The Big Issue : Edition 580
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 8–21 FEB 2019 11 MY WORD IT IS A truth universally acknowledged that a single woman who ventures online to find a potential partner will have to kiss a field full of frogs and, dear reader, I have met my fair share of amphibious men-creatures in just five months of casual dating. Having recently emerged blinking and bewildered from the ashes of a long-term marriage, I was blissfully unaware of the puckered landscape that constitutes 21st century mating. Traditionalists may scoff and offer the usual advice of seeking companionship from real-life situations instead: in bars, at parties and other social events. Sure, I’d have loved to stumble into Mr Dreamboat at the supermarket, but sadly life is not a rom-com that contrives the collision of unlikely happenstance. Also, as an introverted freelance writer who works mostly at home, my ambit for meeting likely new romantic prospects is narrow, so reluctantly I signed up to a few dating apps on my phone. Before long I almost developed RSL from all the Rejected Swipes Left on a seemingly endless stream of available (and unavailable, but we’ll get to that later) men. I had my own list of undesirables that guaranteed automatic dismissal: any profiles with spelling and grammatical mistakes, any bare torso gym pictures, any trophy fish held aloft, any intimate photos with the face of an ex-lover scribbled out in black texta (alarmingly common), any machismo posing beside a gleaming hot rod... Little wonder I hardly matched with anyone. Nevertheless, a lot of hilarious messages were received – many that I screenshot and showed to disbelieving friends. There were twentysomethings who keenly informed me they were “into older women”. One went so far as to confess he deliberately increased his age by 10 years in the hope that I’d be interested. Another one offered up his virginity as though it were a gift. There were several who looked at my pictures and somehow thought I’d make an excellent dominatrix (one in particular made a point of saying he was happy to be kept in a cupboard when not serving his mistress as a slave). There was the guy who said he had to look up what “bibliophile” meant on my profile. He thought I collected Bibles. Most men didn’t even glance at my carefully crafted self-description before they penned some abysmally uninventive cut-and-paste greeting (“Hey sexy!” “Beautiful!” “Hot stuff!”) I’m not sure a bookish word-nerd who likes theatre and galleries matches well with someone into death metal, fishing and Marvel comics. Yet even when I thought I’d found a decent paramour, I was duly double- crossed. One seemingly nice chap I soon discovered to be still very much attached to his wife. He was simply irate with the demands of domesticity. I ended up providing marriage counselling on what was supposed to be our second date. Another match seemed so propitious I immediately nicknamed him “Unicorn” – as he was literate, smart and knew how to use a semi-colon, he was indeed a rare and magical animal. Unfortunately Unicorn was just a clever ass in disguise. Unbeknown to me, he was also wooing another woman he’d matched up with weeks earlier. I started looking at dating as an interview process, with men to be judged on appearance and grooming, conversational proficiency, and the ability to ask insightful questions. (They’d already passed the preliminary writing test if I met them at all.) Unfortunately most candidates failed to progress beyond the first coffee meeting; they were just, in various ways, an unsuitable match for me and the role I had in mind for them: part- time boyfriend and handbag to various arts events. Despite stringent HR processes, I’ve still fallen for many ruses of the online mating ritual, including Ghosting, when after some contact they disappear with no warning; Breadcrumbing, when they leave a trail of random comments at odd intervals to show tepid interest; Zombie, when you think you’ve been Ghosted and then all of a sudden they return from the dead and make contact again; Benching, when they’re busy chasing another conquest so you’re downgraded to next-in-line; and Slow Fade, when they really aren’t interested but are too scared to break off the connection, so just deliberately ignore you instead. Despite all these setbacks, I’m still sporadically on these dating apps. Because, beneath the layers of cynicism, there lies a romantic soul who’s trying to find Pegasus (upgrade from Unicorn). This elusive creature is out there somewhere. Sigh. » Thuy On (@thuy_on) is The Big Issue Books Editor and still very much single. Please don’t try and set her up with your neighbour’s really cool brother who loves snowboarding and playing the ukulele. Thuy On discovers a whole new language of love – i f that’s what you call it... Breadcrumbing? Sex, Lies and...