Dating, appearances and boys & girls

I don’t consider myself to be particularly good looking- which is not a subtle fish for compliments, but simply a statement of my belief system (see, I do believe in some things). And now that I am divorced I am facing the prospect of diving back into the heady world of dating, which is more than an little scary. Fortunately, since I last had to venture into this shark infested water there has been a radical change in the whole process, and one that is becoming more and more socially acceptable: internet dating. Not the actual dating via the internet- even to me that seems a step too far, but the process of meeting someone has been dragged kicking and screaming out of the nearest pub and into the dark and murky world of the interweb.

There are many sites that allow you to post your personal details and who you would like to meet, and after a little while searching it seems that there are enough George Clooney lookalikes to fill a small stadium. This is the downside to writing your own profile (you can lie) and has led to sites such as My Single Friend where someone else fills in the details and describes you.

This seems to me to be a better approach- someone else might be a little more objective and at least you have a brother in arms as you throw your hat into the ring. But in the interests of making sure I was going to get a fair deal I thought I’d have a search first to see ‘what was out there’: I fired up My Single Friend and entered in my location (Gloucestershire for those playing along at home) and my preferred age range (36-42) and the fact that I am a boy looking for a girl. A couple of clicks later I had 89 possible dates. Many of them very good looking, most had fun personalities etc etc And almost all of them had posted a photo, many of the looking like they had been taken by a professional (or at least talented amateur) photographer.
This is all great, but remember the first sentence of this post? What would any of these 89 women want to do with me? (Answers on a comment please- I promise to read them all but will only post anything suitable for a family audience!) As I looked at the photos there were glamourous women, dressed up and looking wonderful. Me? I have skinny legs, no chin to talk off, an odd taste in TV shows and have apartments in 3 countries on 2 continents- surely there is better on offer than that? Right then, time to check out the competition…

Back to the search page: Same location, same preferred age range, now say that I am girl looking for a boy (oh the wonders of internet anonimity): This time I only got 31 hits; maybe Sex and the City had it correct after all about all these single women out there. But for the guys, only half the profiles had photographs- hmm, maybe all the “George Clooney’s” didn’t actually match up in the flesh. And those that did have photos were far from the professional shots that the women had. These were snapshots of guys ‘doing things’ like sailing, drinking or catching some rays between runs on the ski hill. Furthermore, feeling confident in my sexuality, I think I can objectively rate the guys compared with the women and say that we, as men, really aren’t as good looking as the ladies. So maybe there is hope for me after all: the slightly fuzzy photo of me taken by my 4 year-old son will be OK and I can advertise my prehensile tongue and take it from there.

And yet… there is a bigger question here. And that bastion on all things non-PC Jeremy Clarkson may have put his finger on it on Top Gear last week: He pointed out that there was a recent survey to find the ‘Sexiest Racing Driver’ (well it had to be somewhat about cars, didn’t it). I am pretty sure that Danica Patrick came top of the survey, but that is not the point that Clarkson was making: There are cases of male sportsmen being lauded for their looks and fashion sense (David Beckham springs to mind and Freddie Ljunberg is more well in the US for advertising Calvin Klein underwear than kicking a football for Arsenal, West Ham or Sweden) but these are isolated incidents: Wander past a magazine store and you can see photos of Maria Sharapova or Ana Ivanovic in a bikini, Danica Patrick smouldering as she leans on a car or Natalie Gulbis trying to sell you the latest ‘Big Boy Driver’. And this doesn’t even include the sportswomen who have taken everything off to appear in Playboy.
I have no answer to this difference- the guys are judged, even by their friends, on what they do and if they look good then that is a bonus. The women seem to make far more of an effort on the appearance- and in some cases (Anna Kournikova) the look far outweighs the performance. Maybe there is still hope for me after all. Once again: Answers on a comment 🙂

The power of vox pop

In most parts of the world the power of the common man has never been so great as today: universal suffrage, no matter what the colour of your skin, your gender or your religious beliefs; education; economic mobility and many other aspects that reflect an improving world.

One of the consequences of this has been the desire for the common man to have his or her voice heard. This shows itself in small things like the number of constituent surgeries that MP’s hold, interviews with ‘the man on the street’ in news bulletins and now, with the rise of the internet, in the form of user opinions and buyer reviews. There are even entire websites (such as epinions.com) that do nothing but allow real users to rate, review and critique products. Many of these opinions are valid and truly help to form a balanced opinion of which microwave, TV or whatever to buy.

However, the weight of these opinions needs to be balanced against the experience of the reviewer and the number of reviews available. For example, you may loath Jeremy Clarkson for his boorish, self centred, arrogant views; but the one thing you cannot deny is that he has driven a lot of cars. So, when deciding which small family car to buy, it may be worth seeing what Clarkson or any of the other presenters on Top Gear had to say about it. No don’t get me wrong- by no means am I saying that you should only listen to Clarkson when buying a car- because if you do then you might end up with a Lamborghini Gallardo Spider or a Ford GT40. And take some advice from someone who owns a fairly silly car- you don’t want one of them. Because if you do want a car like that, you probably have enough money already to buy one. But it you don’t have more money than sense and someone who is paid to review cars says that one of your choices is a good one and one bad, you might just want to listen to them.

But what to do with a more personal, specialised purchase? I recently bought a watch that I like a lot. Unfortunately it didn’t come with an instruction booklet so I had to work out how the various alarm, stop watch and dual time functions work. Most of it was pretty straightforward except for the use of the dual time zone- whenever I changed time zone the watch got all kinds of confused and it took me a while to sort out the time. So, I was not surprised when I read a review that appeared to back this up. The review included statements like

To get it right, you’re goign to waste at least 15 minutes fiddling with it, and chances are if you dont have the manual with you, you wont be succesfull.

Which all seemed true to me. Except that I am bit of a fiddler and I like to try to make things work properly so I kept playing until I finally think that I understand how the watch works: The trick is that the watch does not have 2 time zones, it has 3: the 2 digital ones and the analogue hands. Normally time zone 1 and the analogue hands are in sync so to change time zone you change to digital zone 1, adjust the hours and the analogue hands move accordingly (actually it is kind of cool to watch that happen). But if you attempt to change the hour when you are not on time zone 1 the analogue hands move but the digital one doesn’t.

Now, I don’t know if this a bug or a feature, but if you use it right, it is kind of cool. It is not as the reviewer says

…great at designing quality watches but have no expertise at designing quality user interfaces.

You’d think that for something like this they would hire somebody who does, or at least contract it out to someone who does, but they didnt – apparently they are not even aware that there *is* such a discipline as user interface design.

The fact that the reviewer was not able to work out how to use his watch and the power of the user review means that other people may not buy what I think is a totally cool watch. And that is the very real danger of listening to the voice of the population: Just because you speak loudly doesn’t necessarily mean you speak correctly.