Date 9: 3 Jewish ladies

So for Date 9, I finally listened to the nagging - wait no, "considered advice" - of a large number of my female Jewish friends, and put myself on J-Date.

For those of you goyim not in the know, J-Date is the most popular dating site among the chosen people. It's as much of a rite of passage in the community these days as your bris or your bar mitzvah. Once you reach adulthood, once that university relationship with the shiksa breaks down, your Uncle Levi sits you down, tells you a long rambling story about your great-great grandparents fleeing their Shetl in the snow, & says "Oy veh, Willard, why not try J-Date?"

As the preceding paragraph of outrageous clichés attempts to demonstrate, J-Date is exceedingly Jewish. One of the questions on the profile asks if you are Ashkenazi or Sephardi. Another asks if you keep kosher. They even have a Rabbi of the month, for goodness sake.

                           To quote a friend, "I bet the Rabbi of the Month gets all the pussy" 

There's only one problem. I'm not really *that* Jewish. My answer to the Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi question (basically "Eastern European or Spanish descent") is, "errr, which of those is more likely to come from Kent?" .

I'm from your classic, totally lost touch with the culture, atheist, British Jew. The kind of Jew that has to hide the bacon if strict relatives come round. I have been to a synagogue maybe twice in my whole life. It's not just me, my whole family is incredibly anglicised. To give you an example of the sort of thing I mean, there's often a point in conversations between Jews where you compare notes on how your family has been persecuted.

My family have lived in the UK for hundreds of years. Other people will tell you harrowing stories about what happened to their families during the holocaust; my family, well, we read about it in the Times. The pogroms in Russia? Errr... we, errr, read about it in the Times. Basically, if you want to spot Jews who had it easy, aristocratic British Jews is where it's at.

You basically have to go back to the English Civil War in the mid-17th century before I can join in, and even then it's very much "Yes, it was really hard for us to get invites to all the best parties in the late Restoration period", a tale which is unlikely to inspire a weepy Spielberg picture anytime soon.

Oh, I mean I'm Jewish enough that the Nazis would kill me, but frankly, that's not especially Jewish. I'm more sort of well, Jew-ish than "Jewish". My first worry was that the women I'd meet on J-Date would be looking for the sort of man who wears a yarmulke, asks "Meat or Dairy?" when going out to a restaurant & supports Tottenham Hotspur. My second was that as I'm sure my Great uncle Mordecai would point out, compared to many other dating sites, it's not cheap. Would it all be for nothing?

Well, Great Uncle Mordecai need not have worried. Within a few minutes of logging on, I had started to get messages from quite a few stunningly attractive women, most of whom were moderate British Jews of the same sort of stripe as myself. I can't decide whether there is an imbalance of men to women, or whether Jewish ladies are just more forthright, but either way, it's great.

One indicator of how forthright ladies on the site can be was an American woman, whose profile picture was her naked, wearing nothing but camouflage paint & an Israeli Defence Force cap at a jaunty angle. She messaged me and immediately started asking me about my sperm count & talking about her "relentless urges". This presented me with a quandary. Should I date one of the lovely normal ladies? Or this, erm, feisty specimen?

I asked my friends; while the overwhelming democratic response was "YES DATE CAMOGIRL, THINK OF THE STORY", my actually sensible friends suggested I shouldn't waste my shot on J-Date with someone I probably wouldn't want to be with. I am *really* looking for romance, after all. A hard choice to make. The story or the shot at true love?

Well, readers, I decided to steer a middle path - date all the girls, and then write it up counting all three dates as one. Having my latke and eating it, so to speak. I'm sure Uncle Mordecai would be proud. Now, there was a certain moral qualm to doing this - dating more than one person still *feels* weird and a bit wrong. But still, that's the norm on online dating. So, in one busy week I dated three lovely Jewish ladies.

J-Date (or, at least the corner of J-Date I was in), is full of bright stylish young professionals, and the first lady was no exception. Once I'd got the initial "I'm not that Jewish" chat off my chest, we settled down to a lovely evening over cocktails. She had a fascinating & secret job I can't tell you about, but trust me, it was amazing. By the time we'd discussed our mutually interesting jobs, the bar staff were turning down the lights & making subtle hints that maybe we should go.

We decided to be stubborn, and stayed in the bar through all the chair stacking, until they sent their sternest and most matronly waitress to tell us they were closing in two minutes, and then we left, giggling. Three hours had passed in what felt like 5 minutes. We then walked to the tube & bid each other goodnight.

The second date was Camogirl, although "girl" may be pushing it. She said she was 28 on her profile, although as my housemate said, carefully scrutinising her pictures, "If she's 28, I'm about 12." We met up at a nice vegan place in North London. She was very pleasant in person, from Minnesota in the USA (yah). She freely admitted she wasn't really 28, but told me if she used her real age, men wouldn't date her. Men - we are bastards, aren't we?

She worked in finance, and knew quite a bit about a few big investigations I'd done, which was flattering. She brought me a tin of Loam coloured camo paint as a gift. We had a laugh about her profile picture - she gets some "pretty cool" messages as a result of how OTT it is.

We chatted a great deal about Israel, having both traveled there extensively. We agreed it was a beautiful country, although she was a bit surprised I didn't fancy living there. Having grown up in snowy Minnesota, she was astounded anyone wouldn't fancy living somewhere hot. We both had a love of Hedgehogs in common, and she was thrilled to see the litter of baby hedgehogs I'd seen earlier in the week.

We went our separate ways, and later texted each other to say we'd enjoyed the date, but didn't really feel a spark. Happy ending though - I introduced her to an Israeli friend, and they've been on a couple of dates since. See? There's someone for everyone:)

The third and final girl was your typical hard-working North London Jewish lass. She was in charge of a very down-to-earth business, and had a sideline in hand-making beautiful jewellery. I'd never met a woman with her own Oxy-Acetylene welding torch before. We talked about our experiences of online dating - she told me her pet hate was men who still lived with their mothers, which apparently are all over J-Date like a rash. Maybe living independently explains my success?

We went out for drinks, stayed on for dinner and then I walked her to her car. Just before we got to the car, we had a lovely kiss, which was memorable partly because a man was trying awkwardly to reverse park around us as we stood there.

So, there you have it - J-Date is officially brilliant. I've met a ton of the kind of strong willed, ambitious women I'm really attracted to, and found possibly the one place on the Internet where I'm hot property. If, by some dreadful mischance I don't find true love on this adventure (and hey, I've been in 2nd dates with both the welder & the woman of mystery, so fingers crossed), then it's definitely a site I'd come back to - if only to keep my mum happy:)

Next week - Guardian Soulmates & (!)

Date 8: The Officer & Gentlewoman

So, for Date 8, I'm back in the mainstream. And what could be more mainstream than a TV advertised website, complete with a picture of every woman's fantasy: a burly fireman carrying her away?

Note: by "every woman's fantasy" I'm obviously ignoring the many ardent feminist friends who probably don't imagine being lifted bodily by a doubtless Sun-reading fireFIGHTER (they aren't all men, as you'll soon see). Sure they'd prefer being lifted bodily by some Slavoj Žižek quoting trade unionist, but who knows.

So, how does it work? Quite a few people have asked me how I can justify going on Uniform dating, as I don't wear a uniform to work. I'm not a Policeman or a Fireman or a Doctor. Now one imagines a rugged stubbly TV Producer passionately kissing them and then saying "Can we do that again? The Camera Operator says the light wasn't right." And therein lies the genius of the site.

You can register as either a "uniformed professional", or as a civilian. So, although I have a flak jacket in my wardrobe (thanks, BBC), I registered as a civilian, and started looking for a hot lady fireman to pick me up, while I giggled and held on my impractical Ascot hat with one free hand.

 So, I scanned through the list of available professions - it's quite interesting what is or isn't considered "uniformed". For example, Prison officers, uniformed security guards and civilian air crew are on there. I mean, maybe I could understand an air stewardess fetish, but Prison guards? Really? I mean, I've seen Prisoner Cell Block H and OZ - and didn't want to recreate either. Still, each to their own, eh?


 As you can see from the image above, I was keen to find a lady firefighter, mostly for the amusement of the stereotype. I was quite leery of meeting a female copper, not just because of the old journo saying "ACAB" ("All Coppers Are Bastards"), but also because the Met Police are banned from using the site - and other forces discourage officers from using it.

The likelihood is, if you go on Uniform Dating in London, and meet a copper, that person is what the army call a "Walt". What's a Walt, you ask? Well, that's army slang for a "Walter Mitty" - a faker, who claims to be in the army when the closest he's ever been to serving in the forces is buying one of those Rambo knives with a compass in the handle when he was 14.

Anecdotally, Uniform Dating is crawling with this sort of "Yeah, I was in Iraqistan, love, and the Falklands. Twice. With the SAS. That was before David Cameron phoned me and told me to be in the Fire brigade" type. (If you're interested in the topic of "Walting", there's a good breakdown of the phenomenon here and a report on 2 fake firemen being exposed here).

 Sadly dear readers, although I messaged several suspicious looking policewomen, none responded.

 Of course, that could be because Policewomen are reluctant to date journalists; or, are too sensible to want to date me. Indeed, the Police rumour is that journalists have been using the site to meet and try to manipulate officers; one cop friend told me she'd been told if she went on an online date, and the other person turned out to be a journalist of any stripe, she should just get up & walk away. Which seems a bit harsh on say, the editor of something like Crocheting Monthly or International Cat Fancier (incorporating Kitten Week), but there you go.

 So, I couldn't find a fake cop, or a real lady firefighter - but I must say, I wasn't short of attention. Uniform dating was the first dating site I'd been on where it feels like there are far more women than men - and my goodness, the women on there are keen. I started to get messages & flirts & likes piling into my inbox at a rate of knots. For the first time, I started to get messages of the type my female friends described to me - ones in ALL CAPS, riddled with misspellings & bad grammar. I'm sorry to say I didn't respond to any of them; don't judge me, but I'm not sure I could love someone who couldn't spell.

 It's a very different demographic to most dating sites; as opposed to the normal metropolitan trendies who work in marketing, if you looked on the civilian side of the site, it was much more working class than I'd experienced before. Lots of ladies who work in supermarkets or factories - but I imagine if you think of the demographic who are looking for a hunky fireman, I guess that stacks up. That said, the message I did reply to was pretty, um, forward.

It read: "Bang bang bang cheeky boy, Boats are pretty fun, I like fine chess and handcuffs. Come at me."

 I laughed, but I must confess, I was a little scared. I had a look at her profile, where she said she was in the Navy and not much else. No picture.

I sent her a reply back, explaining that I was a journalist and had a dating blog and so on, to which she replied: "I'm too drunk to type - call me now" ...and then her mobile number.

So, thinking of you dear readers, I picked up the phone and dialled her number. What followed was one of the more bizarre phone conversations of my life, where I was frequently having to turn down, ummmm....enticing offers, and say, "No, really, I want to go on a date, and then write about it". Needless to say, she found this hilarious, and, in the Nelsonian tradition, boldly took me up on my offer. So, that was how I ended up going for dinner in Portsmouth a few days later.

The lady in question met me in civilian clothes, and we went to a nice place of her choice. We had seafood - what else? Anyway, over lobster, we got to know one another. I'd initially been worried by her civilian dress that she was a Walt, but her encyclopedic knowledge of missile systems convinced me she was the real deal.

She was charming, lots of fun - we talked about military history, had a lovely conversation about who our favourite admiral was. I surprised her by knowing a great deal about Naval history, "more than most of the people she serves with", in fact. We had a good laugh talking about pranks navy friends had pulled - orange distress flares & laxative chocolate are both staples, it seems - and we shared an experience in having attended Glastonbury staying in an inflatable atlantic survival raft, instead of a tent. She doesn't mind me saying she has dreadful taste in music, as long as I keep her anonymous - she has a tragic, tragic weakness for both folk & boy band pop, both dreadful genres in my opinion:)

 She told me about the difficulty of dating in the services, of meeting men who weren't put off dating a female officer. We jokingly discussed what would have happened if I'd taken up her offer of meeting in a London hotel room - put it this way, her attitude is very much a full on, grasping life with both hands attitude. If she wants something, she takes it.

By the time we were about halfway through dinner, we'd realised that we probably weren't compatible as lovers - she was as sure she couldn't love a man who didn't love sport as I was sure I couldn't love a lady who couldn't spell - but we had a great laugh, and a good old bitch about the government and defence cuts.

Since we've been on the date, we've been out in London - she has a great knack of finding good shellfish places, and we're becoming good friends. She's also offered me a ticket to the Army vs. Navy Rugby game in April - in her words "you'll never get a decent woman if you can't at least pretend to know the rules of Rugby".

So, a fun date, from an interesting site - and a person I suspect I'll be friends with for years - but still not "the one!"

Date 7: The Fan

So, Date 7. 

25% of the way through the adventure. I'd had a couple of scrapes, but I was starting to find my feet, starting to think I knew what I was doing. In classic zombie apocalypse style, after surviving the first few encounters in the new world, I was starting to get a little cocky. Unfortunately, I was about to make a big mistake. I'd say my first big mistake, but hey, if you've read the blog this far you'd know that's a lie.

I think one of the reasons I was getting cocky was because the blog has been so well received. I was starting to get friends asking me for advice about what online dating site to go on; how to write their profiles; all that sort of thing. Of course, why you'd want dating advice from a bloke who managed to almost get his finger gnawed off on his first online date is beyond me. What can I say, some of my friends are even bigger losers than I am.

As well as people asking for advice, I'd started to get my first few people asking me out via the blog. Now, when I put the invitation on the about page, I never thought anyone would actually click it, but there I was, six dates in, and I had a message out of the blue. It read:

"You will probably be inundated with emails saying either I am the love of your life or I will show you the weirdest date in the world. So I'm chancing it because I haven't laughed as much in ages. Let's go on a date."

Me and the lady in question exchanged a couple of emails, and I was fairly convinced she wasn't an axe murderer or, alternatively, the enraged husband of a previous date. With an axe. And hey, even if he/she was an axe murderer, it would be a good blog, right? So, I arranged to meet her on a wet rainy Sunday evening at my local pub. It must be said, if anyone is doing well out of this odyssey, it's the landlords of that place.

Now, most online dates, you don't know much about the other person. The whole reason you're going on the date is to get to know them. But in this case, I knew absolutely nothing about her. Not her name. Not her age. Not what she looked like. None of her interests and hobbies. None of her convictions for manslaughter. Especially after my experience with the Lizard girl, I was worried about who I might be going on a date with.

So, I sat at a table in the pub, in that weird limbo of smiling politely at every single woman who walked in - even the toothless hags, of whom there are a surprising amount swarming around Belgravia of a Sunday evening. Of course, making eye contact with woman after woman, you start to feel a bit self-conscious after a while. Anyway, after about ten minutes of waiting, flipping through my copy of the Economist, an absolutely stunning, drop dead gorgeous blonde woman walked in. She looked around the bar, caught my eye, walked over and said "Hello, are you Willard? I'm your date".

I was absolutely, probably visibly, stunned. She was literally one of the most attractive women I've ever been in the same room with. So, we ordered some drinks, and started to chat. Depressingly enough, she was one of those people who simultaneously looks fabulous, but was also incredibly smart, witty, charming & amusing. It's fair to say I was pretty smitten from the off.

She was a journalist; we chatted about working in the media, writing for a living, the horrors of working in local news. She was a huge fan of Tolkein & Pink; both things I'll admit a strong liking for. Moving on into personal stuff, we both laughed sharing stories about friends going on catastrophic drug binges -  mine involving a lighting technician taking a huge amount of 2CB during a shoot, running around shrieking "I AM THE GUY! I! AM! THE! GUY!" until he was restrained by security, hers about abandoning a friend in a creche for people in the midst of hallucinations on a Thai beach.

We were getting on along famously. So, what was this big mistake I made? Well, about three drinks in, she asked me, "So, why are you writing the blog? What made you want to do it?".

I replied, "Well, I can give you the glib, funny one line answer, and we can move on, or I can tell you the real dark, sad truth." She, assuming I was joking, opted for "dark sad truth". I was enjoying her company enough I felt I could be completely honest.

So, I told her about the two women who had broken my heart over the last five years. I told her dark, sad stories of heartbreak and betrayal and tragedy. I told her about what it feels like to slide an unused engagement ring out of the desk drawer it sits in, alone and gathering dust, looking at it, then slowly closing the drawer with tears in my eyes and thinking "I won't sell it today". I tell her about what it feels like to be at a friend's wedding in San Francisco where you're introduced to everyone as "This is Willard, he's sort of in the wedding party - he's the guy who the Bridesmaid stood up". 

Once I started talking about the exes - the girls who had been "the one", once upon a time, it was like a hole in a dam. I couldn't stop talking about how emotionally broken I was. All the pain just poured out, in an unstoppable tide. They say you shouldn't talk about an ex on your first date. "They", in this case, are absolutely right. I walked her towards the tube home, and as soon as she gave me a very chaste peck on the cheek goodnight, I got the sense she wasn't feeling it.

I got a polite & pleasant email from the Fan the day after the date; I'd asked her out a second time, and she politely declined, but we agreed to stay in touch as friends. One advantage of this online dating lark is you learn to take yourself not being the other person's cup of tea much better. Now, I'm not saying it was all the exes chat that put her off - she was exceptionally tall (over 6ft I'd guess) so, with me at 5'10", I think there may also have been an element of the old fairground "you must be at least this tall to ride" as well - but it felt to me like it was a factor.

So, the big thing I learned was not to mention the exes; not to load too much on a person you've just met. I find it mildly amusing that in a blog about bad dates, for the first (and hopefully last!) time, I was the bad date. Like I said at the beginning, a big mistake, but one I came through in one piece, at least. 

Anyway, Happy Valentines Day! For Valentines, I'm doing nothing romantic whatsoever - and frankly, after 6 weeks in the dating wasteland, one day off will be nice:) Also next week will be tough - Jewish dating & Uniform Dating!

Date 6: The Farmgirl

It's fair to say a great many of my friends have commented on my dating adventures.
Most of them have just laughed, but a select happy few have pointed me in the directions of dating sites that they themselves or friends have used successfully - or alternatively, ones that they think me going on would be hilarious: 

My friend Janine (who is now becoming a regular feature of the blog) would like to make it clear she's not into polygamy personals, or threesomes, she just thinks it would be funny to see me blunder into them. 

Another ludicrous favourite that has been suggested is Sea Captain dating, which measures your distance to your dates in Nautical miles - but more on that later. (Yarrrr).
While some of them have been a bit optimistic - for example, my friend who met her husband through Millionaire dating ("I was sick of being taken out in Birmingham, decided I wanted to be taken out to Barbados") - there was one message from an old university friend that caught my eye.
Hi Willard,
I hope you are well. I saw your blog post - I think you beat some of my crackers! That said I thought I'd share with you that Tom and I met on Muddy Matches, it's an agricultural / country dating website. 

There were some astounding men on there, and not in a good way. Having been assessed by some as to whether I'd breed well (estimated breed value ebv is a common term in ag) I was lucky to find Tom. If you're in need of entertainment then it's worth having a look!
Just thought if you were looking for a different type of women it does have a good mix on there!!
So, farmer dating. Yes, we're definitely back in the twilight zone. As my ex-Sun journo housemate said, taking a drag on his cigarette "I dunno mate, Muddy Matches sounds like a cover for".
As a confirmed urbanite - I live in the middle of London and love it - I was a little nervous about logging on to a site which enables you to meet "muddy" country types. I couldn't help flashing back to one afternoon in a rural barrister's chambers in my mid twenties, when a man wearing tweed with bushy white sideburns & wellies walked in, laid his double barrelled shotgun on the clerk's desk and said, in a broad west country accent "Oi'll be needin' a lawyer, Oi've just shot moi woife".
Indeed, much of my mercifully brief legal career consisted of defending tractor thieves who hailed from a hamlet near Bath called Norton Radstock. I was slightly worried anyone I might meet on the site would be the sort of ruddy faced person who chews tobacco and readily uses a bit of rope as a belt, but at least the Radstock experience would stand me in good stead if the conversation turned to the value of agricultural machinery. 
I was slight reassured that the site's "rate your own muddiness" calculator proclaimed me to be "Muddy at heart, but you think civilisation also has a lot to offer", but equally worried that the top three options on "how did you hear about this site" were "Horse & hound magazine", "The Field" or "at a cross-country point to point", none of which were things I was that into. So, I put myself out there. 

After a couple of days, I had a couple of messages, but one leaped out at me. There were plenty of "country girls at heart" who lived on the King's Road (it seems very good for finding those - if you're a bloke who loves horse riding with women called Persephone, you probably couldn't find a better site), but there was only one actual farmer.
She was a fruit farmer from Berkshire, and she was very flattered by my offer to come out to her village for a swift pint. So, one evening, I jumped on a train from Paddington, and ventured out into the wilds. We'd agreed to meet at the station, and so I waited there for five minutes in the freezing rain before she pulled up, in her battered Land Rover. I laughed, but what did I expect? She flung open the door, invited me to jump in, and we sped off to a local pub.
She was very pleasant - late thirties, had worked in the City for a few years before jacking it in to take over the family farm. She'd been with the same bloke for about 8 years, but had broken up with him last year when it turned out he was a bit of a shit. We had a lovely chat in front of the pub fire, decided to extend the evening into dinner. 

We talked about how we'd both dodged the bad marriage bullet, politics, how rubbish the EU is, our families - we'd both had parents in the military, so we were able to compare notes on growing up as army brats. She had a great dirty laugh, and was seriously flirtatious, in a kind of wax jacketed, upper class, graduate of Cheltenham ladies college way.

She told me of the difficulty of meeting a man when her main concern was often making supermarkets pay on time for tons of Raspberries; her last date was with a Bulgarian farm worker called Dmitar, although it was "less dating, more just sex really. His English wasn't really up to conversation". The mind boggles. Farming was never like this on the Archers. 
After dinner, she drove me back to the station, and I got my first proper kiss of the dating project! Hurrah! 

Date 5: #Twittercrush

After 4 online dates, I must confess, I was getting a little demoralised with the process. The one thing no-one tells you about online dating is how incredibly time-consuming it is. I mean, I realise I have made a rod for my own back by running err... (counts) 17 profiles at once, but I'm not sending more than a few messages from each every week.

My hit rate is about one date arranged for every 5-6 messages I send on the mainstream sites, and anything from zero to fifteen on the more niche ones. I've developed a decent routine of getting up on a Saturday morning, sauntering over to my local pub, and spending about three hours writing witty, charming and amusing messages to women I'm attracted to, while eating a fry up & drinking fresh coffee. 

It's a bit like having a relatively unrewarding second job, where I'm paid in bacon and anecdotes.

My rather imposing (but lovely) local 

I quite enjoy reading other people's profiles and then responding - no copied and pasted nonsense from me, only fine, hand-crafted, bespoke messages. As much as I enjoy writing them, there's a certain existential angst to writing these missives - the knowledge that most of them will never be replied to. 

I hear it's no better for women. Most of the messages are sent by men on the bulk of the sites; so rather than writing a huge number of messages, they are responding to a constant stream of madness pouring into their inbox. And trust me, no woman on an online dating site is escaping without complete lunatics messaging them. For example, take a look at this site, where Asian girls post the deeply offensive messages creepy orientalist white guys send them - "I have studied many martial arts and know how to protect a woman", is a particular favourite, although I doubt I'll try it myself.

At the far end of the sort of messages your female friends get is this zoot-suited, mulleted racist who drives a - quote - "Rape Van" around San Francisco & shrieks insults at women who refuse to sleep with him. So, while he may represent the extreme of what women have to put up with online, I'm pretty sure he's not totally unrepresentative. (You may also be intrigued to know he makes a living offering expensive classes on how to pick up women, but that's another story for another day.)

So, what was my fifth date, and why am I wittering on about how hard online dating is? I'm back on to the regular dating sites this post - and while sending my weekly quota of messages (and not having much luck), I happened across this interesting article in the Independent, which suggested "If you're a regular Twitter user and you're single and you haven't swapped flirty direct messages (DMs) with someone and subsequently developed a bit of a crush on them, you're doing it wrong."

I am a regular twitter user. I've never sent flirty messages on Twitter. Could twitter be a dating site? I mean, I write the rules, after all. 

And, whilst embarking on this project I'd got chatting to someone who I really liked on twitter. She's funny, witty, quirky, interesting. Exotic pets (crucially, not reptiles). Single. Now, obviously I haven't actually met her; in fact, I don't even know her real name, or even what she looks like. But having chatted to her, I felt like I knew her a little - not a lot, just enough to suspect we'd probably get on well. There was one problem. I didn't feel massively comfortable about approaching a woman romantically online.

I know, ridiculous, right? I've just told you I spend three hours every Saturday morning writing charming messages to complete strangers because a computer thinks we might be compatible, but actually ask out a girl who I like & know a little? Madness. Every time I opened the message window, to type my 140 character charming message, I got the image of all the times female friends have told me about them being approached by guys when they didn't want it. Was I basically the electronic version one of those perverts who shouts at women on train platforms? Was asking her out shitty harassment and should I just fuck off back to OK Cupid?

I worried. I asked the advice of my friends. One of my oldest friends gave me a good analogy, "It's more like chatting to a stranger on the platform while you wait for your train, realising you like them and then asking them out"; another, more recent (but equally wise) friend said "it's all in the method. If you're respectful towards her it's fine. If you bulldoze in there with an unbecoming sense of entitlement you'll come off a twat." Emboldened, and with my twattishness dialed down to zero, that evening, I decided I would message her.

I probably spent about an hour pouring over the best way to ask someone out in a 140 characters. After writing it, hovering my finger over the send button - it felt genuinely exciting, interesting, fun, nerve-wracking - exactly what dating should be like. So, I pressed send, and waited. And waited. And waited. Tick tock, tick tock. 

My phone beeped - it was her! But...sadly, she explained that she wasn't on the market. Flattered, and cheered up by the message, but not on the market. So, I hear you ask, why is she on the list? Does she count as a date? Well, it was an interesting experience, and I guess, typical of what can go on online. Equally, the experience was fun - probably more fun than some of the dates I've been on, in fact. It felt worth writing up.

And who knows, maybe one day, she'll change her mind...

Date 4: Conservative Warrior Princess

Date 4 took me back out into the spectator sport of stunt dating.

Now, since I started this blog, I've really plumbed the depths of the strangest niche dating sites that exist, the sort of things that would make your hair turn white. There's, which is "the world's largest dating site for people with HIV, Herpes and more!" &, the "internet's largest free personals community for Adult Babies and Diaper lovers". Not to say there aren't lovely ladies who enjoy wearing nappies or suffer from herpes (or both), of course. 

As anyone (especially a man) who has tried online dating will tell you, having a profile on a website rarely guarantees you a date. You really have to push for one, and often, when you tell people you're a journalist with a dating blog, they aren't that willing to go on a date with you. Especially if what they are into is, to coin a phrase, super-weird. 

Thus, I was pretty impressed that within half an hour of creating a profile on the, a "place where admirers of Ayn Rand's novels can meet, 365 days a year, to network, find shared interests and perhaps, through our online dating service, even fall in Love", I was being approached and offered a date.

Now, you may not be familiar with the work of Ayn Rand, but it's a little, umm... extreme. Her most famous book is called Atlas Shrugged. Alan Greenspan said of it “It taught me that capitalism is not only practical and efficient but also moral." But really, don’t bother reading it.

It’s dark. Crazy dark. Crazy enough to include quotes like “Altruism is the only real evil. The man who speaks to you of making a sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and he intends to be the master.” It is the exposition of Rand’s theory of life; the theory of Objectivism, a theory which says that “people of the mind” – writers, artists, entrepreneurs & inventors should cut themselves loose of a society which expects them to contribute to the rest if it; to hand money to “moochers and parasites” as Rand would have it.

As well as a philosophical thought experiment, it’s also a turgidly written, 1000 page, rubbish science fiction novel. It is frankly, in need of a ruthless edit. Apparently, Rand’s publisher suggested this, to which she curtly responded, “Would you cut the bible?”.

Well, aside from the obvious answer, “Yeah, totally, especially all the contradictory and/or mad bits”, it is clear Rand wouldn’t get into her own elitist city on the strength of the novel’s plot or writing. At its heart it’s a mystery; it’s about a railroad executive and a steel magnate who realise society is crumbling around them, because all of the best minds in the world have hidden away in a paradise city hidden under a holographic shield in Colorado. They have lots of badly written sex on the way, in between the 60 page monologues about how great selfishness is.

It's very popular among a certain type of person in American - you often see bumper stickers saying "Who is John Galt?" (the central question of the novel) alongside ones supporting the National Rifle association or with catchy slogans like "Welcome to the people's republic of Obamastan". The person who had messaged me described herself as a "Conservative Warrior Princess", so it seemed pretty clear she fell broadly into this category.

I was a *bit* surprised to get a message so quickly, especially as I had written an alarmingly honest profile: "Socially liberal Tory journo looking for fun dates with amusing Libertarian folk. No moochers, splicers or people with swarms of bees living in their arms. Would you kindly go on a date with me". All of this seems a bit obscure, but largely references a Rand inspired computer game from a few years back. Trust me, if you like that game, it's hilarious.

So, anyway, back to Conservative Warrior Princess. She was a producer for an arm Fox news, from Texas, and had just moved to London. She wanted to go on a date that was something "very London, but not on the basic tourist trail". I offered her high tea at Kensington Palace Orangery, or coffee in the Brixton market. She opted for Brixton. So, anyway, we meet up on a chilly Sunday at Brixton tube, and sauntered down Electric Avenue (yes, the one from the song). It's fair to say it's a pretty multi-cultural district, and I think the first alarm bells started to ring when she said "Holy shit, is this the Ghetto?".

You can see a video of it here:

My gut feeling is, you can't get a good quality mocha in "the ghetto", but, hey, what do I know? 

We sat down for coffee at a nice eclectic bohemian little coffee place that does lovely hot chocolate. We started to chat. I must confess, I was interested to meet someone from inside Fox News - I have quite a few friends who work for places like the Daily Mail, who overwhelmingly don't support the paper's editorial line, and outside of work, are quite happy to criticise it. Oh, but not this girl. 

We got through "But what do we really know about Barack Obama?", "Climate change is a hoax by liberals" and a quite long chat about her favourite rifle (a .270 calibre Winchester, in case you're interested) before I was 100% sure she was a true believer. It wasn't all bad - we had very similar tastes in online gaming, so were able to bond over that. 

We had a good chat about American politics, as I was out in the states during the elections. She told me she was an avid scuba diver, and looked forward to diving in the north sea - an experience I suggested could be replicated by wearing her wetsuit in a bath half-full of ice with the lights off. So, hey, that's *almost* 

Sadly, things then went a bit sour as we actually had a mild row when she asked me how I felt about how my country had been "colonised by the muslims". It simmered down quickly as we agreed to disagree, but I was by that point already thinking that this was probably a good blog entry, but not a good date. 

It's the classic confusion of the word conservative - in the US, it means flag loving, god-fearing guns and apple pie folk, whereas, in the UK, it can mean gay marriage liking, multi-culturalist, "i'd just like to pay a little less tax", liberal Cameroons like me.

We eventually parted company amicably, having split the bill, with me paying the tip - I offered to pay, and we got into this bizarre Objectivist-inspired confusion where me paying was accusing her of being a "moocher", but her traditionalism preventing her splitting the bill, and me feeling a little guilty at letting her get the tab, which was a conversation I'd never had before - or probably will ever have again. Until I move to Rapture, anyway.

The fact that she added me on Linkedin after the date I think says a reasonable amount about whether we'll see each other again romantically. Still, I'd gone on a date off the full-on bizarre list, and come out unbitten, so I think I'm getting better at this online dating malarkey...

Date 3: The Nerd & her Iguana

So, for my third date,I was theoretically back in the realms of "normal" dating. I could steer away from the completely ridiculous niche sites that I'm doing for your benefit, dear readers, and concentrate on actually trying to find someone who I might be able to fall in love with. Yeah, maybe I am being unrealistic - but that's why I'm actually doing this.

Of course, it's me, so it never ends up that way - here's the facebook chat to a mate this particular foray out into the wastelands of the internet produced:

Don't worry, we'll get on to exactly how a reptile of the family iguanidae got involved in a date. To be fair, it was probably my own fault for going on a website called "Geek2Geek".

Now, it was my desire to meet someone I might actually have something in common with to choose this particular dating site for a "normal" date - I am pretty unashamedly a bit of geek myself. I'm also not the kind of "soft" geek who is like "oh, yeah, I saw Lord of the Rings once, you know, erm, hobbits are cool". Not the kind of person who owns two "ironic" Star Wars T-shirts. I'm the real deal. World of Warcraft account; weekly 2000ad reader; I used to blog about model soldiers, for goodness sake. I occasionally write bitter reviews of how I feel "let down" by notable sci-fi writers.

I've never been lucky enough to date a girl who did anything more than really tolerate my hobbies - indeed, my longest term girlfriend, once turned round to me in bed (we were living together at the time) and said "If I asked you to choose between loving me and toy soldiers, what would you choose?" I of course, replied "If you really love me, you wouldn't ask me to choose". Which obviously meant "FUCK YOU, MODEL SOLDIERS". 

Not really. If she'd asked me, I'd have very reluctantly boxed them up and sold them, but I'm honest enough to admit it would have really hurt. I'll admit to a certain jealousy of friends who have lovely wives they can sit down & play X-box with, or curl up under a duvet and watch Aliens for the 200th time. I suspect Geek2Geek may not fit everyone's definition of a normal, mainstream, dating site of the Match/Soulmates variety - or does it? My own gut feeling is this sort of person, of whatever gender, is pretty common these days. I recently discovered one of my most stunningly attractive female friends is an avid roleplayer, for example (tragically, she's not attracted to men.)

So I figured I could meet someone in that bracket. Now, I wasn't looking for someone with identical likes to me, just someone who might not react with abject horror if I said "so how about we go to that Alien movie marathon at the Prince Charles cinema". Geek2Geek's community is pretty enormous, and although it's clearly bigger in the US than the UK, there were plenty of people in and around London. Within a week of trying, I'd arranged a date.

So, after work, I popped to a local pub and sat waiting for the person I was due to meet. She was 28, worked in "Digital Engagement", and in her profile picture, looked lovely, smiling, and obviously enjoying the great outdoors with flowers looped into her hair. Thus, I was a *little* surprised when someone who looked nothing like the picture tapped me on the shoulder & said "Hello, are you Willard?" Now, I understand in this online dating game, it's common to lie on your profile, but using a flattering photo from 8-10 years ago probably does you no favours. Yes, the person may *meet* you, but when they meet you, their initial reaction is always going to be "you don't look like your picture".

Indeed, where she'd had the picture taken (I thought it might have been at a music festival), she talked about how much she'd "had" to photoshop it. So, yeah. Digitally manipulated photograph. At least she was definitely on the level about her computer skills... So, we got to talking, over a couple of drinks. She talked about:

  • Water Filters - she does social media for a well-known brand of water filter, so, to be fair, this was in response to "so, what do you do for a living?". But her enthusiasm for them was, erm, palpable.
  • Social Media Jargon - She did at one point say, "I really love how you've diversified your personal brand", non-ironically.
  • Pensions - She LOVED personal finance. Loved it. I learned a great deal about retirement planning, the NEST scheme, SERPS and tax relief. It's fair to say, as a Freelance journalist I didn't have much to add to this, but the look on her face when I told her I didn't have a pension at all at 32 was pretty priceless. It was the sort of look people reserve for those who say things like "So I said to the doctor, psychotic episodes be damned, I'm coming off those pills!".
  • Her beloved pet Iguana, Jolyon. Now, I have nothing against exotic pets, but I just find reptiles a bit repulsive. Well, I'll be honest, totally repulsive. She had photos of it (sorry, him) curled up on her duvet, with her in the bed, which to her was super cute, but to me were like some 21st century Hieronomous Bosch nightmare vision of hellish torture. 
So, after about an hour, I explained I had a really important article to write the following day, made my excuses, and left, but not before saying "We should totally do this again, as friends." Pretty sure it was mutual; neither of us walked away from that date thinking "OMG that was the ONE". Probably for the best; even writing this, the idea of being woken up by a giant lizard crawling over me is making me shiver.

Now, I'm sure there's a fiscally prudent herpetologist for her out there somewhere on Geek2Geek; it's fair to say, that is not me.  So, back into the wilderness, it seems...