Katie Beswick is author of the blog Reasons To Be Single
I have a cyclical relationship with online dating. Every now and then, a Facebook acquaintance posts an album of wedding photos, or a hazy ultrasound captioned with a love heart, and I freak out. "Gah!" I think, "Why am I sitting in bed alone, eating crisps and drinking cold tea when other adults are planning weddings and having unprotected sex?! Why?! What’s wrong with me? Am I going to die alone and childless? Will I ever sleep with anyone ever again? What if I don’t? What if my virginity grows back, as a thick membrane of cobwebs?" And then I send a drunken text message to my ex-boyfriend, sign up to a dating site, meet a couple of losers for awkward small talk, decide alone is better than miserable and throw myself into work, white wine and yoga until the next acquaintance reaches a relationship milestone.
"Online dating is a f*cking minefield," I slurred at my friends, last Saturday, after several espresso martinis.
I was telling them the story of how, the last time I dated someone I’d met online, I ended up being serenaded with a tuba after disappointing sex, and crying at a cab driver on the way home. And another story, about the time before that, when I had to feign a stomach ache and leave after fifteen minutes, because his voice set my teeth on edge and made me want to dissolve out of my skin, like a vapour.
I jabbed at the fractured screen of my iPhone, and took another slurp of martini, "but I’ve just downloaded this new app, Happn, because I don’t know how else I’m ever going to meet anybody."
Happn is one of the many dating apps released in the wake of Tinder’s success. Like Tinder, it lets you swipe to indicate your interest in potential suitors. However, Happn takes the Tinder concept to a new level – you have to cross paths with users in real life before you see a profile. Every time you stray within a 25m radius of an eligible Happn user, it alerts you in real-time. You can ‘like’ or ‘pass’ on each guy, and if you both ‘like’ each-other, you can chat. And, unlike Tinder, Happn allows you to send a ‘charm’ to users who haven’t liked you yet – and it lets you know how many times you’ve crossed paths with different users too (because, if you’re in the same place every day, maybe it’s fate).
"Nothing’s Happning" I texted my mate, hilariously, after the first few days. She’d downloaded it too, so we could compare notes.
"Nothing at my end either," she replied.
Three days and not a single match for either of us, despite our wit, beauty and ample, readily displayed cleavage.
"This is what happens when you try to sell yourself with your face" I replied, "some people will find your face repulsive."
Online dating had brought out all my insecurities.
Selling yourself with your face is all well and good if you are, say, Cindy Crawford, Cara Delavigne or a photoshopped Beyoncé – but for the rest of us, the face has its limits. Especially when refracted through the lens of a camera, which, contrary to the popular maxim, does, occasionally, lie. The last selfie I took, for example, does not capture a glamorous, carefree nymphet at the peak of her youth (i.e. the me I see when I gaze into the mirror); it captures a sickly drag-queen with the pallor of instant mashed potato. This is not, I hear, the look all the single men are after.
But you just have to face the fear, and do it anyway.
"Our faces are not repulsive," my friend assured me.
She was right, thank God. By day four, we had ‘crushes’. A French investment banker with an Arsenal season ticket, an electrician who writes "lol" even when nothing’s funny (I’ll pass thanks, babe) and a suave looking Italian Stallion who is "needy for the company of women" and who I have half-heartedly agreed to meet, although we haven’t set a date yet. (Do you think "needy for the company of women" is a euphemism for "I want sex with all the ladies, even though I have a wife?")
I told you, it’s a f*cking minefield. Although I have to admit, Happn has opened my eyes to the fact that there are men out there, and some of them are close-by and alright looking.
If you’re thinking of downloading the app, I can offer you these top-tips:
1. Be patient
Remember how your Nan told you that good things come to those who wait? Well you’re going to have to wait a while before you match with a good 'un on Happn. This is not speed-dating. Remember that newer apps have fewer users. It’s not you; it’s the price you pay for being on the cutting edge.
2. You’ll need to leave the house
Your one true love is unlikely to be walking past your lounge-room window in Woolwich or Wood Green or whatever godforsaken suburb you personally retire to. You have to head out, and if you want to cross paths with anyone new and interesting, you’ll have to venture beyond the well-trodden path of your daily commute. If nothing else, Happn reminds us that love is not for the reclusive.
3. Don’t have a selfie as your main profile picture
Is it possible to look alluring and casual in a selfie? Aren’t they always a bit desperate, vain and try-hard? Ditto: professional portraits and any picture where you’re wearing a comedy wig or canoodling with an animal. I’d suggest a casual summer snapshot, so potential lovers can bask in the glow of your sun-kissed skin.
4. Never judge a book by its cover
My mate Tom once told me the only criteria you need to apply when appraising an online dating profile is ‘if it’s hot, it’s hot.’ But I find it helps to remember that beauty’s only skin-deep; that few of us are at our best in photographic format (take, for example, my mashed potato selfie). It can’t hurt to like a few uglies with cracking senses of humour.
5. Why so serious?
And while we’re on senses of humour, I’d like to use my final tip to remind you that online dating is supposed to be fun. Chill out. Charm the ladies and/or the gentlemen with your best jokes and digital flattery. Keep smiling and whatever the outcome, never, ever take it personally.
By Katie Beswick