On Getting Into Dating

Enhance!“, I bark at the screen, having identified a low-resolution image which may contain the critical identifying data that I need to make my decision. The computer swiftly fills in the otherwise missing data using artificial intelligence, neural networks using advanced algorithms turning a grainy, poorly-taken photo into a vast bank of information, by extrapolating missing pixels, refracted light, data about the sensor that took the image, metadata, everything. And there it is. A high resolution image, billions of pixels. The make of the car, the year of the car, the trim level, the likely state of the car and how well it was maintained. I have what I need to know. I swipe left: ‘Butterfly364‘, who is admittedly attractive and likes travel, long walks and ‘the bantz’, has a decent car but doesn’t clean it with the correct agent for soft-touch interior surfaces. Also, she hasn’t upgraded her phone in a while, who even does that? Definitely a ‘No’.

My marriage decisively unravelled in October of 2015, in tandem with my increasing unwillingness to spend the last of the savings on expensive but impractical shelving for the house that ‘we’ had bought and moved into not six months earlier, and finally, separation agreement in hand, I left the house in April of 2017. I moved into a house nearby, and spent much of the following three years living a reasonable if somewhat unexciting life, bound by what I later realised were the Four Pillars; Routine and discipline, Work (workaholism, let’s not butter it up too much), my wonderful Daughter, and Hating my Ex. The Four Pillars provided structure and stability and prevented me from potentially unravelling, descending into a human mess, even alcoholism or who knows what.

The intervening years haven’t been entirely uneventful, with episodes such as ‘The One Where I got Hit by an SUV’ and ‘The One Where I got Stung by a Wasp and had a Ham Face’ and ‘The One Where I got Shingles’, the sort of events that make life interesting and what we look forward to about getting older when we’re young. Have I dated anyone in that time? No. I thought that it would be a good decade before I could consider it, between the constraints of a simple but deliberately limited lifestyle, and my social awkwardness, and lack of confidence, and the raw anger. However, some small and unexpected events at the start of the year opened my eyes to the idea that maybe I could consider dating, I could meet someone, and I could do things that were more for me personally rather than my daughter, or work, or just seething destructively. I could possibly be happy on my own terms. It was an eye-opener. The door was always open, it just hadn’t occurred to me to try stepping through .

“Hi, I’m Kevin. I was sort of interesting 15 years ago, but now I’m not, and I’m not young. I have a social skills deficit. My interests include setting up home server clusters, drawing comic characters and thinking of new things to feed birds. I avoid socialising with people.”

Me, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kevteljeur/status/1080991116583989249

Now, you followed a link, you came to this article because the piece is ostensibly about dating, and with the implicit suggestion that it involves me on dating apps which, much like me using power tools or me doing anything, carries the hope of something going heartwarmingly, hilariously wrong, and instead you’ve had one exciting paragraph that reads like it has been lifted verbatim from a generic American procedural crime drama, followed by two earnest and worthy but ultimately dull paragraphs about my life recently. I know. I hear you, I’m setting you up with context, we’re getting there. Come on; I haven’t been dating in fifteen years! Fifteen! That’s long enough to be born, grow up and amass a decent catalog of idiot acts! When I last went on a date, phones had small screens and buttons! No-one knew what an Elon Musk was, or why it would be a terrible idea! No WhatsApp, no Twitter, no Tinder, no Tiktok – well, for me, there is still no Tiktok – it was a different world.

The thing about writing this is that, as with many things in our personal lives, it’s a fluid situation, which can change rapidly as I am writing this. I could be single and desperately looking for love one day, and tomorrow I could be arranging a wedding, planning hundreds of children and thousands of grandchildren, deliriously in love, or my date has slept with my dog and stolen my car (I’m not that stupid; I don’t have a dog and I need to offload the car, the joke’s on her, ha!). The article is of this moment, and I could regret writing this quite quickly. Also, it’s more than slightly possible my audience for this article includes future dates (or would-be dates, now not, having read what I’ve written and deduced that they’ve made a terrible mistake), arriving here from social media, or exhaustive background checks, or even from the future, when time travel has will been invented and something has will been breakened on the HyperMatrix and they’ve will had to come back to here to figure out what wint go wrong. Maybe investigators from the Gardai are reading this to figure out what happened to someone else, or even to me, which is not as glib as it sounds, because some of the dating apps certainly lend themselves to getting into sticky situations.

The way we meet people to share our lives with has changed over time. We used to meet people at parties (Yes! Do you remember those?) or at the pub on nights out, or serendipity, or getting a random Skype message from someone looking for a hook-up, with her potentially violent uncle vigilantly chaperoning us. For all sorts of reasons, those things don’t happen any more, we don’t use Skype, and of course the same as with artificially accelerating an accommodation crisis or monopolising the private service vehicle industry, there is now an app for that. Lots of apps, with exciting names like Tinder, Bumble, Badoo, Happn, Zoosk, Paploo, Bossk, Hinge. Actually, some of those are Star Wars characters. Some might be both. You sign up, you upload one or more profile photos taken at some point in the last ten to fifteen years, you optionally write a short profile, perhaps with something about yourself, who you are, what you’re looking for, what you’re not looking for and by the way, this is the very last time you’re going on this app, just one last time, looking for a nice person, no one-night stands, no time wasters please, possibly written in an impatient, passive-aggressive style, which always makes a good first impression. Or nothing at all, no profile, you just pick your favourite song on Spotify and people can decide what kind of a person you are based on one song that you listen to, maybe you listen to that song continuously, day in, day out, until it is how you relate to the world.

So here, after a bit of consultation on Twitter (as good ideas go, that’s up there with asking Twitter for advice about, well, anything. It’s generally not a good idea, unless you already know the answer and want your peers to give you affirmation.) I took inspiration and entire phrases (largely out of context) and built a dating profile, one destined either for failure or greatness:

“I am a bit silly but very senior and impressively dynamic at my powerful job. I restructure Europe’s data acquisition challenges. This morning I interviewed 3 candidates for a job, and I made them fight a bear. One of them helped the bear eat the other two and I hired the bear to manage him. I am an incredible date.

I’m A/B testing the liminal space between stereotypical male anxieties and tropes. There is no magic, who am I to argue. I have a head like Jeff Bezos and GDPR. You could do worse.

I make great pancakes and a decent espresso. There are two types of bean in this game, and I can work both of them. Making love to me is like holding a conversation in a reverb-heavy sports-facility shower.

What connects people? Stories, how we share our lived experiences, the events that shape us, blending our collective memories, the secondary location rule. Tell me about you.”

I was having a bit of fun with it. I intended to put this up on some of the dating apps, and then a more sensible profile, very loosely inspired by this (and on a cruelly self-deprecating tweet I wrote some time ago, quoted above), on the important apps, maybe even to do that A/B testing with it, to see what works. Needless to say, the more sensible version (of which there are two edits, a longer and shorter version) was more successful. It’s very earnest, with a hint of whimsy, to give an honest sense of who I am, and what I like, even by how it is written (which is to say, with full sentences, punctuation and some structure). Of course, dating apps are all about the profile photos, and as a former designer and amateur photographer that has been taught how to take photos and develop them with a film camera, I can take a halfway decent selfie for something like this, and I believe that I did (I settled on two, one taken with the new iPhone, and one taken with my massive high-end DSLR – the iPhone one was better). I filled it out with a series of my Bad Selfie photos (a story for another day, although I believe not unrelated to the genesis of this whole adventure).

I also accidentally rediscovered this link in my tweets while mining my own Twitter account for material: theblog.okcupid.com – and guess what, I was right! You need to take a good profile photo.

What I’ll do is research the optimal way to meet a cat, put a few weeks into figuring how to live with a cat, start thinking about how that will be in 10 year’s time, get very stressed, not actually get a cat, and then write about how awful life without a cat is.

This was an illustrative analogy, by the way. It’s not really about me getting a cat. I can understand people taking it literally, because it is such a vivid, visceral scenario and also it is exactly what would actually happen.

Me, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kevteljeur/status/1235355056658157568

So, after much angst and consternation, with a growing realisation that I would sooner or later have to do this, I put my profiles live, on Tinder and a variety of other apps. There are people with a heightened sense of self-preservation that would be keener on flinging themselves from an airplane with a parachute (or even without) than me putting my dating profiles live. And then the swiping, hours in a state close to a panic attack, considering which way to swipe a profile. Brow beaded with sweat, considering all the future realities that would come from swiping this way or that. If I swiped to the right with this woman, would we have to get married immediately, and if so, would it work, how many children would we have, in what kind of house, why, what would the basis of our relationship be, could there be trust unto death, are we ready for this level of commitment, my God, she’s already demanding so much, this isn’t working out, why have we done this, we are destroying each other. The realisation that neither I nor the developers of Zoosk had the faintest idea of how the app should work or what the business model is. That Bumble is Tinder for people who’ve had enough of Tinder. That Badoo is… Badoo… I don’t know yet. We’ll get to that. That Happn requires you to quite literally move around. And later on, Hinge, ostensibly your virtual wingman/woman in your search for the right partner.

Well, we shall see what happened next.

The next episode »