(Update: I forgot two people. Eeee! Sorry! I've added them on.)
There are 15 million Singles in Britain. Seven million of them internet date. There are over 1400 dating sites in Britain, and they generate over £105 million. In 2009 British internet sites spawned 12 million first dates. Only 50% of British online daters are looking for a long-term relationship.
I found all this out last night from a BBC2 program called "Wink, Meet, Delete." If you are in Britain or Ireland, I recommend that you try to find and watch it online. If you aren't, you are probably out of luck, so I will describe it below.
Benedict Ambrose and I watched "Wink, Meet, Delete" from the comfort of our flat in the Historical House. I think B.A. had a glass of wine, so imagine B.A. with a glass of wine in a moss-green Parker Knowll armchair and me in a corner of a white IKEA sofa, wearing a grey argyle pullover. There we were, a typical 21st century married couple (including the 10+ extra pounds married people put on shortly after getting married) watching a handful of Singles talk wittily, bravely, desperately about their internet search for love. Feel free to throw popcorn at your computer screen.
The show was enthralling. The producers had assembled a variety of Singles, mostly middle-aged to talk to. There were:
1. a Baby Boomer Guardianista (a very left-wing but consumerist, PC, right-on, middle-class, Spirit of the 1960s) man in a black turtleneck
2. a funny, balding, squashy divorced journalist with a soul patch
3. a clever, vivid, slender 50-something writer, a widow
4. a fat, chuckling blonde, whom I adored
5. a largish, lovely girl in her 20s, of perhaps Mediterranean heritage, with beautiful long dark hair
6. a young and handsome Edinburgh (or Glasgow..?) white-collar office type (drool)
7. a very pretty, fun part-African 24 year old divorcee with two children
8. a 39 year old divorced roofer with bad teeth
9. a stocky, bald red-headed 48 year old Glaswegian ( or Edinburgher..?) estate agent who could have been Frankie Boyle's less confident older brother
10. a nice-looking, ordinary bloke in his 20s or early 30s who, according to B.A., had bad teeth, but I thought he just looked nice
Update 11. a beautiful woman with huge dark eyes and MS
12. a conventionally pretty young women
All of these people were tremendously interesting and telegenic, so kudos to the producers for finding them. And I hope they will now forgive me (if they read this), for I shall now make some personal remarks.
1. The Guardianista man was a type as easy to recognize as a stormtrooper in Star Wars, and when he said he belonged to the Guardian Companions site, I said, "Bwa ha ha ha ha!", which is what I said when My Nearest Neighbour said she had a friend who was on the Guardian Companions site. I just think left-wing people with intellectual interests, who drink Chablis, name-drop Martin Amis, and find religious faith embarrassing are, as a group, hilarious, if potentially dangerous.
Anyway, the Guardianista man wasn't really interested in a relationship but in delightful flirtation and witty letters over the internet. He was taken aback at forthright women who say "Okay, I trust you aren't an ax-murderer, rapist or pedophile, so let's meet." He was more inclined to want to exchange 700 emails first. Once he had dinner over the internet with a woman in Florida. He made his dinner, she made her dinner, and then they ate their respective dinners "together", presumably with webcams. I thought this sad, but he enjoyed it very much. Curiously, though, when he took this woman to a real dinner in Florida, to a very expensive restaurant (which he clearly resents having had to pay for), he did not enjoy it as much.
Interestingly, Guardianista man was snide about Guardianista women. He said in their ads they stated that they wanted a man who wasn't sexist, who was ecologically conscious, who was socially conscious (in fact, everything I would expect of a Guardian reader), etc.
"No wonder they're Single," he laughed.
"Hey, buddy," said I from my sofa. "You're Single."
Guardianista man was a time waster for whom fantasy is more attractive than reality, although if sex was on offer, he took it "as one does" [smirk]. Watching Guardianista man made me wonder, once again, why so many Englishmen seem to be so odd about women.
2. The divorced and balding journalist was so sad, I wanted to hug him. I suspect he was a Guardianista, too, but his sorrow made him deep. He was quite a ladies' man in his youth, and as they showed a photo, you could see why. He was bespectacled but cute, witty and intelligent. I can see lots of clever women of his generation digging him in the 1960s and 1970s. However, eventually the shadow side of the Sexual Dissolution got him, for his marriage unexpectedly ended, and now he is lonely. He had high expectations of internet dating, but by filming he had quit.
3. The widowed writer was very attractive indeed, as B.A. pointed out. I couldn't make out why she had not been snapped up right away by some lovely widower, perhaps a widowed Oxford don. While internet dating, she had met a lot of divorced people and realized that "it is far better to be widowed than divorced."
4. The fat and funny blonde had discovered, thanks to the internet, that there are indeed men who love "big, beautiful women." She was stunned at how many. She showed her old internet photo, in which she had a short haircut and looked dreadful. She had been mistaken for a "dyke" (you can say almost all bad words on British TV after 9 PM), so she put more effort into how she looked, realizing that big can be sexy.
5. The largish, lovely girl proved this, for she had a really pretty face, which she made prettier with make-up, and indeed, she soon fell in love with a man she met on the internet. I believe she met him over the internet on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve or some other day when it is a bit shamemaking (she thought) to be online. They arranged to go out on New Year's Eve, and the man was 10. (above), the nice-looking ordinary bloke. ("What?! But he has such bad teeth," protested B.A.) They beamed in the TV studio, and I thought they were sweet.
6. The young and handsome Edinburgh (or Glasgow) white-collar wants to settle down and find a woman to be the mother of his children. I imagine the BBC phones started ringing off the hook, frantic women sitting on hold for minutes that seemed like hours. But then I have a weakness for Edinburgh men in nice suits. Anyway, his revelation was that he wouldn't be interested in the kind of woman who would have sex on the first date. The female interviewer, whom I suspect of being a Guardianista, asked him a tad waspishly if he had had sex on the first date. After hesitating, he confessed that he had once, having been very drunk. Personally, I forgave him. Men have a harder time turning down sex than women do. My guess is that they very rarely say, "Ewwwww! No! Go away! Ewwww!"
7. The very pretty, fun 24 year old mixed-race girl married 8. (above), the 39 year old roofer. He can't have children, so he was delighted to be given a ready-made family. There was egregiously sentimental footage of the four of them on a sofa with a dog and playing together in a park, and I almost got teary. Anyway, they just clicked. I am not clear on why he was The One, but he was.
8. The bald, ginger-bearded Glaswegian was in grave danger of becoming bitter. For some reason, I did not want to hug him as much as I wanted to hug the sad, divorced journalist. Instead I wanted to tell him that he should study Frankie Boyle, who is married, and develop Frankie Boyle's confidence. Somehow, I think Frankie Boyle is key to his future happiness. Meanwhile, I wonder if there is a "bald and beautiful" category on dating sites. There must be women who are attracted to bald men just because, and not despite the fact that, they are bald. And, although bald, this guy was certainly not as ugly as he said. I suspect gingerism.
Update: 11. The dark-eyed woman with MS had had very glamorous photos taken-with her cane, incidentally--but initially did not mention on dating sites that she has, well, a "wasting disease," and thus gave at least one date a huge shock. And this was such poignant situation that I don't know why I didn't remember her this morning. She certainly made an impression last night.
12. All I rememer about 12 is that she was young and pretty and did not interest me in a blogging for Singles capacity.
One issue that the interviewees agreed on was that people must NOT NOT NOT lie about their looks, either through words or with out-of-date pictures. Expecting a clever, 28 year old, thin guy and discovering that he is a clever, 38 year old, fat guy is a total turn-off. It is miles better to put up an honest, strictly contemporary photo.
I've thought a lot about internet dating, and I have internet dated, and I know married people who met through internet dating. These married people are not millionaires or beauty queens, but average-looking people with two or three very attractive physical features who love their jobs. In short, ordinary people who value ordinary people. They are practical, not dreamers or time-wasters.
B.A. and I met over the internet, although not on dating sites. We had friends in common, whom I had met because of my blogs. And it is unlikely we would have met any other way, as he has lived in Scotland his whole life, and it didn't occur to me to go there until 2008. My personal feeling is that blogs are a great way to meet likeminded people and make friends. The trick is that your blog should be about something that you are passionate about (and not just about you).
Finally, I can't stress how important it is to actually meet your best internet friends. Before he met me in person, Benedict Ambrose suspected that Seraphic might be an airhead with a squeaky voice because that was sort of the image my blog-persona of perpetual cheer created. So he was, apparently, pleasantly surprised to find the sensible, silent, jet-lagged little person who tumbled off the London bus. And I have met up with my very favourite readers, like Aelianus, Alias Clio and Shiraz, and we have had marvellous chats.
Yet Another Update: Here's what I wrote in the CR some months ago about internet dating.