This column first appeared here, in the Sunday Times on 10th June 2018.
Here it is in its uncut form:
SUPER TRUMPS DATING – By Paige Nick
Dating online is many double-barrelled things; eye-opening, soul-destroying, time-sucking, and utterly hilariously-ludicrous. But the one thing it never is, is dull.
I was recently swapping war stories with a newly-divorced friend, and we decided to do a Tinder Duel. The rules of a Tinder Duel are simple. You both share your most recent match, and compare what the universe, read ‘The Algorithm’, is sending your way. It’s a little like that Super Trumps card game we used to play as kids. But instead of pulling a card, with a picture of a car, and comparing things like kilometres per hour, cc’s, cylinders and kilograms, you each pull out your most recent online dating match, and compare things like, kilometres away from you, profile pic, bio and of course kilograms. For added fun, turn it into a drinking game. The winner of each round does a shot.
She went first, bam! Picture an overly tanned 29-year-old, lounging on his bed, in nothing more than a pair of the briefest of red briefs, a set of abs you could grate cheese on, an honours degree, and something resembling a stale cocktail roll shoved down his pants. His bio actually contained the words, ‘…part time superbike racing driver,’ and ‘…An alpha male is not afraid to show his body.’
The competition was stiff. To say the least.
My turn. Boom! Mine was at least fully clothed. Well, in the loosest sense of the word. The camera seemed to have some kind of Vaseline smothered across the lens and the picture was taken from an awkward angle that highlighted his oddly-shaped balding spot, in amongst a handful of carefully arranged strands of orange hair. My guy was also moving, eating, and in the middle of a sentence in the picture, so it was hard to make out any of his features in too much detail, but perhaps that was intentional. His fashion style in this picture (the only one supplied) is hard to describe. Maybe ‘belly-popping’ sums it up? Or ‘homeless man at a cocktail party’? Scuffed, dusty, holey shoes, something awkward happening in the crotch area of his pant, faded, creased jacket to give it all an air of, well of something. I think if you could smell a photograph you’d know all about it. If I had to guess his line of work, I’d go with paedophile.
Two things strike me as I play my hand. The first is that the dating site’s algorithm is messing with me. Not that I want the Calvin Klein douche my friend got, at least my guy can afford clothes, even if only just.
The second thing that strikes me is the weird choices people make. So, say you decide to date online. It’s a good call, everyone deserves to find their someone, or their some-seven. Maybe you’re married, maybe you’re a tonsil, maybe you’re not blessed with the most dynamic looks, or the most teeth, or the best dress sense? That’s alright, as my mother always says, ‘every pot has its lid’ and we all know that looks aren’t everything. But, you only get one chance to put yourself out there. One shot, that’s over in a swipe. And so surely the picture you post is your best one, or at least your most fascinating one? The one you look at and think, yeah, that doesn’t look half bad, if I saw that, I’d be interested. A picture that sums you up, as much as any one picture can do that. One that shows you as an interesting, multi-faceted human being, preferably clothed. And if you don’t have one, well, there’s a good chance you’re holding a phone with a camera on it. It is after all 2018. Surely you could take fifty selfies (not in the bathroom please) and pick the most half-decent one?
And before you slate me for being superficially only about looks, the same goes for your bio. One shot, mate, sell yourself in a sentence. Is ‘Whar u see is what u get!’, ‘Unemployed and Loving It’, ‘Less talk, more action!!!!!’ Or ‘Whatever’ (and I quote verbatim here), are these really insights into the minds of a person we’re scrambling to get to know?
But then what do I know? I’m hardly swimming in swipes, and I certainly don’t have this relationship thing even vaguely half figured out. It’s likely that Mr Cocktail Sausage Pants or Mr Not Trying Too Hard Homeless Paedophile, have the right idea, and I’m the one getting it wrong. After all, as great stand-up comedian, James Enstrom says, ‘It says something about me that I am single, yet Henri Van Breda kills his whole family with an axe and he has a girlfriend. Who he met after he killed his whole family with an axe!’