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Stop Assuming Dating Apps Are A Pity Fest For 30-Something Women

© Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash

'Dating can be a grind, and love can be harder to find the older you get, but I don’t use dating apps out of desperation, and I don’t want to be pitied because I do use them'

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a nose wrinkle at the news that I’m using dating apps. 'But wouldn’t you rather meet someone in real life?' comes the question.

The implication that meeting a stranger on a train or at a bar has greater value than meeting a stranger online, is a dud. It’s a narrative we tell ourselves about authenticity of feeling – cobbled together from Disney, rom-coms and the sketchy ‘it worked for this random person I know’ story, and I’m not buying it.

My answer, to quote the comedian Jen Kirkman from her show I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) is: 'I’ve seen some shit.'

At the age of 37, there is little you can tell me about dating or love, that I don’t already know. I don’t view my age as something to hold me back because there is a lot of power in my age derived from experience. If the world chooses to add my age and gender and conclude I must be desperate to meet someone, that’s their problem, not mine.

I’ve been in love, fallen out of love, been cheated on, did the cheating, been married, been widowed. I’ve dated tons of people before and after losing my husband, and have met them in all manner of scenarios from an online app to a wedding dress stall at the NEC Birmingham.

Dating can be a grind, and love can be harder to find the older you get, but I don’t use dating apps out of desperation, and I don’t want to be pitied because I do use them. As unromantic as it sounds, it’s efficient, cuts the crap, I feel in control of it, and frankly, even when I was in my twenties in a sea of singletons, there were an awful lot of turds floating around.

Plus, in your thirties, time matters. Not because of biological clocks – for me anyway – my time is literally worth more. At a point where I am finally enjoying the hard-earned success of my career and want to keep investing in it, I just don’t have the energy or motivation to go out night after night acting out some mad rom-com story arc.

Maybe I’m lucky that my two-year dating app experience hasn’t been a bad one. I’ve been on some amazing dates, some okay dates and some dates that weren’t totally terrible.

But I don’t think this is all luck. In my twenties, I ignored warning bells clanging away like they were being yanked by a bell-ringer on meth. But in my 30s I apply the same smarts and intuition to my dating life that I do to my work life, hence why it hasn’t been that awful.

I’m not saying dating apps are a guaranteed path to meeting your soulmate, and I don’t want to whitewash the fact that apps are guilty of feeding an incredibly disposable attitude to romance, but we have to acknowledge that we live in an age of emotional detachment regardless of being single, thanks to our smartphones. As Daisy May Sitch, 30, who works as a brand and social media consultant says: 'As a heterosexual woman I find guys rarely make an approach IRL anymore anyway - it’s like we all hide behind these screens and online personas.'

The mate who suggests you should swap online for meeting people IRL probably isn’t single. And in any case, why can’t you do both?

Laura Jane Williams, former dating columnist for Grazia said that one of the best aspects of 30s dating is being old enough to know what will be a waste of time and what won’t.

'I feel less at the whim of the guys on the apps. I used to want to accrue as many matches as possible, and then talk to as many men as possible too, but I just don't have the time for that anymore.

'Now, when I match, I'm pretty good at figuring out who is worth my time: I don't need the validation of all the guys messaging. I'd rather have one or two great matches with conversation that is smart and kind. I used to go on a date because people might not be very good at texting, and in person be a lot better, but that theory worked out well for me once. That's it.'

I asked the author and journalist Elizabeth Day about her experience, because she wrote a piece for The Times about the new bachelors being women, and perfectly captured how I feel about dating now.

While she acknowledges there is a lot of ‘dross’ on dating apps and that there were phases when it was depressing, she also says: 'There were also times when it was fun and a good way of meeting new people rather than just sitting at home watching Love Island. It taught me a lot about myself and what I was looking for, and it also gave me some necessary lessons on not taking rejection personally.'

She also adds that it’s a much faster way of finding out if you’re on the same page. 'If a guy approached you in a crowded bar, you'd actually have less idea what kind of person he was, and all you'd have to go on is first impressions. At least dating apps make an effort to sort the wheat from the chaff.'

She met her now-boyfriend on a dating app named Hinge, and says that she had low expectations going into the date so it actually made her fairly nonchalant.

And I wonder if being more relaxed about dating is key - dating should be fun regardless of whether it’s for sex or to find a relationship. The times I remember it not being fun was when I felt an immense pressure to fulfil this romantic narrative or used it as a reflective glass for my own perceived shortcomings.

The fact is, that when you’re dating and surrounded by happy couples, it’s really easy to catastrophise what might happen if you don’t meet someone, or to think the solution to bad dating is to quit apps and start chatting people up in the street.

I think it’s actually much, much bigger than that. I enjoy dating more in my thirties than I ever did in my twenties, for the simple reason that I understand the stakes and I put up with less shit. Meeting someone doesn’t guarantee happiness, so if my happiness doesn’t lie in the hands of another person it means it lies with me. That takes a huge weight off the expectation when it comes to meeting someone.

I can still go into it with my heart open and hope for the best, whether that’s through a right swipe or someone asking me out in a Robert Dyas (this actually happened). But I no longer want to be pitied because I use dating apps, or because I’m in my late thirties and single. I’m a woman who knows her own mind, and isn’t afraid to use it, and whatever my age or my relationship status, I draw an incredible amount of power from that.

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