter will have seen the calibre of some of the messages I get. Lots of them are ‘mailshot’ style messages, where the guy clearly has a set message which he copies and pastes to multiple girls. Ironically, this technique is pretty obvious if you send the same message to the same girl every couple of weeks! I think my record so far is receiving the same message four times from a guy over a two-month period.
Believe it or not, I also get an impromptu ‘marriage proposal’ over POF about once a week!
The majority of the rest of the messages are cliched comments about my eyes or smile (again probably cut and paste jobs to multiple women!), and every now and again someone writes a crazy long first message, which no matter how specific it is to my profile, can come across equally badly as it reads a bit OTT!
(Literally just got a message saying ‘I love the cheeky little smile you have’ whilst typing this blog post – perfect timing!!)
When I look at guys’ profiles on POF, there are a number of things which instantly put me off. Topless photos, self-taken mirror shots, photos with babies are all pretty quick ways to make me decide the guy is not for me. I’m equally unimpressed by photos with girls in (I wouldn’t be happy if a friend of mine used shots with me in on a dating website!) and pictures with animals always seem to be trying too hard for the cute factor!
Most guys are pretty upfront about what they are looking for. There is an ‘Intent’ section on everyone’s profile, with options including ‘Casual Dating/No Commitment’ and ‘Wants to date but nothing serious’. And sometimes you can tell what a particular fish is looking for from how much effort they’ve put into the description section of their profile.
I’ve also noticed that the more genuine guys seem to use their names in their profiles. Might be a sweeping generalisation, but I guess if you’re happy for people to know you’re name, it’s a starting point to honesty?
In case you’re wondering, I try to live by my own fussy rules! None of my photos are topless (!), self-taken, or include animals, children or other people. My profile name is my firstname, my Intent is very clearly ‘seeking a Relationship’, and my profile description is detailed enough to make completely clear why I am on the website. It explains quite honestly what I’m looking for in a relationship, and hopefully conveys that I’m a normal, sociable girl, who is pretty picky, and just looking to meet new people who might be similar to me.
I chose the tag line ‘The first rule of Plenty of Fish … you don’t talk about Plenty of Fish’ to head up my profile, and it normally gets a laugh or two, given the still-taboo air of online dating. And, as discussed before, I’ve tried to use photos which I’m happy with, but which I think are honest about the way I look. No point going on a date with someone who is expecting you to be a lot thinner/ younger / hotter than you really are! Unlike the average online dating user (according to recent statistics at least) all my pictures are less than three years old! And the majority were taken in the last few months.
Most of the messages I get on POF suggest I probably didn’t need to take so much care with my profile. In fact, on my first date with Henley Boy (even though we chatted every day for a week before meeting up) he admitted to not having properly read my profile, and just looking at the pictures!
And even when the messages do sound like the guy has paid some attention to me, and what I’m looking for, sometimes it’s easy to be misled!
As I said at the start, I’m extremely picky. However, seeing as I have to arrange thirty blind dates over three months, I decided I needed to be a bit less picky on Plenty of Fish. If I stuck to my average of 1 date every three months online, I’d be lucky to get another POF date before my 30th birthday!
Hence my date with The ‘Normal’ Fish … and we all know how well that one went!
To be honest, after that first date, and its stark contrast with my second – The One with the Sign – which was set up by a mutual friend, I began wondering if I should bother trying to find anymore dates online.
But two weeks in, if there’s anything this challenge is teaching me, it’s how unreliable men can be! Just this evening I was actually meant to be on a date in Birmingham, to coincide with a friend’s birthday there last night. However on Thursday my date pulled out, saying he’d realised he ‘wasn’t 100% single’! What a way to re-instill my faith in the male sex, after the Henley Boy dramas. Well, I guess I can at least be satisfied in the knowledge that HB wasn’t just an anomaly, and in fact there are a LOT of unreliable men out there!
So, until I have thirty concrete dates booked into my diary, and probably realistically a few back-ups too, I figured I better stay on POF. There were a couple of guys, including the ‘Normal’ Fish, who I had exchanged a few messages with, but grown quickly bored by our conversations. Normally I would just delete the messages, but when I began the Challenge, I restarted conversation, and began being a little less discriminatory when deleting messages from guys on the site.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still probably deleting 19 of the 20 messages each day, but if there was a message which before would have made me at least ponder before deleting it, I decided to reply instead of pressing the ‘Trash’ option.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve chatted to maybe four or five guys who I wouldn’t normally have. All in the name of the ’30 Dates before 30‘ experiment.
One guy just turned out to be plain weird. I didn’t reply to a rather long message from him for an hour, during which time he sent an equally long message chastising himself for asking me a stupid question which my profile already answered and wishing me all the best for the future??
Another wasn’t content with messaging over POF or texting, and seemed insistent that I Skype with him … something I wasn’t prepared to do. (It just sounded like a live peep show waiting to happen!)
And then there’s the one who earned himself the nickname of ‘The Prick’!
Now, it’s evident from the responses to the blog so far, that everyone likes an awful date! The majority of you are clearly reading this for my scathing comments on the bad dates, instead of to hear that I’ve fallen for one of the thirty blind dates, admit it! And so, with my audience in mind, I stayed in touch with ‘The Prick’, even though I knew it wouldn’t end with a good date.
His profile was nonchalant. His profile name was his real name and the year of his birth. His photos seemed honest enough (none obviously stolen from modelling websites or photoshopped!), simple pub and sporting shots, and he said he was ‘looking for a relationship’. I wasn’t overly attracted to him, but I had a 30 Dates challenge to think of, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and began chatting.
We chatted briefly, and then when he asked for my phone number, I threw caution to the wind and began texting him, again more quickly than I normally would have agreed to. He was on a cricket tour in the same village I live in, so we chatted briefly about the cricket match. He made a few odd comments – slightly overly cheeky considering we had only been texting for about an hour. I made it clear I wasn’t up for flirting like that with someone I hadn’t yet met, and he apologised and wished me good night.
The next evening, conversation was pretty similar. It started off polite and innocent, but he quickly managed to twist the conversation into something just a little bit seedy. Not enough to insult, but enough that I would normally have stopped chatting. I called him up on it, but carried on talking. Whilst I didn’t lead him on, and even made comments like ‘You manage to make everything sound seedy!’, I did keep talking, because in the back of my mind I thought it would be quite funny to write a blog about ‘The Prick’, as he was turning out to seem to be …
On Friday night, when I was on Date Number Four with the Model Brother, he texted me. I was tired, and fed up with his constant lewd twists on conversation, so when he asked what I was up to, I was totally honest –
‘Just having drink before going to the Shard. On a blind date with a friend’s brother’
‘And not me! 😦 ‘ came his response.
I didn’t reply. He sent a text telling me what he was up to, and then another three hours later asking ‘Good date?’
I replied, saying ‘Yeah it was good fun. Had a good evening?’
The conversation continued to him suggesting he would come to a hot yoga class with me, and that ‘the only thing that would keep me going for 90 minutes of yoga is what you are wearing’, at which point I yet again pointed out his seedy twist on conversation. He apologised, and told me he was going to a wedding the next day.
I didn’t reply, but then felt bad the following afternoon, and sent a text just asking how the wedding was.
The replies I got went as follows (including a phone call at 1am, after the message that says ‘Shame 😦 ‘ …
And so, I’m afraid, invested as I am in this Blog, and this social experiment … I also do value my personal safety! And this is not what I signed up for! He literally texted me three times in a row, with no response, then rang me at 1am, and then sent another text at 5am? When we’d been texting for less than three evenings, and never met in person?
Maybe my original super picky net was sensible? Maybe I am a reasonable judge of character, and should just throw back all the ‘fish’ who give me a bad vibe early on!
Don’t get me wrong, I will do a lot for my ‘art’ (writing, not dating!! WRITING!!) but I think dating guys like The Prick is going a bit too far, because frankly there was no way this guy was gonna come meet me and simply be expecting polite conversation!
And so the search continues …. with a date at a Comedy Show in London on Tuesday night, Speed Dating with a group of girls who have been following the blog in Clapham on Wednesday, and a date with another POF guy I wouldn’t normally have chatted to on Thursday (which is looking less and less appealing as the days go on!!)
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx