Monthly Archives: August 2016

“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”: Recovery from Addiction & The Dating Game

Okay, so here’s the score: it’s been nearly three and a half years since I went onto The Sinclair Method – a treatment method that enabled me to get sober in a thirteen week time frame.

In other words, more than enough time has passed (certainly enough time by AA’s “one year yard rule”, put it that way) for me to start thinking about putting myself out there on the dating scene.

And so it was, with no small amount of apprehension that I started the process by joining a couple of dating websites earlier this year – these being Plenty of Fish and Local Companions.

And the result? Urrgh… the result, dear reader, was that I very nearly lost the will to live using these things.

To explain: at the grand old age of forty four years of age I’m finding that I’m a bit of a dinosaur; someone completely unaccustomed to dating website etiquette and the cruel brevity of modern textspeak.

Meaning, of course, that whenever I use one of these dating websites or dating apps to connect with someone whom I like the look of, I’m often treated with suspicion or thinly veiled ridicule for speaking in properly constructed sentences and paragraphs.

In other words, I increasingly feel like the main protagonist from Idiocracy whenever I communicate with people in my natural writing style and in fact feel pressurised to “dumb it down” in order to fit in better and/or avoid ridicule.

Of course, I could just sit here and take a smugly superior attitude… defiantly saying that I “refuse to compromise for stupid people” and I could spend the rest of this article venting my spleen by ridiculing these dating social media platforms… or… or I could stop and honestly look at things and assess where I might have been going wrong.

Well, let’s start with the textspeak thing and have a real look at that. Strangely enough, I stumbled across this blog article in my Facebook newsfeed just recently: http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/good-grammar-text-messages-might-make-you-look-jerk

Very interesting reading, indeed. This extract is real food for thought:

“Just as we have different styles of speaking in different situations, so do we have context-dependent styles of writing”

You know what? The author may have a point there. For instance, I can tell you that in his e-mails Roy Eskapa has a habit of typing everything in upper case WHICH MAKES IT LOOK LIKE HE IS SHOUTING… but do you know what? He actually isn’t. As Roy explained to me once, writing everything in uniform upper case is simply more expedient because it’s far less time-consuming than having to press the shift key every few seconds as he’s typing one e-mail after another.

Another example that comes to mind is an old school friend of mine who (despite being one of the most literate, intelligent people that you could ever meet) reads as if he’s had the most severe of lobotomies if you were to judge him by the standard of his writing on his Facebook timeline… something that’s just littered with the dreaded LOLs and the type of phonetic writing that you might expect from a young ‘un just out of nursery (example: “yeah ano! LOL” replacing the more formal “Yes, I know!”).

…Which makes me think that the author of the blog is correct in what she says about how many people use textspeak as a method to be perceived to be less formal and therefore far less threatening. The latter becoming especially more important in this day and age where people are so quick to manufacture reasons to publicly shame people on social media (see Jon Ronson’s excellent So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to read more on this very real modern phenomenon)… so, as much as it hurts my ego to admit this, perhaps the use of a “LOL” comes in handy now and again as a seat belt of sorts to avoid embarrassing social media car crashes; a form of pre-emptive damage limitation, perhaps?

Okay, so maybe I should loosen up a bit. Point taken.

Or (here’s a better idea) maybe I should simply tighten up on my match criteria for these dating sites?

…Which, in a roundabout way, leads me on to talking about the two new dating apps that I joined over the last month or so – Tinder and Badoo.

Now this is where it gets interesting because, to tell you the truth, these two apps aren’t that bad. Tinder, in particular, I quite like because of the way that by linking to your Facebook profile and reading your work history and qualifications and interests/likes, etc its algorithm actually attempts to match you to people with a similar personality and similar interests.

Which is great.

I can honestly say that I’ve been quite impressed by the matches that it’s given me and some of the nice ladies that I’ve communicated with through it… but here’s the thing: it’s frustratingly un-user friendly in that you’re limited by a specific word count for your profile write up and it offers scant little else in the way of any other special features to recommend it, whereas Badoo (a dating app recommended to me by a friend) is a different kettle of fish because whilst it doesn’t offer anything nearly as good in the way of matching, it does offer numerous appealing extras such as photo verification using your mobile device’s camera (something always reassuring in this day and age given the increased awareness of the number of fakers out there thanks to things like the documentaries Catfish and Talhotblonde) and other appealingly daft perks such as Xbox-style achievements for the number of views your profile has had and also, using your phone’s GPS technology, the app gives you an alert if you’ve unknowingly bumped into a fellow Badoo member of the opposite sex that same day… which is quite a cool feature, because it certainly gets your curiosity going.

So, depending upon what appeals to you the most, there’s things to recommend about both apps.

For me personally, though, Tinder has the edge just simply because it gives better matches.

Not that this makes things that much easier for me personally. To explain – even with a well-written profile and some nice photos of myself looking all debonair it is no guarantee of success whatsoever.

There are still things like the dreaded (but all too common) ridiculously unachievable Andie MacDowell-esque bullet lists to endure on these things and then, once I do get talking to a nice lady, there’s still a vetting process and numerous questions that get fired at me (which, again, is the Catfish legacy at work); something which I’m okay with and am quite sympathetic to – after all, there are some pretty damaged, dangerous people out there.

No – when it comes right down to it, my problem has a lot to do with my own confidence level thanks to a lot of my own baggage.

I’m specifically referring to my history of mental ill health thanks to my bipolar disorder and also my history with alcohol addiction and how I was very much “in the wilderness” thanks to both for so many years.

A story that makes for great reading as a recovery narrative on some Facebook forum or blog or Message board or whatever, but NOT – I can assure you! – on a fucking dating website!!!!

…Hence why, when I’m asked awkward questions like “You’re a reasonably good looking man, how come you’ve been single for so long?” I’ve had to develop appropriate ways of communicating (in a drip-drip style) some of the health/social challenges that I’ve had without laying it on too thickly; not something that I’ve been entirely happy about doing because I despise dishonesty, but then again I frankly don’t want to scare people off.

As my friend Robert Rapplean recently pointed out to me, you have to be both pragmatic and strategic in your choice of what you disclose about yourself… as if you were going for a job interview – meaning that you have to “accentuate the positive”.

You got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with mister in between

Johnny Mercer,  Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, 1944


Conclusion

I think that there’s a number of things that I’ve learned since starting the ball rolling in January of this year.

  1. “You get what you pay for in this life”. Meaning that, if I am really serious, it may be worth investing a little bit of time and money in a membership to a good dating website with a solid reputation rather than messing around with cheap freemium dating apps.
  2. Just on the time aspect – I’ve read elsewhere on the net that fifteen hours a week is actually considered a reasonable investment in order to find success. A lot of time, I know, but it makes sense not to be half-assed about finding the right person and to really put in a lot of effort in doing a good write up and keeping it regularly updated with new photos.
  3. I perhaps need to “get over myself” a bit with my pedantic hang-up about people who use textspeak and accept that maybe – just maybe – some level of dialect switching is going on there. A good way to spot whether this may be the case would be to check out their profile and attempt to read between-the-lines.
  4. Most importantly, I think that I just need to HAVE FUN. Accept that rejection is inevitable, that I’ll have to go through a lot of ugly step sisters before I find my own personal Cinderella and – oh, yes – to make sure that I never EVER post something like this on a dating website…

Okay, as usual, it’s been a blast. Thanks for listening to my ranting and raving.

 

Peace and love,

Gary

P.S. just one last interesting point: both myself and Mike Dempsey were talking about the whole online dating thing and the challenges that people with stigmatising illnesses face in getting back into the dating scene and we briefly mooted the possibility of answering this demand by setting up a dating site or dating app for people in recovery… however – after about, oh, thirty seconds of thought on the subject – we both concluded that (despite it not being a bad idea) the reality is that moderating such a thing would be an absolute frickin’ nightmare; just too much.

P.P.S. Another thought that does spring to mind: I suppose that this is yet another type of discrimination that people in recovery face. Much like how we face discrimination when applying for jobs or in the way that we are sometimes treated by members of the medical profession when complaining about other health problems. I guess the biggest difference, of course, is that (unlike the other examples) when it comes to the dating game it isn’t remotely a meritocracy to start with anyway… in fact it’s entirely discriminatory by it’s very nature. It’s brutal and unforgiving, in fact; positively Darwinian. A heartbreaking truth which I learned for myself when I stumbled across a disabled lady’s profile on Plenty of Fish in which she was pleading with people to ignore the wheelchair she was sitting in in her profile photo and just to talk to her like a proper human being… so sad.