Back when I started the date blog, I signed up to a huge number of very odd dating sites, in the vague hope that someone from one of these sites would contact me and arrange a date. I was quite excited by the idea of dating a Circus performer, a Goth, a Dwarf, a Naturist or a Biker. Although, of course, that could all be the same person.
I must say, I've largely been disappointed, and as yet, no tiny naked trapeze artist has roared into my life on a Harley-Davidson, to take me off to a Sisters of Mercy gig. I think it's for two reasons - one online dating is to a large part about effort. You get out what you put in. If you sit back passively and wait for someone to come to you, you are likely to be disappointed, especially if you're on a site where your gender is in the minority.
Equally, as I discovered from a comment on the blog (yes, a GOOD comment - as a Telegraph journalist these feel as rare as hen's teeth), if you go on a random site, you may infact just be signing up to a giant white label dating database, that filters you by niche. The comment reads:
"I recently had an interesting conversation with a web developer who runs dating sites, and he explained to me that many sites actually run off the same back end database (for example www.whitelabeldating.com), and developers simply pay for access to the database and build their own front end, filtering the results according to whatever niche they are catering for. So you can end up exchanging messages with someone who actually signed up to a completely different site. For example if you happen to have red hair your profile could end up on here (www.dateginger.co.uk). I always wondered how there was enough demand to keep so many highly niche sites in business, and this goes some way towards explaining it. Whitelabeldating appears to be pretty respectable, but I'm sure there are sleazier "white label" databases out there."
A bit of digging finds that, for example, this dating site for people looking for French partners shares a database with sadomasochism dating site BDSM.com. I mean, I assume if you draw a Venn diagram between "French" and "Bondage", there will be a reasonable crossover, but not *that* much. Some French people don't like bondage. I assume. Ahem.
I must admit, I was pretty sure that the bulk of these sites were therefore unlikely to deliver the, for example, psychic of my dreams. I mean, I'd made a profile on a psychic dating site, but it seemed to be just one of these white-labelled front ends. The site was relatively amusing - for example, it allows you to look for people aged up to 120 years old; I assume in case you're looking for a Macbeth-esque wise woman, or a Biomancer who had successfully delayed their aging by the use of their chi, or whatever. But yeah, never thought a real live psi would want to meet me, a humble mundane.
Thus, I was pretty damn surprised by the message that appeared one day, titled "Star of a Strange Dream":
I am an expat, so my life in London is dotted of strange things, strange people, strange feelings.
But last night I had a remarkable over-strange dream, in which we were dating each other. We were in an old fashioned yellow motel, eating pancakes. Everything in the room was slightly dusty but we didn't care.
Then I woke up thinking "I have to write this guy" and I sent you an email. We met in a totally different place, a dark bridge, and I recall observing that you weren't so short after all.
Then I woke up again.
"I have to write this guy."
It's one of the more charming, and more strange messages I had ever received. It did but me in a bit of a quandary. I mean, on one hand, the lady in question was able to write lovely and charming messages. On the other hand, she did think she had dreams where she saw the future. It could have been bad: I mean, I'd seen the 1980s classic movie Scanners.
Still, I figured worst case scenario, at least my head being telekinetically shattered would be quick & painless, and best case scenario, she could tell me next week's winning euromillions draw numbers, and started looking for a nice place to go for a date.
My housemates were very sceptical, and if I'm honest, so was I. That said, Divination is the best psychic power chart in Warhammer 40,000, so how bad could it be? I'd never date a pyrokine, on that basis...
Anyway, I decided I'd find a hotel with yellow walls, where they served lovely pancakes, and decided to do that rare thing, a breakfast date. The weather on the morning was absolutely dreadul; freezing with driving rain. Both myself and the charming psychic just happened to rush through the doors of the place at exactly the same time. Fate, obviously (or was it?). Anyway, after five minutes of drying off and shivering, we sat down for and ordered lovely pancakes, with spiced apple and raisin compote, and honey mascarpone. It was, I must say, one of the best breakfasts I've had in years.
The psychic was lovely - extremely smart, well educated, and very attractive. She worked in science, which made her prophetic dream an interesting quirk. We talked about her home country, which she'd left because of the amount of corruption there got her down, and she felt women weren't taken seriously there. We discussed how dreadful politics was in her country - frankly, for all of my occasional bitching, we can't really compete with our southern european neighbours. She had an exotic accent, and the typical quirk of people who are brilliant at language of insisting that her English wasn't that good when in fact, it was better than mine.
So, smart, beautiful, different, politically active - and all from someone I had been leery of dating in the first instance. I walked her to the tube in the rain, gave her a kiss on each cheek, and we've since arranged to see each other again. I guess one of the most interesting things I'm learning from the experiment with online dating is that my prejudices are just that - prejudiced. Maybe I should be more open minded in the future?