Navigating the Minefield

February 12, 2012 § 44 Comments

Janey has told me about a friend who found herself abandoned, divorced, a penniless, homeless single mother with an ex-husband whose whole life was a lie.  She started doing the internet and learned a lot in the process about how to navigate the minefield, how to tell who was just looking for sex and so forth, and is happy to pass on her tips to me having herself recently found a wonderful man.

When she does, I shall embrace her wisdom, and immediately share it with you.

Meanwhile, two pieces in the papers yesterday about internet dating.  I get all the broadsheets on Saturdays but these were flagged up by various commentators before I’d had a chance to read them myself and gave both sides of the argument, for and against.  The American writer in the Guardian Magazine had several horror stories of her experiences to tell (everything I have always dreaded and feared about internet dating), and Andrew Billen and his internet-found wife, had a heartening one to impart.  Both true.  Both worth reading.  Greatest hopes and utmost fears confirmed.

Janey’s friend has just rung this second, and we are going to talk later or tomorrow.

Look forward to those top tips.  Coming soon to the blog nearest to you!


§ 44 Responses to Navigating the Minefield

  • Mel says:

    Ooh good! Looking forward!

  • John says:

    Agree that internet dating is certainly a minefield. Even before you manage to find someone on the site that may be interest to you, you are bombarded with “suggestions and proposals” from the site managers that make the whole experience a total waste of time.

  • Jane says:

    Her friend has started ‘doing the internet’, blimey, you make it sound like doing crack cocaine!! and the friend found her wonderful man……on the internet? Most of the reading between the lines is like reading estate agents blurbs, ie: compact means ‘ so damned small you couldn’t swing a mouse, let alone a cat’ and you just know if they take show a photo from the back of the house, it means that the front opens onto a motorway or a main road. By the same token, GSOH- usually means they haven’t got one at all, bubbly means inanely shreiky and will make you want to stab them before the evening is out, cuddly means fat and home loving means they think a wild night out is a movie and a curry at the local Indian.

    • Erin says:

      Jane – all that effort spent reading between the lines (which is subjective anyway, as some people aren’t good at writing profiles and tooting their own horn) should be spent emailing, getting to know someone better and then deciding if they are worth your while. If so, persue; if not, politely cut it off and move on. The desired end result is finding the right person for you, and by judging and picking apart a person solely on their profile, you might be passing up a gem. Just saying : )

  • Erin says:

    An open mind, perseverance and patience = successful Internet dating experience. Am glad this woman is willing to help – it will put you a couple of steps ahead of the game. Remember, do not get discouraged. I have a friend who has been doing the Internet dating, the paid match making lunches and dinner parties, etc for years with no success. Why? She gets discouraged after a couple of dates that don’t work out and then doesn’t try anything for several months, then goes back to it – the same pattern over and over again. Someone on here said you have to treat it like a job and that is so true. It’s hard work. But anything worth having is usually hard work – why should this be any different? Am hoping after talking to this woman that you will be ready to dip your toe in again. You must expect disappointment – it comes with the territory. There will always be a new email in your inbox around the corner. Never give up!

    • Jane says:

      Hey, you’re preaching to the converted Erin. I am a staunch supporter of internet dating (as I have advocated on here over many a month) I totally agree with you about putting in the effort, nothing worth having comes easy- which sounds cheesy , but I believe is true. What I was saying is, that whilst it is nice to chat to other people about their experiences, they are just that……other peoples experiences. The only way to find out if something does it for you , is to try it. I am simply saying that, it’s not rocket science, you soon become au fait with the various descriptions that people choos eto emply and above all , go with your instincts and your heart. In my experience they won’t let you down if really you trust them.

  • Lydia says:

    I’m seeing a huge increase in numbers of men at present. This will be the Valentine day effect I suppose. You go for 6 weeks with virtually no one and then 4 calls in 2 days which makes you muddle up who is who, not that even the one I’m seeing next week is right and the only one I like is married and I don’t do that.

    I read the newspaper articles too (but not the Guardian one). What surprised me about Billen was and this sounds very shallow physically how she could fancy him. His internet photo apparently had his hair before it went grey. Men seem to do that or they say their son who is blonde and they have the same hair colour but they don’t as their hair is now completely grey.

    I like the whole process. I love people and interacting with them and finding out where they have ended up and where they are from so even if a call doesn’t develop to meeting someone it’s rarely a waste of time although the one this week who said “What’s your bank statement” was beyond the pale. Not so much about asking about money although that’s bad enough but that anyone could be so inarticulate to think “what is your bank statement” means what is the figure in your bank account. Then there was the quite bright one, Essex city boy made good – most combative call ever just about between us and the last straw was books – I said what I was reading and then heard a tirade against reading and he descrbied a mythical couple who … wait for it… read books… and said they’d be sitting on chairs reading bits of their books out at each other. I’m not little Miss high brow particularly but that was just too much a difference.

    • Chris says:

      Tsk tsk, I may have read this wrong but you seem to be infering ,men with grey hair are not attractive. Wow, what do you think is the colour of many womens hair before they start ‘ faking ‘ it with dye and highlights. Errr…could that be grey I wonder ? And don’t even get me started on what many women look like without make up…….Once you go down the shallow route it can kinda backfire I guess.

      • Margaux says:

        Agree with you there Chris! – but in defence of Lydia perhaps she was trying to say that some people post pictures which are not strictly accurate – i.e. from when they were years younger.

        I do think men with grey hair are attractive – there are many examples in public life – but I wonder how many men would think the same of women? ( *goes to check stock of hair dye* … )

      • EmGee says:

        My late husband started dying his hair because he bought into the rubbish that it wold make him look younger. He did it himself, and it just looked atrocious. My bf has shoulder length, salt and pepper hair, and I love it that way.

        I have mine tinted at a salon, but only once every 3 or 4 months (last time was the end of October!). My stylist is wizard at her job, so I can let it grow out and it looks fine. In fact, I mention that I really ought to have it done, and my friends haven’t even noticed it’s grown out so much. I used to be blonde so that helps.

        In Lydia’s defense, she has expanded on the gray hair issue further down. Although Chris, you are correct that many if not most women past a certain age dye their hair, there is a different dynamic – women are expected to ‘look beautiful and stay young’ by artificial means, there are store aisles and even entire stores devoted to it. Getting my hair done every few months and using moisturizer is about my limit, but I am a rare exception. I had my first manicure, at 49, in December.

    • Margaux says:

      Which site do you use Lydia ?

  • Sarah says:

    From what Lydia says, it sounds like a good time to be on the internet, P, with the influx of new men. Hope you get some useful tips.

  • June says:

    Well i guess none of you are over 60, because quite frankly if you are internet dating is a total waste of time. No women who is should even bother, there is absolutely no point, believe me.. Even men of our own age dont want women of same age. I guess woman of that age are just supposed to curl up and die.

    • Margaux says:

      June – this has been your constant refrain for months now. Have you tried all the different sites that have been suggested here ? The olderwomen /younger men sites? or the sites for ‘professionals’ ( like Loveandfriends & Mysinglefriend) as opposed to just the free for all sites?
      Does your profile make you come over as a positive person or a negative one?
      You know what they say – if you can’t change a situation – change your response. So – new sites, different approach perhaps?

      • June says:


        I have tried several sites, friends reunited, match affinity, white label dating which is my local paperone as well as POF , over the past 3 years. A fellow plankton friend of mine of my age, has been on many since her divorce 6/7 years ago,but has never had much luck, yes weve had odd dates but thats it. Maybe we are too choosey or maybe its just that in our area there are just not many available men, and to be honest, this is the conclusion we are both coming to.

        My single friend sounded good, so i emailed them and asked them honestly what chances of a 64 year old women meeting someone on their site in my area. I had a very honest and pleasant reply, unusual with dating websites, stating that their main age range is 25/45 but they have some older men ,but would suggest i widened my area search as they thought it unilkely i would meet anyone in my area. Also said i was free to have a look without paying, which i did, 4 names only came up, 3 wanted women up to 55 only. i was very imporessed with their honestly and for yiunger people i think it a great site. Looked at those specifically for older people, was not impressed, they seemed just interested in taking your money and again very few local men.. I do not want a long distance relationship, nor does my friend, we both like living in the city we live in and have no desire to live anywhere else.Maybe in other parts of UK it is possible to meet m en if you are over 60 but i am afraid in my area it is very difficult,.

      • RS says:

        Sorry, have to reply to Margaux but this is really directed at June! I asked this on another thread but it was quite a bit after it was “active” so you may not have seen it.
        June why would you not consider widening your catchment area somewhat? I would think that a train trip or drive of an hour or two to meet up with someone would be just fine, if it were the difference between having someone to date a bit and sitting alone all the time. If you hit it off you could take turns. Plus if, as you’ve said before, you’re not sure if you WANT to live with someone, but might prefer a companion to get together with, this could be a fine solution. They wouldn’t be underfoot all the time at least!

        I just don’t see why, if you’re really bent on dating, and you’re not having success in your immediate vicinity, you wouldn’t go a bit further afield.

        Also a recent article indicates that over-60 is the fastest growing age group on internet dating sites so that may mean that the tide will be turning in your favour.

      • Margaux says:

        June – for awhile I thought you were in outer mongolia but if your local paper site is where I think it is you are not that far from London? ( correct me if I am wrong!)

        I appreciate you don’t wish to travel but I’m with RS on this one. As someone who once had a long distance relationship across continents for a few years I don’t see the problem with travelling an hour or so.

        If something isn’t working – you have to change it.Or nothing will change.

  • jane says:

    Hello, I enjoyed the Guardian article(s) but I can’t find the Andrew Billen one for google nor money. Could you provide a link please? Hoping it wasn’t behind the dreaded Times paywall….

    • The Plankton says:

      Oh dear, I fear it might be…? x

      • jane says:

        Ah, no worries! I shall await the real life version instead… (well, I’m sure Andrew Billen is real, but Janey’s friend sounds …realer). Boo to paywalls, however.

      • Lydia says:

        Yes, the times – he wrote about finding love on line and his wife also a journalist wrote about it too (she had been researching dating web sites for work).

        I did not mean I wouldn’t date a man with grey hair – at my age I’m lucky if they have hair at all and they can look fine. I just meant deceptive photos are not a good idea or else it’s a shock when you meet that person although one yesterday of a … well nothing I can say other than – very very fat man on a bicycle particularly the part showing the obese thigh in shorts (6 stone heavier than my 3 husband) was not a good choice. I think whether you’re attracted to the features on someone’s face is a bit subjective although balance and symmetry play a part and I just didn’t find the Billen face in the attractive category which of course doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

    • MissM says:

      Something to be said for the overweight over-exposed bicycle thigh being presented in a pic is that no woman could complain that the picture gave her false expectations. Also from the man’s point of view he knows anyone who is prepared to meet him is also more likely to be prepared to accept him, excess weight and all. As you correctly say Lydia, even if you don’t like him, someone else might.

  • EmGee says:

    Most of the articles linked to here lately (mostly by commenters) are behind the ‘dreaded paywall’, oh well. Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing what Janey’s friend has discovered.

  • terracotta says:

    What’s not to like about Andrew Billen? I think he looks very nice – he’s kind, funny, clever and a good writer. I once went out with a very good looking man and he was always trying to catch glimpses of his own reflection – in shop windows, cutlery, – any reflective surface in fact – ghastly ghastly ghastly. Did you ever here back from LS by the way after your email being the real you, P?

  • fi0na says:

    My suspicion is that her navigating skills had more to do with fair winds and following seas. I think luck has everything to do with it in internet dating, as in life. Nonetheless I will be interested to hear.

  • Rather than calling yourself a “plankton,” let’s see what would happen if you did everything EXACTLY THE SAME as you are doing now in your day- to- day activities, only try calling yourself a “cougar” instead of a “plankton”- Seems to be the hipster thing these days….

    -It’s ALL entirely in the mindset…

    Just read both of the Freuds (the grandfather of the painter whom you wrote about last week, and also that painter’s aunt Anna, I mean)….

    • Jane says:

      Scott! assume this was a tongue in cheek remark? Cougar…euuurrgghh!!

      • Both- Yes, and no, I mean- The part about your being attractive or unattractive to members of the opposite sex being largely dependent on your own mindset really IS in the works of both Anna as well Sigmund Freud- They don’t use those exact words, they were both a tad more eloquent than myself in terms of their writing styles, and that idea is quite obviously NOT the main thesis of any of their books, but that idea can be found in at least a few of their books.

        The same would probably hold true for attempting to attract members or your same gender, if that’s your preference, though neither Sigmund nor Anna ever say that, at least from what I’ve read…

        And it probably was The Plankton’s post about Lucien from last week that made me think of that, although one can never really be entirely certain as to where some of our thoughts come from, can we….

      • Lydia says:

        I’m not particularly into younger men because they often don’t have the confidence one needs, but I don’t think cougars are to be despised. Plenty of people want to date someone younger – the older person virtually always gets the better deal there unless the older one is very rich and the younger impoverished in which case you move a bit more towards balance. Cougars or pumas are beautiful sleek gorgeous cats. mmmm

    • Dawn says:

      You appear to have missed out on the definition of cougar, Scott. I don’t recall Plankton ever expressing an interest in younger men for short flings. The main defining characteristic of the cougar is the interest in very young men for sex only. I get the impression Plankton is looking for an age-appropriate life partner.

      • Margaux says:

        Ah – so the press were wrong to call Demi Moore a cougar then, Dawn?

      • I thought that she was looking for an interesting partner- If he happens to be 10 years older than herself, so be it- If he happens to be 10 years younger than herself, so be it, or at least that’s my best guest as to her attitude about the ages of guys…

        However, my point was that if she were to think of herself as someone who is likely to succeed, rather than someone who is likely to not succeed… …. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see….

      • Dawn says:

        Not sure how to label Demi, other than sad and driven. If Ashton was one of a long string of very much younger men and she’s now persuing the same and the same exclusively, then yes, she can be labelled a cougar. If she just happened to find herself with a much younger man, then probably not.

      • The Plankton says:

        Precisely, Dawn. Thanks. px

      • Dawn says:

        You’re very welcome!

        Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a cougar, if that’s what floats your boat. It’s worked for men for millennia, why not for women? As long as you’re not hurting other people, I say go for it.

        And for those of us who are not cougars, if we happen to fall in love with a person who is junior to us, what of it? Compatibility is more important that numbers on a birth certificate.

        My point, and I think Plankton has just confirmed it, is that cougar is not an accurate label for her. Neither, I’ll warrent, is Plankton, but it is how one feels as a woman of a certain age.

  • June says:

    Thank you RS and Margaux for your advice, but i am over 100 miles from London and i feel that is rather too far a distance for a relationship to work. They live in one world you in another, I dont dispute it might be easier for someone of ,my age to meet someone younger in that area . . Some time ago on POF i was contacted by a 50 year old in London, who said he couldnt understand why i hadnt been contacted as he thought i looked young for my age. and he had a friend of my age in the city, who had no problem attracting younger men. Also my neighbour comes from london/essex and she was telling me about her friend older than both of us, who is being pursued by a man in his 50s, shes not sure.My neighbour said go for it, june and i will never be so lucky where we live.

    I have considered it believe me, but i just cant see it working,i only live in a one bedroomed flat, quite big enough for me but the idea of actually having someone stay here regularly is not something i really want, its big enough for one, not two.

  • June says:

    Just researching Marguax had a look at My single friend which i definitely like the look of compared with other sites, Think P if you are going to give one a go that should be it. Yes i have to say obviously more men in the London area, and yes those in 50s more prepared to consider older females, than in my neck of woods, but sadly none of them wanted to travel quite as far as my city, so i think that bears out what i said, a nice idea but i dont think something that would really be practical.

  • June says:

    Did anyone read in paper today about the very expensive upmarket dating website where the doctor met a man who was a complete fraud, her stepdad was suspicious and checked up on him and found out he was. The man then proceeded to attempt to burn down her parents holiday home, and do various other unpleasant things. So proves i guess even on upmarket ones, which lots of us couldnt afford anyway, you are as likely to meet the wrong kind of person. as on POF. Doesent exactly fill you with confidence about them does it.

    O to bring back the old way of meeting, socializing, what happened to it.

  • Jo says:

    June. Re: The man who tried to burn down this doctor’s parents’ house and other unpleasant things. You say, ‘doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence about them does it?’
    She could have met him anywhere June.
    ‘O to bring back the old way of meeting. Socialising. What happened to it?’
    She could have met him there too.

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