Mar 7, 2017

internet dating support group: maybe more fun than dating?

I dated four people from Tinder in 2015. Someone from Freeman's Bay, someone from west Auckland, someone from the North Shore. Someone from south-east Auckland. I was rinsed. All the breakups were torture, no matter who initiated it. I needed a breather. 

However I was still glancing at dating sites. I'd gotten talking to Samantha, who was keeping a dating diary. She sent it to me — in one month she'd assembled the more bizarre, hilarious and miserable stories. Things between Samantha and Ryan had moved pretty fast, online and over the phone, before he came up from Hamilton. When they met IRL, the chemistry wasn't there for Samantha. Ryan had issues about his body, and had paid thousands for cosmetic surgery. His ringtone was 'the man in the mirror.'

The Internet has made it easier to meet people. But if we met them outside of our social circle we don’t know if they’re what they seem? I thought it might be good for singles to share war stories; to get advice from someone who’s been there, or support from someone in the same boat. I thought it might break down the hetero divide between the sexes? There’s so much truthiness in dating — 'if only' there was a place you could be open and honest. The Internet Dating Support Group was born...

We ran two groups, at a friend’s house in Freeman's Bay. There were eight people at each, a few friends and a few randoms. Everyone was in their late twenties or thirties. A fruit salad of Gays, straights and bi's. Both groups ran for almost three hours. I was nervous before each group, moreso than on a first date. 

We started with pizza, before a presentation by a guest dating expert. Both experts talked about their dating history.  When you’d hang out with Cass, she'd talk almost exclusively about dating. Cass began internet dating during a year in NYC. 'Kiwi Bradshaw' had started a dating blog. Cass had recently met an Australian, who was Tindering in Auckland. She’d just moved to Bondi to be with him, and was back in Auckland for a week.  

Jess had matched on Tinder with a guy who knew that she was a performance artist. He proposed they go on a date and not talk at all. Jess agreed and they met up in Ponsonby. Unsure of what to do when the met up —they hadn’t made a plan, and couldn’t talk about it— Jess took charge and took him on a tour of her ex boyfriends’ houses, which were all near each other. That same guy had suggested their next date could be ‘driving around playing songs off mixtapes they’d made for each other’, but still not talking. But there was no second date for him. 
Another guy asked Jess to recreate the ‘36 Questions’ experiment, in which two strangers ask each other personal questions designed to make them fall in love, on their first date. She ended up dating him.

After the expert’s ten-minute presentation, the floor was open. Conversation flowed, touching on different topics. I admitted that I had 400 matches on Tinder, just because I had never deleted any of them. One of my matches was in the room.  

Anna had had first date plans scuttled five times by the same woman; the last time her date had said she wanted to go to the gym, instead. Everyone reassured Anna.

Samantha asked why a guy hadn’t called her back, even though he said he would. “He’s just not that into you!”, said Daniel, our charming host.  
Daniel admitted he’d been talking online to a guy in France for eight years, before meeting him. Sacré bleu, when they met up in France, the guy had recently been shot! But the guy still kept the date, what a keeper! Dan highlighted one pitfall of internet dating: "what if you're attracted to the way someone moves through space?"

I talked about how some of my partners hadn’t bothered with condoms. I asked Melissa if I should wear a condom, the first time we were having sex. Melissa just said, “it’s fine.” She later clarified/apologised to me that she wasn’t using contraception, she just figured she just wasn’t fertile at that part of her cycle. Her workmate asked if she was mad, when Melissa told her about this. “And arrogance won’t stop STIs”, said Daniel.
Melissa walked a line between comic, and confrontational. She said her friends who had kids began to loathe their partners, because they couldn’t get up at night to breastfeed. Once Melissa yelled at me for faffing, before driving her to the Chemist for meds. She said, “Period pain is as bad as a contraction. I bet you’d hurry if I was giving birth!!”
One evening Melissa told me about a conversation she’d had with her friend, to broach a subject...
Melissa had told her friend that I’d asked her if she enjoyed conflict?
Melissa said her friend had laughed.
Melissa then told her friend, that ‘getting yelled at’ was a sign of intimacy with her.
“You can’t expect him to know that”, her friend had said.  

I talked about how I had been trolled on social media — someone was sending me photos of an ex and her new partner. I asked the group for advice on my Dad’s advice, which was “if you’re not bothered by it, you’re not bothered by it.” This led to a broader discussion on social media and break-ups — 'unfollow! Unfriend!' An Irish goodbye, Jess shared how to get someone to off your Instagram: you block them, and then unblock them.

Samantha didn't talk about a guy had driven the 3hrs from Tauranga to see her, the previous weekend. They were at a party I was at, and in the kitchen he was telling everyone about the meth scene in the Bay of Plenty. After the party he invited himself to stay at her Sam's house, because otherwise he'd have to sleep in his car. Samantha couldn't let him sleep on the couch because her flatmate wouldn't want some random guy sleeping on the couch. So she let him share her bed. The next day Samantha said she couldn’t understand why he wanted to have sex with her when there was no chemistry for her. His sweat smelt weird, she said. No wonder that 50% of female-for-male Tinder profiles state that they not looking for sex.

Samantha said she wouldn't be coming to the second group because she had a date that night. Unfortunately she got stood up.


I thought some group members might fancy each other. But more to the point everyone who went to the group became friends. It’s so easy to like people who are being open and honest. Alas 'being ourselves' might be the last thing we're doing on first dates...  

Why were we all single? Who knows? “Tonight was fun and has (weirdly) reinvigorated my desire to date”, said Anna. 
One of the group members later appeared on the ‘First Dates’ tv show. Chris is bi and was set up with a woman who was bi. Not much else in common, just that. Alas Chris’ admission that he was wearing the same trousers that he’d worn to work jarred with his date, who’d dressed up.

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