My Real-World Dating Failure

Six months ago I closed all my online dating accounts. Tinder, Guardian Soulmates,, Bumble, Happn: they all went. They were draining time and of energy that I could have quite happily driven into other areas of my life.

I mean, my online dating communications could clock in at almost two hours an evening. Imagine the size of the mountains I could move with that time! That’s my book written in a few months, or a successful PM campaign fought and won. Bosh, the country’s mine, Brexit reversed, economy saved.


Anyway, I decided that enough had gone into coming up with witty repartee for men I wasn’t even sure I’d have chemistry with in the real world. It was time for me to step out and prioritise my real life over the virtual one.

It felt good, getting rid of all those accounts. Notwithstanding the fact it costs 60 quid a quarter to be a member of Guardian Soulmates (I know, right?!), I was happy to have all that time – and iPhone memory space – freed up. But what next?

Put plainly, I am a person who enjoys the company of men. Not always in that way (though sometimes, obvs) but in a dating sense. I get a real thrill from a first date: planning my outfit, the anticipation of meeting someone new, discovering another person’s chemistry and banter. I love it.

At the height of my dating life I was going on maybe two or three dates a month and really enjoying them. As a newly footloose and fancy-free woman it felt good to get out there, meet people, make new friends. But all this dating stopped as soon as the apps were deleted. I became a real-world dating failure.

As a single parent with a minimal amount of spare time on my hands I found it incredibly hard to meet people. Add in to the equation the fact that I work solo from home the majority of the time – the people I see most often are the school mums, my own mum and my DPD driver – and you can see why the potential circle of single men I might come into contact with is tiny.

Plus, I think my DPD driver is married. The circle just got smaller.

And so I tried to get out and about to see friends as often as possible, for the main reason that I’d go mad if I didn’t, but also to widen my single prospects horizon. And lo! A couple of weeks ago at a drinks ‘do with friends I met a single man. Hallelujah!

He was tall, handsome and funny, and for the first time in a long while I thought – I like this man.

Only I had no idea what happened next. I’ve spent such a long time artificially flirting with computer screens that I’d completely forgotten how to do it in real life.

The thing is, when you meet a man on Tinder/Soulmates/, the intent for a relationship (or at least a date) is there. It’s explicitly implied through the action of being on a dating website that you are both single (you bloody hope so, anyway) and looking for some kind of chemistry. Be it short term or long term I’ve found the end game of any online dating communication is, well,  a date.

And I’m good at that! I do my funny online schtick, get a bit of banter going via email and lock a date down. It’s not too tricky.

But meeting a man in real life, that’s a whole other ball game.

What I've Learned About Dating

For a start, you’ve got to work out whether or not they’re single. Not wearing a wedding ring doesn’t really help these days as many men don’t, and sometimes even reciprocal flirting isn’t a sign they’re free.

For instance, I once wasted two hours playing my best banter game (and water-volleyball) in the pool of the roof of Soho House New York with a gorgeous Ad Director, only for him to reveal at the very last minute that he had a girlfriend. I left that pool party very disappointed, and more than a little bit wrinkly.

Now, once you’ve ascertained their singleton status, how do you even know these men you meet are on the market? I’ve come across some blokes recently who have been taking time out from the dating game – and once you’ve heard about their nightmare dates you begin to understand why. It would be easier if we employed a traffic light system here: red means they’ve had some terrible dates and would rather be left alone for six months, amber would be that they’re a little wary of the dating game at present but try your luck anyway, and anyone green is single and ready to mingle. Sorted!

The next part is probably the most difficult for me. How do you tell someone you quite like them? Short of sending a mate across the playground to ask if they’ll accompany you to the school disco, I’ve no idea. Do you just hang out like a melon, waiting for them to get the hint and ask you out? Work with a medium to send them subconscious messages? Text them saying “YOU, ME, WHAT DO YOU RECKON?” I’m stumped.

Having kids magnifies this paranoia. If I like someone, I wonder if they like me back but aren’t keen on dating a woman with kids. I wonder if they consider my lot to be a little bit more than they can handle, and then I wonder why I’m even thinking about this when I’m so freaking tired and should be getting more sleep. It’s almost as exhausting as being on Tinder.

And so it transpires that unless there’s an iPhone screen, or perhaps a couple of glasses of wine in a nice bar involved, when it comes to meeting men I’m hopeless.

The upshot of this 6 month dating dry spell is that I’ve had a really nice time on my own. It’s been great to spend more quality time with myself, focusing on work and the kids without any distractions whatsoever. Aside from missing the flirting, I feel no need to rush back on those dating sites.

I just didn’t expect the situation to render me socially disadvantaged. Any help – or date offers for that matter – gratefully received.

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  1. Joanna Frangos wrote:

    Hi Alice
    Having read your blog and reflecting on what you say, here’s my take on the situation and my recent experience.
    My experience is…. no matter how you meet someone, if a guy wants to get in touch with you enough, he will. Simple as that. And that is (slightly) frustrating but oh so true. Men need to be the pursuers. I even asked the young guys in the office (as I am early 50s) and they all agreed. So in those social situations where you meet someone and you strike up a conversation, flirting happens and there is chemistry, if the guy has really felt that connection and liked it, and is single, and ready, he will do his absolute best to connect with you. If he doesn’t you just have to let it go.
    I am currently using Tinder – but in a very nominal way. And meantime I had a guy I knew from last year who had broken up with his girlfriend make very strong overtures in my direction. I bounced him back as he is definitely on the rebound. And I don’t fancy him.
    I went to a wedding and got chatted up by the guitarist in the band. Again he was very clear in his attraction and practically begged me to call him. I didn’t. He was a good looking guy but his life was very itinerant and he wasn’t educated enough (I know, I know but for me it is important).
    So now I have S who I met via Tinder, 4 dates in. One was a trip to the Grand Prix on Sunday, another to his boat down on the south coast. He definitely ticks my “man of substance” in a material way but emotionally, I am not convinced. We get on well in a low key way, as long as I am relaxed and centred, and happy for him to take centre stage as he does most of the talking. That rings alarm bells for me. I think he is looking for someone to slot into his life without too much upheaval.
    I also have P who I have not yet met. We have had three wonderful conversations, the last one was a Skype call that lasted two hours. I like his face, his voice, his energy. He has emotional depth. He feels the same but until we meet the jury is out. But all I know with P is that he is genuinely interested in what I have to say, and my experiences. He currently lives in Yorkshire and works in Glasgow, but has property in Southampton where he intends to return. He is flying down to see me on Friday.
    So you see…. stuff happening. Oh, and I have a soul mate prayer I have been saying the last few weeks when I remember. Something about meeting the man who has my name written on his heart, and his on mine. If you are interested…….
    j xx

    Posted 7.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Hi Joanna,
      I love your messages! I feel like we’re at such a similar time in our lives, I really enjoy hearing how you’re getting on. Sounds like things are going really well for you, I’m delighted.
      I know what you mean about the rebound thing. I had a similar situation recently and I reacted in the same way, although I quite liked him. I took that as a sign of how I’ve grown, and how much more realistic I am about relationships. Before I would have gone off daydreaming about the great love affair that would ensue…
      You’re right that the right kind of guy will make the moves. Deep down, I know this is true. When someone likes me I will KNOW and won’t have to work for it.

      Keep me updated!

      Posted 7.12.16 Reply
  2. JLT wrote:

    Boy can i relate!

    To be honest I find the whole dating now in my 30’s with a kid very, very confusing! I have and still use Tinder which I think is great for occasion dates. Like if you feel like going out for dinner or to the movies or, recently with me, Karaoke. But as for turning those Tinder dates into actual relationships. I’m stumped! Usually i enjoy the actual date more than I enjoy the man i’m on the date with. If that makes sense. Getting to know someone can be fun. But i rarely ever feel like i want it to go further.

    I wouldn’t have a CLUE how to meet someone in real life. Everyone seems to be taken, married, or there’s a very, very good reason why they’re single :/

    Dating can be so exhausting. But the occasional date once a month or so is good for the soul and your self esteem, in my opinion.

    (Ps. Just found your blog via a twitter friend’s blogroll and am LOVING it. :) )

    Posted 7.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      I’m SO WITH YOU on this. I love going on the dates, and it’s that process I enjoy more than the people I’m dating. When it gets to the point when you’re expected to spend evenings on the sofa watching films together (zzzzzz) I’m out of there.
      I’ve also realised that generally, men in their late 30s are single for a reason, too… ahh, it’s all good fun though, isn’t it?! (Hmmmm… don’t answer that).
      Lovely to have you here!


      Posted 7.12.16 Reply
  3. Oh man I feel your pain… another single mum here and I’m still in the whole online dating treadmill – never seem to have enough time to put in to actaully get a date out of it though… maybe you need to do a blog post sharing your tips ;)

    Posted 7.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      It takes so much time, doesn’t it?! Let me get a couple more successes under my belt, then I’ll start sharing tips ;)

      Posted 7.12.16 Reply
  4. Elly wrote:

    I desperately want to know what happened with the guy at the party??

    The dating game is still a long way off for me and having just come out of a 10 year relationship that was pre social media and online dating, needless to say I’m cacking myself of the prospect.

    I’ll make do reading about other peoples escapades for now!

    Posted 7.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Nothing… yet! Maybe he’ll see this and get the hint?! ;)
      It’s bloody hard, getting yourself out there dating for the first time. I think it’s a bit like running – the anticipation of it is always a lot worse than the actual run itself!

      Posted 7.12.16 Reply
  5. I have never done online dating, I would be terrified of meeting someone for the first time because Internet me is wayyyy more confident than real life me. But I love reading about it, especially the way you write x

    Posted 7.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Ahh, thank you Sian! It’s funny, isn’t it? How people can differ in real life to their personalities online. I hope I’m fairly similar but i’ve met some blokes who’ve been the opposite of their carefully crafted online personas. An aspect of dating that I never had to worry about 12 years ago! xx

      Posted 7.13.16 Reply
  6. Fay wrote:

    I feel you!!! I managed a wedding alone this weekend. Surrounded by couples and babies I felt empowered as I could talk to everyone and just wander around feeling independent. I’m about to complete my third year of single-dom. I don’t want it to last forever but I’m actually ok. I occasionally fire up the dating sites but like you mentioned, the time they take up is time which could be used for having a bath.
    Plus everytime I tell people about my life and they say “how do you do it?” my fragile ego gets a bit tougher. And i like that.

    Posted 7.13.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Just catching up – go you! I kind of like weddings these days, it kind of feels good to be that fun-loving social butterfly, doesn’t it?

      I’m like you, don’t want it to last forever but it really is OK. And I do puff up like a peacock each time someone asks how I do it. I am a bloody warrior, that’s how ;) x

      Posted 7.28.16 Reply
  7. wrote:

    N1 working fine for me. Stock rom. Waiting for summer so I can give it the Barstow – Needles test drive with temps in the 100′s. I really like the satellite view when I’m off road. My Tom Tom usually responds with “no route available” At least with google maps sat view I can see where I’m at, even though it won’t map the route.

    Posted 12.25.16 Reply
  8. Widower After AFE wrote:

    Hi Alice,

    I don’t normally comment on things like this but as I’ll soon be launching my Widower After AFE blog, I thought I’d chip in. A lot of the issues discussed (and more), apply to me (from a male perspective) as a guy and in particular as a widower and only parent. I thought Bumble would be the saviour to all my concerns and imagined that there would be more than a few confident single women not afraid to make the first move or to tell a guy if they really like him. But it has not been the case and I’ve had the same amount of “success” on Bumble as all the other datings apps.

    Comparing the situation to male and female friends I have in the US, it seems that the cultural differences mean that dating apps work better in the US but not so well in the UK where we’re less open, more scared of making a fool of ourselves and our approach to dating is quite different.

    In regards to telling a guy if you like him, just tell him. If he doesn’t reciprocate then he’s not the guy for you anyway. A decent guy will appreciate you being clear and upfront with him and won’t be into playing games. We’ve all dated time wasters, weirdos, scary people and well, those that have a few screws loose!! I now have a 2 or 3 date rule. If I like someone and I think it has potential, I’m really clear about what I want. If they’re in great but if not, then I’d rather not waste my time on something that has no future. My personal situation has shaped my view on life and I simply don’t want to waste my time on people or things that aren’t going to contribute positively to my life or that of my children. Learning to be happy on our own and in our own skin is vital, as it means that whoever we do finally settle down with gets a whole person who knows them self and would like to but doesn’t need to be with someone.

    Good luck in your search.

    : – )

    Posted 2.12.17 Reply