ONLINE DATING: Finding True Love

It was lockdown that gave me the final shove. After a decade of sputtering, post-divorce romantic adventures, suddenly all I had for company was my Golden Doodle, Mabel. Wonderful, loving company, but what if human love was sitting out there too, a face on a dating site, just a few box-ticks away from being found? Covid restrictions actually made it less daunting: mutual interest leading to a socially distanced walk or two, Mabel gambolling at our heels – it would be like dating the safe, old-fashioned way. What could possibly go wrong?

Excited, I joined an established site. Days passed, but no one I ‘liked’ ‘liked’ me back. Was I that bad? I glared into the mirror, and consulted Mabel, who rolled onto her back for a tummy-tickle. I was way past the dressing-to-be-noticed malarky, I told myself, stomping upstairs to put on a pretty dress, some lipstick, and take a new profile picture.

Within hours my phone was pinging. Lesson One: get yourself noticed. A cattle-market then, but at least I was in control. I began to enjoy myself. A new lockdown hobby! There were lots of dumb messages and posing in sunglasses and cycling Lycra, but I felt a kinship with every hopeful – risking ridicule and looking for “The One”. Just like me.

My First Date loved dogs – and me! – as he declared very quickly. Too quickly. But he seemed warm and open, and when he suggested a minibreak staycation between lockdowns, I agreed. A HOLIDAY! WITH A NICE MAN! I home-waxed my legs and touched up my roots (oh the joys of Covid) and started counting the days. My suitcase was half-packed when he sent a message, not to confirm our travel plans, but curtly announcing he had changed his mind and would prefer to holiday alone. Fools rush in… I managed to laugh between nursing my bashed-up pride.

Date Two I approached with more caution, only agreeing to a park walk (we were back in lockdown) after we had shared a wealth of information in phone calls. He was witty, and very keen. On the morning of our big first date however, he rang to ask blithely if I could leave Mabel at home because he “couldn’t stand” dogs. Mabel and I looked at each and shook our heads.

Third time lucky, I told myself, when the possibility of Date Three popped up. Kind, clever, wounded, this man’s wariness totally matched mine. We grilled each other like suspects in court before agreeing to go out together. We tried our best, over several months. But Lesson Two is that trying only gets you so far. Emotions cannot be willed into existence, not even if you both like reading, crosswords and dogs.

I cancelled my subscription. Life – mine and the world’s – was opening up again and I didn’t ‘need’ a man to be happy. A few days later, “The One” stepped across my path. No algorithms, no ‘likes’, just plain old serendipity. I fell in love and got fallen in love with. Romantic fiction made real.