- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Sunday, 29 April 2012
I love the character of Ellen Ripley that Sigourney Weaver plays in the first and subsequent Alien films. It's so gratifying the way she deals with that slime dripping jaw crunching predator from another world, whilst singing You Are My Lucky Star to calm her nerves, before blasting it into outer space with one press of a button.
Fortunately (or unfortunately if you happen to be that alien), this was a scene from one of my top ten favourite films, rather than an actual real life occurrence.
I often think about Ripley's whole alien experience, and her eventual reaction to it, in relation to all the years I spent in cyberspace internet dating.
What do you do in this day and age, I furrowed my brow and pondered quite innocently one day to myself after becoming single again, to find a suitable mate?
That, was a very good question. Especially if the accessibility within your once vast social circle has decreased in the intervening years: and the possibility of meeting a new mate via a casual introduction through friends has all but diminished.
The stark truth was, nearly all of those avenues that I had once relied upon to meet people, were no longer as viable as they had once been.
I scratched my head and gave it some thought.
And as I am a pragmatist, I thought about all of the most practical options that were open to me.
The most realistic solution that suited me, and one that was accessible, was to try my hand at Internet dating.
Internet dating appeared to be the as good an option as any. It solved all the issues I had with being a singleton: no hanging about in bars or clubs, and I could literally do it, without leaving the comfort of my own home.
It ticked all the right boxes. Excellent I thought. What could there possibly be to worry about in the murky depths of cyberspace.
Without referring to too many well-known film character metaphors, but with the exception of one more. I can tell you this for certain: prior to embarking on my online journey, I was like Chief Martin Brody from Jaws.
I was scared witless (and rightly so) of this vast ocean and the unknown inhabitants that may lurk in its dark waters.
By the end of my journey, as the credits rolled and I pressed the button to deleted my profile: I had morphed into the jaded seafaring old sea dog Quint, drunk with exasperation, singing Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies. For by then, I knew all too well what lived in the ocean.
And yes, I know, that you know, that I know, that even armed with all of his experience and knowledge, it is Quint who is eaten by the shark on the deck of the Orca as it sinks into the sea.
Sad times, as he is by far the best character in that movie.
But, unlike Quint, I Gloria Gaynor’d it, and survived: but not before I had had, some pretty close encounters of many many kinds.
So there I was all hopeful and eager, swimming alone, being quite brave, thinking that this was the way forward and with every good intentioned stoke I was taking, I was certain I'd meet a nice man.
And l'll just interject here, and say that I know of several friends who have met suitable partners via this method, and whom have found it to be an immensely positive experience.
However, be warned, there are many men (and women), who swim in this ocean who sadly have hidden agendas, issues, and unfortunately no boundaries when it comes to the lengths, or types of deceptions they are willing to carry out at your detriment.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get a whiff of one or more of these before you meet them, or during the course of the first date or during the post initial date date. Or if you’re really unlucky, if you happen to establish a relationship with them.
For those of you unfamiliar with the online dating process, I feel it is only fair to offer you a brief explanation of how it all works.
First and foremost, you select a site that you feel will best represent you.
Lefty, Pretty Serious, Easy, or Up for Absolutely Anything.
Then you write a short profile about yourself. And then one about the sort of person that you’re looking for.
Tallish and Normal. That'll cover it.
You then identify some of your likes and dislikes by ticking an array of boxes: Jewish, likes Thrash Metal, works in Arts and Heritage, Eats everything (quite possibly Robert Shaw), has children, etc, etc.
Then finally you upload some recent photographic evidence of yourself.
Then Bob's your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt, you are all done and dusted. Finally, once you have subscribed by paying a fee, you are free to search for a perspective partner.
I was exhausted already.
But once I had paid and set my profile live, I was off swimming with the best of them
I swam and swam and swam, and pretty soon, I started to attract some attention, as well as finding others I quite liked the look of along the way.
The one thing that I can tell you about internet dating is to try and be open-minded, as you'll encountered all forms of life, even pond life: so be prepared.
That, my friends, is the best advice I can offer you.
Now, I cannot say if I was lucky or unlucky to have met all the of men that I did.
I shall opt for lucky, inasmuch as I soon worked out in a positive way, that you will just have to wise-up like Chief Brody did, and develop an instinct in order to survive some of the ordeals that you may encounter, to sustain a strong will and healthy view of yourself.
And, there is a protocol for the initial stages for finding someone suitable to go on a date with: and that appears to go like this.
You let them know that you like them, by adding them to a favourites list, or as I found on one site, by sending them a Wink.
Or you can simply send them an introductory message. Keep this short and concise.
If the feeling is mutual, they will write back. After establishing that, swap mobile numbers, and then arrange a time to call. Once you have spoken, and if you like the sound of them, you'll arrange an initial date.
It is all quite an investment of your time, so bare that in mind also.
My First ever date never arrived. I later discovered through what I shall call being a good detective, as opposed to stalking, that he did show up, but was in fact married and intent on securing some extra marital action.
Unfortunately, this type of modus operandi is quite rife.
Then I was contacted by a younger man who introduced the topic of the size of his manhood during the course of our initial phone call.
He talked endlessly about its unrealistic proportions so much, that after a while, it became as matter of fact as the man who used to send me chapter length messages about the colour scheme he was considering for his house.
He then back up his claims with a variety of photographic proof, which my mother insisted, after viewing them, could only have belonged to a horse rather than a human being.
She was so intrigued by his claims, that she insisted I should meet him in order to discover the truth. When I asked her how she expected me to do this, she had no answer. Safe to say, I never did.
Then I went on a date with a policeman whose job it was, to investigate other policemen.
We had a nice meal, and talked about a variety of subjects, so much so that the evening passed by quickly and I thought to myself Wow, I am really enjoying this date and his company.
However, after he drove me home and wanted to come in for coffee and after I politely declined: he released his seatbelt with the stealth like quality of a professional Casanova, and attempted to steal a kiss.
I had to insist that he stop as I struggled to get out of his car. Unfortunately, he then became rather over enthusiastic in attempting to claim said kiss, until I had to literally fight him off. I bid him goodnight and then received a rather curt text message from him, telling me that he didn't want to see me again.
The sex thing. A lot of people I met, just wanted to use it as a medium to find other people to have casual sex with. That is fine if that's what you're looking for, but I wasn't.
Then, there was a man who revealed during the course of our initial telephone conversation his liking for S&M. This he casually dropped into our initial conversation whilst telling me about his house renovation.
Sorry, I am all out of gimp masks I thought as I bid him goodbye.
There is also a high percentage of people who are still dealing with previous relationships, like the man who was drunk as a skunk on the phone to me, who described at great lengths his wife's infidelities: and how he had discovered her stash of Anne Summers naughty knickers and corsets in their bedroom that weren't intended for his titterlation.
And the cost of dating also comes into play as well. I spoke to a man who didn't want to travel as he had travelled before to meet another woman and it had cost him too much money with no return on his investment.
Or the men who just don't have a healthy appreciation for women, like the architect from North London,
And the soldier, who promised me so much, but who then broke my heart into tiny pieces in the process, because he lied.
His nose was bigger than Pinocchio's.
And be warned, as I met a man who was definitely had a serial killer vibe about him. That encounter was a big risk on my part and I scared myself in the process.
Never do anything that you would advise a friend against doing. Be safe and be secure.
Or the teacher who moon lighted as a cab driver who drank to excess and complained endlessly about having grout and the effect it was having on his life.
I excused myself from his company, and rather swiftly went home.
And then there was the man whom I met in Trafalgar Square one Sunday afternoon, who stated on his profile that he was well over six-foot tall, but in reality was five foot seven. He arrived looking as though he had just fallen out of bed wearing a dirty fleece and faux leather gloves, which he kept on throughout our twenty minute date.
I even had one man who contacted me as he enjoyed nothing more than meeting random women, so he could just perform cunnilingus.
Was I interested he asked?
I blushed as I typed him a message. Thank you for the offer, I wrote, but, I think I will pass.
And so it continued, until in the end I surmised that all life exists cyberspace. Maybe more so than on Civvy Street, as people use the mask of the internet to reveal their worst characteristics and perversions.
On the positive side, I also met and have maintained several friendship with many of the men that I did meet had I not embarked upon this journey.
I can honestly say it has been an education.
In cyberspace, anything is possible, and most things are probable. Keep your knickers and your self-respect up, and eventually, you'll meet someone worthy.
But for now, I have decided just like Ellen Ripley did in as she wedged herself into her space suit at the end of Alien that enough was enough: and that it was time for me to get the hell out of there and take control. So with one click of my mouse I ended my online dating endeavours and am now currently resting in hyper sleep.
I do not discount the possibility of meeting someone via this method who will be suitable for me. But for now, I think I shall take my chances in the real world and see what life delivers instead of spending any more time in cyberspace.
At the end of Jaws Brody and Hooper are shark free and swimming for the shore. When Brody says the Hooper I used to hate the water. Too which Hooper replies I can't imagine why.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Age and hindsight are a funny combination.
Age teaches us what we feel happy with, whilst hindsight affords us a view of the past that enables us to see the truth of a particular event that, although we questioned the rudiments of its being at the time, we were in actuality correct about the disagreeableness of it all when it took place, even if it was over twenty years ago.
I was able to reach this conclusion during a series of discoveries on a recent trip I took with a friend to a birthday do of someone we had both known in our youth and had established contact with again via a social networking site.
Reaching a certain age has afforded me the freedom from fear of the known as well as the unknown and that, I must say, I find empowering and liberating on every level as I enjoy the exploration of new places and of meeting new people.
Knowing what suits you and what you like to do and what you do not like to do, offers an incredible freedom and an understanding of who you have become.
At times, when I think about the life map that I have followed that has led me to this point, I do have to admit that there were some choices I wish I'd had more control over and this journey with my friend brought into focus one of those past times that I'd had.
So here is the thing, my friend and I plan the trip, it is a pleasure to spend time with her as we share a bridged commonality of similar situations and a refreshing openness and humour of life which I know is a rare and wonderful thing.
We meet, travel to the location of our hotel in a gorgeous historical hamlet in England and we do not stop talking or laughing from the moment we meet until we say goodbye twenty-six hours later.
After we book into the hotel we go and explore the town and realise are both half staved so we have lunch and talk. It was so easy and unburdened and then revealing as during the course of our lunch conversation we speculated on who may also be in attendance at the gathering later that night, at which point his name came up.
I winced as I recalled this man and his relentless pursuit of me when I had been eighteen years old. I hadn't thought about it for a while, but when I retold the story it was as clear as it had been when it took place.
I had just left home and was lodging in a room of a house owned by a friend. I had no clear plans and all of my school friend had left and were away at university while I was working a dead-end job with no clear motive on a day-to-day basis other than to go to work, shop, eat and be sociable.
I was shy and lonely and I should imagine quite vulnerable.
He was an outsider, not someone whom I knew or became aware of from an established place like school or work, but rather a friend of a friend. He wanted me to go out with him but I wasn't interested as I didn't fancy him and I remember he had this rather unattractive twisted mouth, which made me feel quite sick. But he was relentless in his requests and would not take no for an answer. I eventually agreed to meet him and then stood him up. My landlord questioned me as to why I wasn't going to go and I said I just couldn't.
He didn't give up and continued to call either in person at the house or on the telephone until I agreed to go out with him again. So there we were on our first and only date in a pub by the river in West London and I remember thinking how I just wanted to get out of it and go home, but unlike now, I had no contingency plan to look after myself or protect me from a man like him.
It got late and he suggested we go to his for a coffee which wasn't that far away, but in fact was a fair old walk as it transpired and I ended up in a place which I was totally unfamiliar with.
I was so naive and raw it was unbelievable and he used this disadvantage to his advantage without even questioning the implications of his actions.
He was living in a squat that was filthy and squalid. I felt dirty just being there. He put on some music and proceed to have sex with me and I allowed that to happen because I didn't know how to say no.
I just remember how horrible it was and how he kept kissing me with his horrific distorted mouth and how afterwards he laid there singing some song in an arrogant all-conquering manner which I hated. I couldn't wait to get home and away from him.The next morning he took me to the station and waved me off as I pulled out on the first available train. When I got in, the first thing I did was to have a bath. I washed and scrubbed myself until I felt clean and then went to work and tried not to think about it.
I didn't ever want to see him again and I remember he made several attempts to see me again by calling unannounced at the house, once baring a bunch of roses. I asked my landlord to tell him I wasn't in if he called again and eventually he must have got he message and stopped coming.
I moved on.
My friend listened to this story and then revealed a similar situation with him a few years on from mine. He was again very controlled and insistent in his actions but my friend was more self-assured than I had been and told him no.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing as it affirmed my reading of his actions as wrong through those he had also attempted with her. I cannot explain what it felt like to hear her story, but the revelation of the fact that he had attempted to use the same method of what he had felt was acceptable with her, made me feel sick. The first question that this raised was who else he had done this too?
We discussed it further and then continued with our day and didn't allow it to overshadow the enjoyment of our trip. But it lingered between us and in both of our minds as we referred to it in passing again later prior to attending the do in a how odd that we should both have shared that history sort of way.
We went for a drink and laughed about things that men probably think women do not discuss. It was refreshing. We talk so much that we realise that we needed to get a move on as it is getting later and we needed to get ready and go to the do.
We call a cab from the hotel reception, a few moments later a lady driver arrives, she is amazingly funny, bright , honest and great company. We arrive and she wishes us well for the evening and we exchange a glance prior to entering the pub in which the do is being hosted, as we suddenly realise that we are about to see people we haven't seen for over twenty years. It is odd and scary and I am glad she is there as I wouldn't have come on my own and she later tells me the same.
We say hello to the host, he is gracious and touched that we have both travelled such a long way to attend. We see some other people from the past and we say hello to them. We steal a private moment together and I mention the possibility of the man we have spoken of at lunch being there and my friend says that she will asked the host. When she returns, she tells me that he has said that he is meant to be coming.
I don't know how I will feel about this situation until it is presented, but I am aware that I feel stronger and safe because I am no longer alone in this now due to the fact that I have shared the story with my friend and she has my back.
Time passes and we drink and laugh and talk to people we know and those we have never met before and may never meet again. At some point we are standing at the bar and I see him across the room and he sees me. I tell my friend and she sees him too and at that moment, he stands up and he makes his way over to us and says hello to me and not her and then kisses me on the cheek.
I cannot speak as I do not know what to say as I am back in his room in his squalid squat over twenty years before. He is overweight and middle age hasn't been kind to him, but most of all I notice his twisted mouth. It hasn't changed. I look at it and I feel like I am going to throw up.
I distract this uncomfortable moment by reminding him of my friend who is standing beside us by introducing her into the situation. At first he cannot place her, but then he remembers and I clearly see the realisation in his face and quite suddenly, the tables turn as it is two against one supported by a joint knowledge of his long ago actions.
A chill sets in.
The conversation halts. He leaves us and I draw strength from her support and we conclude that he is aware of the reasons why as much as we are.
As the evening unfolds we are happy and sociable and I am aware of him watching me and us and on several further occasions he attempts to infiltrate the circle we are part of not by joining in, but by remaining on the periphery like a predator. It is uncomfortable to watch and be aware of and is also quite familiar.
He makes no further attempts to speak to me, but I catch him watching me from time to time.
He leaves and eventually so do we.
We head back to the hotel in a cab driven by the same lady who had dropped us off earlier. She asks us how it all went and we tell her. By the time we arrive back at the hotel, she is like an old friend.
In our hotel room we discuss the evening and my friend says that she has enjoyed it but how much nicer it is to return to our room and spend time together.
We sleep and in the morning we get dressed, check out and have breakfast before embarking on our journey home together. We don't discuss him any further other than I happen to mention that he had sent me a message via the same social networking site that we are both friends with the host of the do on a few years ago citing the incident I have spoken to her about. For some reason unknown to me, this man and I are friends on the site. She asks me why? And advises me to change that, which I do when I get home with one click of my mouse.
When I get home, I realise how far I have come and although hindsight is a wonderful thing, I am grateful to have a friend like her who has helped me to realise that my instinct about something that took place so many years ago wasn't misguided but how I was. I speculate on who I am now as opposed to who I was then and I am proud of the woman I have become and all the women I know especially her.