Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Love me Tinder? Thanks but no thanks

This was the first in a new column I have started doing every second Monday for The Australian's Life page. It's called Home Truths. 

Sympathy for the Gerbil 
(With apologies to the Rolling Stones)

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of no wealth and poor taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Packed some love handles on my waist 

Pleased to meet you 
My pick-up lines are lame 
I don’t like pina coladas
And I don’t play video games. 

Consider the hamster. Watch his little legs fly as he gets that wheel spinning. Round and round it goes. When it stops. nobody knows. 
     From the outside, the brave new world of modern dating looks terrifying. A cross between a giant hamster wheel for humanity and a game of musical chairs. For a misanthropic social misfit and soon-to-be double divorcee like myself, it’s all about as appealing as a bucket of cold, congealing spew.
    Unfortunately, these days options seem limited in the love stakes. If you resist the lure of the apps and their promise of zipless hook-ups, how else might one meet the love of one’s life, or at least get a leg over? 
     I’ve never been one for the glib chat-up line and the mysterious, shy guy of hidden depths pose doesn’t seem like it would cut much ice in heartless, shiny Sydney. The idiots who recently pronounced it the world’s friendliest town must have confined their research to bright eyed, perfect-skinned teens in swinging backpacker hostels, without considering the lonely reality of the singleton creeping up on 50.
      Speed dating? Nah. It’s bound to be more start-up than hook-up, full of Bondi hipsters with bushranger beards and bow-legged Staffies to pull them about on their Malibu skateboards while they sip artisanal iced lemongrass chai organic lattes, cruising for linked-in connections and networking like mad. And that’s just the women. 
      I read recently in Fast Company that old school matchmakers are making a comeback in the hipper boroughs of New York City. People like Erika Gershowitz, of Three Day Rule, who prowls the pubs and clubs and tapas bars giving out cards and introducing herself. The outfit has six locations and 19 matchmakers, apparently.
      Three Day Rule clients get face time with the matchmakers who bone up on their preferences. They get fashion consultants, professional snappers for their profiles and best of all, someone else to do the actual dating for them. "Dating is a numbers game," says Gershowitz. "We essentially go on bad dates for people."
     Professional help, yeah, that might be the ticket, but I don’t think they have expanded to Sydney yet, and I can’t quite rid myself of images of Fiddler on the Roof, with some hook-nosed Barbra Streisand type skipping from shtetl to shtetl in her shawl, singing ‘Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch.”
      Ah yes. There’s bound to be a catch. And the matchmaker catch is a cool US$15,000 to a flat-out ridiculous $US250,000 for their ‘expert’ services.
     I even ventured recently to the Gympie Music Muster, which has developed a reputation over the years as a place where finding one’s significant other or at least a warm body for the night is like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.
     Well, they must have rolled out the barrel when they heard I was coming, and rolled it right back in again. It muster been love .. if you look like you belong in the country and just stepped out of an RM Williams catalogue. 
    Because all the hooking up seemed to be confined to improbably tall and ridiculously fresh-faced young people, clad, to a man and woman, in Akubra hats, moleskin trousers and oilskin dryzabone cowpoke clobber. Now I can certainly appreciate the erotic potential, the frisson, the friction, not to say the frottage, of a well maintained oilskin or the velvety touch of the slightly frayed moleskin.
     But for an ageing cityslicker in a non-descript pullover and a plain black coat, it was strictly voyeurism only. As the achey-breaky, boot-scootin’ players got lucky, I just got colder and colder, as the mercury flirted with the lower single digits. The closest I got to some muster love was an involuntary threesome when the tallest, shiniest and face-suckingly, neck-lickingly smoochiest new hook-ups, both cowboy-ed up to the nines, their cuban heeled RMs adding extravagent inches to their towering, ramrod-backed physiques, marched backwards, lips in a death-lock or perhaps a kind of vacuum-sealed vapour lock, without breaking stride or seeing who might be in the way, ploughing a perfect row through the crowd, and driving their combine harvest of cowpoke passion right over the top of me. 
      I limped off back to my tent, cold, wet, and with what felt like a broken metatarsal, cured of any notion that the starlight, campfires and booze, not to mention the country and western music, might help me get off the one-way train to Singletown, where lonely singletons go to die, or at least be found in their flat weeks after the fact, half-eaten by the neighbours’ Alsatians. 
     So one day soon, it looks like I may have to enter the world of online dating, along with everyone else. According to a recent Pew study, almost half of the public knows someone who uses online dating or met their significant other that way. 
    Vanity Fair, in an in-depth look at online dating recently, commented on how the Tinder-like, swipe-for-love apps had reduced the search for love to something like Uber for sex. "You’re always sort of prowling," one charming twentysomething named Alex told the magazine. "You could talk to two or three girls at a bar and pick the best one, or you can swipe a couple hundred people a day—the sample size is so much larger. It’s setting up two or three Tinder dates a week and, chances are, sleeping with all of them, so you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year.”

      That sounds even worse than loneliness. So for now, Tinder remains on the app store shelf, and my love life remains a one-man bonfire of the vanities. 

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