My unsuccessful year of online dating

Plenty of fish? Not over 30. They're all tiddlers, shrimp, and squid

New research shows single people dating contributes £3.6 billion to the UK economy. Great, but it's done nothing for my mental health.

It seems I’ve reached the age when the only people who are single are those who deserve to be. I’m a good-looking 31 year-old professional man with a great sense of humour and a passion for reading, writing, exercising and socialising. I’m kind, generous and loving. There it is. My Plenty of Fish dating profile. But I can’t find a boyfriend. The guys I meet are dull, manic, needy, indifferent, thick, obnoxious, selfish, mean, vain or ugly.

It’s time I face up to an all too obvious fact. Single people above the age of 30 are single for a reason. They’re losers.

Dating seemed so tempting when I was in a relationship. I was laughably naïve.

In my increasingly pathetic and desperate search for someone to love, I embarked on a year of industrial dating that has left me deeply scarred and utterly miserable. I look back across the emotional wasteland of the last twelve months and my soul crumples. At my most prolific, I was going on a date virtually every night of the week. 25 dates in a single month. I do not, contrary to the comments beneath my articles, exaggerate. Cast the net wide. Amongst the squid, shrimps and catfish, there’ll be at least one salmon. Not so far.

I’ve met men with extra nipples, men with cruel streaks, men with very low IQs, men with jealousy issues, men who loved me instantly, men who loathed me instantly, men who wanted immediate sex and men who didn’t want any at all, men facing the wrath of their maker or the wrath of their mum (apparently far more frightening) and so, so many men who simply couldn’t manage to get through a date without jibber-jabbering, choking on their food, getting drunk and crying.

For my part I’ve fallen in love once and become infatuated a number of times. All have ended in bitter disappointment. That malicious magician, Cupid, pulled the curtain back on each of his tricks to reveal the truth: each and every one of them was a crude and tawdry sham. A bastard in a boyfriend costume.

Last night I went on a date who had prepared an historical walking tour of London, complete with an itinerary in a plastic wallet. As it turned out, the guided tour was fascinating and I was touched that he’d put so much time into our evening together. I only wish he’d made me feel like a date rather than a tourist. He didn’t listen to a word I said, he didn’t pay me a single compliment, he didn’t ask me any questions about me or my life, he didn’t give me a chance to try and hold a normal relaxed conversation. “Are you always so quiet?” He asked at the end of the longest evening of my life. For the first time there was a pause. “no.” I said, before he launched into yet another story about someone I’ve never met.

This wasn’t my worst date. At least he was intelligent and wanting to share his interests with me. What about the Italian guy who proudly opened our evening with the line: “I like being mean on first dates to see whether they are strong enough for me.” I gave him a cool look over my pint, sniffed and quietly began a list of all the things I thought were inferior about his clothes, hair, voice, face, attitude and body. I took a sip of beer. “Is that strong enough for you?” I asked. He stared back, wounded. “You can leave now.”

And how about the guy who answered his mobile a minute into our date and then had a twenty minute call. It may have been longer than 20 minutes. I was walking home by the time he text me to ask where I was.

Or the bloke who’d got so nervous before our date he’d drunk half a bottle of neat whisky in his flat and fell over at the bar.

Enough. I won’t waste any more of my time on them. Okay I have another date tonight but he’s 22 so he’s an unproven idiot. I worry. He’s never heard of Panadol. Nonetheless, his neuroses and gargoylesque mutations of character are yet to take full form. But young lads do have a habit of constantly referring to my age.

Dates are simple. Turn up on time, looking nice. Smile. Ask questions. Show an interest in the other person. Pay a couple of sincere compliments, you’re not giving away any power or dignity, it’s just nice. Be honest. Don’t discuss past partners. Flirt but don’t be dirty. And if you don’t like them, explain to them that they’re lovely and attractive (even if they’re not) but you don’t think you’d work as a couple. No hard feelings, literally.

My man is out there somewhere. There are plenty more fish in the sea, it’s true. I just need to find a bigger net.