Oh, more fool me.
The first hurdle is setting up a profile. I guess there are worse ways to spend my time. But really, I can't think of many. It's right up there with writing a new CV...and I have been successfully putting that fun pastime onto the back burner for over 2 years now.
Oh to be able to skip this part of the process altogether. It's a shame it is pretty much essential. I did attempt to do without it (I sat and simply stared at the Guardian Soulmates website for quite a few days) but nothing much happened as a result. No winks. No emails. No totally fantastic, compatible man beating my door down and sweeping me into his arms, before carrying me off into the sunset...
Turns out guys on GS may have many weird and wonderful talents or characteristics. But telepathy isn't quite as common as you might expect. This was an unfortunate discovery, particularly where my writer's block was concerned.
I think the reason I hate sitting down to write a profile is due to the fact that my expectation of being able to write something out of the ordinary is quite high. But the reality is, I don't have a single innovative idea when approaching a piece orchestrated to capture the essence of 'me'. I sit and stare at those stupid empty boxes, waiting to contain 2,000 characters, and feel a fug of distinct antipathy.
Put down on paper, I sound much the same as every other woman featured. Which is very annoying - given the fact I like to harbour the illusion I am pretty bloody special, most of the time.
Whilst pootling on the edge of 'am I going to dip my toe into these muddy little waters, or what?' I did a little site research and was staggered by the ease with which most people were able to blow their own trumpet. It would appear that all the attractive, intelligent people in this country are - in fact - single, judging by the content of most of the profiles. I felt more intimidated than ever.
Finally I sat down and scraped an unimpressive profile together, then uploaded a few photos which vaguely resemble the real me, if you look at them from a distance with a squint. Then I ran from the computer at a sprint that Linford Christie would be proud of and waited for a reaction.
That's what happened.
Well, this is reassuring, I would think. Yet another lesson in 'well, if you were going to make the mistake of ever thinking too highly of yourself...then please, don't'. A week went by and every now and then I would furtively check into the site and see if my profile had been viewed. Honestly, I have seen the carcases of dead chicks, which have fallen out of nests into remote gutters, get more attention. It was depressing stuff.
I hadn't paid anything at this point and was considering aborting the whole exercise and simply hiring a sandwich board with "I have been single for so long I will pretty much consider dating anybody", then standing outside my local Sainsbury's handing out my phone number with the headline "VERY single (and just as desperate...) call me".
And then *PING*, I received my first email.
I opened the message with caution. It was funny. In fact, it was original and funny. So I read his profile - which was also incredibly witty. I was impressed (but also, let's be honest here, a little pissed off that he had succeeded where I had failed). There were two photos, which were so-so. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but he looked interesting all the same. And, most importantly, the profile was right up my street.
I replied and we bantered back and forth for a few days, before arranging to meet. I was curious but not particularly excited. The ongoing trials and tribulations of Captain Underpants were unnerving and distracting me. However, I thought a coffee with this guy would be a pleasant distraction and, after all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I had at this point paid a subscription, so may as well attempt to get my money's worth by actually meeting up with at least one person of the opposite sex.
The next day I bump into a friend in the playground, who is also on Guardian Soulmates. She is slightly embarrassed and reveals she has just received the exact same (original and funny) email from the guy I am due to meet. Identical, word for word. Which kind of throws me a little. I am not surprised that he is still approaching other women. That's the whole point of the site, after all. But I didn't anticipate that his initial approach hadn't been specifically crafted just for me. He had said my profile was 'witty and delightful', after all. What a big, fat fibber. He quite possibly hadn't even read it.
After the initial shock, I thought it was quite ingenious, if a little lazy. It had been a really funny email - I could see it would have been a shame to have wasted such literary genius on just one woman alone. If I had managed to be so inspired, I would have been emailing men left, right and centre. I actually quite admired his tactic, I thought to myself ruefully.
My friend emailed the guy back and said something along the lines of, 'gee, thanks for the email, but you are due to meet up with a friend of mine shortly, so I think we'll just leave it here, shall we?'
A couple of days passed. I was supposed to be confirming our meet up plans, but, what with one thing and another, just hadn't got around to it
At which point he panicked and emailed:
Anyway, it looks like it was.
Shame, because you are definitely the main reason for me staying on here.
I think you are COMPLETELY gorgeous, and very funny.
And as it turned out, the coffee meet up was great.