“I can’t believe you’re still online dating,” my colleague Jess said.
“Why – how else am I supposed to meet women? And don’t say at work – that way lies pain and calamity.”
“Oh, for goodness sake.”
We were in the Costa across the road from work, on an impromptu break.
I said, “Jessica, online dating lost its stigma years ago. What do you think this is, the nineties? It’s fine now. We do everything online these days. We order taxis. We order pizzas. Why not order a relationship?”
“You really think it’s that easy, don’t you?”
“Well, no. I’m single, remember? But the principle is sound.”
“And you’re still blogging about it, I suppose.”
I looked away with a smirk. The aim was to infer hidden danger, but the truth was I hadn’t blogged for months. I had been working on the Great London Novel instead – a task that was continually edging away from completion.
“I’ve been giving it a rest recently, but I’m going to relaunch soon.”
“Don’t tell me, launch party at Soho House.”
“Honestly, why do I share so much with you?”
“Because you want me to say you’re amazing – that you’re going to break through – that you’re going to be the…”
“Don’t say it.”
“…male Carrie Bradshaw.”
“Jesus.” I took a sip of my americano. “At least you didn’t say male Bridget Jones.”
“I was going to but thought Carrie would be more appropriate. Anyway, dating bloggers are everywhere now so you’d better do something special this time around.”
Jess was right. The world of the dating blogger was a crowded place. It was becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. Being a man helped – as did my comedic lack of success. But other than that my schtick was starting to feel a little staid. It was the other reason I’d stopped blogging. No one wants staid schtick. I was finding it hard to slot in with the rest of the dating bloggers – to be relevant. Then I realised something. A convenient truth, if you will. I didn’t have to slot in.
I realised there was no compulsion to follow the others. As I see it, dating bloggers come in two types: The Advisors and The Raconteurs. The former are unusual; preposterous and disarming at the same time. Surprisingly, they are almost always earnest singletons looking for the Real Thing (how this qualifies them to offer relationship advice, I do not know). These ditzy keyboard-clackers write with feverish enthusiasm, determined to renovate our lives. Despite the ridiculous premise, there is something delightfully straightforward about their advice, which can be summarised as follows:
Go For It!
When you think about it, all dating advice fits the go for it mould – in one way or another.
I like a work colleague, but I don’t know if she likes me. What should I do? Go for it!
I got divorced last year and am thinking about trying online dating but I’m a bit nervous. What should I do? Go for it!
She married someone else and is currently on her way to the airport bound for a new life in California. The only way to stop her is to engage in a madcap chase across town to the sound of ’80s power pop – assisted by an assortment of strangers – including a Hollywood A-lister in a wry cameo. What should I do?
My advice – the little I have to give – follows a different line: don’t go for it. Being urged not to jump is also good counsel. Like voting conservative, or checking up on the bin men on your day off, it’s not something you want to shout about but it makes sense. I am the sharp but friendly voice over the police loud hailer talking you down from the edge.
I’m in love with a work colleague, should I ask them out? No, absolutely no way. Think about your career. If they like you, wait for them to make a move.
I’m worried about online dating. Understandable, it is a realm of mechanical men looking for a quick hit. Try a matchmaker instead.
The love of my life is driving to the airport, what should I do? Let him go, if he cared that much he’d never have left in the first place. Besides, the traffic on the South Circular is horrendous at this time.
This brings me to the second type of dating blogger: The Raconteur. This type of blogger also follows a pattern. They go on dates with unsuitable people – then write about them in disparaging terms. The subject of the critique – some poor sap looking for romance – is always described as a nuisance to be rid of. At best a disappointment, at worst a menacing creep. The dating blogger – a writer with a continental-sized blind side – presents as the ‘normal’ person in the narrative. A sunny-side-up Pollyanna who signs off with a quirky better luck next time quip. I should say that I have met some of these bloggers (when I scandalised myself at the 2014 UK Dating awards, loaded on midrange wine, hubris and the brio that comes with wearing a rented tux) and they were delightful. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think there is something cynical about these kinds of blogs.
What will I write? I am – like all dating bloggers – habitually unsuccessful. The light laughs I wring from this failure keep me going, however. So, I intend to keep writing about my dates. But during my sabbatical something else occurred to me. I should expand my remit. There is so much more to write about: life, London, office trials, my descent into conservatism. I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by ludicrous characters – my hipster housemate, my suave older brother, my devilish boss. And of course, my colleague Jess – my lovely accomplice. Wrapped in a cloak of anonymity I will tell you about this aspect of my life. This time I suggest we go all the way. Stay with me, it’ll work out just fine. I promise.