Heart on the line

Grace Bryant is a regular Amica contributor and all round nice gal. She’s also a singular entity entirely determining her own future, which is totally awesome, but sometimes a little lonely. Today she gives us her insights into online dating, and why she finds it terrfiying.

At aged 29, after a long term relationship, I found myself (very!) unexpectedly single. I’d been dropped like a scoop of boysenberry gelato on to a sizzling pavement. For a long time thereafter, I was a hot mess. It took me about 6 months to feel like a normal person again, and it was about this time that I also started to freak out about being single.

I’d gone from a flirty, skinny 25 year old babe, to a curvy 30 year old woman and the rules had totally changed. There were fewer and fewer single, eligible men around and I honestly had no idea where to find them. Whilst the idea of making a grand return to downstairs Mooseheads sounds utterly romantic, five years after my last single efforts, the reality of it is pretty gross.

I’m not saying I need a relationship; I’m pretty happy exactly where I am. It’s more that I worry about getting older and missing out on things I’d like to do, like being someone’s mum. After a year of making excuses, blaming my introversion and super-busy-workaholic tendencies on not meeting anyone, I’ve decided to try something new. The kids call it online dating, I call it terrifying.

Before I go on, I’d like to clarify my stance. I don’t have a problem with online dating – I think it’s a great solution for those that lack the inclination, time or good fortune to meet potential partners by traditional means. There’s sometimes an inference of shame, failure or even apology associated with online dating. Let’s dispel that right now – I’m all for it. Online dating requires genuine bravery, honesty and vulnerability.

For me, exposing the level of personal detail and vulnerability required to make a connection is agonising. I’m not shy, I’m not lacking confidence; I’m just a private, introverted person. Whilst online dating sounds like it would appeal to introverts, it’s incredibly difficult to share personal details with strangers, in writing. The way the online dating looks in my head is like standing up and in a crowded room full of strangers and saying, “Here I am, this is me. Please take an interest in me, or if you don’t want to, please be kind about it.” It’s much harder than it sounds.

Don’t worry, this article won’t neg out too much – it’s mostly an exploration of my personal and quirky (okay, sometimes downright weird) take on online dating.

Some questions I’ve asked myself recently:

Why am I doing this?
I have a lot to give and I’d like to find someone to shower adoration on to. Having a crush is fun. I miss having a boyfriend, best friend and someone to occasionally be angry at. I miss having someone to whisper secrets to, to laugh about morning farts with and a guaranteed laugh at my (terrible) jokes. If I’m completely honest, I’d really like to find someone willing to make a little family with me, one day.

Why is it so hard to meet people?
I suppose it would help if I spent less time at work and at home. It’s tricky to meet single people without them or me being drunk, at a bar, a silly o’clock. Not really ideal conditions to get to know someone.

What’s the difference between online dating and meeting someone in person?
I’m more comfortable with meeting people face to face, because things like instinct, senses and basic reactions have more of an impact on first impressions than you may expect. Most of the time, you can tell within a few minutes whether you want to spend more time together, if you’ll get along and if you’re mutually attracted. Online dating is tricky, because sometimes people make sense on paper but they don’t add up in person. Some are fantastic writers, but aren’t comfortable with face-to-face banter. And vice-versa, there are those in the online dating world who aren’t confident writers, but might be the most wonderful conversationalists IRL. I sympathise with both predicaments. From my perspective, it’s hard to sort out who’s who in the zoo. I don’t want to spend ages chatting with someone online that, when I meet in real life, I have no connection with. I also don’t want to put that person through the same. Conversely, I hate the thought of rejecting someone because of their grammar, but it’s all I really have to go off in an online environment. The possibility of causing someone pain or upset through miscommunication is really scary.

What am I looking to attract?
This one is a tough one to answer. There are hundreds of single people online, seeking the same thing and I’m no different. It’s scary to think that amongst all these people, there might not be one for me. Trawling through profiles, most people have pretty similar interests; everyone loves music, everyone loves to laugh, everyone wants to find someone accepting of them that they can have fun with or build a future with. Fair go, there are those that just want sex (eek!) or friendship. How do you make yourself stand out in the crowd of strangers and convey who you are without sounding like everyone else? It’s tricky to be vulnerable and also sound unique at the same time. The profiles that I enjoy the most are those that achieve this. I feel awful that it’s so easy to reject those dudes with dull profiles, but if I’m going to do this, I want to be discerning about it and do what’s right for me.

How will I attract the right person?
Let’s face it. I’m 31, my hobbies are weird and I’m more than a little quirky. There is a part of my brain that asks, “What could I possibly have to offer?” This sounds like a neg question, but it forced me to take the time and consider all of the things that make me unique and special. I tried to integrate these things into my profile without sounding too awesome. It’s pretty scary to be so honest about your strengths and weaknesses in crowded room full of strangers. I’m pretty happy with what I came up with. I showed it to a trusted friend and she agreed that it both adequately described me and was interesting to read. Phew, one less thing to worry about!

Is online dating ethical?
I could actually write a whole article about this and honestly, to me, it’s an elephant in the crowded room full of strangers. Some sites charge a subscription fee, other sites charge you to “introduce” you and some sites make you pay to make contact with that special someone. Is this shameless profiteering from vulnerable people, or does the cost filter out those that aren’t as dedicated to finding companionship? Is this a form of discrimination? Are those less financially stable less deserving of a chance to meet someone online? How are these profits spent? Is it selfish of me to spend my money this way? Am I a bad person for investing this money in seeking love? Would I find more fulfilment in spending this money on something more altruistic, like supporting a charity? These are some of the millions of questions that run through my grey matter and freak me out. Maybe most people don’t consider these things, but once I start, it’s hard to stop.

Other ethical considerations include questioning whether dating sites/applications actually make people and relationships more disposable. I’m not going to go into great depth on that one, because I could be here a while, so I’ll let you have a think about it.

Then there’s the issue of personal safety. I’m able to talk myself out of this one pretty easily, because I don’t think there’s a real difference between meeting an unhinged person in real life or online. In fact, online dating makes this one more approachable – I can easily just block said person, or remove my account. Can be a little trickier to achieve in real life…

Lastly, there’s the dick pic factor. There, I said it. Gives me the willies. *Pun bell.

What‘s really freaking you out, Grace?
I think it’s that anyone can find me and use my vulnerabilities or quirks against me. I know if this happens, I can simply delete my account, but despite caches being emptied and privacy being protected, as someone that is incredibly private, the ways in which intimate information about me may be retrieved and abused is honestly frightening. Mostly it’s that by writing a profile, paying the fee, adding photos etc, I’m making the fact that I’m single public and real. And making it known that I’m seeking romance. This kind of vulnerability is difficult for me to come to terms with – it’s normally information I’d only share with those closest to me.

BUT…. you’re still doing this?

I’m willing to offset all of these fears against what I have already (a wonderful life) and what I could potentially gain (an even more fulfilling life). I’m confident in myself, my ability to attract someone cool and I’m actually proud of anything I’ve placed online.

More significantly, the thought of meeting someone really wonderful fortifies my efforts. Even if it’s not a great love, even if it’s a totally crappy date or possibly a hilariously bad experience, it’ll be worth it. I’m happy with my life and I’m not hanging all my hopes on this process. I’m comfortable with the idea of never having a family or a partner again, but it doesn’t mean I have to stop trying. Mostly, I’m just looking to get out of my comfort zone, to take a risk and see what’s out there.

If I walk out of the online crowded room full of strangers alone, I’ll be okay. In fact, I’ll be great. I’ll still have a big smile on my 31 year old face and a really awesome, real, crowded room full of friends and family, all waiting for me.

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Grace Bryant

4 Comments

  1. Such an insightful piece, written beautifully. Raised lots of questions I’d never thought about before – the ethics issues really got me thinking. Thanks for writing.. And for genuinely being one of the best humans around

  2. This was a really interesting read. You picked up where Carrie Bradshaw left off. I’d love to see a follow up article.

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