A ROMANCE; SO SOFT AND TINDER

There is something terminally wrong with me. Ladies and gentlemen, I confess; I am a hopeless romantic. Show me a sweeping romantic saga and just hand me a Kleenex and comfort me as I sob 'I want one!' into your shoulder.

At the time of writing this article, I am in a relationship with a partner who meets my criteria on every level. We have been dating for three months and this milestone has been met with handmade cards, a bouquet of flowers and homestyle brownies. The card will probably tumble out of a box of memorabilia in decades time and evoke all kinds of emotions, depending on how things play out.

We still grapple with who goes over and who goes under when we hold hands. It's so sweet; it's enough to make all your teeth fall out.

The part that tickles me the most is that this was borne out of genuine connection on a person-to-person basis, meeting face-to-face at an amateur theatre group over a year before we hooked up. A common interest brought us together and we became friends long before we met eye-to-eye, communicated our attraction and wound up lip-to-lip and skin-to-skin.

I have had very little experience with online dating. I tried it once and after a couple of weeks, I concluded that this was not a relationship I wanted to pursue and I broke it off. The waves of abuse, harassment and unwelcome contact that followed actually lasted twice as long as the courtship did. The worst part was, of all the potential contacts on that dating site, this was the one person who met my criteria (could hold a conversation with more than emoticons, flippant comments and open-ended questions). The others didn't even make that cut!

Call me old-fashioned, but I still reckon dating requires both parties to venture out into the big, scary world and bravely interact with fellow human beings, for all its awkward and delicately orchestrated complexity.

My flatmate, meanwhile, asks my opinion of the girls on his Tinder app and I watch with fascination as he left-swipes with less than a heartbeat between profiles. I know that each profile falling into the left-swipe oblivion is the limited online persona of the person they represent, but I wonder if my flatmate's index finger realizes that. Surely, some can be vastly misleading.

He gives me a commentary each time he swipes. 'Duckface. It's a group pic, can't tell who she is. All her pics are group pics. All her pics are bathroom mirror selfies. All her pics are too professional. Too much make-up. Too much filter. Too young. Too old.'

Let's not even open the can of worms on his aesthetics of colouring and ethnicity.

Because many of my contemporaries are online-based millennials, we communicate mostly over Facebook. It's cheap, convenient and generally more eloquent than conversation, because this is how we've grown up. Yet, the good news is that not everybody buys into the app dating culture. Not everybody measures their self- worth by how many friends are in their circle and how many likes their pic gets. People still encounter these apps with disdain for its superficiality and transparency. A young woman I know, well-read and intelligent, shows me her Tinder and points to a bloke she can't decide which way to swipe. She asks me what '8 inches cut' means... and that apparently sealed the deal for her (but I won't say which way she swiped).

Another, much younger friend has just been dumped on social media, from a true love of Disney proportions (by which I cynically mean, they met on Monday and were declaring their undying love for one another by Thursday). Her Facebook is awash with messages of support, emoticons and memes of Michael Jackson eating popcorn, all showing how genuinely devastated her friends are to hear that she has been unceremoniously dumped. But wait for it, from the debris of her broken little heart comes this miserable cry for help;

'That's it, I've had enough! I have had my heart broken one too many times (by yet another random match on my Tinder, who was never suitable for me in the first place and who I barely shared a proper date with) and I cannot love again. Ever! If anybody reading this intends to ask me out, you are too late. I'm done. Maybe in the future I will be ready to love again. But not now, so don't ask me!'

Quel dommage! Overwhelmed by sympathy, I may have to cull this connection. The pain is just too much. To paraphrase Elvis; 'Love me Tinder, love me Tweet. Never let me go. You have made my Facebook relationship status complete and I love you so... until somebody new comes along'.

Davo Hardy