Can online dating ever feel natural?

Dan Juan

Date two with Carina. The first was an unqualified success, now we're sitting opposite each other in Strada on a Thursday night and it's quite nice. She's looking at the menu and I'm looking at her. It's fine. Then I'm struck, without warning, by some kind of existential dating crisis just as they bring us the olives.

Online dating is weird. It's about as organic as a Pot Noodle. Take two complete strangers and fling them together in the hope they will want to spend the rest of their lives together.  That's not going to happen, is it? Women - plucked out of a vast universe and plonked in front of me. Is she the one? Nope, next. Is she the one? Nope, next.

But if only it were that simple. The journey towards "nope" is rarely so quick. Rather it's a destination you trundle towards over time — one date, three dates, six months — time ultimately wasted. Right now we're on one and a bit dates. I still haven't arrived at "nope" but I'm I'm already wondering when I will and why.

Carina seems nice. She's pretty, smart, great fun. That's why we made it to date two. But suddenly it all seems so... far-fetched. From one and a bit nice dates to true love, starting from nowhere - not so much as a mutual friend. The odds that she will choke to death on a kalamata stone right in front of me are probably higher.

[Relevant: The truth about singles' nights out]

So I'm sitting there waiting for her to do something I don't like, or vice versa. Whether it's in the next five minutes or the next five weeks, it'll happen. But at least I'm ready for it.

A friend told me recently I've turned into "a woman choosing a husband" - foisting unfair, idealistic requirements on any girl I date. Every box on the checklist has to be ticked, or it's over. Well maybe I am a woman. Or maybe it's just that men aren't that different.

Poor Carina, obliviously ordering a goat's cheese salad. She has no chance. Or does she? After dinner we go to a late night art gallery, then a bar. We're chatting all the way — sometimes effervescently, sometimes awkwardly. It's not cinematic, but it's good — and Carina comes though unscathed. She does nothing that puts me off.

She skirts close to "nope" a couple of times. Like when she points at the most ridiculously drunk woman in the bar — girating mindlessly around random men — and says, "That's exactly what I'm like when I'm drunk". She's totally serious. It's funny though, I let it go.

We share a cab back - we live in the same direction — and, emboldened by pricey cocktails, I make a couple of tentative noises about getting out at her stop. She cleverly ignores them, avoiding the fast-track to "nope".

And so, we're still in the game. There WILL be a date three… who knows whether it will accelerate us down the path to happiness, or just take us one step closer to the end.

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