I’m back. Did you miss me? My apologies for the long absence, but I’ve been terribly busy since my return to the UK; caught up in a gay whirl of work, socialising and romance which rather unfortunately has eaten into my traditional hours of bloggery.
The new job is a stop-gap measure, but pretty good all the same: Executive PA to a very senior member of the local mental health NHS Trust. My new colleagues are a blast and my boss a pleasure to work for; so much so that I am seriously beginning to consider abandoning the copy ideas to become a career PA.
For now, though, I’m lucky that my workload is fairly manageable, otherwise I would never have time to fit in all the events filling up my diary. It was nice, but – and I know they won’t mind my saying this – a little embarrassing when I realised just how much all my friends missed me while I was away. Some of them were positively pining – Anita‘s lost over four stone – and few and far between are the brief moments of respite when I’m not being telephoned, called on, taken out for drinks and generally fêted.
And romance? I’m fighting them off. It’s hard to judge whether it’s my sexy, sun-kissed new figure or general air of travelled sophistication that’s attracting all these admirers – but they are terribly persistent.
The above is almost all true.
I do have a job as a PA, although it’s part-time and until fairly recently I was able to spend most of it reading the Guardian online. My boss really is a fantastically senior member of the Trust, but he is also a high ranking idiot-hole whose most valuable life’s work appears to have been perfecting a subtle mix of arrogance, superciliousness and condescension in both his professional and therapeutic relationships. He doesn’t like to see or talk to anyone unless absolutely necessary, a preference shared by most of his patients and colleagues but one which makes the role of Personal Assistant decidedly tricky. I have taken to gazing at a print-out of Judi Dench taped to my printer and asking myself ‘what would M do?’ whenever I receive a particularly rude or unreasonable communication. The answer is frequently ‘have him eliminated’ but, luckily for Dr Dick, my NHS-issue stapler tends to jam. My mother suggested recently that I have a problem with authority. I am beginning to feel that she may be right.
I have been socialising, though: Canticum and Voce have started up again, and there have been after-work drinks (though obviously not with any of my work colleagues), country walks and bike rides, gallery visits… and gin. (So much gin.) Yet there are papery gaps in my diary aching to be filled with further outings and reasonably-priced cocktails.
And now for the topic you’ve all been skipping ahead to read: ro-oh-oh-mance. True to form, my love life is currently as full and rewarding as a sprung mousetrap missing the cheese. Having been largely single since 2008, and mostly back on the heterosexual market since 2009, I’d come to the conclusion that most attractive, intelligent, pleasant and socially ept* men my own age were all attached, snapped up at university; gay, or had some kind of deep-rooted personality disorder that resulted in them not fancying me. No problem, I thought, having heard that the average university relationship lasts five years (the duration of your degree, plus another two to work out exactly how much you’re not right for each other). I turned 25, and sat back to await the new year’s crop of lovely, ever so slightly emotionally-scarred bachelors to materialise.
They have yet to appear, and I’m growing tired of waiting for the objects of my affections to notice me, or the person of my dreams nearly-but-not-quite knocking me off my bike on the Uxbridge Road (an event that happens so often as to make it a statistical likelihood that at least one of these drivers is my soulmate). So in recent weeks I’ve turned to my good friend The Internet for assistance.
I’ve dabbled before with internet dating, signing up for free profiles that allow you to use sites voyeuristically but with no obligation to commit to actual contact; a kind of anonymous, vaguely sexy Facebook. Nothing ever came of it. The relationships I ended up deleting my profile for were with friends of friends, fellow musicians, and checkout assistants, all of whom I met in person through normal social channels and/or the cashback process. While I’m not exactly ruling out the possibility of this ever happening again (in fact, meeting that special someone in person would be rather convenient), I’m taking the internet thing a little more seriously this time around and to this end have purchased a monthly subscription to a well-known dating site**. The paid-for subscription means that I can send messages to people I like the look of, and they too, if they feel so inclined and have a subscription (read: are similarly desperate), can e-mail me back.
In the spirit of getting my money’s worth, the first thing I did was write a proper profile, which was harder than I’d anticipated. Building a profile can be at once liberating and oppressive. At first, it’s a chance to to present yourself to the world as you’d like to be seen – nay, as you should be seen. In practise, however, it’s easy to be pressured into ruthless self-editing as you attempt to mould yourself into an attractive product to be scrutinised by myriad anonymous unworthies. The parts of your character that so endear to your friends are invariably transformed into deeply unattractive personality defects when displayed on a screen, and it is a strong internet dater who can resist the lure of the generic profile.
A quick look at the most popular women’s profiles on my chosen site reveals a selection of attractive Caucasian women in their twenties and thirties, most with longish straight hair, coyly smiling at the camera from below. Their ‘tag-lines’ (a single line of text under a photo that you can use as added clout should your visage disappoint) are variously kooky, witty or profound. The profiles themselves follow a formula that’s pretty easy to crack:
‘Hey! I’m (insert name). This is my first time internet dating (insert raised eyebrow on part of reader) so be gentle with me! I love my job in (media/the arts/charity) but also value my free time and live life to the full! I love going out dancing with my friends, but I also enjoy quiet nights in snuggled up in front of the television. I’m looking for a ‘partner in crime’ to explore London with: you’ll need to be as passionate as I am about (insert anything – literally, ‘anything’) and be willing to try new things! Looks are important, but not as much as chemistry! Thanks for reading – message me if you like what you see.’
I tried a draft along these lines.
‘Hey! I’m Christina. This is my first time using internet dating, although I suppose the more I relentlessly edit this profile, the more untrue and redundant that statement becomes. I enjoy my job as a temporary PA – if you can call recreational self-harm in the workplace enjoyment – but also value my sessions of ritual humiliation in the gym afterwards. I love going out with my friends, but can only really let my hair down on the dance-floor when I’ve had quite a few drinks, so you’ll need to keep an eye on me when I start flailing! I also enjoy quiet nights in watching television – so much so that I sometimes do this up to five times a week. I LOVE living in London and am looking for a ‘partner in crime’ to explore it with, perhaps on bicycles. You’ll have to be patient, though – I like to pull over every 300 metres or so to check my A-Z as I have a poor sense of direction and limited spatial awareness. You’ll also need to be passionate about something (because, quite frankly, I’m not), and a willingness to try out new things is important, as my stapler isn’t going to fix itself. I would ideally like you to be attractive, although at this stage anyone whose appearance doesn’t make me physically ill should be in with a chance. K THX! E-mail me!’
My real profile is slightly less accurate. My photo is fairly representative of what I actually look like and I’ve tried to resist the urge to homogenise my profile text, mostly because I think it only fair to give potential dates advance warning of what I’m really like (relentlessly and defensively flippant). Most of the top twenty women state that they value a sense of humour in potential partners, while a lot of the men cite their own sense of humour as a selling point. I’m not convinced: in my experience, anyone who has to state that they have a GSOH generally doesn’t. In any case, it further reinforces my belief that many men like women to laugh at their jokes, but to make few themselves. Perhaps this explains my relatively low hit rate so far: after all, why would you respond to the friendly jokey lady with the chubby face when you could e-mail that total hottie who likes TV?
Perhaps my jokes are shit.
Coming next: D For Dalrymple goes on a date…
* the opposite, of course, of ‘inept’
** No, I’m not going to tell you which one. Yes, it probably is ridiculously easy to find me. No, please don’t.