How not to get hurt. Part 2 of 2

For context, you definitely want to have a quick read over part one again. OK? Good.

There’s one last problem which will make a mockery of your peace of mind.

Problem 3: The Hottie Paradox

This is more of an issue for men, but I think it goes both ways to some extent.

I think it’s pretty established by now that in a free-for-all like okcupid, boys and girls do things differently. The majority of males are fervently pursuing, and the majority of females are desperately filtering.

The lovely graph-porn over at okcupid illustrates that boys fire off emails with a machine-gun cadence. Girls are then left to hack and splutter their way through the deluge, somehow retaining a shadow of patience in the face of overwhelming douchery. Boys spend their time copying and pasting emails; girls spend their time deleting them.

There are two practical consequences.

It’s particularly frustrating that very obviously attractive ladies are going to be basically uncontactable. A common scenario for popular girls is that they log in to a full inbox (300 messages on okcupid). If a person is both hot and righteously on top of their shit – checking every day and deleting heavily – you might get through. If they’re less organised, or busy, or anything less that a deleting machine then your missives will never be seen.

bad news

come and get it boys!

The second problem is one of patience. Those rare ladies with genius-level intellect and bikini-model construction are typically not highly motivated to put up with this level of bullshit. Sure, they will giggle and sign up, curious to dabble – because who knows, right? – but will lunge for the Delete Account link with extreme alacrity when the unstoppable torrent of shirtless SUP GURL U SMOKIN bilge spatters over their perfectly forged features.

I’ve seen the most very-conventionally-attractive girls pull their profile in a matter of days, presumably because of the unpleasant tsunami of attention. In a true Hobbesian free-for-all, the chronic assholicism of boys is crushing.

The fact is then, above a certain level of physical attractiveness, the mechanism of online dating simply breaks down. If ‘truly stunning looks’ is on your shopping list – and even if you’re a sparkling hottie yourself – you’re probably going to have to get out there and do things the old fashioned way.

Again there’s some fascinating reading on the harsh facts of face-lust over on the okcupid blog – some seriously sexy number-crunching.

This is not comforting, you do realise that

OKCupid is worst for this: with great freedom, comes great opportunity to spam. But there are more things in heaven and earth than OKC.

Oddly, it turns out that Chemistry.com – with its quaint habit of not letting you do fucking anything without five kinds of photo ID and signed permission from both your parents and grandparents – is a winner here. Chemistry doles out contact with fellow members in a miserly dripfeed. The good news: if you connect with someone smoking hot on ye olde Chemistry, the chances are excellent that not many competitors know about them.

Let’s take a sample subject: me. How many significant past relationships have begun based on different sites?

  • Chemistry: three
  • Match: three.
  • OKC: zero.

Bear in mind this is over quite a long time – I’m not a chronic slut or relationship-ADD sufferer (discuss).

The point is: I have come alarmingly close to The One on several occasions, and those meetings were possible precisely there wasn’t a whizz-bang Web 2.0 chat-fest that allowed every Tom, Dick and Horatio to be drenching them in virtual saliva.

So with these problems – excess hope, tenuous connections, the hottie paradox – what can you do to avoid hurt?

Strategy 1: Spread your bets

Remember that the response rate for anything you send is going to be low. Over time, only for every ten or twenty people you contact will you get one reply back. Maybe. That’s the harsh reality.

Secondly, your photos and profile matter infinitely more than the actual message content.

So save yourself some trauma and resist the urge to spend hours crafting a perfect message. Chances are it will go in the bin, often for completely mundane reasons (they met someone, they haven’t logged in, their mailbox is full of dreck).

To actually maximise your chances, you just need to demonstrate that you’re paying attention, and not spraying the same form-letter to anyone with a half-decent visage.

‘Paying attention’ here means at minimum addressing them by name – remember, candychebs4u is probably not an exotic European moniker, don’t use it as one – and ideally bringing up something that you liked in their blurb.

“Check out my profile and reply if you like it – thanks,” is a good straightforward way to sign off.

At the risk of belabouring the point, I recommend having a read over OKC’s analysis of what people actually respond to in messages.


Depending on your taste and mood you can either go for Don’t Mug Yourself:

Or the equally poignant motif, You Do It To Yourself (yes I know that’s not the name of the song):

Here’s a hurt-dodging rule for you: Think really fucking carefully before clicking the Who Viewed Me option.

Seems like a good idea right, to see those folks who clicked on you? Well think of this feature as, ‘these are the lovelies who checked you out, but were not excited enough to email’. Often that’s no problem at all – until that superhawt honey you have been building your dreams around shows up on the list (and your inbox remains resolutely empty). You can hear the snort of rejection from the other side of the internet.

There are a million reasons why you won’t get a response – as you will know from your own inbox management. So never, never take it personally. I get more emails than I can be bothered giving civil replies to, so a lot of perfectly nice people go in the bin. The system is not perfect; random and unfair things will happen.

Accept that pure luck will be a powerful factor. Resist the urge to dwell on missed opportunities.

Strategy 3: Hidden gems

So we’ve established that the system is basically broken for very-obviously-attractive people; the photogenes who have dropped off the GAP poster, or suicidegirls banner, depending on your taste.

This is where your niche lusts become important. Don’t go with the crowd. Embrace the awkward spectacle wearers. Indulge your passion for the raging ginger. Give in to your inner chubby chaser. Look harder for the hidden gems and you’re less likely to be disappointed.


A reader writes,

I have a question about one of the tips you guys offered on your blog about hacking okcupid’s annoying quickmatch mailout. Thanks for the tip btw! So it just identifies the nine people who might have rated you it seems. Is there a way to find out who the actual one is who selected you without having to guess from nine profiles? Just curious. Thanks for your help!


‘Annoying’ is right! Quickmatch is the most needlessly infuriating feature on okcupid, or indeed on any site, intended for any purpose. As our reader notes, I’ve offered some helpful tips before on how to beat the system.

What’s worse though is that Quickmunge is fundamentally broken.

What’s meant to happen is that the people who like you are carefully shuffled into your Quickmince queue. So if you go to the site and starting clicking the five-star ratings, at least one of the hotties from the magic grid should show up.

But in reality, they don’t. Hence, Quickmess is pish.

However! As ever, I am here for you.

Pokemon, I choose you!

One okcupid feature is reliable. Go into your Settings, Notifications, and make sure Mutual 4 or 5 star ratings is enabled.

In the end there’s no need to be coy about this. Use the hack I described on the email to pick out the sex-faces that you like. Then go ahead and rate them 4 or 5. Simple as that.

If they were the one who picked you, you’ll get an email confirming that everything in your life is now rainbows. Done! You will soon be ‘mutually rating’ each other until you are sore.

If it was one of the mongooses who picked you, nothing will happen (except that the object of your desire will now receive an annoying Quickmuff of their own). No harm, no foul. Go forth and rate!

Alex Keaton

The Justin Bieber of my time

Confession: Despite my blue state voting record, sometimes I am a secret objectivist capitalist pig. In the hippie Keaton family of my heart, there rages an Alex P. My inner Alex P. loves Excel spreadsheets, hates European office hours, and subscribes to the “Getting Things Done” philosophy of work. If it takes less than two minutes to do something, you shouldn’t put it off; you should just check it off your list then and there. My Alex P. has served me well at work and in life in general. But replying quickly and setting up appointments on the spot may not quite work for dating. At least, that is what some of my girlfriends tell me.

“You need to wait a few days before you respond,” they say. “Don’t write back right away.”

Really? Why?

Who fucking has time for that? If I like you, I’ll say so. If I want to set up a date, the last thing I have time for in my life is to set a calendar reminder for later in the week so I can give guys ample time to let their bruised egos fan the flames of lust a little higher.

You need to be trained to want it? Then you don’t deserve it.

Despite my strong belief that I’m right in this matter, my track record of one boyfriend ever must mean that I am doing something wrong.

But how aggressive is too aggressive? Recently, I tried to set up a date with a guy we’ll call The Vegan. As previously stated, I like to pin down a date after the 2nd e-mail so things don’t fizzle because of a missing serial comma or split infinitive or whatever. I feel pretty sure that the Vegan will eventually be horrified at the amount of flesh I consume in my daily life, but I thought he was cute and I’ve got to get back into dating. (In fact, in a major faux pas, the first place I suggested for our date has the word “Meats” in its name.)

We were supposed to meet on Thursday, but I got a note that said he was sick and though he’s not usually a flake, he had to take a rain check. So I wrote back right away, suggesting a different time next week and…no response.

Was I too forward? Or was it the smell of mammalian byproduct emanating from my pores?

Related, for you busy people, how do you schedule being coy and unavailable into your busy life? That kind of shit takes energy and time that I don’t have.

Also related, does anyone want to be my personal dating assistant?

2010, the year in dating

The astute will notice – in fact, anyone on the twitchy end of a vegetative state will notice – that it’s been a fucking long time since anyone posted on here.

It’s that abrupt, Mary Celeste end of transmission that happens on the interwebs. Usually, an indication that the oh-well-it-was-good-while-it-lasted blogdeath that we’re all familiar with has finally arrived.

numbers and that

there is one kind of person who gets jokes about binary

Well hold on Captain Impatient, because there is something of a problem. The problem is that this humble organ depends utterly on the fragile relationship status of your immodest and obnoxious authors.

Where have you been? I was worried sick

Well for me, the unthinkable happened.

After a long stretch of hard dating – I think prison metaphors are appropriate – in the summer of 2010 I met someone. Someone with a dangerous level of awesome. Someone who generated the alternating nausea and heart-rocketry of a new love. Someone for whom, without regret, you consider shrugging off those online profiles and doing real life couple stuff. Inconceivable!

So that happened. Now as you might imagine, this is terrible for new DoW content.

Fresh, rosy-faced beaus rarely administer bonus BJs when you enthusiastically rub their nose in the filthy exploits that led you to them, however hilariously sketched. Painting yourself as a jaded, veteran online-dater really spunks in the hummus of new romance.

Expertise in profile-clicking is a bit like expertise in cat rape; it’s just not cool. You keep it quiet.

Hence the silence, and understandable lack of new dates to pick over.

And what of my learned colleague Gaga? My understanding is that it was just time for a break from the fun and misery of the 2010 date-a-thon. With other, you know, life-stuff going on, Gaga took what I like to think of as an extended shagbatical.

(Mind you that’s only what she tells me; in reality, who can imagine the glittering trail of sticky tequila-bottle shards and shredded hearts left in her mercurial wake.)

Did you get dumped? You totally did. LOL

Shut it. As it happened, December brought a bunch of complications and it became pretty evident that my 2010 romance wasn’t going to make it through the new year.

As Mark Twain wrote, ‘Shit happens. No wait, don’t publish that until 2010’. The relationship came to an amicable, still-friends end, and here we are again.

Cry me a river. It’s 2011, where’s my action?

You’re right, let’s get back to you. OK. It’s a new year, which is a good time to talk about expectations.

When you add all the bits of time together, I’ve been dating for maybe three years. We can start to do some maths. After some furious number-crunching with pen, paper and Speak-n-Spell, I’ve arrived at a magic number.

It turns out that – assuming you give it some decent effort, and are not DOING IT WRONG – you will meet, on average, one highly suitable person per year.

You are, as they say, shitting me

That sounds pretty abysmal, right? Turns out, it’s not.

By ‘suitable,’ I mean the holy-shit-exciting, this-could-be-it matchup that – with appropriate care, and careful footsteps – could lead somewhere that transforms your life. Those opportunities arrive at what might be described as a fucking relaxed pace.

The key thing is: that sporadic pace doesn’t mean that the times in between are a waste, or boring. On the contrary, all those meetings are fizzing with possibility; at least to begin with.

you're a winner

a WinRAR is you!

In the end, you will know when you’ve hit your year’s jackpot. Typically:

  • You are past date ten. Ten!
  • Nothing bar-story-weird has happened.
  • You are seriously considering the arduous task of going through your dating subscriptions and turning them all off.

That last one is the real boot up the erse. It’s your time! Don’t be single for a while.

One thing though: for fuck’s sake don’t mess with your facebook status. Not until month nine at least.

Milky Bars™ are on me: a postscript

Briefly, I’d like to unironically high-five the not-insignificant number of lovely people who contacted us to stop pissing about and get writing again, not least the noble Toast from the very fine Wed or Dead.

Thank you for your support: you are sexual tyrannosaurs of the most fearsome magnitude.


Go easy on the fisting

OK, let’s be clear and get the bad news out of the way first. The fact is you’re dating, and that means sooner or later you’re going to get your ass hurt (doubly true for all you bears).

Despite your best efforts and before long, some uncouth whelp is going to boot you firmly in the emotional gonads, or twist your relationship nipples in a purpling rotation that Tony Hawk would envy.

There are fifteen flavours of damage out there. The thrilling brush with the psychotic; the drive-by snub; all the wee disappointments you inadvertently inflict on yourself.

The only guaranteed strategy for a pain-free existence is not to play. And where does that leave you? The only passenger on the lonely night-bus to Wanksbury.

Dating is by definition an acutely personal business. You’re judging and being judged on all levels, shallow and significant. Your hairstyle, your voice, your taste in music. Your body shape, the way you walk, your ability to kiss like an electric eel made of candyfloss.

To stand a chance of success you have to put a lot out there, make yourself available. Gamble. And the stakes are wallet-breaking: if you’re open to the long game – the R word – you’re shooting for something that could actually change the course of your life. That’s pressure.

But on the other hand… fuck it. It’s why we’re all here. Suck it up and follow some guidelines to keep any trauma to minimal levels. You’ll be cruising through this nonsense like a jizzy Fonz before you know it.

Problem 1: Hope will tear us apart

In the early stages of contact, one of your biggest problems is your own imagination.

remain calm

Deep breaths

Because of the scant information you have on new hottie X, you tend to fill in the gaps with your own invention. From the crude impression afforded by a handful of pictures and badly-sketched paragraphs, it’s all too easy to sculpt someone perfect in your mind; someone that’s going to end the game for you.

Even worse is to daydream, and project imagined futures. Like the old Newman and Baddiel sketch with the old married couple reminiscing, “And to think, if I hadn’t spoken to you at that party, we wouldn’t be here now…”

Conjuring a rainbow unicorn spunkfest is easy, based on a few fuzzy jpegs. But as fun as that is, what you’re doing is raising the emotional stakes. This is not in your interests.

So resist the temptation to get your hopes up about sugarface23. Go further: once you’ve taken the time to email them, forget about it. Put them from your mind. The truth is you have no idea what they’re like, so setting yourself up in any way is just to invite disappointment.

In practice there are no stakes until you have at least met. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

Problem 2: Tenuous connections

So you send out some sparkly wordbait and then – O frabjous day! – something comes back. It’s a bite! The tenuous first connection.

You should know by now that the first couple of emails are important. Many people are deeply cagey about the whole online experience, and frankly who among us can blame them.

In practice this thin, early connection you have can go wrong at any time, without any notice, and once lost will never ever come back. You’re two people balanced on opposite ends of a creaking tightrope, inching toward one another while high winds blow. One foot wrong and off you go, cheerio and goodnight.

With this balancing act, the impersonal nature of email can be torturous. If you actually care about getting a response, email is traumatic because it plays on your worst fears: even at the best of times, few people are inclined to reply immediately. There Will Be Silence.

In the intervening time – which can easily stretch for days – an exciting array of negative possibilities will become vivid in your mind, as painful as bum-cancer and as welcome as bukkake at a wedding.

If the tension is unchecked, you will return to scrutinise and agonise over every syllable, word, punctuation mark and ill-considered smiley in your missives; weighing up the chances of that particular choice pushing the delicate balance of the reader’s reaction from boner-joy into irritation, ambivalence, disgust, pity. And you know from your own experience that simply not replying at all is blissfully easy to do.

So here’s how to dodge all that: you have to NOT CARE. Recognise the traps above, catch yourself, care less. Does that sound harsh, callous, humanity-defeating? It’s not. In this harsh game of hurtball it’s basic self-preservation. Make like Bruce Lee and empty your mind. Go and read a book, think about something else.

You need to spread your excitement and hopes widely enough that when babygravy67 inevitably doesn’t reply to your messages, that doesn’t consume you.

Even if they are the only other person in the whole wide world that also loves Nepalese cheese carving.

Continued from part one if, like me, you need to remember what the frotz I was talking about. Ah yes.

So do you know what your type is? Are you sure?

3. Look at your exes

The thing is, it’s not always easy to see exactly what you fall for.

Sometimes it’s only when you look back over your exes that a pattern emerges, and you get some kind of aha moment. Or often, it’s your long-suffering friends who can call you out on the trends evident in your choice of partners. Example: at university, a roommate of mine dated exclusively petite, thin blonde girls under five foot six. One after the other, BAM BAM BAM (or maybe BIM BIM BO). I don’t think he ever recognised he was wearing those blondie-blinkers.

So what’s your hidden pattern? For those chaps raging with the yellow fever – a meme I hesitate to reinforce even more but, fuck it – perhaps a look back through your relationships resembles a sex tourist’s itinerary through East Asia: a progression of doll-like Thai, Chinese, Korean and V-throwing J-girls.

For the ladies, perhaps looking back at your boyfriends reveals a lineup of older, authoritative, tweed-clad men who on closer inspection all look strikingly like your Dad.

jennifer connelly

dark. eyebrows.

A couple of things become pretty obvious from an archaeological dig of my exes, regardless of what I think I go for:

  1. It’s a fact that every girlfriend I’ve had has been dark- or red-haired. No blondies, not a one. Evidently I don’t like my girlfriends to have more fun.
  2. There’s also a fair occurrence of what might accurately and revealingly be described as ‘Jennifer Connelly eyebrows’. I’m going to attribute this directly to the fact that I was full of sex drugs for most of the 1980s and early 1990s, when this was the trend. See: Miss Connelly, Madonna, Belinda Carlisle, Brooke Shields and [voice becomes oddly strained] Sherilyn Fenn.

4. Types are a tendency, not a rule

When someone of the opposite sex tells you their type, it’s easy to take it personally when that doesn’t match you. Resist that feeling!

This is the good news for jealous types: my nineteen-year-old self should have chilled the fuck out, rather than obsessing over my GF’s crushflavour. Having the features that she liked – long hair – might bump her opinion of someone a few percent in a good direction, but that’s not going to dramatically change her normal M.O.

This idea of feature X bumping up your opinion of someone slightly becomes very clear when you’re online dating. You’re spending a lot of time looking at faces and – unless they are DOING IT WRONG – bodies. If you’re paying attention, you can deduce from your own actions what eye-colours, what shoulder-shapes, what arbitrary body-things give your brain the holy fucktingles.

Because those things are many, and they are cumulative.

5. My type

It’s not like you can just point to actor/musician/minor TV celebrity X and say, exactly like them. Face facts sunshine, you’re not going to score with someone off the telly. In reality, there’s a bunch of small things that add up to lust, and they can combine in different ways.

hair rouge

hair. rouge.

Here’s a rough guess at what things work for me, based on how much my reaction will be swayed if those features come up. I’m going RPG-style here and assigning a percentage of opinion boost to each feature. Bear with me:
Continue Reading »

Here is a story.

A story

When I was nineteen, I was at university in Scotland, and one year into my first serious adult relationship. Her name was Colette.

We were both making the most of our first big adventure away from home: happily ensconced in our cheap student halls, ringing all hours with music and booze, and no parental figure within a hundred miles to walk in on us. We went to lectures, we drank, we had a lot of sex; your classic uni/college relationship. It was intense, turbulent and formative.

At that young age – without any of the tranquility that leaks slowly into your life over time – I was sensitive about a lot of things. Easily hurt. So I remember well the day when Colette dropped, all casual, like a grenade slipping from fingers, that she had a thing for guys with long, dark hair. And when I say long hair, I mean like these gaping assholes:

My immediate reaction just felt like an acid bubble of jealousy in my chest, but I choked that down. Instead, managing a tight-jawed look of nonchalance, I asked her to tell me about it.

There followed some breezy storytelling of how at the age of sixteen Colette had discovered that she had the bad hawts for her friend’s brother, a few years older: some local dude with a ponytail. That teenage crush was never consummated, but the preference stayed with her. She had a type.

Now, even though I was rocking some seriously floppy grunge locks, I was not that guy and never would be.

This was bad; terrible news. Nothing could strike me as more unfair. The one preference she had, the one type – I wasn’t.

I struggled with this. It was impossible for me to process adequately. I might forget about it for a few weeks, until we’d watch some band play and the sudden knowledge she was probably checking out the hippie bass player would fire sizzling in my jealous brain.

Who knows what fantasies she had? Was I a compromise? Would she be more likely to cheat on me if the guy trying to chat her up happened to look like fucking Nuno Bettencourt? It was maddening.

Even when that relationship ended a couple of years later, I still don’t think I was fully able to deal with it. What have we learned since then?

1. Nobody gets to choose

Types are received, not chosen. They are the lottery of lust.

You don’t get to choose which physical features give you a trouser soufflĂ©. Otherwise, we would all be better off choosing to be excited by the mundane and commonplace. Popping boners to the hollow-chested boys and out-of-shape girls would give you much more chance of sexual fulfilment than harbouring a specific lust for the freakish frame of a Jolie or Kardashian.

The point here is that I could never blame Colette for being a sucker for longhairs (as it were). That’s the hand she was dealt, and it’s not to be resented.

2. Why do I love elbows*?

When you talk about your type, you start to describe physical features. Everyone has their weaknesses, the body patterns that match some circuit in your primate monkeybrain and make it light up with lurid and messy visions of sexual ambition.

There are random physical attributes or mannerisms that get you hot, for no objective reason. They could be obvious ones (ZOMG BOOBS), or not: wrists, earlobes, kneecaps, you name it, someone’s giddy for it.

So if they’re not chosen, where do these cockfoibles come from?

In the end your type has to derive from something genetic (say, you are born to want to hump midgets), or just learned (rather, your first boyfriend once played an Ewok). I think it’s probably a combination.

Physical preferences are without question influenced by experience: your early partners. My experience with Colette did a lot to sculpt what I found sexy, long after we broke up. Going the other way, I remember my very first high school girlfriend mentioning she had a thing for beards after our breakup (yes I had a goatee, it was the 90s).

There’s some science in there too though. Even though we now know that human pheromones are almost certainly bullshit, there is the sound idea of your genetic complement. Some partners’ genes are going to mix better with your own to create healthy children (which means, ‘don’t get nasty with your cousin’ if you can help it).

So it’s likely your DNA does wire you up to want to bang some people in particular, regardless of who interfered with you behind the bike sheds when you were fifteen.

To be concluded in part two, with a frank discussion of my type.

* I don’t, incidentally.