She was my first internet date, and I was a bit nervous.
Firstly because I knew that this was my first journey down the dark side of online dating, that murky avenue where the discarded remnants of failed relationships lurk in search of company and maybe some form of social acceptance.
To set the scene, it was a popular, well-frequented suburban watering—hole-cum-restaurant roughly halfway between us. The sort of place where your husband-brother-or-father would watch rugby. But on entering the crowded and chatty building from the always full, pine-fringed car-park that night I felt as if all eyes were on me, that everyone knew why I was there.
At least that was my thinking then. Because who does this sort of dodgy online dating stuff anyway?
That was about two years ago, and not long before a boyhood school-friend and long-time New York city resident announced to the table over dinner at a Cape Town city restaurant that it’s the done thing in his part of the world. ‘Hey man, it’s the boss!’
Essentially, it was the validation that I needed, and translated the concept into a ‘good enough’ reality for me.
I had tried to call her number a few times before we met, but with no luck. So I went ahead and agreed to meet nevertheless.
Turned out that she didn’t she didn’t really live where she said she did on her ‘profile’. If you’re from these parts (Cape Town), you will appreciate that broadly speaking, while physically not too far down the road, Muizenberg is on another level, far removed from Strandfontein. In the way that socie-economics is the great separator, it just isn’t the same.
She also posted pictures of herself as a teenager. It could’ve been someone else altogether.
I could’ve walked out, accused her of ‘social fraud’, of wasting my time invested in the communications we’d had over the past couple weeks, of misleading me. But I felt bad; she had travelled far, and being all alone she would’ve been totally out of place in what for her was a clearly foreign environment.
That’s internet dating for you, and I suppose the reason why I finally relented and opted to try the Tinder app. What I imagined to be something trashy, without even having tried it, turned out to be an effective application, populated by people like me, and with no charge.
It pulls limited personal information from your Facebook page – like your profile pictures – and even highlights mutual connections you may have. So the odds are good that the person behind the profile is genuine. If the person is suddenly 30kg heavier, well therein lies the baggage gathered over a lifetime – at least youve had the time to develop the skills of diplomacy and kindness to deal with it – and a real person with real stuff.
And there’s a bonus that I suppose was every bit intended. Because it’s an app, you interact with it when it suits you, no shotgun-scatter emails and weirdos flooding your inbox. Welcome to the new dating generation. It beats sitting at the bar and bugging your buddies.