Today is the anniversary of me being single. Being on my own in this way is really starting to have a deleterious effect on my quality of life, and I'm not just talking about gloomy solitude or lust frustration. I feel that in order to meet someone I have to look my best, which means that I have to lose weight, which means that I have to exercise and diet. Exercise is never any fun (no matter what the steroid-freak body nazis at the gym might say) and even though I'm no foodie, a strict diet can be annoying and unpleasant.

But I persevere in the hope that - in the face of all the evidence - it might make a difference. But no matter how much I try and make myself more attractive, the problem remains that I'm not meeting enough eligible women for there to be a chance of it having an effect. The people I'm surrounded by - be they friends or work colleagues - are all firmly in long-term relationships Probably hanging on for dear life if they've spotted what it's like being single out here these days.

So I've had to resort to artificial means. But why not - in today's modern go-get-em world everyone's too busy to spend time flirting, let along wining and dining, right? Online dating is just another service to make the hectic life of the enlightened single modern 21st centurion easier, right? It's cool, and in no way the last refuge of the desperate. - or at least that's what I'm still trying to tell myself.

The first service I tried was a but primitive - you did sign up and pay over the internet but then all they did was send you a printed list of names and phone numbers which I found a bit intimidating. Nevertheless I did eventually manage to go on a date using this service. And what a joy that was.

Doing everything via bits of paper and phone doesn't really give you an idea what someone's actually going to be like. She described herself to me over the phone as "pretty". She wasn't. I'd made my way half way across the county to her hometown - a rather joyless place - and the first thing she suggested we do is go and eat at a pub/eaterie steakhouse type place opposite the station. The food was awful (although maybe that was just the limited vegetarian option). She then ordered a banana spilt for dessert and seemed to get rather carried away at the prospect - when it arrived she resembled nothing so much as an overexcited chipmunk.

The second thing she suggested we do was that we go and visit her friend in mental hospital. I'm not winding you up. This is all absolutely true.

So we did.

You may call me prejudiced, but needless to say that not only did I not see her again, but I never used that particular service again either.

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