Eleanor Margolis: sapphic cynic at large

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Could you go out with a Dan Brown fan?

 How online dating has turned singles into perfectionists.

Dan Brown. Really? Photo: Getty
Dan Brown. Really? Photo: Getty

Renowned online dater Eleanor Margolis staggered through the plentiful profiles in OkCupid’s grand gallery. To her delight, a message soon appeared in her inbox, as suddenly as a seven-figure advance on an atrocious novel that 3.5 billion people will nonetheless probably read.

This is the story of internet dating and the (not so stealthy) Dan Brown fan. On the likes of OkCupid, a new message is always a bit thrilling. I’d put it on about the same level as spotting Trevor McDonald at McDonald’s, or finding a quid on the pavement. With every new message, there’s always the hope that it will be the most promising you’ve ever received – or the least, and therefore entertaining in its own way.

This one seemed fairly promising. She’d clearly bothered to read my profile, and had even taken the time to send me a well-written and mildly funny message, rather than the standard “Hey, how’re you”. Her profile was appealing, her self-description witty and succinct; her taste in music and films matched mine (though find me one lesbian in her twenties who isn’t into Kelis and Woody Allen).

Then it came to books. Donna Tartt: nice; Jeanette Winterson: again, an obvious lesbian choice, but nice; Kurt Vonnegut: nice; and Dan Brown: oh. Not, “And, I have to admit, I don’t mind a bit of Dan Brown”; no, this woman had casually placed the man who wrote the following sentence – Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes – next to the man who wrote Slaughterhouse-Five. Instantly, I knew I could never let her touch me.

Online dating is turning singles like me into utter bastards. Had I met this Dan Brown fan in a bar, maybe we would’ve got talking (like I’ve ever just “got talking” to anyone in a bar, but still). Maybe we would’ve dated – we have plenty in common, after all. It could have been weeks or months before the Dan Brown thing reared its renowned head.

But when someone’s entire personality is laid out in front of you like one of those laminated menus with pictures of the food, it’s tempting to whip out a pair of tweezers and prepare yourself for a sneer.

This precious attitude towards meeting a partner is dooming snobs of my type to a life of forlorn onanism. I don’t doubt for a second that women have made snap judgements about me based on my dating profile. I can hardly hold it against them.

The internet has turned singles into perfectionists, in a world where perfectionism can only lead to loneliness. Then again, I’ve avoided dating someone who takes Dan Brown seriously. And for that, I’ll always be thankful.