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What Online Dating Feels Like For A Thirtysomething

It's an infernal dating loop: lather, rinse, refresh, scroll, swipe, repeat.

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How many times have you deleted Tinder, pulling yourself out of its swiping vortex? Or deactivated your OkCupid account after receiving one too many requests to see your “sweet ass”? When I recently wrote a simple “no dickheads” in the “who I’m looking for” section of Guardian Soulmates, I realised enough was probably enough and deleted all my dating profiles. Again.

Your phone feels lighter.

Your time feels freer.

Your mind feels quieter.

And then, how many times have you re-downloaded them all? Again?

You’ve attended a birthday dinner where all the friends of friends you’ve not already met, slept with or deemed unsuitable are either married or total bellends. You’ve not managed to get into casual conversations with attractive strangers in your local because apparently the rules in rom-coms actually do not apply in real life. The last party you went to had several dogs and actual children in attendance, and nobody ever got laid by signing up to an evening class.

Then one of your mates goes on an online date with a person who didn’t seem to be an emotionally destroyed lizard, and you think, Fuck it, why not?

You swipe.

You swipe.

You swipe.

You swipe.

You swipe.

Your eyes glaze over and all you can see is a blur of topless men with "cheeky" grins and aviators.

You wonder if all men just have beards now.

You can’t believe anyone would actually get that tattoo.

You’re hypnotised by the swing of pictures – swiping left, right, left, right, left – until a low battery warning pops up and snaps you out of it.

You think about maybe deleting all of your dating apps. Again.

But then maybe you chat to a couple of people and online dating doesn’t seem like the total worst after all. Sure, there’s the inevitably dry opening gambit – the "what have you been up to this weekend?" to determine whether they had a "cheeky roast with the lads in Balham" [UNMATCH]; or "just a bit of reading" [tell me more], the "whereabouts do you live?" [Peckham? Cool, me too] – to give an indication of their likely stance on £4 sourdough loaves.

And then you might find the answers add up to a winning ticket in this weird human lottery and you line up some dates.

It’s good to get out and meet new people.

Dating can be fun.

How did people even do this before the internet?

I am 30 now. It’s a tougher game trying to meet people the real-life way than it was in my twenties – no wonder Tinder's subscription service fee jumps from £3.99 to £14.99 once you pass 28. Any 22-year-old knows £14.99 is best spent on a round of Jägerbombs for them and the lads they got chatting to having a ciggie outside.

Your friends-of-friends pool dries up as your friend list itself gets shorter – the Great Social Cull of Turning Thirty sloughs off a layer of people who don’t bring anything good to your life anyway. Everything becomes a bit more one-on-one, structured, organised: excellent for your emotional wellbeing, terrible for your dating prospects.

Tap into online dating, though, and there’s a world of new people at your fingertips, and you don’t even have to surreptitiously try to spy whether wedding rings lurk beneath theirs. Most of the time. The sheer admin of online dating means a hell of a lot of chaff to sift through in search of wheat.

This guy does a cool job. *click*

Oh, look, another Nick Cave fan. *swipe*

He’s into cooking – me too! *swipe*

I like his jumper. *click*

This one has eyes. *swipe*

This one is a human male. *swipe*

In my experience you inexplicably know the second you meet someone whether you’re going to have a connection with them or not. The moment I meet an online date I can tell whether it will result in one drink and then another to even out the round, or whether it will escalate into a second, third, or too-many-to-bother-counting-now date. The thing that doesn’t translate through a screen is chemistry: It’s simply there, or it isn’t.

An "It was nice to meet you, good luck with the book" text sent.

An "I had a fun time but I don’t think we’d make a good pair" text received.

Or no texts at all. Just a mutual, unspoken resignation to the fact that it was nice enough to meet up, but you won’t be seeing each other again. One less fish in the sea.

Maybe it’s time to take a break from online dating for a bit.

You’ve got a couple of workmates’ birthday parties coming up, so they’ll probably have some friends you’ve not met yet. You skim through the guest list on Facebook for any unfamiliar faces.

And anyway: You don’t need to be in a relationship. Being single is certainly far preferable to finding yourself stagnating in the wrong one. It’s not some consolation prize for anyone who’s not been “lucky” enough to pair off yet.

When I recently told my grandmother about a childhood friend of mine having a baby, she teased, "Doesn’t it make you want your own?" until I retorted that unless we were talking turkey basters, it’s very much not on the cards. She had been married at 21 and a mother by 23. "Now you focus on your job, live on your own, not get married and have kids if you don’t want to and nobody even thinks twice," she reflected. "We did have some women like that when I was your age – but they’d get talked about."

Fallout from not settling down at 25 has never been a concern for me. In your thirties, work and family obligations aside, your time is accountable to only you, whether you choose to spend three uninterrupted days writing or simply eating mayonnaise-filled pitta bread while watching the news. When you’re unattached, you can have your cake without often having to compromise on where and when you might eat it. I wouldn't change that for the world.

But then one day you’re hungover, and all you want is for someone to go and buy you a can of Coke and read you a bit of the paper while you quietly snooze yourself back to life. You miss the kick you get out of discovering someone you fancy likes you too. Humans aren’t solitary creatures, after all. It’s OK to want to be the object of someone’s affection. It’s OK for that someone not to be your mum. It doesn’t make you any less of an independent adult to like it if someone surprises you with a romantic dinner.

Maybe it is worth reactivating a couple of profiles again. Your mate did go on a date with an online person who didn’t seem to be an emotionally destroyed lizard last week. And it only takes one.

How long since the last time you logged in? The dating loop has tightened. Time might be a flat circle, but that circle is smaller.

Fuck it, why not?



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Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at laura.silver@buzzfeed.com.

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