So, it was going to happen at some stage. Eventually your correspondent was going to want to return to the world of the opposite sex. This was ever going to be a daunting prospect, given that your correspondent had been off the market for almost 7 years, but your correspondent is a woman and women have needs, and there came a time when your correspondent decided she could do with a bit of a snog.
Not having the first clue of how to go about scoring anymore, your correspondent was pointed in the direction of online dating. "It's great!" said her friend, who shall remain unnamed. "Even if you don't end up meeting anyone, it's a great ego boost. Go for it." So for it I went, on a site that shall also remain unnamed. I will admit to having a few drinks on board when I created my profile, but seeing as I had about 14 messages before I even finished adding my photos, I decided to leave it as-is when I had another look the next day. It weeds out (some of) the idiots I'd have nothing in common with.
Anyway, online dating has been an experience, to say the least. The men who frequent my site fall into a few broad categories; there are the hook-up artists who are only after one thing. I seem to attract a lot of these. They don't really bother me, as long as they're up-front about it, at least I know not to waste my time. Then there are the ugly-but-needy brigade. They think being self-deprecating to an extreme will engender enough pity in you to respond to them. It doesn't. There's also the poor craytures who are hanging onto the rules they learned in "The Game" in the mistaken belief that PUA works. This lot inevitably send you a really insulting first message. Presumably the idea is that you'll write back to have a go at them, and they can suck you into a conversation that way. These also go straight into the recycle bin.
And then we have, unfortunately, what appears to be the largest contingent on my site, anyway - the time wasters. These are people who have absolutely no intention of ever actually going on a date with someone, but who will happily string you along for weeks, if not months, pretending that they're going to meet you. Online Dating ingenues will inevitably fall for at least three of these idiots, lose all faith in the process, delete their profiles in frustration, then return several weeks later, older, wiser and a lot more cynical. I know I did. One particular time-waster who was nothing if not entertaining fed me so much crap that he clearly couldn't remember at any given moment what he'd already told me. Your correspondent, on the other hand, has a nigh-on eidetic memory and took great pleasure in calling him out on stuff. At the time of going to press, this dude had lived in Kinsale, Cork, Clare and Limerick at varying stages in the process.
So, having done the online dating thing for a couple of months now, I feel well-placed to make the following observations:
1. No-one on my site drinks more than socially, smokes or does drugs.
2. Everyone is good-looking in a baseball cap/sunglasses.
3. People can hide a whole world of crazy behind a keyboard.
4. Some people have no shame.
Now, that's not to say there aren't some genuine people out there too. I've been on a good few dates at this stage and met some lovely people. But where's the fun in writing about that? Part two of my online dating odyssey continues tomorrow with the dates themselves. Until then, content yourself making this easy-peasy midweek dinner:
Pasta with Smoked Ham & Balsamic-roasted Tomatoes - serves 4
400g pasta shapes 250g smoked ham, cubed
750g tomatoes, roughly chopped 6 tbs balsamic vinegar
6 tbs olive oil 4 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced
Couple sprigs fresh thyme Salt & pepper
Shaved parmesan, to serve
1. Place your tomatoes, garlic, thyme, olive oil & vinegar in a large ovenproof dish and mix everything really well. Season generously and roast at 220C for about 40 minutes.
2. While the tomatoes are roasting, fry off your ham (I use the Aldi bacon offcuts - €1.99 for a kilo, they're amazing value) and cook and drain your pasta.
3. When the tomatoes are done, remove the thyme sprigs, then add the tomatoes and ham to the pasta and give everything a good toss. Check your seasoning, correct if necessary, then serve on warm plates with shaved parmesan and good crusty bread.
Apologies for the atrocious photo, by the way; I was absolutely famished and actually couldn't wait five seconds to compose the shot properly...
Anyway, this is possibly the easiest recipe on this blog. It tastes divine and you can easily leave out the ham for any vegetarians you might be catering for. Go on, give it a try.