Online dating – so many pitfalls

Don’t get me wrong, some of the time I love being a woman. The times when I really hate it happen every two and a half weeks and last for 11 days. No, you aren’t reading that incorrectly, 11 (eleven) days every two and a half weeks.

Ever since I was 10 years old I have known two things about myself definitively:

1: I do not want children
2: I really do not want children

Unfortunately, in the world of doctors (specifically male gynaecologists) the fact that I know what I want is not enough for them to do something about my ‘woman’ issues. For years I have been essentially begging to get my tubes tied, to have my girl bits removed, to be sterilised. Every single time I go the boundaries are changed. When I was 25 I was told wait until I was 30. When I was 30 it was 36, then 40, and now it’s 50. I know that some women change their minds, but I have never seen anything in a child that makes me go all gooey and stupid.

I know that there are a lot of people out there that will think bad things about the fact that I have never wanted children, but at 43 I think I know my own mind, and the fact that I have had that same belief since I was 10 really shows that I knew my own mind then too. I have heard (so many times) that it’s a woman’s “duty” to have children (no it’s not), that “without children a woman has no purpose” (yes she does), that it’s “unnatural to not want to have a baby” (no it’s not). Where the hell do these people get off telling me how to live my life, and that I am worthless?

There are a lot of women who reach a certain age (normally late 30s, early 40s) and start to regret their life choices; they start to think about the family that they previously didn’t know they wanted, and I know a few of these women, but I am certainly not one of them.

I know women who reached 40 and suddenly the biological clock (I think mine broke) starts ticking madly, making them absolutely desperate to hold a baby of their own. Some of them went through the hell of IVF to have a child, others were incredibly lucky and conceived naturally. Good on them, that’s what they wanted. Unfortunately for me, it is these same women who have meant that I either pay privately (wish I had that sort of money) to get what I want, or I have to wait until the gynaecologist actually believes I know what I want. A lot of these women end up in ‘last ditch’ relationships, so desperate to have a baby that they will literally go with anyone in order to make that a reality; I know that sometimes it can work out really well, but I have seen so many end up with absolute dicks, miserable and continually bemoaning the fact that while they love their child they are now stuck with someone they no longer have any feelings for. Yep, this is the point where I just smile, nod and listen and then go home safe in the knowledge that I am not them.

When I was in my late 20s I tried online dating for the very first time; the sites were incredibly basic, but they were, in many ways, no different than they are now (though obviously the ‘pairing formulas’ were less sophisticated). I can remember quite clearly putting ‘has no kids, doesn’t have any interest in having them’ on my profile, and the torrent of abuse I received from the men that contacted me was unbelievable. It was as though my worth was inexplicably tied to my fertility (or lack of) and my desire to procreate (well, distinct lack of it). I had so many abusive messages that I ended up leaving without having met anyone, or actually having a decent conversation with anyone. I hate the term ‘breeders’, feel that it’s an unnecessary insult, people choose what they choose and no one should be allowed to judge them for it, but I felt as though these men online were judging me only for my value as a breeder/a brood mare and it was both insulting and disturbing at the same time.

Luckily, in my early 40s men aren’t looking at me as a brood mare anymore (yay, so past that point) BUT they are now looking at me as though I am probably desperate and will accept anything. This week alone I have been contacted by no less than two men who were just plain ‘odd’.

Man 1: Profile was nice enough, though the photograph which accompanied it was of his body only (and not even a shirtless pic, one of him in jeans and a t-shirt). He told me that it was to protect his identity as he was a bigwig in the computer world (in the UK? Is he Alan Sugar?). He then spun me some tale about how he’d been giving a presentation to clients and one of the clients had recognised him from his profile pic on the site, so he took it down. This struck me as odd. Not sure why. If this woman recognised him, but hadn’t contacted him and he hadn’t turned her down then what difference did it make? Anyway, he then starts talking about innocuous things, tells me all about how he hates Apple products, how his family always asks him to fix their computers (I get the same issue with my family, but I actually FIX them when I can) and then things take a weird turn.

On his profile he mentions how he is looking for a relationship, is ‘serious’ about this, and likes to have fun. NOWHERE on his profile does it mention that he’s looking for a sub (submissive, not submarine or subway sandwich). He starts telling me that he liked the fact I was in a submissive pose on my profile picture (I am not, as it happens, my sister was standing on a bench and took the picture of me from above, so it looks as though I am looking downwards), and then starts asking for a full-length picture even though he still hasn’t provided me with a picture of his own face.

Bye bye, mister. I don’t care what people do, the sub/dom lifestyle even sounds somewhat interesting, but I don’t like being misled, and he was wasting my time. He wasn’t looking for anything more than a hook up, something I have been very clear on my profile I am not interested in. BLOCKED (if only they had the flashing letters with little marching ‘ant’ lights as a text formatting option on WordPress)!

Man 2: His initial contact was in my ‘filtered’ folder because his location was a little bit outside my ideal search area (I don’t drive so I have to be realistic, I can’t expect them to come to me all the time, that’s unreasonable, and I am not that type of girl, also if they travel a fair distance it seems that they expect far more in return than a simple kiss on the cheek). Anyway, I figured that I’d give him a chance as his profile was interesting; university educated, likes animals, reads a lot. His first message was pleasant, and then they became constant, badly spelled messages about ‘how do you maintain your beauty?’. You’d be right in thinking ‘huh?’ right here, because that’s strange. Why is it that some men are so crap with women that they think all we are concerned with is our appearance? I care so much about mine that I brush my hair, use moisturiser and get dressed after a shower every morning. I don’t spend hours in front of a mirror with product. I have a really nice make-up kit, but it rarely gets used!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. After several messages that pretty much all said the same thing (in a manner I would expect from a child rather than an adult with a university education) I finally responded with ‘Do you want to talk about something else? Like interests, you mention you have many on your profile?’ to which he responds with something that, I admit, creeped me a little bit. ‘You’ll find out soon enough, we’ll be meeting soon.’ URGH. Tell me I’m not the only one who got a little shiver down their spine at that (and not in a good way).

After that I decided that I was going to give him one more chance to redeem himself, he might just be nervous. Did he manage it? NOPE! I asked him about his interests again, and he told me that he just wanted to know how I maintained my beauty (which is just annoying, and, to my mind, reduces me to nothing but a face. Believe me, my face is not beautiful, I just about coast by on plain). I told him that he clearly wasn’t interested in getting to know the person behind the profile and it was my brain that was behind my beauty. At that he went silent. No new messages. I didn’t figure there was any point in continuing the conversation.

I am now chatting with someone else. Right now, he appears to be okay, there is a picture on his profile, he comes across as intelligent and chatty (though not too chatty), hasn’t once mentioned my face, or my ‘beauty’ (seriously, I think that particular man must have cataracts or something) and seems to be interested in who I am and my interests. Most importantly, he hasn’t mentioned my taking a photo of me ‘presenting myself’ (which even as I type it sounds incredibly distasteful – again, I have nothing against those who choose that lifestyle, but it’s not something for me).

Online dating is hard, and only made that much harder when people lie through their teeth consistently on their profiles. I guess the lesson to be learned from this is not to judge a book by its cover, especially as the cover is online and you can’t see it properly, there are always reflections on the screen and the blurb on the back is often carefully written to draw you in when the words on the inside might not quite match up.

Dating sites always warn you to ‘be careful’ when meeting someone, but they rarely mention how careful you have to be when interacting with men (or women) when online, beyond the efforts they make to market their premium services (for things which should come as standard, such as proper blanket blocking tools and a way to privately send your picture to someone which doesn’t mean providing them with your personal email address). I have two recommendations which should help keep you a little bit safer, and they are incredibly logical:

  1. Don’t give your full name – I’m not talking first name, surname here either, I’m talking your full first name. Use a nickname, or an initial. Get to know them a little bit before sharing that. If they are local to you then chances are you will meet them at some point (unless your search area is huge – mine is, unfortunately, not). There are a lot of strange people out there and these people can be anywhere (and look normal – look at Ted Bundy). If someone insists on sharing their name that doesn’t mean you have to return the favour.
  2. Set up a completely separate email address for your dating profiles. Whatever you do, don’t use an address that you are likely to use for other things online. Though not everyone should be tarred with the ‘stalker’ brush, there are some real creeps out there (again, both male and female) and having an email that isn’t connected with anything outside of your dating profile will make it that much more difficult for a persistent admirer to find you.
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