Published on February 14, 2013 | by Jawad Elattar1
Single man seeks guide to dating
Some parts of society still baffle me, and dating is one of them. I should have learned how to do this stuff years ago. True, I have no problem speaking to people, but that is because I have desexualised them in some ways.
To strike up conversation with the opposite sex, I automatically negate the idea of anything further than that conversation happening. I tell myself that it is safer that way. Or that I am in my final year with a degree classification to think about and any form of distraction would be detrimental. There are so many ways for me to rationalise my actions and I never fail to do so.
This got me thinking, though: Were I to desire company or seek a relationship, how would I go about it?
‘Lonely Hearts’ advertisements used to be commonplace when looking for a new partner. Often over-fantasised descriptions of men and women took up a page somewhere in the back third of newspapers.
Everyone knows the type: “Silver Fox, 48, seeks Youthful Gazelle, 21-27, for conversation and maybe more.” However, the problem with many of these entries is that they are so vague.
How is anyone supposed to know what this ‘Silver Fox’ looks like, or what he means by “Youthful Gazelle”? Sure, there is an element of mystery about lonely hearts posts that may appeal to some, but I have never actually known anybody to reply to one. Most people just look at them for a few good laughs.
Often over-fantasised descriptions of men and women took up a page somewhere in the back third of newspapers.
The lonely heart has a new place to find love. In fact, every lonely heart is catered for nowadays. Online dating has never been more popular.
YouGov claims that one in five relationships now begin online, with the online dating industry said to be worth roughly £170 million to the UK economy in 2011. The industry is estimated to be worth over £2 billion globally, and nearly half of single people in the UK have tried online dating of some description.
With every demographic covered it is no surprise that an increasing numer of singletons turn to the web to find a match. A reported 1,500 of the 5,000 dating websites in Europe originated in Britain.
When signing up to several dating websites, the first thing to fill out was, “ I am a [BLANK] interested in/seeking a [BLANK].”
Nearly every website automatically assumed that I was a woman seeking a man. A bit presumptuous, no?
Love at first click
The next step was to create my profile. Filling out an online profile for a dating website is like an exam. Your age, location, the type of person you would like to meet, and a picture simply are not enough.
Instead, the user is presented with a seemingly endless list of categories and criteria. Guardian Soulmates had questions like, “How would you like to spend your retirement?”.
I could not answer as I honestly have not thought that far ahead. But it doesn’t stop there. “How would you describe yourself socially?” provided possible answers such as “party pooper” or “gate crasher.”
There were sites that were much more direct in their goals than their slightly more ‘respectable’ counterparts.
I went with “social butterfly”, realising that by doing so I was probably ruining the slim chance I may have stood with almost everyone on Soulmate’s books. As of writing this, I have yet to receive a response to any of the messages that I sent out.
OkCupid’s profile layout was more succinct, with lead-in questions such as, “On a typical Friday night I am…” and “I spend a lot of time thinking about…”
My respective answers? I am usually in central London on Friday nights – exactly where changes hourly though – and I spend a lot of time thinking about how far I could throw someone I trusted. Or is that not how that saying works?
Then there were sites that were much more direct in their goals than their slightly more ‘respectable’ counterparts. Uniform Dating and Be Naughty flirted with the prospect of simply meeting for sex, but one skipped the flirting and when straight for the bed: ShagAtUni.com.
No strings attached
Shag at Uni bypasses any pretence of meeting for coffee – or indeed using any euphemism – by simply listing the people nearby that are looking for someone to sleep with.
I was taken aback not only by the explicit message that this website was promoting, but also by the profile pictures. Every other user had decided to forego an image of them smiling on, say, Waterloo Bridge on a sunny day or looking happy on a night out.
Instead, breasts and vaginas are on show, highlighting the shameless and upfront nature of the service that Shag at Uni provides.
Profile questions on this website did not include retirement plans but instead ask what your favourite sexual position is and how you feel about oral sex.
The messages were endless – I’d get at least seven a day – and I didn’t even have a picture on my profile.
The biggest problem with most dating websites is that they come with a hefty membership fee. Most will provide you with your matches for the day, but very few will allow you to actually contact the people that they’ve paired you with without paying to do so.
Sure, OkCupid has made a name for itself by being free, but Match.com asks for £12.99 a month if you sign up for six months – the price for a single month is £29.99. ShagAtUni.com charges £37 for a month, with the total for a year being £139.
“Get the love life of your dreams.” London School of Attraction
Forget the websites: I came across something far more interesting: the London School of Attraction. Set up in 2010 by Doug Haines and Alex Chubb, the LSA aims to show people how to meet others. The tagline on their website is, “Get the love life of your dreams.”
So, just how would I do this? I was to go on a crash course with Doug to find out.
“Ultimately it’s about taking control,” Doug says.
“Every day [our clients] see 20 girls that they like and they just feel frustrated and powerless that they can’t start talking to these people.
“Our approach is showing them how to see someone you like in any scenario and get to the stage where you can sit and have a drink with a girl, get her phone number, take her out, and actually advance your relationship with that person”
For the impartial observer, this may seem like a grey area. Enough people have heard about The Game, the 2005 book about ‘Pick-Up Artists’.
Apparently, it worked for a lot of people, but I always saw it as manipulation. For example, one of the most widely known techniques is ‘the neg’ in which a man pays a woman a compliment but simultaneously knocks her confidence.
I should bear in mind that I need to create a narrative for a woman to step into
My crash-course with Doug was nothing like that. I was being taught how to meet women in the day, which obviously requires stopping them.
Having worked on how to be comfortable with this – note: never walk up on someone from behind – the next thing was to pay a compliment.
No need for alarm bells though, as this should be an actual compliment. I was going to say it and mean it.
Hypothetically, that was the hardest part over. But after this comes conversation, which for many can be a dauntingprospect. Doug explained that “A lot of the people that come to LSA are very cerebral… they’re thinking about things in a lot of detail,” and, understandably, this can make conversation a lot harder.
Doug pointed out that when starting conversation, I should bear in mind that I need to create a narrative for a woman to step into. In other words, make it a dialogue, not a monologue.
So I gave it a go. An important thing at the LSA is that once Doug or Alex have talked you through something, you then practise it with an actress. Trying to think of a starting point is difficult under pressure, and my first attempt was terrible. I said “I like your shirt.” She said “thanks.” I said “I don’t really like dogs [the shirt had dogs on, I wasn’t being rude] but I like the whole print thing.” The conversation I had created was so boring that even I can’t recall the middle part.
It seems as if nothing can act as a substitute for human interaction.
Attempt number two: I went with “So, what are you doing in a jazz bar?” We ended up in a charming discussion about music, literature, and films. I found out that her favourite book was To Kill a Mockingbird, I told her that I hate Catcher in the Rye – something we agreed on – and this was a much better effort.
The main thing that I took from the lesson with Doug was that comfortability is key – not only for the girl I approach but also in myself.
If I don’t feel assured and at ease when trying to talk to women then I won’t stand much of a chance. What made the London School of Attraction different was that they offer a service that helps with online dating profiles, but they are mainly about teaching people how to interact with others.
Everything that Doug said to me made perfect sense and, as he explained, “It is not rocket science.” LSA is not about playing the ‘game’, it’s about giving men and women who would otherwise not have the opportunity or the capability to take a chance.
Be it online dating, lonely hearts postings or apps designed to meet a willing stranger near you, nothing can replace human interaction. After all, someone you meet online could be totally different in the flesh. You can only find out by meeting them.
The only way to find the one is through trial and error. No matter how many ways you can meet someone, the best way is in person.
For more information on the London School of Attraction, visit www.lsattraction.com