Against All Odds

This week I read the tragic news about food blogger Wilkes McDermid, who threw himself off the roof terrace of a London restaurant in a planned suicide. In his ‘goodbye’ blog post, he stated that he was simply ‘accelerating Darwinism’, as a 39-year-old Asian man, doomed to be alone forever. He’d conducted some informal research over a number of years that indicated women prefer Caucasian or black men over Asians, and if not, then they would almost certainly be tall and/or wealthy Asians. His blog is insistent in its reasoning and maintains that while McDermid couldn’t control his romantic life, he could control the length of it. He could, and he did, put an end to his suffering.

What an unbelievably tragic state of being. To take oneself out of the running, off the face of the earth because you believe you will never find love. At this time of year, as we approach Valentine’s Day, I’m sure there are so many people thinking similar thoughts, but of those who say they’ve given up on love, most don’t actually believe it in their heart of hearts. There is always a glimmer of hope, right?

What has struck me about this story is the science behind it. When I left my marriage four years ago, I had no idea that science had anything to do with partner-finding. Call me a romantic, but I’ve always laboured under the idea of being so struck by another person that any consideration of current life situation, age, job, looks – whatever –would go by the wayside. I’ve scoffed when people said, ‘maybe the time wasn’t right’ about a particular guy I’ve dated, and I’ve thought, ‘if the connection is right, who gives a fuck about the timing?!’

Isn’t that what’s glorious about love? The inconvenience of it? That it pushes every other consideration out of the way?

What I discovered was that suddenly, everything was all about the timing. Well-meaning friends told me I had to be ‘on the same page’ as someone, at the right life stage, to make a go of it. After my marriage, I’d had a ridiculously inconvenient year-long passionate love affair with someone ten years younger than me, but in the end, he’d thrown ‘timing’ back at me: a ten-year age gap is fine in your thirties and forties, he’d said, but not so good in your sixties and seventies. WTF? I thought we didn’t give a shit about that. Apparently ‘we’ did.

Since then, I have learned to accept certain unexpected facts about dating in my forties. Firstly, that men my age aren’t relieved to finally find a single, independent woman of their own age who doesn’t want children. They are frequently at the stage where they want the option of creating a Mini Me, if they haven’t already got one. They are even less relieved to find a woman who has a successful career and a brain, it seems – it is a challenge to their manhood. Woe betide me when they find out I’m a feminist – they smile and say, “I have a problem with feminists.” I say, “I have a problem with men who don’t believe a woman should have equal rights to men,” and we leave it there. Smiling.

No, men my age are still searching in the twenty-five to thirty-five age bracket, and I can’t really blame them, if they still want children. I’m always honest about my age online – forty-seven – and my profile only really attracts much older or younger men. And let me reassure you now, that in no way am I complaining about the latter.

Online, people are cast aside for simply not fitting a desired profile – not being the right age, height, weight, race, religion or not having the right job, location or marital status (eharmony wouldn’t let me join until I was properly divorced, not separated). This makes me think that online dating isn’t for me. Why would I want a partner who was judging me on a set of statistics? I want someone who will catch my eye on a train, a beach, in a bank or a checkout queue and want to get to know me. Just me, standing there, no statistics hanging on a board around my neck with a mugshot.

I don’t want the science of it, I want the randomness of it and I will always believe that is out there for me. And if he is shorter than I thought he would be, hasn’t got the ‘right’ job, is age- or religion-inappropriate I won’t give a shit about it. There will be a connection between both of us that no one else can see – they won’t be able to work out the science behind it because it will be beyond analysis and data. I feel so saddened by Wilkes McDermid’s death because he believed that this wasn’t out there for him.

I believe that if you are only looking for a socially approved relationship then you are working within a very narrow dating channel. You will only properly ‘see’ age-appropriate people with the right height/weight/job/hair colour ratio. If you look beyond a tick-box life, as I do, you will find that like-minded people see you. There are fewer of them, but the recognition of another soul with the same outlook is a moment to treasure. I’d rather wait for one single moment like that than tick any boxes, even if the odds are seemingly stacked against us.

 

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RIP Wilkes McDermid – his final blog post and message:

https://wilkes888.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/final-message-thank-you-everyone/

https://wilkes888.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/my-final-blog-entry-love-you-all/

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Angry Young Men

In a recent post I mentioned an angry Parisian man I’d dated in the past year, but didn’t tell the story, saving it for a future post. It came back to me this week, because I read this piece about a woman called Alexandra Tweten who is ‘outing’ abusive online-dating matches for their sense of entitlement to her attention:

http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/rise-of-the-feminist-creep-busting-web-vigilante/381809/

Fortunately, it hasn’t happened much to me, mainly because I use Tinder, where the matching is reciprocal and you don’t have to deal with the tidal wave of unwanted attention as soon as you appear on there. (Here’s my piece on Tinder: https://becauseicanblog.com/2014/10/12/tinder-is-the-night/).

Tweten is using OKCupid which is pretty much a free for all for wanted and unwanted attention. But actually, abusive moments HAVE happened to me, even with all my careful filtering and my supposed radar for nice guys, and when it does happen it is a very scary experience.

(A quick note to all the nice guys out there whom I date or don’t date: this post isn’t representative of you, it’s a group of a*holes of which you are not part. Please don’t get all defensive about men in general because I’m not talking about all men. You just need to know that this stuff happens to women. All the time. Thanks for reading and supporting me – I’m very glad to know you.)

So, the Parisian. Let’s call him ‘Maxime’. He described himself as 31 and 6ft 7. Yes, Maxime was tall, dark and handsome, played basketball in France semi-professionally and could string a sentence together in a text. Against my usual rules of not letting anyone have my number before I’ve met them in real life, we Whatsapped before our date, and he seemed ok with my ‘no sexting or pics’ rule. So far, so normal.

To the date. We met at the Ape and Bird – a fab pub in London on Cambridge Circus owned by the same people who run Polpo. It’s perfect for dating – lively enough to fill in awkward silences, three different bars to choose from if you need a change of scenery, and the option of eating in the bar or restaurant later if the date goes well.

The warning bell started to sound when I met him outside the bar. He was lounging louchely against one of the windows, smoking of course. What Parisian doesn’t? He seemed to not want to make eye contact, which I put down to being at a different altitude to me, or maybe just nervousness. Ok, let’s get to the bar. The choosing of the drinks took a while – I know exactly what I want in there (the Garganega house white is great) but he huffed and puffed over the choice of beers. I laughed to myself and thought, ‘how Parisian’ as he took time to choose just the right drink. How very French.

The second alarm bell rang softly as he talked at length about his life, his likes and dislikes, his travels, his favourite food, his his his his his… I just settled into the usual ego-pleasing nodding routine, wondering how I was going to extract myself from the scenario. But then the wine kicked in, and I thought, ‘well, things could be worse’ and somehow we ended up staying and getting a table for dinner in the bar.

Ok, so the choosing of the food took a while – Ape and Bird have a ‘distinctive’ menu with uniquely British things on there that threw Maxime a bit. I think he ended up with steak and chips – so far, so French. I can’t remember what I had, because the whole moment was blighted by his fussing and faffing over the food. “This is not steak!” he cried, forking the meat with a sneer on his face. I’m afraid I just started to laugh, and to tease him about being so French about his food.

Oh dear.

One does not tease a French man about his food.

He got very, very angry with me. And all British people, really. For not having the balls to complain about food. I don’t complain, as a rule, unless it’s really terrible and I can’t eat it. I’ll have an opinion on it, but if it’s not ‘wrong’, then I won’t send it back. Not Maxime’s style it seems.

So he made a huge fuss and I ended up apologising to the startled waitress when he’d flounced off to the loo (in a 6ft 7 gangly way). I did contemplate paying and leaving while he was down there, but I thought, ‘no – I’ll see this through like an adult’. What he obviously thought in the loo was, “I’ve paid for drinks for this woman and am about to pay for half a meal I didn’t like – I’ll damn well have sex from her in payment.”

When he returned to the table I’d already ordered the bill and made noises about leaving. “You’re going home?!” he asked incredulously, as if his table manners had undeniably wooed me into sexual submission. “Yes – I’ll be going to Piccadilly Circus – where do you need to be?” He was determined to come with me.

So there I was, striding down Shaftesbury Avenue with a massive Frenchman, angrily snarking at me about how it was ok to complain about food. I kept a fixed smile on my face so as not to anger him further – it felt as though he was about to blow (I certainly wasn’t).

I may be making you laugh with this story, but reader, it was so not funny. I genuinely felt really scared. When he suddenly swerved off into a Chinatown street, I felt relieved, but then panicked as to where he was going to pop out and accost me. I scanned the tube, the bus stop on my way home, the outside of my building – everything. Thankfully a friend was in the pub down the road and I went and told her the story, still shaking slightly from the encounter.

In the last month I’ve had another miniature version of this, in which again, I gave my number out when I should not have. I made it clear that I had no intention of picture-swapping or sexting, but this ‘nice guy’ Toby just wanted to hear my voice. Ahh how sweet. Until he got on the phone, telling me he’d lost his voice and asking, “could he just whisper to me?” “Stalker voice!” I teased, but I’d actually started to wonder…

“Could he also talk about lots of other things he’d like to do?”

No.

He put the phone down in a fit of rage, quickly followed by Tinder messages telling me I’d “spoiled the mood.” I managed to unmatch him on Tinder pretty quickly, but then came the stroppy “that was mean” texts on Whatsapp, which I subsequently blocked. I then got a barrage of ‘no caller ID’ calls for the next two days – with no voicemail, thankfully. But I was truly scared at what this person might do. Could he track me down and wait for me outside work or my home? When would he stop calling? After two days, thankfully.

I’ve wondered over and over about what I did that made these guys feel entitled to be so angry with me, and then I realised. I was just a woman who refused to give them what they felt they deserved and they got angry, even though I was very clear about what was and wasn’t going to happen. It’s like my voice merged into white noise under the loud gushing sound of their monstrous egos in motion.

I’ve only just remembered about a guy I dated about three years ago who made me cry on a date. Yes, cry. He’d been dumped by his last girlfriend and his ‘little revenge’ was to make women feel crap about themselves. The way he did it with me was to flirt outrageously with the waitress and ignore me. He was happy with me over the pre-dinner drinks, then grumpy over the menu, refusing to look me in the eye, then all over the waitress every time she appeared. I let him do it over and over and just sat there in disbelief. Then he smiled cruelly as he asked me if I was crying, which I was a little bit. I’ve never been made to feel so rubbish in all my life.

And it will never happen again.

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Jessica Valenti on why some men are so angry:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/27/why-are-some-men-so-angry

Katie McDonough on male entitlement to women:

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/30/americas_catcalling_madness_what_michael_che_co_keep_on_missing/

 

Tinder is the Night

In many ways, the Tinder app is the best online dating method for women. You don’t get that deluge of ‘hey, sexy’s when you sign up as you can only talk to people who’ve ‘swiped right’ on your picture, as you have on theirs. There is already a mutual attraction based on profile pictures and a tiny bit of bio information before you even start talking. It’s fun to get the ‘It’s a match!’ icon bursting onto your phone when you swipe right, and if it’s not mutual you instantly forget about the person you liked because their profile disappears once you’ve swiped. Perfect.

There is a perception out there, particularly among older users, that Tinder is a sex hook-up app (because of its association with the Grindr app) but I’ve used it straightforwardly, and been pretty happy with the results (apart from Parisian Angry Guy – I’ll tell you about him in another post). When I first started using the app, I took it as ‘seriously’ as other online dating forums, expecting to match and date someone. You can follow that road relatively successfully, especially if you have an in-built system for filtering out weirdos (largely based on ability to spell and use proper words), but it’s actually much more fun to treat the app like a dating Gogglebox. The myriad ways in which people present themselves as potential mates (in all senses of the word) is nothing short of astonishing and makes for great entertainment.

Interestingly, when you do get a match, the app tells you if you’d like to chat or ‘keep playing’, which suggests Tinder know people will use it as a game. And now I’m one of them. I thought I’d collate my Top Ten Tinder Treats here, in case you’re not on there yet and need to know what you’re missing out on.

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Manhood

Posing with drugged tigers seems to be the order of the day for many men on Tinder. Grinning inanely next to a big cat appears to have become the tenties version of posing next to a Lamborghini. If it’s representative of associated virility, do men really think we want to know their manhood is sedated, limp and out of action? They clearly haven’t thought this through. (See also guys who only post drunken pictures of themselves.)

A few guys have told me that girls often pose dressed as cats in their profile pics, presumably in their sexy Halloween costumes from last year. What is this obsession with cats? Are they latent representations of our sexuality? Or just our need to appear aloof, ‘can’t catch me’ animals, stalking around our prey with flashing eyes and the odd tail-brush against the legs of a potential mate. See also: cougars. I’m often called one, because of my age and the fact that I date younger men. These men like to view me as a predator, trying to ‘catch’ them on Tinder, and I often have to remind them that they swiped right too. They genuinely ‘forget’ that they had any agency in the match and don’t like being reminded of it. Tough kitty, guys.

 2. The Other Women

Hilariously, some men thing it’s a good idea to show how successful they are with women by posing with one or more in every single profile picture. Sometimes it’s bikini’d women on a Balearic holiday, sometimes a ‘celebrity’ from Towie, but sometimes it’s clearly an ex-girlfriend. Hell, sometimes it’s clearly a picture from his wedding day. My favourite, however, is when you can see that they’ve cropped their ex just out of the picture, but you can still see the telltale ‘heads together’ pose and the look of smug coupledom. Not cool, guys. How difficult is it to take a selfie?!

3. Slim Shady

Guys who never take their shades off. Sorry, but most people look much better in shades. I’ll swipe instantly left if a guy only posts pictures of himself in them. Dead giveaway for a horror story underneath. Often, there’s a helpful non-shades pic nestled in there that reveals the truth. My rule of thumb is that guys (and probably girls) always ALWAYS look like their worst picture. Ladies – take note. Do not be fooled by the Great In Shades pic.

4. Which One Are You?

So, you’re wearing shades in all your pics, and you decide that only posing group shots is the way forward. Drinking games, team sports, stag dos – all of these scenarios appear in your profile pics and we can’t tell WHICH ONE YOU ARE. And you’re always the least-hot one, aren’t you? No one’s being hooked in by that one, darling, unless they want you to introduce them to your hot friend.

5. So What Are You Looking For?

I’m always asked this by guys, as though I have some grand master plan complete with a Matrix-style home computer where I work out the logistics of hooking in my perfect mate. What they actually mean is, ‘are you up for casual sex?’ but they can’t bring themselves to say it. I’m not ‘looking for’ anything in particular, love – if anything, it’s probably the same thing as you.

In my experience, it’s often guys who go into master-plan mode when they’re looking to settle down. I distinctly remember two male friends putting their taxi lights ‘on’ when they decided they wanted to get married (see the Sex and the City ‘taxi-light’ theory from Miranda). I’ve done all that so I’m literally just seeing who’s out there with no agenda. And yet I’m expected to have one. One of the really worrying traits of Tinder men, is that they are clearly paranoid about being trapped by women-with-a-plan. Get over yourselves.

6. Fun times

Guys – stop saying ‘fun’ when you mean sex. When you suggest ‘fun’ to me, I picture getting on the waltzers at a fair with candy floss in my hand, attending a party dressed as a drag queen (just did that), or playing a word-based board game. Whole different thing.

7. Cock and Bull

Ah, the classic cock shots. Usually presented alongside the downwards torso shot and maybe a cheeky bum one to complete the set. All headless, obvs. I always swipe left, but not before having a good look and a laugh. And then there are the guys I match with who appear normal and then instantly ask if I’m on Whatsapp or Snapchat once we’ve matched, clearly just looking for nude picture-swapping. It always makes me laugh when they instantly lose interest when the promise of pictures is taken away. Joy.

8. Couples Competition

I just love it when I see a guy on there whom I know is in a relationship but is playing that couples game of how many matches they can get. A very, VERY dangerous game to play, my friends.

9. Athena Man, Invisible Man and Lying Man

Athena Man – the guy who presents himself topless, holding either a cute puppy or a baby. Seriously?! Gone already. Invisible Man – the guy who can’t even be bothered to upload a picture of himself? That’s special. Lying Man – the man who is obviously 56 but is pretending to be 34? We can tell. We can also look you up on Google, Mr Celebrity Person I Just Happened To See Posing As 36 When Your Real Age of 43 Is On Your Wikipedia Entry.

10. Spellcheck.

But the real, ultimate test of whether a guy is ok is his ability to write messages without resorting to ‘ur’ or ‘do ya wanner meet up?’ This results in instant deletion for me. You might look like David Gandy on the beach in Thailand but if you can’t spell or form a sentence you just don’t cut it. This works in 99.9% of cases – I can provide evidence. Textual literacy means a good date will happen, however it ends up. Beware of the ones who are too charming and brilliant with words though – these are signs of sociopathy.

So, still interested in becoming a Tinderette?

Honestly – it’s worth it just for the laughs.