true love

Home alone again on a Friday night with only reruns of House and your cat for company. We’ve all been there. It’s the reason most of us download Tinder. Gone are the days of skimming through the lonely hearts column. Not that we ever did because at its peak we were 14 and naive; necking Bacardi Breezers at a mate’s house party and trying to snog Tom from physics. The fleeting glance across a train carriage. A brush of hands reaching for the same book that leads to conversation then coffee, two kids and a mortgage. Such events were once a possibility, not just a whimsical daydream of a hopeless romantic or more likely, an embarrassing encounter of the modern-day singleton.

As a permanently independant woman who indulges in the occasional booty call to her side piece Papa John, I never really find myself yearning for a man. That isn’t to say you can’t be independent and in a relationship of course. It’s great to have that special someone to share the highs and the lows with, but by no means does it equate to life being complete. In my humble opinion, it’s important to categorically look out for number one first, know yourself and the rest will follow. As a wise Ru Paul once said, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gon’ love someone else?’.

Often when I see a couple looking sickeningly in love in public, I ponder how they came to meet. I’m not one to talk to strangers but the likelihood that they met online may be higher than one might expect, with online dating as the second most popular way to meet new partners. Less surprising might be the fact that, when broached with the question of first encounters, couples are somewhat reluctant to admit their relationship is a product of online dating. Many feel embarrassed that it diverts from the traditional friend-of-a-friend introduction. What they don’t realise is that looking for true love online isn’t so uncommon, just some new-age courtship that might confuse your nan.

What is true love anyway?

It’s undeniable that the dating game has changed and arguably, so have the players. The idea of ‘true love’ seems somewhat unrealistic to many; a fantasy created by romance novelists to impart hope that soulmates really exist. Yes, The Notebook was great, but unless your first love happened to be Ryan Gosling who built you a house (if so, you’d be a fool to have left him) you’ve got a 1 in 8,300 chance of rekindling the flame. I realise how downright cynical that sounds but I feel there is some truth to this cynicism (keep reading to find it).

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To me, ‘true love’ implies finding someone that you simply just can’t live without and to me, that is heavy. Why put all that pressure on yourself trying to find someone that you need to literally live, when you’re probably doing just fine without them? The priorities of the twenty-something have changed, they’ve unsubscribed to the notion of ‘true love’ in favour of something a bit more tangible. We want to immerse ourselves in experiences, especially when young and foolish, saying yes to everything rather than obsessing over finding someone that makes your heart melt. We want to meet people, but not pin our hopes and dreams on them.

It’s a match

New experiences can come in all different forms, from travel to career changes to love interests. Taking a dip into the online sea of single fish can be a real hoot and who knows, you might even find that true love you’ve heard so much about. It worked for a relative of mine who, ironically, vowed she would never marry. Two years after meeting her boyfriend online she was wed! It seems strange that, by creating an online profile, you are laying yourself bare, open to the scrutiny of others you haven’t even met. But I suppose that’s no different to the social media we use every single day and if you’re cool with that then go for it. The great (maybe freaky) thing is that a computer does the magic algorithm, saving you from the endless tirade of ‘Ooh Pete in HR is single, I’ll set you up’, from friends looking for a special shout out at your wedding. Sites suggesting potential partners based on the shared interests and sought after qualities could save you a lot of hassle in the long run. It’s hard to argue with eHarmony’s stats, with it being one of the most successful dating sites worldwide. The question is, how often is online cupid’s maths correct?

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Failing at falling

Whether you meet someone online or through a friend, a bad date will always be a bad date. There’s been plenty of times I’d rather have stuck my head in a functioning dishwasher than be sat opposite my online match who is either forcing me to squeeze blood from a stone, or make earplugs from my serviette to muffle his incessant rambling. The all important de-brief to friends follows; why did it go so badly? We’re both obsessed with Kurt Cobain, weren’t we destined for l.o.v.e? Gurl, they reply, it’s all about chemistry, there ain’t no fire without that spark. Of course they’re right, superficial, surface-level data can’t predict how two people are going to interact for the first time. In light of this, it’s important to remember that just because you and your date both worship a deceased grunge icon, it doesn’t mean you’ll worship each other.

Another trait that online dating can often skew is the simple matter of appearance. Even if you are, like most people, a ‘beauty comes from within’ kinda person, if your first thought isn’t ‘hubba hubba’ when you see their profile pic, it’s likely you’ll just be mates. Which is great, another name on the Christmas card list, but back to the keyboard for another refined search. Even worse is if you’re 5ft 9 like myself looking for a guy with some height. It’s near impossible to predict if you’re going to be greeted by a man child and find yourself subconsciously crouching for a welcome hug.

The trouble with online dating is that it hides behind a facade. Its exterior is deceptive, a numbers game that presents a world of possibilities, endless opportunities to find ‘the one’. Yet the truth is it’s a tiresome game, not for the indecisive or the faint-hearted.

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Success or subpar?

There’s no doubt that online dating can find you a friend, lover or a person to spend the rest of your days with. It can also find you a relentless stalker or a guy with a foot fetish, but that’s by the by. Its popularity can’t be contended with, more and more people are turning to online dating simply because the rest of our life seems to be spent online. We’re plugged into this fake reality we know as ‘social’, in turn making online dating artificial until taken offline. In my experience and being a witness to others’, more often than not, you and your potential spouse just aren’t on the same page. They’ve either turned up with a matching t-shirt, expecting you to wear it throughout the date (true story), or they’re eating with their mouth open. Whichever it is, disappointment is bound to ensue. In essence, the cyber dating dimension will set your hopes up so high, only to shoot them down with one poor date. Unfortunately, such sites don’t come with a warning, so here’s mine: use with caution and apply vigorously with salt.

Katy is a creative writer, EFL teacher and hummus enthusiast from Yorkshire. She enjoys travelling, running and a good laugh. Read about her (mis)fortunes at Trails of Saigon.

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