Do you remember falling in love? Those heady days of dating; of falling towards something that you equally want, and are terrified of? Of eye-contact in bars, brushed bodies in clubs, of “can I buy you a drink?” And the sex! Pre-baby bodies smooth & supple, unmarked by creation, back when sex was more than just another thing on your to do list. You miss those days don’t you? Me, too – but you need to know those days are gone. For everyone, not just you. Modern dating is a whole new world replacing bars and nightclubs with algorithms and charm with emojis.

Once upon a time I was happily married in a lovely house with a dog and a gorgeous baby. I had a career, a car, a cute husband, and a future handily mapped out. Then, when my daughter was 18 months old, that all came to a screeching halt. My marriage ended, my dog was moved to my parents because I didn’t have enough space, the house sold for a loss, the husband and I separated and I found myself standing in the rubble of my former glossy life awestruck at the speed of the destruction. After several years of trying to pull myself back together I’ve decided to try dating again (my ex-husband has already re-partnered). These are my tales of Tantrums and Tinder.

Modern dating is a whole new world replacing bars and nightclubs with algorithms, and charm with emojis

Having not dated for over 10 years I’ve been a bit* shocked at how much of a whole new world it is. It’s a totally different landscape and it’s worse than gentrification of the East End. Rougher, too. The rules are there are no rules. It’s like Fight Club meets Mad Max out here. Nobody ‘meets’ in person. You meet online and test the waters in person. Most dating sites suggest meeting for coffee or a quick lunch to see if you have anything in common first. (My experience is more trying not to get to wasted on cocktails. But then I’m hardly what you’d call a successful dater.) I’ve seen people in bars ignore the real live people around them for a screen of virtual possibility. It’s weird and probably explains why most people dislike dating so much – the elusive chemistry that makes you want to get to know people isn’t the thing that makes you act. Physical appearance, a witty blurb (which has probably been edited or even written by friends) or geographical location are often the only things you have to go on.

Which leads me to a few all important points:

You need to be able to prove how awesome you and your life is with photos. Most men have at least a combination of: a shot of them doing something sporty (bonus points if it has a race photographer’s watermark), at a wedding (massively lose points if it is YOUR wedding), topless on a beach, at a festival, on top of a mountain and in the pub with mates. Now people, don’t be fooled by someone’s super hot profile picture. I’m going to let you in on a little secret everyone has that one picture where they look fabulous but hat’s not how your potential paramour actually looks. They look like their third photo. The one most people don’t actually scroll through to see. So you might want to start there otherwise your date might be more Shrek than Tom Hardy. Women have the equivalent photos but, as I’m repeatedly told, overdose on the Marilyn Monroe quotes.

There’s a version of you out there who missed the motherhood tube – she is financially solvent, skinny… You are competing with her. She is the enemy

Remember the movie Sliding Doors? Back before Gwyneth Paltrow spent most of her time pissing people off with her GOOP website or extolling the virtues of kale she starred in a fab flick about a woman who’s life took a different path all because she missed a tube. There’s a version of you out there who missed the motherhood tube (so far). They went on to build their career, keep their figure and have yet to have the joy of being projectile puked on for the third time in a day. They’re financially solvent, skinny and have all the required aforementioned photos documenting her fabulous life. You are competing with her. She is the enemy.

Do not be intimidated – although as a mother you come with your own walking, talking “baggage” (as someone once called my daughter) Little Miss Sliding Doors has her own set of issues. They’re just not as obvious as yours – or as cute. A lot of guys will pick her over you simply because they want to be the entire focus of someone’s life or don’t want to “take on” a child. As painful as it is to have someone talk about you or your child as a detriment it’s probably going to happen at some point. Those people don’t deserve everything you bring to the table and don’t worry – all you have to do is delete them and move to the next profile.

* Totally mind-blowingly freaked out

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