Lez Miserable: Ten online dating mistakes to avoid if you don't want to die alone

For starters, never describe yourself as "bubbly" or "normal".

Online dating has become as big a part of lesbian life as bikes and hummus. Nearly all the gay women I know do it, or have done it. While I’m not going to pretend to know much about chatting up women in real life, I’ve been doing it from behind a computer screen for a while now. Sometimes successfully. My advice to fellow users of OkCupid and suchlike is this - if you you’re not keen on the idea of dying alone, never, under any circumstances, do any of these things:

1. When you message someone for the first time, ask, “How’re you?”

We’ve never met. How am I? I could be in hospital, dying of botulism and you’d mostly be thinking, “Right. So no sex then?” In fact, nothing says, “I’m only interested in your rude parts” quite like the “How’re you?” first message. If you’ve read through someone’s carefully constructed dating CV – a comprehensive list of their interests, views and quirks – and the only thing you can think of asking is “how’re you?” you’re either really lazy or really horny. Or both. Be warned: no one wants to have lethargic sex with you.

2. Describe yourself as “bubbly” in your profile.

Who remembers Panda Pops? They were big in the 90s; Neon-hued, tooth-dissolving, liquid shame. I wasn’t allowed them. Describe yourself as “bubbly” and you sound like a human Panda Pop – sickly-sweet and fizz-brained. Remember, you’re looking for a date, not a babysitter. “Bubbly” people also sound like they say “fudge” when they bump into things.

3. Wear sunglasses in your profile picture.

A message from someone whose face is half Ray-Ban warrants an automatic no-reply from me. You just seem like one of those people who wears sunglasses on the tube. Or in winter. Or in the shower.

4. Or use a shot of your cat as your profile picture.

If you happen to prefer eating cornflakes alone in the dark to sex then go right ahead and do this.

5. Try extremely hard to appear enigmatic.

A lot of people fill the “about me” section on their dating profile with complete nonsense. Stuff like: “Anachronism. Drifter. Poet”. In fact, the word “drift” and any derivative thereof should be avoided at all costs. You’re not that feather from the opening credits of Forrest Gump. You’re about as mysterious as a tuna sandwich. Also, you can be exactly 98.7 per cent sure that anyone who self-identifies as a poet is not a poet. But they probably have a lot of really meaningful tattoos and a Moleskine notebook. Remember, you’re trying to hook up with someone and maybe have uncomfortable sex; not win the Booker Prize. It doesn’t get more lowbrow than online dating. Try to come across all esoteric and Sylvia Plath-esque and you will make eyes roll right out of their sockets.

6. Ask the person you’re messaging with if you can add them on Facebook.

The premature Facebook add is deadly. Give someone access to all those pictures of you drunkenly humping park benches, before you’ve even met them IRL, and that date just isn’t going to happen. Ever.

7. Mention that you like going out and staying in.

You enjoy existing. Congratulations.

8. Include a picture of you with your tongue between two fingers.

This is particularly lesbian-relevant. I don’t know where the two-fingered tongue salute came from or when it’s planning on leaving. Very soon, I hope. Look, tongue girls, you’re gay – you enjoy giving head to women – I get it. It’s not the vulgarity of the finger-tongue gesture that irritates me; it’s the try-hardness. It’s like a straight woman including a banana-eating picture on her profile. Unnecessary. Cease and desist immediately.

9. Describe self as “normal”.

“I’m just a normal girl…”. What does that even mean? There’s something glaringly un-normal about declaring yourself normal. At the same time, it strongly suggests that you’re duller than beige curtains and you tweet stuff like, “Going to bed now. Lol.”

10. Send messages that begin, “Hey sexy…”

You know those pop-ups that say things like, “teenage Russian girls want to date you”? What makes you think those are good templates for actual communication with someone you fancy? It makes you look spammy. Stick to “Hi”. 

When in doubt, stick to "Hi". Photograph: Getty Images

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty
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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.