The Vagenda

Logging On To Get Off

“Being single can be amazing”, or so eHarmony would like us to believe. A strange opening gambit, perhaps, for an advertisement for a dating service promising to have all us hapless singles married off before our ovaries give up and we are left to sit alone with only the company of the late night shopping channels enticing us to buy sparkly things to distract from our loneliness.

Too far? Quite possibly. But after my own recent run-in with online dating and that all-too-smug smile of the eHarmony’s blonde poster child singed onto my retinas, I have issues to raise.

Firstly: bravo to the eHarmony marketing team for shying away from the usual template of couples frolicking on a deserted beach before falling into each other’s knitwear-clad arms to watch the sun set on their wonderful love-filled day – and on my faith in humanity. Do these people actually exist? Who is providing such a steady supply of Aran knitwear? The problem with these adverts in appealing to singles such as myself is that 1) I look terrible in knitwear, and 2) I live in London, where there is a distinct lack of beaches for me to frolic upon and the sunset is almost always predictably overlaid with a thick coating of smog. Clearly, eHarmony have cottoned on to this fact and, in the advert in question, opted to target a more young-lady-about-town demographic. But heaven portend such liberated ladies-about-town would ever dare to admit they might quite like a boyfriend, so those cheeky things at eHarmony went all reverse psychology on us.

“Being single is amazing” – look how much fun you’re having alone – “but if you’re going to give it up…” – as if being single is a nasty addiction. Like coke, when you’re at the stage where you become all skeezy at work and everyone stops inviting you out anymore. Or cake, when you’re clinically obese. You HAVE TO STOP NOW. It might look like fun, but underneath is the cold, dark reality that you need to escape – and here are eHarmony to help you! Grasp their helping hand! Thankfully, their marketing team are at hand to help us meet a handsome chap who will emerge from the bustle of the city with a glint in his eye and…wait, is that more knitwear?!

I must say, eHarmony, despite your admirable attempt to revolutionise the advertising of online dating, it has all unfortunately misfired. And this is why.

Being single is not amazing. People who are not having sex do not buoyantly leap from yoga class to the bar with their attractive gal pals, all with an effortless flick of blonde curls. People who are not having sex go out too much, drink Stella and reminisce about the last time someone lay on top of them. Or there are those who, after one too many inevitable mushroom cloud emotional aftermaths, never want to have sex again. I tend to straddle both options – in that I do not straddle anyone anywhere near as much as I would care to.

So after observing several of my lady friends who had entered into online dating and actually met some decent people, I admitted defeat and signed up. Being the cheapskate that I am, combined with my overriding pessimism and refusal to admit online dating was where my needs were taking me, I opted for the free options. This was probably my first mistake.

DON’T be scared of me, girls. This was one of the first descriptions I read. In truth, my fear did not come from the content of the sentence but more from asking: why was the capitalisation necessary? For anyone interested in dating online, a word of warning – grammar is never high on the agenda. Needless to say, I was scared and moved swiftly on, scrolling through the pages of my apparent matches with all their calculated-but-still-unfortunate angles, torso shots, and a disturbing number of photos that were clearly taken in bathroom stalls. Second most popular choice was lying on a pillow, which I could only presume was an ingenious tactic to allow browsing ladies to spoon their laptop for a trial run of what being in bed with this sensitive soul would be like. Mmm, relationshippy.

I uploaded some of the few photos I have where my fringe is doing good things, both eyes are open and I am not gurning, and wrote a wonderfully witty paragraph about my good self including what I thought to be a rather hilarious, yet subtle, reference to George Orwell. Just to sort the wheat from the chaff, if you will. In other words, despite what I initially saw, I behaved like a good sport and dove right in there.

Here is a selection of responses I received:
Your sexy – please don’t talk to me until you have acquired a grammar book. And then a dictionary. And then mentally matured another decade.

Love a Northern accent – that’s kind; you’ll be excited to hear I am often mistaken for a Gallagher sister (NB: This is a lie.) I wasn’t aware that when I typed normal words into my computer, they came out all phonetic, but that’s technology made Oop North for you, eh?

You look so sweet your going to put sugar out of business – this one pretty much speaks for itself.

Daaamn. You got one free ticket to boom town – BOOM TOWN? Why thank you, I’ve always wanted to go there. I can see your mother in the background of your profile picture – will she be coming too?

Straight to the point. Straight to boom town. But I guess that’s where we all want to go; otherwise we wouldn’t have signed up, right? Obviously being single is amazing and all, but who wouldn’t want a free ticket to boom town? I know I do.

After a few days, when the trauma of the above had slowly and painfully abated, and an email prompting me to check my New Matches wherein I would undoubtedly find my true love, I reluctantly signed back in. Perhaps I had judged too quickly; just because none of my suitors so far had recognised my Orwellian pun or my encyclopaedic knowledge of Wes Anderson films, doesn’t mean he isn’t out there somewhere in this proverbial sea full of fish. In fact, if the site name was to be believed, there should be plenty.

The first message I read upon my return:

 I hear the internet can be a dangerous place.

Yes, thanks for reminding me. Delete profile. My dating antics are dangerous enough as they are.

19 thoughts on “Logging On To Get Off

  1. I too have been baffled by the “being single is amazing” line. I’ve always interpreted the next bit as a bit like “if you’re going to bow to the pressure, though, …”. Have you also seen there’s internet dating for people who specifically like men in uniforms? (I guess at least it means you know they have a job.)
    eDating is a bit before my time. I used The Rules for Dating! (They didn’t work, mind – my friend and I got off our faces while being all “independent” and therefore desirable, then I pulled someone and ended up snogging his face off while slurring rubbish about not going home with him cos “I’m a creature unlike any other”). Anyhow, apparently The Rules is being reissued next year with updated guidelines for internet dating. So don’t give up yet!

  2. “Being single is not amazing. People who are not having sex do not buoyantly leap from yoga class to the bar with their attractive gal pals, all with an effortless flick of blonde curls. People who are not having sex go out too much, drink Stella and reminisce about the last time someone lay on top of them. Or there are those who, after one too many inevitable mushroom cloud emotional aftermaths, never want to have sex again.”

    Um, being single can be amazing. I’m 35, currently single, do not drink too much, I do have an amazing circle of girlfriends to go out with (some single, some not, some looking), and I have truly never been happier. It’s going to take one amazing man to get me to give this up and honestly, I’m not even looking. Not because I’ve been frightened off men, but because I really am happy.

    I don’t want to have to compromise, I don’t want to feel beholden to someone, I don’t need to split my household bills and I don’t need a man (or woman) to have an orgasm. Actually, I’m far better at that than any man has ever been.

    We all know the Disney Syndrome (meet Prince Charming, live Happily Ever After) is a myth, so why do so few of us actually believe this? Stop drinking the cool aid and realise that being part of a couple is not the be all and end all. Nor is having children. Is that selfish? *shrug* The good thing about being single is that I get to be selfish, and it comes with an amazing sense of freedom.

    If that means my “woman car” gets revoked, I don’t care. I’m tired of this myth that all women need a relationship to truly be happy.

  3. I agree with Cat! I had to read that paragraph in context several times before I worked out it was serious. Along with erasing the experiences of asexual people that have no desire to be in relationships, it’s the sort of thing people who believe women aren’t complete without a man say (hence me struggling to realise you were being serious!). If you find you’re not happy single, doesn’t mean no one can be – or even that you can’t be.

    I also happen to think not having children is way less selfish than bringing a child into the world that you don’t particularly want or can’t care for. Just as staying single is way less selfish than relationships for the sake of it.

  4. I don’t think that paragraph is meant to be taken seriously at all! I read it as a poke at eHarmony’s attempts to make us believe that even though being single can be great, what we all really want is a lovely boyfriend. Even if we don’t know it yet… Which is what I find the most insulting personally and I don’t think is the case at all, not for me anyway, and I don’t think for the writer either. For me it’s all about having a choice whether you want a bf or not – it all depends on the time of your life and what works for you I guess. As you rightly say, we don’t need a man/woman for an orgasm and more often than not they’re more trouble than they’re worth!!

    Disney Syndrome is bullshit – anyone who believes that has been deluded by too many adverts like eHarmony or those countless others of coupley couples the writer references.

    That sense of freedom you mention, I couldn’t agree more – relationship, single, whatever – as you say Courtney, if you’re happy being single great! If you want a relationship, great! I see it as eHarmony trying to nudge us in the direction of ‘if you decide to bow to pressure…’, like Glosswitch says.

    Either way – I see it as in jest, not attacking anyones relationship (or not!) choices!

  5. I thought that at first, but it didn’t really make much sense in context for it to be a joke – to me at least (and apparently at least a couple of others). “eHarmony says being single is okay, but here’s what it’s *really* like!”

    Maybe the author can enlighten us!

  6. I signed up to Guardian Soulmates and one of the most obvious themes among the women was an obsession with grammar and apostrophes :)

  7. Fifthing (I think? Maths is *not* my strong point) Cat. Have total sympathy for the author in terms of dating exploits as they remind me of my brief and terrifying/hilarious foray into the (not so) fresh hell that is POF, but that paragraph really leapt out at me.

    I’ve taken myself off both dating sites that I was on having realised that, for me (important caveat), being single IS amazing. It’s been a revelation. I’m not at all trying to belittle the author – if she wants a relationship then by Juno she deserves a decent and mutually respectful one! But she isn’t saying, “being single isn’t amazing FOR ME” – she’s just saying it’s not amazing period – which, y’know, just isn’t relatable to everyone’s experience (as we can see here).

  8. @Vagenda team – Then she phrased her personal experience as a statement, lumping all women together, which as all feminists know, is something we’re fighting against.

    If she wants to find Prince Charming, have lots of rugrats and end her days in wedded bliss, that’s fine by me but she should remember when making blanket statements that not all of us have the same dream, nor do we all find that being single sucks.

  9. isn’t it understood that when someone writes, unless they explicitly state otherwise, they are speaking for themselves? You make statements of your own opinion without parenthetic qualification.

  10. That ad is a bit condescending isn’t it? A bit ‘ it’s ok to have fun and be single for a little while, but eventually you will want to be like us and have a proper, fulfilling, monogamous, normal relationship’.

  11. I didn’t see it that way – it IS great to be single and have all your time to yourself – and the more you believe that the less needy you’ll be and the more you’ll have to give :) And right enough, if you do let someone into your life they’d better be amazing or is it worth the necessary accommodations you’ll have to make ? It’s great to be single, but it can also be 1000 times better not to be, or equally 1000 times worse…

  12. @Simon – Um, as a writer I can categorically say “no” to that, especially when you use the word “people” rather than “I” or “personally”.

    It’s her opinion, yes, and that seems to be that single women are either miserable drunkards or emotionally damaged. I disagree with that opinion, and said so.

  13. I thought the fact it included phrases like “People who are not having sex [do these things]” and “I tend to straddle both options [the ones I just mentioned as the two options for single people]” rather than “this is how I am” meant she wasn’t just talking about herself. That sounds fairly explicit to me. It could be just me misreading, though if that’s the case it’s clearly quite easy to misread. It would have been easy to word the paragraph in a way that would say “I don’t find being single amazing” (or to edit it to that state) and emphasise the personal aspect, but that didn’t happen in this case.

    Oh, and I’ve never heard of assuming someone’s speaking for themselves. There are plenty of people who genuinely want to speak for whole groups of people, so to do so because someone might not be intending that would probably count as ignoring and potentially causing a lot of problems. Either way it’s poor writing, and something some of this site’s other articles seem to be talking against. (I know, you can have differing opinions, but “do/don’t speak for all women” doesn’t seem a differing opinion compatible with feminism.)

  14. @Cat – do you think being a writer makes you more able to understand the written word ? I’ve been reading for 54 years now and think I’ve got the knack of it :)

    @Courtney “Oh, and I’ve never heard of assuming someone’s speaking for themselves. There are plenty of people who genuinely want to speak for whole groups of people”

    hmmm, I think that there are many who purport to be doing that, but as to whether they actually are is another matter. I always assume when people say “people, everyone, etc, think” they mean they think unless proved otherwise – and for that matter, how would you ever know?

  15. I’m also with Cat. I haven’t been single since 2003, am now married (to the same bloke I met in 2003), with a 4-year-old son and a 2 and a half-year-old daughter. However, thinking back to all the years prior to 2003 I don’t necessarily have fonder memories of my times while in relationships as opposed to those when I was single. In other words, the times when I was happiest, more fulfilled or appeased were not necessarily those when I wasn’t single. I think it’s much more complicated and multi-faceted than that, really. I’ve spent long spells of my life, especially in my 20s (thus presumably when I was “in my prime”), not having sex, even as long as four years in a row. Again, thinking back these were not necessarily atrocious times of sexual frustration and repression. I was probably more sexually frustrated whilst in a 3-year-relationship at uni, with a bloke I had next to no sexual chemistry with, than while being celibate for years in a row.

    “Sometimes being single is amazing. Sometimes it isn’t. If the author was having an awesome time being single, why would she be doing internet dating?”

    This is a quote from the Vagenda team’s reply to Cat. Again, I don’t necessarily agree. I met my husband online in 2003, via (does it still exist, btw?). Unlikely as it my sound, at the time I was possibly at my happiest as a singleton. I was thirty-one (I’ve just turned forty), sharing a flat with friends I got on with beautifully, and was quite simply enjoying life. This happened after a string of confidence-shattering failed relationships, or beginnings of relationships. At the time I decided to try online dating because I didn’t mind the idea of giving fate a helping hand with meeting someone, if that was what karma had in store for me after all. In other words, I wanted to explore life and keep my options open. But I wasn’t unhappy. Perhaps that was precisely the reason I was even more receptive to meeting the bloke who would then become my husband and father of my children.

    I think the author of this piece ought to bear in mind that meeting someone via a dating website is just another way of hooking up with the opposite sex – no more, no less likely to provoke a disappointment than meeting someone at a friend’s dinner party, in the office or down the pub.