Friend of a Friend

September 20, 2011 § 38 Comments

Most days people give me advice because people see a plankton and simply can’t resist, much like mothers who see pregnant women, especially first-timers, and invariably put their oar in.  Just can’t help themselves.  It is a form of social Tourette’s.

High on the list of advice I receive is, “You should try internet dating.”  Every one of those who dishes out this gem of inspiration has a happy-ever-after cyber story.  But for the time being, online searching is high on my list of things to avoid. I am not of a completely closed mind, but want to give myself a little more time yet.

I have a divorced, ex-plankton friend who worked the internet for dates for almost ten years.  She came across a few weirdos but fortunately didn’t have any scary experiences.  She had a couple of relationships which didn’t last but were pleasant enough, and made two or three mates out of it, something definitely not to be sniffed at. But, ultimately, she said, it was very hard work and for the most part extremely dispiriting.  The greatest benefit at the time was being able to regale her friends with anecdotes of some of the more appalling dates she went on.  Eventually she found even that began to pall, the whole thing too humiliating, and zapping to the self-esteem.  After years of admirable persistence, she gave up online dating for good.

Since then, she has been lucky enough to meet a divorced man through some friends who cleverly helped to get their romance off the ground.  Some years later, she is still happily with this man.  She told me that one of the problems with internet dating is that, while you may have things in common with those you meet (the main thrust of online profiles, after all), you never have friends in common.  The men you date are – obviously – complete strangers.  Of course, this needn’t be a hinderance to a successful and lasting relationship, and many people positively embrace the idea of meeting someone completely removed from their own background or circle.  But my friend said that after years of internet dates, the pleasure of being with someone with whom she didn’t have to start completely from scratch, as it were, was untold.  They keep discovering friends in common and points of contact, and that feels reassuring and joyful rather than claustrophobic.  They had a short-hand of understanding from the start which had a basis not just in that all-important “spark”, which strangers can also provide, but also in a view and/or experience of the world that was roughly similar.  This may seem insular but I can see the advantages.

I’d like to give it a try first, and if I fail, then resort to the internet.  Call me narrow-minded but I think, if possible (and I am under no illusions that it’s easy), it would be especially good to meet a friend of a friend.


§ 38 Responses to Friend of a Friend

  • Penny says:

    I totally agree about your friend who was internet dating. I too regale my friends with stories. I have met a couple of nice men on it but the relationships for various reasons havent worked out. It is dispiriting sometimes – best thing is to have a break now and again from it. I can’t see myself meeting anyone through friends as they are either single or in a couple, with few single men friends to introduce me to. I could wait forever!! so internet dating is a way of meeting men, on the positive side we didnt have this 20 years ago, and many people do internet dating now. dont knock it until you have tried it!! Seriously though try it for 3 months, you could be pleasantly surprised. If you hate it you can just stop.

  • june says:

    As someone who has tried internet dating, i too have very mixed feelings about it.

    Like you plankton i have heard many success stories, but i find myself thinking how, are these women totally desperate and will have anything or are they just lucky and are certain areas better than others for it.

    Personally i find it very dispiriting at times, lots of men refuse to meet anyone over 55,i have been told by men in their 50s that i am too old for them, although in many cases they look considerably older than me! The one i met yesterday nice bloke, but no spark,, i would meet again if he suggested it, but dont think he will somehow, i sensed little attraction there.

    The meeting someone with connections to your own circle seems a great idea, but what if there are no spare men to introduce you too, as in my case. I have friends who cant stand their close friends partner, so even if you meet them nornally you may have no connections ,and yes it does make things difficult with no shared history etc and they may not live near you, ive certainly no intention of moving anywhere but if you only meet people in own area, that means you hardly meet anyone and i live in a city,. god it must have beem easier whe everyone got together with someome they knew and stayed married til death us do part, cause modern life sure makes it difficult.

  • MissM says:

    On the plus side internet dating sites do end up making one feel better of being alone, since that becomes infinitely more appealing than the thought of trying to share a life with any of the people who fill your inbox with illiterate and occasionally even completely unintelligible messages.

    So true that after the initial amusement at the general awfulness, it just tends to make one think so much less of the human race in general.

    So much of it comes down to luck. Some people get lucky without the internet, some get lucky using an online dating site. I guess ultimately it is just another way of getting more of those lottery tickets. Sadly there is no guarantee that any will be a winner, you just have to keep collecting tickets and hope for the best.

  • Nina says:

    yes in theory, the problem is none of my friends (including Friends’ husbands) have any available friends to introduce me to!
    I see internet dating as an extra avenue, not the only avenue, I tend to subscribe for a month at a time, then take a break, then subscribe again.
    As Penny says, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying!

  • Josephine says:

    Have tried it, when I first became a widow, I took out a 3 month membership cancelled it before my time was up, got a large amount of responses but totally unsuitable men, found it time consuming, & not having friends in common was a large drawback, looking back I am not not sure I was all that serious about it, my friends just urged me to do it for a laugh,, I have met a few men since, the normal way, at this point I am leaving it to faith, if it happens it happens, I just enjoy my live, company of friends & family & travelling, I dont have any money issues, I am just so grateful for what I have to-day, just look around at all the suffering in the world, life is very short so enjoy it, a widow friend of mine was on her own for 12yrs, found the love of her live one night at a dance, totally unexpeted a friend of hers just asked her to come along & their he was, he has just proposed to her, so dont take live to seriousely. Internet dating not for me

  • Bambi says:

    Plankton, how timely this post is. I have just, this morning, completed a reply I had started a few days ago and have posted it on the of 16th Sept blog (c/f The Ripeness of Pears)… it happens to deal (in part) with this very issue…

    Just to add to what I said there – I suspect that, like MissM, the illiteracy levels on online dating sites would ultimately undo you – especially as someone who revels in the written word. I know it undid me!

    • The Plankton says:

      Thank you, Bambi, you are absolutely right of course. I may sound like an unspeakable prig, but a man who cannot string a sentence together or who has never read a book… well, call me narrow-minded, and I am putting my neck on the line here (not for the first time, admittedly) but maybe you are right and he is not for me…? Is that an awful thing to say? P

      • Bambi says:

        “Is that an awful thing to say?”
        Nope. ( Though it’s not politically correct, of course! :-)).
        Being anal about literacy is an incurable condition. I know, because I suffer from it too – hence recognise it in others!

        Signed: Bambi (aka unspeakable-prig-with-a-low-tolerance-of-illiteracy).

      • Sarah says:

        Absolutely not. There are limits!

      • AJ says:

        I would have agreed had it not been for the fact I came “undone” when I corresponded with a man who has dyslexia.. this makes you see life from a completely different point of view. I was at first indignant to say the least, I thought him to be a bit ‘uneducated’. Can you imagine my embarrassment when he finally told me. No wonder his emails/texts etc were short, to the point and full of spelling and grammatical errors.. Just saying, maybe it’s somethig to bear in mind. x

      • AJ says:

        oops, I meant “something” to bear in mind.. typing too quickly for my fingers! is that ironic?

      • Sarah says:

        AJ, if he was sensible he’d say up front. I have a friend who’s dyslexic. When we first corresponded he said he was dyslexic hence bad spelling. No problem there, they just have to be honest and up front.

    • MissM says:

      I think this is about recognising qualities that are important to us. For me a minimum level of intelligence is mandatory, and there is not really any other quality that can make up for its lack. A man who thinks books are nothing but evil things that one was forced to read for school is simply not going to suit me, so why pretend otherwise? It would be wasting everyone’s time if I feigned an interest in someone who doesn’t have the most basic reading and writing skills. Sometimes being politically correct is really counter productive.

      I think I shall be proud to call myself an unspeakable-prig-with-a-low-tolerance-of-illiteracy.

      • Bambi says:

        That makes three hopeless cases, then! (Four, if Sarah is happy to be included!).

        Hurray for literacy! Political correctness be damned! 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        Definitely count me in! I’m totally intolerant when it comes to my partner. He’s got to be bright and literate (and luckily for him, he is!).

        I have a fundamental love of language – how sentences are put together, sound together, have rhythm together etc. If my beloved was writing to me with a misspelling every other word, his grammar in the gutter, I would not respect him. It’s as simple as that. You have to choose what you find important, and that is a deal breaker (as they say). No literacy, no deal.

  • june says:

    No plankton or miss M .you are not wrong.

    Because i was so fed up with getting the same kind men from dating websites, with the same platitudes etc an d and as miss m says sometimes sounding illiterate, i once put a quirky and quite funny profile on, well i thought it was , saying i was fed up with men who wanted to walk by the sea,live in the sticks and who refused to meet youthful over 55 year old women even if they were older than them.. I was quite shocked by the replies i got, not pleasant many of them, so many men seemed to hate women with opinions and their attitudes seemed quite prehistoric. My 98year old dad who died last year had a much more up to date attitiude to women, he actually liked them as people and was very modern in how they should be treated. Perhaps its cause i was brought up by such a man,im like i am, a plankton. It certainly did not give me a good impression of the modern male.

  • DAN. says:

    Internet dating ?

    Far too much work involved, and normally only ends in dissapointment and depression, i’m told from anyone i know that has tried it .

    Never done it myself, and don’t intend to start now either !


  • Tea leaf says:

    Ah, the dreaded internet sites…
    Having been single for more years than I care to remember, I have dabbled with these dating companies, I too have found that the stories regaled over a glass of wine have been far more entertaining than the actual date itself.
    Quasi on line relationships detract from the real thing, winking, nudging, emailing strangers sets one up for so much rejection as it seems that the etiquette is that there is no need to respond…
    But what other avenue is there? I have joined gyms, keep fit clubs, language classes etc and most of the men are married…
    Where do you go to meet single men over 48? (Who want to date a woman of a similar age, not a 22 year old?)

  • Penny says:

    hear hear! its just another way of trying to meet people. Worth a try.

  • Penny says:

    I’ve tried everything too, my local gym is full of youngsters, single social evenings are usually full of guys you dont want, or players. Single holidays are a great idea, I recommend them. They are fun as you meet similar ages and there are single men on them, meet likeminded women at least! Though the men can be dire.

    There are no places to meet nice men over 48, they probably go to their local pub or are set up by a friend as soon as they become single!
    I can tell you its worse being in London where I live.

  • Erin says:

    Met the husband on Match. He is a physics geek, avid book reader and has saved sufficiently to retire next year at age 55. I also had some dates and emails from nutters, illiterates and nice guys with whom there was no chemistry. Yes, internet dating is time consuming, hard work, disappointing, but look at the size of the pool of men you have to choose from. Dear P, you can browse without joining up. Why not spend a couple of hours and peruse to see what is there?

    To all planktons who replied, I was a plankton for 11 years. I kept thinking surely I will meet someone through friends, work – it just doesn’t happen that way anymore. The whole social structure of the world has changed. Our parents and grandparents had dances and parties where they met people. Everyone knew their neighbors on the whole block. For the most part, work ended at 5:00, which left more time for socializing. There was no internet for people to hide behind for hours; there were no portable cell phones to keep in touch with friends. Men wanted commitment then as it was taboo to have casual sex and porn was certainly not readily available at their desktop.

    It comes down to this. If the thought of spending the rest of your life alone is not terrifying or depressing to you and you are content with that possibility, that is great; I admire that you can think that way. It wasn’t okay for me. I had finally realized that if anything was going to happen, I was going to have to make it happen. Mr. Right hadn’t appeared at my doorstep. My friends did not (and still do not) have any friends to introduce me to. All the men at work were married and had married friends. Life was passing me by and I was wasting time wishful thinking. So I got on Match, worked hard at it, tried to grow a thick skin to help with the inevitable disappointments, and soldiered on until I met my now husband. Did I settle for him? Absolutely not! He is a quirky genius type who has worked very hard throughout his adult life to get to where he is today. He is a fantastic dad to his grown daughters. Is life a bowl of cherries every day? Of course not. No one’s life is. When you get to be this age, people have baggage that has to be worked around.

    The more avenues you have to meet people, the better. If you are looking for a life partner, yes, expect to work hard at it. Nothing worth having ever comes easily. As always, good luck to all who seek to find “The One”, because they really are out there looking for you too : )

  • joules says:

    I agree, it is the lack of any kind of shared connections that makes it so strange – we did not evolve finding partners this way so perhaps that is why it seems so alien.

    Perhaps I have waited long enough for it to happen any other way though and am getting ready to give it a shot.

    I just registered with one over the weekend – filled in the beginning info and just left it – have not crossed anyone’s hand with silver. Not really sure if I will persevere or cancel the whole darn thing. The amount of email it has generated has been offputting. I do not really want to know if someone is looking at my profile (I have not put on a photo and as we are told men are very visual then what are they looking at – perhaps they might be interested in my degrees or the fact that I like opera – in which case why are they single – should have been snapped up by now).

  • MissBates says:

    I, too, have *heard* many stories of internet dating success, but confess I *know* of none amongst a fairly wide circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, clients, etc., who have tried it.

    I think those websites present a very real alternative for people from their 20s to mid-30s, but for women “of a certain age” (40+, basically) they can be demoralizing in the extreme, for the reasons mentioned by previous commenters.

  • EmGee says:

    As Bambi said in The Ripeness of Pears blog post, internet dating simply isn’t appealing to me. Mainly it is the idea of meeting a total stranger for a date which I find distasteful.

  • Jo says:

    I can understand your reticence.But please don’t think of it as ‘resorting to the internet’.I think that’s doing it a great disservice and adhering to the stigma that it carried of old.We must banish anything that smacks of stigma.Otherwise we are falling into stigmatising something else that people misunderstand and deem somewhat unacceptable and ‘desperate’.Not unlike the misguided views of us planktons…..
    I have heard many and varied strange stories of internet encounters.It is not unknown to me personally..
    But I also know enough former planktons for whom it has been a very happy and life changing experience.Enough for me to overcome my own scepticism and marvel at the breadth of great people they have met and with whom they are now happily settled.Majorly uplifting indeed.
    Yes,it may take a while sometimes and may involve people from whom one would run screaming.But that can be true of life….It’s more than worth a go and not to be discounted nor downgraded as a last resort.

  • Penny says:

    I agree with you Jo. There are lots of people that have met their partners through the internet, and yes there are stories where people give up, it is certainly worth trying. Its just another way of meeting men. Glass half full rather than glass half empty! I have no other way of meeting men over 50, if I don’t do internet dating, its unlikely I will meet anyone. I have plankton girlfriends who do nothing to meet men, hence they have been single for many years. I havent given up yet!!

  • Lydia says:

    Read the page in the Times every week on Saturday interviewing couples who have placed their marriage announcement in the Times. Plenty of those met on the internet. There is nothing wrong with internet dating at all. It’s a really good method. It can save not waste a lot of time.

    If you want someone who can write you can see that right away rather than if you met him in a bar and only learned later he didn’t meet a criteria like that.

    Rule out no routes.

  • Dawn says:

    Oh, but it’s so disspiriting is internet dating. Locally, there seem to be two kinds of men on the sites, from opposite ends of the scale: functionally illiterate at one extreme and quite bright and successful but socially delayed on the other. I get the occasional 38-year old telling me I’m ‘hot’ but satisfying some youngster’s granny fetish is not my idea of a good time.

    Part of the problem is that I live on an island from which many of the more interesting men have departed to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Which is what I should have done 15 years ago when my marriage ended. Hindsight.

    Meeting total strangers is just downright scary, as well. But what’s a plankton to do?

    • MissM says:

      I suspect I am in the same situation as you Dawn, regarding the geographical disadvantages of where I live. Hardly any man here seems to have completed high school. Lovely place to live if you have a partner, as I did when I moved here, absolutely the last place you would want to be single in. I think I shall just give up until such time as I can move and by then I probably will be too old to care anymore. At least I hope I wont care, I’d hate to have to go all the way to the grave being unhappily single.

  • Penny says:

    I totally agree Lydia.

  • Tina says:

    I have been following Planktons blog for a while and very much enjoy it as it makes me feel a lot better about my failure to meet a suitable partner “second time around”. I found myself single again at 39 without much baggage and with a blossoming career and social life. However I dont really enjoy being single…

    All my friends are a little younger than me and have young children and no single friends, I have asked all of them and as this did not result in anything I decided to try my luck online….I have tried a few of the dating sites….match, my single friend and eharmony.

    3 years down the road I am much wiser and would like to share my analysis of internet dating with you:

    The main issue is that even if I try to date with integrity, not deceiving anyone and being clear with my expectations the following seems to be the outcome: there is very little consequense of men (or women) behaving badly, men expecting to sleep with you after a couple of dates, having spent only a few hours together. When they realise that this is not going to happen, they vanish. Great, better to find out sooner reather than later! No problem.

    Some get discouraged when they find out that I have my act together, own a property and potentially make more money than they do, I dont care about this, they do however…or so it seems. That leaves very little in terms of suitable partners, guys between 42 and 50 are scarse or looking for someone in their 30’s and they get away with it so I changed my strategy.

    After 3 years, if you keep doing the same things you will get the same results. I am now channeling my energy into work and starting my own business on the side. Keeps me happy and this way I met an amazing guy who lives abroad, takes me out for dinner, shows, games when we can get together, he makes me feel attractive and treats me like a lady. He is single like me and we very much enjoy each others company. Not ideal but much better than internet dating!

    Just be happy! Enjoy life and when you least expect it…..


  • EmGee says:

    Good for you Tina!

    You described what I imagine as the outcome from internet dating is like for most people. I believe that meeting someone simply by going out and living your life is the way to go.

    However, you need to elaborate on what you mean by ‘ideal’? Or at least define it. Is an ideal an unobtainable fantasy or something, because it sounds like Mr Abroad is the ideal for you. How can he be both amazing and yet, not ideal? How high have you set the bar? I don’t mean this to sound flippant, I genuinely want to know, because so many men complain that women set impossible standards (and vice versa).

  • Tina says:


    Im not hard to please … Lol I know who I am and what I want. I am looking for is a man who is attractive to me which means reasonably fit and well groomed, with nice eyes.
    Someone who can make me laugh, who can hold a conversation, likes being active so we can do
    things together and is sorted financially. If this man exists it would be an added bonus if he occasionally would pick up some flowers from Asda and tell me he loves me for who I am.

    Im still looking;-)

  • Penny says:

    I do think that some women set some very high standards, but so do men. You only have to read the profiles on the internet sites.

    Once you over a certain age (I say around late 40’s) its nearly impossible to meet men through work, anyone decent is married. You dont meet them in bars or pubs, so……saying that you meet guys just by getting on with your life is rubbish! I have several girlfriends who dont do internet dating or go to single clubs, and they never meet anyone “by chance”. Its sheer luck if you do. Or have a job that gets you meeting a lot of people. Anyway thats my thought on this.

    • EmGee says:

      Penny, everyone’s experience is different. I’m just 3 weeks shy of 49, I work in my home as an artist and will soon be warehousing and fulfilling orders for a friend’s mail order business from there as well. Not much chance to meet men through work for me! I am not only not keen on trying internet dating, I would be very uncomfortable going to a single’s bar/club.

      Perhaps because part of my own recipe for getting on with my life, is getting involved with others’ lives by attending music related events where I meet all kinds of people, and being involved with the local arts council, things I have a personal interest in anyway. I also don’t base my relationships on whether someone is relationship material or not.

      I am a naturally shy person, so it was hard to do this initially. As I got to know more people, I rarely find myself in situations where I don’t know at least one person there.

      I spent last night into the wee hours of morning having a discourse with a professor of philosophy (Graduate of Columbia Univ), and me with a 2 year year degree in commercial art! He’s 50, and we were both single when we met a year ago, and while he was keen at the time, I thought I had found Mr Right in another. He has since found his Ms Right, and I concede that they are a perfect match.

      Still, he was in town, made dinner for us at the home where he is staying, and we talked, drank wine, had a fine time as friends.

      So yes, chance has a lot to do with it, but with a little work at changing what you can, your chances can be greatly improved.

  • Penny says:

    EmGee, funnily enough I’m very shy too, I forced myself to go to Singles clubs, where I did make more friends but I didnt like going. You are lucky to have other avenues to try, the Arts Council etc, maybe you are not as shy as you think! I think we all try the avenues that we are comfortable with. Most of my friends work in offices like I do, where its limiting to meet people.

    One thing I do enjoy very much are single’s holidays, I have met some lovely women, now my friends, and met a few nice guys which unfortunately didnt work out. But they are great fun – more so than just going away with a girlfriend. Everyone is in the same boat, they are on holiday to enjoy themselves. Some people immediately say they couldnt do it but if they did they would love it. For all Planktons, try it!

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