Casting the Net for Romance – Internet dating in Spain 1

 

I have no doubt that coming to live permanently in Spain was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love my work as a journalist and freelance travel writer; I love the freedom that life in a warm climate brings; I find Spain endlessly interesting and the Spanish themselves far more tolerant and well-mannered than my compatriots. But…(ah! isn’t there always a ‘but’)…even the Garden of Eden would lose its charm if Adam (or Eve) had to spend most of their life sat alone under the apple tree.

My main reason for coming to Spain was a beautiful Spanish lady. Sadly that relationship ended and I found myself alone in a country where my language skills were minimal and opportunities for meeting another ‘better half’ even more so. I’m no spring chicken or oil painting – I’ll not see the sunny side of fifty again God and ran out of bodies beautiful long before he reached my end of the line. (Fifty! You’ve got to be f*****g joking. Come on, be honest. Okay, okay cinquenta y doce… and I’ll let the non-Spanish speakers work that one out themselves!)

I’ll openly admit that there were long nights and weekends of blackness and tears, wondering if there would ever be a time when I would feel a warm body snuggled up to me in the morning when the alarm went off, having that couple of minutes extra cuddle to start the day. And when I talked to other single people, that was what they missed most – not the sex, not the romantic dinners when dating, not the flirtations or the frivolity of falling for someone (although they are all delightful and important), but the cuddles, the sitting watching the TV and suddenly saying, ‘Fancy a cup of tea, love?’, doing the shopping together or preparing a meal. Mundane as anything, but boy do you miss them!

Agony Aunts the world over recommend you take up a hobby you can share with others or join a club as a way to meet people. God bless ‘em, I wonder just how many of them have actually been through the single state! I’m with Groucho Marx when he said ‘I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.’ I’ve never been a ‘joiner’ and judging by some of the clubs I’ve briefly visited, they were filled with enough sad souls to ensure that I’d never be applying for any membership cards. I’m sure they are helpful for some, but not one of the people I spoke to, and there were quite a few, could envisage taking that route for company.

When I came to live in Valencia, at that time a city almost devoid of an English accent, so the likelihood of meeting someone plummeted from ‘not much chance’ to ‘damn near zero’. As I assiduously avoid those appalling mock Irish bars that seem to be consuming Spain and act as a honey-pot to British ex-pats, the chances of that morning cuddle seemed to be fast receding.

For quite a time a friend had been nagging me to look at the dating sites on the Internet, but I’d always thought of them as the last resort of the desperate. (It never occurred to me that, actually, I was one of them!) Having spent another Christmas and New Year as a single celebrating among couples I finally decided to have a look.

I flirted around a few sites, by-passing the ones that took out a chunk of your plastic before even allowing you a glimpse of the new love of your life. Many of them tend to focus on the United States, with only a few people from other countries, but eventually I found a site that allows you to search not only by country but by province and city. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of ladies who were seeking company in my neck of the woods, and very few of them had the look of desperation I’d been expecting. To be honest, there were a few little corkers!

And it wasn’t only sites for ladies wanting friendship and a possible relationship, if you wanted a dalliance with someone who was prepared for a relationship of a more …shall we say ‘instantly physical’ type, then there they were, waiting for you to pay your contact fee before arranging something more than a walk along the prom. I somehow didn’t think ‘cuddling’ would feature heavily in their expectations.

I’d vaguely toyed with the idea of using these sites as ‘research’ for an article, but that was the first hurdle to cross. I had to admit to myself that this wasn’t ‘research’, I wanted to meet ladies, and if one of them turned out to become a bit more than a friend, so much the better. Let’s face it, good looking chicas weren’t exactly flocking to my door, were they!

First thing was to set my criteria, a rough idea of the guidelines I would use to choose those to contact. None of these sites are free when it comes to making contact, so unless you have an expandable credit card it’s a good idea to have at least a vague idea of the lovely you are looking for.

Actively setting down the wants and don’t wants of a person might seem a bit shallow, but we can’t escape the fact that certain types of people attract us and others don’t. This doesn’t imply that anyone is better or worse, it just means that whilst we might magnanimously declare that ‘we’re all God’s chillun’, if you fancy a short blondie with a searing IQ and no children, you’re not going to feel exactly comfortable sitting across the table in a crowded café from a lady of 170kilos who failed her GCSE’s and has four niños, all under ten. It’s very possible someone might, and you are wasting that person’s time and money when she may not have a lot of either to spare. Equally important is the fact that if she likes you it could hurt her confidence if she never hears from you again. (And this applies to both sexes.) Believe me, once you start writing down your preferences you’ll see just how ‘shallow’ you are.

Having decided on mine (and I’m not telling you what they are), the next stage was to register. Most of these online forms are pretty simple and just require you to tick off from a set of pre-selected choices, although you’re usually asked to write a bit about yourself and the type of person you are looking for. You are also given the opportunity to add a photo, and this seems to be the point where most people become a bit nervous.

Quite a lot of people, mainly women, are unsure about putting a photo on a dating site in case someone they know or from their neighbourhood sees it. Understandable, but, as most sites will tell you, a photo vastly improves your chances of being contacted. A girl I became friendly with said that her contacts increased ten fold from the day she decided to add a photo to her profile.

So, what do you say about yourself? It is said that on the internet you can be anybody you want and I suppose that if all you are looking for are a few email pen-pals then you can a the blond-maned, six foot tall lothario, even if in reality you are little more than a midge’s whisker over five foot and carrying a beer belly supported by a pair of very stout braces. In which case, don’t put a photo up! But if you really do want to meet someone, there’s only one thing you can say – the truth. You needn’t list every nervous tick or failing, but if you want a relationship with someone don’t start it off with a lie.

I decided on a particular site that had enough ladies within the Valencian Community and the city itself so that I wasn’t going to have to travel great distances to meet them. There are two ways to contact on the site I was using. You could send someone a ‘Virtual Kiss’ that lets the person know you have seen their profile and would like to meet them. This is free, but means that the other person has to pay to contact you. To do this you have to pay a monthly fee, which you also have to do if you want to contact someone who’s profile you have seen. As far as I’m concerned, it I want to contact someone it is up to me to pay, and if someone pays to contact me they are worthy of a reply, even if the answer was ‘no’, although I always say this in the nicest way I can.

Part of my personal criteria is that I would not get offended or upset at any point of the dating process. If I didn’t get a reply, that was fine, everyone has their own preferences. If I got a first date and not a second, also fine, at least I had had a couple of hours chat. If friendship developed but not a relationship then I would feel just as happy. It is very important to get yourself into this frame of mind otherwise you can start loading yourself with rejection instead of enjoying the experience.

Profile written, photo tagged on, I sat back to await the flood of Valenciana’s dying to meet the charming Brit sat on their virtual doorstep.

In the next blog I’ll  tell why I was tempted to take a biscuit tin on my first two dates; how I gazed into a romantic red sky over the Albufera, and when ‘faint heart never won fair lady’ paid off.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

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