So, my second date. I'd convinced myself that to keep the blog interesting, I should split 50/50 between "dating sites no-one in their right mind would go on" and "dating sites that are in theory normal, but are probably full of weirdos anyway". I've currently got dating profiles on 10 "sensible sites" and 8 on "weirdo sites".
Sadly, my first date (with the Biter) was from OK Cupid, a fairly normal site. So... date 2 has to be from my list of scary sites. Now, I'm not quite ready to go on WomenBehindBars.com (Dating ladies in prison) or SurvivalistSingles.com (Dating for people preparing for the Apocalypse - tagline "Don't face the future alone"). I thought I'd go for weird, but not *too* weird; that's how I ended up on AshleyMadison.com - the dating site where married people go to look for affairs (tagline - "Life is short: Have an Affair").
As you can imagine, it's a pretty seedy place. It's not cheap either - for men, anyway. Women join for free, and message for free, but men have to pay about £40 for the privilege of being able to send 100 messages; when you run out of messages you have to buy more. You can also spend more money for being moved on to the front of the search results, being advertised in emails - you really can sink quite a bit of money into it, if you want to. Fortunately, I spotted a cheap deal (thanks, google adwords) and got a free day as a "Priority Man". I might add that to my business cards :)
Filling out the profile was challenging - as well as the normal essay entitled "Women should date Willard: Discuss" there's a fairly exhaustive list of sexual checkboxes (illustrated below). I wasn't even aware "Erotic tickling" was a thing.
As this is partly journalism, I was tempted to turn all the dials to "extraordinarily opened minded pervert" and see what rolled in, but instead, bearing in mind I do actually want to go on nice dates, I checked "Cuddling & Hugging", "Kissing", "Conventional Sex" and "Open to Experimentation", or as I like to think of it, "Vanilla is the most popular flavour FOR A REASON".
Anyway, I saved it all, pressed send, and unlike most dating sites, I started getting messages right away - within 2 minutes of my profile being approved. It seemed being a "Priority man" was working. I replied, and was repeatedly complimented for my ability to spell, and also the fact I was interested in actually talking to women, knowing their names, you know, that sort of basic human interaction. It turns out, in the world of Ashley Madison, if you don't instantly segue to asking to see a woman's breasts in text speak, you are quite the player.
So after about an hour of chatting, I arranged a date. She was a "professional, 39, attached but seeking men". The only thing she liked that I hadn't listed was "Bubble Baths for 2", so I figured I was likely to come out of this date unscathed, at the very least (it's only writing this I've realised she could have been "the drowner", but hey, she wasn't). We had similar interests, and to be honest, if she hadn't been you know, married, I would have probably have been really excited.
Instead, on the day of the date, I left work with a leaden weight in my stomach. Was I really going to do this? Go on a date with a married woman? But I girded my loins, and turned up to the bar. She turned up, obviously having come straight from work, in a very sharp, very expensive suit, and we immediately got down to a good chat. She was lovely, very entertaining, extremely smart - the very definition of the successful career woman. We shared life stories over a couple of gin and tonics.
Inevitably, the subject of her family life came up. She had three kids with her "apelike" husband, and after the birth of her first child, he'd largely lost interest in her. They now slept in separate rooms, and hadn't had sex in three years, but both were relatively traditional, staying together "for the sake of the kids". That said, she wanted a bit more in her life. We got talking, stayed in the pub for dinner. She told me about other people she's met on Ashley Madison - apparently, being a woman on a dating site largely populated by men is not at all pleasant.
She gets plenty of attention; as many as 250 messages a week (meaning, by my calculation, she generates about eighty quid a week for the owners of Ashley Madison), but the vast bulk of them are, as she put it, "total creepers". She was very good looking, so got a huge amount of messages that were explicitly sexual. She said she'd been sent hundreds of keys to men's private online photo galleries, but had learned not to look, as almost all of them would be walls of pictures of cocks and torsos. She showed me a few (I explained, for the blog), and some men will literally write messages on their penises in marker pen, then take photos of them, and send them. It's very odd, this online dating lark.
It was all in all, a pleasant evening - right up to the point where her phone rang - I could see from the display it was her husband calling. She made a clearly well-practiced excuse, and it wasn't like he turned up brandishing a fire axe (a shame, for blogging purposes), but it left an odd taste in my mouth. We both agreed that while it had been fun, and we'd probably stay in touch as friends, I wasn't the man to have an affair with.
I imagine a lot of online dates end like this - the person is nice enough, but there's no real spark. At least it was a nice evening, and hey, no wounds or infections. So, a win.
But still, the search continues!
This post originally appeared at 28 Dates Later. Stay tuned as we catch you up with all Willard's disastrous dates so far over the next week.