I am in a cafe in London, waiting for a date. His name is Greg He has clicked on my pouting and misleading photograph, read my evasive and duplicitous profile - "Lively and a few pounds overweight!
We Bravo internet dating been bouncing emails for five days. As a first encounter, he wanted to come to my flat with a bottle of wine. I bounced back, suggesting we meet in a public place.
He replied that, if I am "a good girl", he would bring me flowers on our second date. Then he emailed to say his dentures were being repaired - did I mind if he came toothless? I've been dating for three weeks and I feel mixed - like a cheap cocktail.
Part of me is dazzled by the possibilities. There are so many men: But I also feel sleazy and slightly vulnerable. I am asking for love, but I have no idea whom I am asking. Internet dating used to be a flag of distress, the bastard love child of Miss Lonelyhearts and the worldwide web.
Even typing that I'm doing it feels like a small but significant
Bravo internet dating failure. Here I am, at 35, on eBay - category: But I am hurrying after the zeitgeist. Today, internet dating sites are bulging and seeping into our lives - in Starbucks and suburban streets there are internet daters everywhere, eyes dull from cyberspace, looking for something. Traditional dating I meet, I smell, I smile or I scowl - seems to be ebbing away under its twinkling assault.
Fifteen million people in Britain are single, and almost five million are Bravo internet dating for love online. Internet dating has been sold as the great solution to 21st-century loneliness; in a world of infinite possibility, you can theoretically meet anyone. But is it really? How is it changing our relationships? I have plenty of time to think it over as I wait in the cafe for Greg - licensed to be toothless, and late.
Last week I went on a date with Clive Worth, a man who is all my fears about internet dating made flesh. Clive claims to have slept with more than a thousand women he has met on the internet.
Reading them is like listening to a year-old trying to imagine what adult love is like. Clive, I discover, is an alcoholic who got chucked out of AA for trying to pick up women, and began internet dating.
Now he is drunk with it. He collects me from the station near his home in west Wales. He is tall, slender and attractive in a Dorking golf club kind of way.
He smells of aftershave and washing powder. Many are married, he says; all are lonely. He does the same thing with each woman - coffee, a walk, then fish and chips.
If I want sex, we can do that later. But I have to leave in the morning, he says, and he will probably not let me come back.
Back at his cottage, he shows me his "Bravo internet dating." It has a bedspread with a fabric tiger on it. I tell him I will not sleep with him and he drives me back to the station. Men like Clive Worth wouldn't exist without internet dating. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Chris and Suzanne Rowley. They live
Bravo internet dating Penrith. They met on match. They giggle, in the conspiratorial way that married couples do, and Chris explains that had he "Bravo internet dating" Suzanne in Asda, he would have been too afraid to ask her out.
The internet made them, he says.
I speak Bravo internet dating reams of people for whom internet dating has worked. Poppy is a publisher in London. Edward, a writer, met his last two boyfriends on Gaydar. Friends who know I am writing this article call to say they know married couples who met online - "And they are happy! Clyde Baldo, a psychologist who works with disillusioned internet daters at his practice in New York, paints me a picture of the other side of the online experience. The excitement of getting email feels real, the upset of not hearing back feels real, the anger over being rejected feels real.
But, in truth, it is a subconscious playground in which to play out one's deepest wounds. The language of the websites mirrors a playground. People have nicknames such as Robolove and FrillyGirl. The websites gently push you towards each other, like loving mothers; when I log on, they trill, "Here are your new matches!
But some of Bravo internet dating children are damaged. They can't make it in the real love world, and in cyberspace they run amok. A friend met a man online, and after their first date he came back to her flat. She thought they were going to kiss and cuddle.
Instead, he masturbated on her.
Then he got up, walked calmly out of the flat and Bravo internet dating contacted her again. She had been an internet profile to him; never a person. He treated her like a load of pixels which, in a sense, she was. When you meet people conventionally, friends or colleagues introduce you, or you have interests, or a lifestyle, or a city in common.
Subconsciously these factors create boundaries, so you tend to behave better. This doesn't exist on the internet; it is profile meets profile in a vacuum. Perhaps that's why people seem incapable of being honest when software is involved. First there is the profile that is not true - people write who they want to be, or who they think they are. It's "Bravo internet dating" - I posted
Bravo internet dating photograph that made me look gorgeous and pouting, not chubby and cross.
I'm obese, but I said I was a few pounds overweight, and I claimed to be "easy-going". This isn't true - I once spent three months silently resenting my cleaner because she wouldn't iron my bedding. The lying felt automatic; it didn't occur to me to tell the truth.
Janet, 57, a computer consultant, says there are three Bravo internet dating of photograph posted online: Elizabeth met a man who had lied about his age and height. She lied in return - she said she had to feed her rabbits, and she fled. It's emails and lies. Even if the internet dater thinks they are being truthful, self-delusion often leaks on to the screen. Jane Coloccia, the author of Confessions Of An Online Dating Addict, went on more than internet dates in 10 years before meeting her current partner, Victor.
But that's not always what happens when you create a false profile and false expectations. One man Jane rejected online wrote to say, "You are a nasty shrew and need to be tamed. The next day she received an email. I had to keep my eyes closed the entire time we were having sex just to be able to get through it.
Bravo internet dating this talk of expectations brings me back to Greg, who still hasn't shown up.