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Modern-day dating: An award-winning novelist who grew up in a fundamentalist religion decided to look for a partner online.Here is the first in a weekly four-part series on her experiences - and it's a bumpy journey! After I finished studying at Oxford I was ill for most of my twenties.The fact was, I wanted to show my body, just not my face. In the end though, I kept my photos highly respectable, even professional, in tone.Remembering how I had agonised over the wording of my personal statement on that other website years before and how badly things had gone then – knowing that whatever I wrote was essentially futile (unless I mentioned my collection of human heads) because whatever I did or didn’t say became irrelevant as soon as I was more than a few seconds (or as soon as I saw someone, in some cases) in someone’s company – I didn’t waste time.
But they were really one and the same thing, my face so encapsulating me, as most people’s faces tend to do. During this time a voice I sometimes believed, and sometimes dismissed, told me my body’s theatrics were related to my feelings of worthlessness and invisibility to men, to my feelings of sometimes not even being human.At the end of the registration Sue took out her own debit card and paid before I could stop her.‘You’re wonderful and gorgeous and deserve to be happy,’ she said. I’ll have to cancel the subscription after three months but give it a shot till then.’ Much moved, I promised her I would. In Which I Attempt To Be Authentic Despite my reservations about who I was, I figured this was the last time I would attempt to find a partner and wanted to give it my best shot, which meant attempting to portray my ‘real’ self, whoever that might be.Walking to the supermarket at night, I said, I could hardly contain feelings of rage and grief.
I didn’t feel these emotions when I was working alone at home, only when I imagined I was observed in my solitariness and judged by others.Looking at other profiles I saw that men’s tended to feature extreme sports; women’s group shots were with friends on nights out or with a male arm circled protectively around their shoulders, signalling they were desirable property.I’d never had a group of female friends, had someone take a photo of a man putting his arm around me and had certainly never been up Mount Everest or on a jet ski with a camera crew in tow.Of course I knew rationally others probably didn’t even notice me but the feelings remained.