Last week, I signed up to two very different dating sites: one free (and with a relatively bad reputation), one as a fully paid-up member (with the proviso that I get six months free if I am unsatisfied with my first six months’ experience). I waited in trepidation for those first few days: would my self-esteem be debited from the account I’ve been slowly but surely building up, along with the membership fee? Would I feel stirred to reply and meet prospective dates, or would my Vodka Martini be shaken instead? 


Before I took the plunge, I looked at numerous blogs about women, men, dating and relationships to give me the uummph to actually get on with it and sign up. If it’s approaching the buffet, handbag-buying, hob-cleaning or sorting out other people’s relationship issues, I’m always first off the mark, but when it comes to stepping out of my comfort zone, procrastination is my new best friend. Shall I? Shan’t I? Can I? Can’t I? The words raced around my head, and were not halted by my reading matter. One (www.baggagereclaim) gave the sound advice of never dating ‘until you’ve reduced your baggage to hand luggage’ : excellent, wise, perfect. Just not sure if I quite fit the criterion yet...... Oh well, I’ll just do it anyway!

So, a week on, I must say that I am rather proud of my dear old self. My self-imposed rules are working like a dream, and I have been pleasantly surprised by my utter lack of mania. Some evenings, the lazy thought ‘Shall I check my messages?’ has sauntered into my mind, only to be drowned out by a louder ‘No, I’ll do it tomorrow. Think I’d rather just watch Columbo.’ I have pushed through the niggling feeling of obligation to reply to any old (gosh, and some of them ARE old!) bod just because they have messaged me. I have merely ignored them. I have said no to anyone wanting to IM me as soon as I log on. Most importantly, I have noticed the definite whiff of a new scent in my dating history: boundaries. Actually, I’m going to capitalise the word because they’re so important, and without them I’ve found myself all at sea in the past: BOUNDARIES.

A new era is afoot, and it’s all about keeping both feet firmly on dry land and avoiding seasickness at all costs. Before one embarks on the internet dating experience, one just can’t imagine how it’s going to be. It was impossible for even me, as a private detective who conducts investigations and has to use craft and projection on a daily basis, to predict how I would feel and behave once logged on and profiled up. But it has, so far, been a chance to prove to myself that my instinct and gut reactions are top drawer and in good working order. And as far as self-esteem goes, drawing up and sticking to your boundaries is the single most important thing to do for this online dating lark. For me, my new boundaries are my wonder-cloak of defence against nonsense. If you’re no-nonsense from the outset, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to introduce nonsense at a later date and get away with it. In fact, the nonsense nerds are hopefully going to be scared off by the merest whiff of boundaries and make a sharp exeunt (for those who didn’t study Shakespeare, that’s ‘exit.’).

So as well as rules to follow, I now have boundaries to contend with too! Gosh, this is harder work than my private investigations. So many new skills to master, emotional corners to turn, detective work to do, inferences to be drawn from their choice in music and books. You’d think I’d be used to this by now, but part of me thinks: This is too much like the day job to be fun!

And surely, with so many rules and boundaries, fun is going to be the last thing on my mind? Not so. In fact, now my boundaries are drawn up and in place, I feel more at ease and self-assured. I cut off any e mail correspondence that refers immediately to my physical attributes or immediately addresses me using a term of endearment. I ignore, actually don’t even bother to read, messages that are so obviously sloppy and lacking in time and thought. Bad grammar and spelling are out: if he can’t be bothered to get the dictionary out to write his first message of introduction, the first date would certainly be no barrel of laughs, and imagine having a relationship with the dude! Am I being snooty? Too rigid and inflexible? Too big for my own boots? Perhaps, but what is the point of going shopping and not getting what you want? I don’t buy cheap paint for my house or putrid food for my tum or unbecoming clothes for my bod, so why should I stint on my next partner? That kind of economy just doesn’t make sense. As my mum says: ‘Buy cheap, buy twice.’

A few days into the messaging and I have found myself a new comfort zone, and though it may be a little further out from shore than it was before, it’s not quite far enough for my liking. I may be able to preserve my self-esteem by answering messages I like and ignoring ones I don’t, but what will happen if I actually approach men I like the look of, and, SHOCK! HORROR! they ignore me? How will my self-esteem bolster up against this scary possibility? What if I get a taste of my own medicine? Only one way to find out!

I trawl through the recommendations in my age range and spot a very pleasant-looking bloke who from his profile sounds interesting and as though he has friends (very important). What the hell? I send him an email just to say hello. To my surprise, within a few minutes he replies. A couple of messages later and we’re both offline. I check for messages later: the ball is in his court now. Nothing. Hmmm. But that’s it: Hmmmm. Not Hmmm, why doesn’t he like me, I mean, how dare he, my profile makes me sound great and the grammar is perfect??? I merely shrug and say to myself: ‘Oh well, obviously not meant to be.’

And for now, that’s enough. When my mind tries to plan and sort out how I will react if/when I meet someone for a date and afterwards they go silent on me, or how I will deal with other numerous variables in this crazy set-up we call ‘life,’ I just tap myself on the shoulder (metaphorically, of course) and say gently: ‘Remember Rules 7 and 8 dear: after all, YOU wrote the damn things!’

Next week:

No ice-skating partner yet (probably a good thing: I am, after all, a side-clinger), but is the online dating lark, as many critics say, bad for one’s self-esteem? And what about the other team? What is the internet dating experience like for men?




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