As a dating coach, my job is to guide women through the difficult terrain of modern dating. If you are currently single, long-term lonely or perhaps married but arguing with your husband and want to imagine life without him – then let me take you inside the matrix of online dating.

You will visit an online dating website. You will not sign up to this website but peruse the options, should you lower yourself to signing up to the site one day. The doughy headshots of regular men will clutter up the screen and your heart will sink. I wouldn’t have sex any of these men, you will think. There is no one here.

You’ll come across a man who is handsome. You will get yourself another wine and read his profile. He’s not funny, but he’s definitely handsome. Maybe there are men online who would be fun to date. It will be fun, you think. Just a little bit of fun. It’s been a long time since you had any fun. The words fun, have a laugh, why not! will circle around your mind until they descend like a mantra, pick-up speed and drive like a freight train right through you. You are due some fun. You are entitled to it. You sign up to the website and riffle through your computer for half-decent photos of yourself.

That man, the handsome man who invited you into the matrix, has since disappeared. You wonder if he was a lure and if he existed at all. You cycle through the non-descript faces of good-natured, bewildered men looking for the handsome one. He is gone but something else has happened. Your eyes have adjusted to the light and you peer closer to the screen. They’re not all bad, you think. Some of them are quite handsome. You message these men. Your tone is arch and brittle. Look at what it’s come to, is what you’re trying to imply. They don’t message you back. It’s a shock. You wonder if your credit card has been charged. It has. You blink at the screen. Maybe their profiles are all fake. No, it says they are online right now. The message was read and they chose not to get back to you.

You look at yourself in the mirror. Naked. You put on a dress. Have you over-valued yourself in the sexual market place? You stare at the doughy faces of the non-descripts. Maybe he has nice hands. You message one of them. He gets back to you right away. You’re flirting. He’s unattractive to you, but you are off and away. This is harmless fun! I’m never going to have sex with this guy, but I need a starter. Someone to reject! Someone’s shoulders to stand on as I reach for the balcony and clasp for the upper levels, for the pretty party, where the handsome men are! Where I belong!

He wants to meet you for a drink. This is fun. Ha ha ha. This guy hasn’t got a chance in hell. I need a starter date like porn stars need fluffers. You agree to the date. You tell all your friends. Isn’t this awful, you say, that it has come to this? I don’t date, I hate dating! You think about what you’re going to wear for this schmuck. You drive yourself to the bar and notice your hands are shaking.

Your hands are shaking. You practice your opening lines, all of them. It’s been a long time since I’ve dated, you’ll say. That’s too confessional, you think. If you start talking about how long it’s been since you last dated, before you know it, you’ll be talking about your ex. The one who left you. Talking about your ex is on the Ten Commandments list of what not to-do’s on a date and don’t do it. You ask yourself nicely not to do this. You wonder if your ex is on a date right now, on the other side of town and your heart stops mid-air.

You’re going to power date this schmuck so hard, he won’t know what hit him. Ha ha ha. You’ll let him touch you. Revenge sex is absolutely out of the question, however. After all, this guy hasn’t done anything wrong. You have class, whatever the hell that means. You’ve got it. Who’s perfect, you look at yourself in the mirror. Who’s perfect? Who’s had a perfect life? No one. A few of your friends look like they’ve had a perfect life, but forget about them. You’re going to power date this guy right against the wall.

You see him. He’s not ugly, but his leather jacket is enormously disappointing. It’s going to be hard to sex around that. His shoes are okay and his skin is in good shape. You walk towards him and hope he doesn’t say anything shitty. You’re going to sleep with him on the third date, if he doesn’t say anything shitty. You say hello to him and kiss him on his cheek. His hands are shaking.

He kisses you in your car and reaches for your hand. That’s the most surprising thing of all the things. He holds your hand, like you’re there.