Now, I know one shouldn’t laugh at people with medical conditions, but this story really takes the biscuit.
A friend gets dolled up and skips with high expectations out of the door for her first date with that handsome fella she’s met online. He’s got Wispa waves in his chocolate brown hair, puppy eyes and just the right amount of macho stubble. Broad shouldered and tall too. Did someone call the 1700s and ask for Mr Darcy back?
Dinner, however, is more like from a Bronte sister disaster tale than any Jane Austen cotton candy love story.
He’s fat, he’s balding, and halfway through dinner, a tooth falls out of his mouth into his soup.
I can only assume that the poor fella suffers from hemophilia or from being French (my dentist in Stockholm once told me that the men from France whom Swedish women see fit to import have the worst teeth ever).
So, I do think that sprinkling teeth on the starter may be the uttermost height of bad manners, although clearly lying about your appearance isn’t great either, but there are other tales from the internet dating front-lines that I’ve found equally gross but morbidly beguiling.
An Irish guy friend, in between the “you come here for one, marry another one”, who is happily chatting away with a Swedish girl online and quite looking forward to meeting her when she lackadaisically mentions in a message that she’s having an abortion during the week.
Same man got stuck with a picture of a woman’s neither regions and a dildo after just a few IMs, which, I would, if I didn’t know better, think was probably rare behaviour. But I do know better, as an Australian friend of mine told me he once met a German girl at Café Opera who within a few days had sent him pictures of her naked.
Now, I’m pretty keen on meeting a nice fella, but I sure as hell am not sending nude pics to men I don’t know. But being, as I am, quite keen on the idea of meeting a suitable boy, I also, perhaps against better judgement given the stories above, sign up for internet dating myself.
It’s the end of summer and something has got to give. I haven’t had a holiday in months, I barely see my friends, and when they do I’m reminded they all work in the same field as me so we just whine and moan about the financial crisis. I decide I have to meet people outside my industry. And I decide there must be men out there somewhere.
Also, having just chucked away a dusty pack of condoms for fear they were past their sell-by date, I realize that I’ll revirginize soon if I don’t take action. Or worse yet, I’ll forget about sex altogether and form a long-lasting but clandestine relationship in my head with my Thai masseuse.
Also, the potted calla lily by the edge of my bed, well, I have let it grow so fiercesomely that some leaves stretch in over the covers. I wonder if I allowed it to go wild because I prefer being tickled by an errant house plant to no touch at all.
Ok, so internet dating.
Well, first of all. What bloody pic? I chose one, where I have my tortoise shell reading glasses on but still look quite alluring. A male friend gives me a nod of approval, and off my profile pic and me go.
“You looked much younger in your picture,” says a guy who at 34 is training to be a teacher but can’t keep the conversation going more than five seconds, leaving me to extract info from him like I’m the school teacher.
Despite our clear lack of spark, the idiot still on the tube asks if I’d like him to come home with me for the night?
I fall off the tube at Odenplan tube equally worried about my own sanity as that of any poor Swedish students who’ll have this “time to get my life in order” man teaching them in a few years.
A few weeks later, another man, who seemed not just normal but really quite nice online, leaves me standing outside the Asian Museum on Skeppsholmen. Summer is turning into autumn at this point and it’s bloody cold. I think that maybe he mixed up the days, so I text him.
I do, however, realize my own potential folly. It’s the “Forbidden Love” exhibit of Asian contemporary art. And although it plots how artists tackle sex and relationships from the politically sensitive LGBT angle, maybe the words “Forbidden Love” are just a mega turn off for the man who agreed to meet me for a spot of culture on a Sunday afternoon.
He doesn’t text back. I try to occupy myself. I Instagram a few pictures of the Gamla Stan skyline on the other side of the bay, check my watch, my email, scrape the ground with the toe of my brogues, shove my cold hands deep in my coat pockets. I check my account on Happy Pancake. Nothing. No message.
In the end, I see, and thankfully enjoy, the exhibit myself before skulking off.
Two more men cancel with me last minute but at least have the good manners to tell me so beforehand (both post-relationships and on Happy Pancake to “survey the terrain” or because “I need to get out there”).
I don’t ditch the theory that maybe I’m awful at internet dating, but I mostly think I’m clearly attracted to men with issues. Worryingly enough.
Then, out of the blue, Olle emails me. He’s 24, he works for Kronofogden and makes me laugh by telling me that most of his work involves fielding calls from neighbours checking up on each other’s debts. He’s very cute and seems more confident than some of the men in their 30s and 40s I’ve dated in the past.
He still lives at home. Ostensibly to save up money for a deposit for a flat.
After date three, he stays over. And can’t… well, you know… He complains about my calla lily growing in over the bed “like a jungle”, then falls asleep.
By morning, he’s ready to give it another go. But as he’s one of these young men who shave everything (well, not eyebrows, of course) he’s turned into a bloody hedgehog. He has stubble everywhere. Hugging him leaves my chest scratched, kissing him is out of the question. It hurts.
I give up, get out of bed, and put my dressing gown on.
“Tease,” he hisses.
Having been raised, at least in theory, to be kind, I decline the chance to point out that his equipment wasn’t functioning very well.
“You’re the one to talk,” I nevertheless say before I go make my cup of Earl Grey. He gets the bus back home to his parents.
Hedgehog Boy, however, taught me one valuable thing. What if you had to write your profile but only mention negative things about yourself rather than go into manic self-promotion mode.
Mine would be:
Evil when sex-deprived
Totally uninterested in being nice to would-be boyfriend’s racist/sexist/overly-religious/fill in the blank/crazy mother
Intolerant of Tories, hippies, vegetarians, Francois Hollande
Addicted to midnight snacks (read: not as skinny as I once was)
Pretentious (On the tube, I’ll hide my book when reading Marian Keyes but brandish it about if it’s George Orwell or Hunter S. Thompson)
Hedgehog boy’s top-of-the-list negative characteristic was, OH THE IRONY, that he can’t think straight if he doesn’t get sex enough and wondered if he could tell his boss he needed time off once a week to go get laid.
We also ran through a list of absolute turn-offs in the land of internet dating. What makes you instantly turn the eff off?
Well, for me, it’s men who pose without their shirts on (more on that later) and men who in their intros say that going to the gym is “a favourite past-time”. Dreadlocks are an absolute no no (I’m allergic to them, plus I hate hippies), as are sunglasses (Zimbardo’s prison experiment, anyone?).
On my list, worryingly, are artists and Taliban beards. Less worrying is my attraction to preppy light clothing and men who look like Daniel Day Lewis or Gareth Hedlund. Mostly, as I’ve said previously in this series of columns, intros that hint at a fair portion of humour and silliness are immensely attractive.
But hey, that doesn’t mean I get anywhere. For example, one day I realized a shirt-less man who quite clearly must have taken a few million tonnes of steroids has checked my profile ten times in the past week. I ponder whether to remove my home address from Eniro and Hitta.
After scoring zero for months, a very mild-mannered man about my age tempts me out for dinner. The net effect of this date, though, is me wondering whether I’d actually date myself?
I see him waiting for me at the corner and I realize I don’t want to.. well, you know… and for a second, as he hasn’t seen me yet, I ponder walking on by and skipping the date entirely. I’ll blame it on the flu, but then, flu season is already over, isn’t it?
He’s a gentleman, but not my type, and although we work in similar fields I find his chat dull. I am genuinely interested in what he has to say, but as I feel I’ve stumbled down a cul-de-sac, I dream more of going home to my bed alone than jointly messing up the sheets in his.
I nod and make nice interludes. He asks me about my previous microfinance research in Africa, and I say it was fine, immensely interesting even, but so tough in the summer because no one warned me that the heat makes you sweat so much you constantly feel like you’ve turned into a giant spitball.
At the words “giant spitball”, I sigh inwardly. Who uses the word spitball when you are at dinner? My mother would be ashamed at my lack of manners. (I think she would have much preferred a Jane Bennet as a daughter, not the Lizzie/Lydia mash-up I’ve turned into #JaneAustenFansUnite).
Worse still, when the bill comes, my wallet is nowhere to be found. I get mildly hysterical at the thought of having to cancel all my cards, and in my mind start mapping out the arduous process of getting the UK authorities to send me a new driving license to my parents’ house. The two women seated next to us in the tiny restaurant are meanwhile on the case, helping me look under tables and chairs.
My date and I have agreed to do the “Swedish thing” and split the bill, but the waiter keeps shoving the card terminal at him. Despite frantically searching every pocket of my jacket and every crevice of my bag for my wallet, I can still hear the waiter ask at least three times “Pay all, sir?” I want to punch the waiter.
Then my date does pay all, literally seconds before I see that my wallet is shoved up against the wall, behind a table leg. I feel awful, and know, in my heart of hearts, that there will be no second date for me to repay the favour with.
A few blocks later, we say goodbye. He literally runs off into the night, and I can’t tell if he’s got Delhi Belly from the Indian restaurant, or frankly just doesn’t want to spend another second of his life with the bill-avoiding spitball of a date he just had to endure.
Have you got stories to tell from internet dating in Sweden? Please share them with us in the comments section below.