Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “Relationships”

Back from the bliss

Breakfast of champions!

Sorry about the last two weeks. I was on sabbatical. I was on my Honeymoon. I was living it up in the lap of luxury in sunny Queensland, sipping cocktails from the poolside bar and eating altogether too much each morning from the breakfast buffet. It was the most relaxed I’ve been in two years. I left my technological devices behind and that made all of the difference. Of course, that meant that I wasn’t writing blogs.

I know that the ideal way of doing this is to let my readers know that I’m going to be on holidays, but it just popped up on me without warning (you know, apart from the six weeks advance warning I had when booking it).

As per normal, I now owe you two blog posts. So this one is going to be a blatant self-promotion, owing to a number of very exciting things happening at the moment. The second will be one of my ever-exciting, interesting and amusing posts on the nature of life and the universe.

 

But first the blatant self-promotion:

Finding Damo came about as an attempt to get inside the head of my main character Damo. It was meant to be blogs from the actual character and ended up being posts from the increasingly disturbed mind of his author as his random conspiracy theory-addled brain made more and more sense to me.

But it was about making it easier to write the novel, thus getting it finished and published and me becoming the next Nick Earls.

The other thing that helps me get published is having other stories up for sale. Which is what I accomplished just before I went away. Alfie Dog publishing have just accepted a couple of my stories for publication as eBooks.

Be Practical and Ted’s Souls are two short stories that I’ve had accepted for publication in different areas, but for various reasons never saw the light of day. Finally, they are available for your reading pleasure. Apparently the highest purchase of any one story has been 17. I’m thinking my PR machine can beat that.

My stories go live on the 15th July (UK time, so maybe the 16th here in Oz). Put that date in your calendars, although be assured that I’ll be spamming the date once my stories are up and ready to go.

Go to: http://alfiedog.com/products-page/damian-perry/ on the 15th July and feel free to buy the stories at your leisure!

NAIV logoBut it’s not just my own writing that I have come to annoy you about. You know that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, and am currently in the process of organising the Nullus Anxietas IV convention – the Fourth National Discworld Convention in Australia.

I’m in charge of PR – so if you haven’t heard of it by now then I’m not doing my job properly.

You can get access to all of the information on what’s coming up by following these incredibly well-written pages of information:

The Australian Discworld Convention website – currently under the control of our cousins in Adelaide.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Facebook fan page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Google+ page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV twitter feed.

Do you get yet that the name of the convention is Nullus Anxietas?

The most exciting part of the Nullus Anxietas (IV) experience right now is our involvement in Pratchett-Palooza, being run by Dymocks. They have their own Facebook fan page, but refuse to go to Google+ so I’ve duplicated the various events through our page. You can also access the Dymocks events page.

The most important event on this calendar (quite apart from 3 for 2 Pratchett books) is the Pratchett Promenade. The culmination of a month of Pratchett fun! Involving a fashion catwalk, a talent quest, costumes and merriment. I have a special stake in this one, but you won’t find out until the night.

Finally, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Write a Book in a Day event. The boys completed two books totalling about 20,000 words in the space of a day, with illustrations. And then bound it and sent it off. We are waiting to find out whether they won any of the awards, but we raised over $500 in the attempt, which is fantastic.

And so, it is a busy time. I’m flat out. Now is the time for relaxing, but I don’t think it will happen. Sometimes I look at my life and think: I could really do with some time off.

But, nah! Holidays are exhausting!

Parenting plates.

PsSo far, I’ve written an entry for every week that I’ve been doing this blog. I may not always write every week, but I’m keeping up with the quota. I’m glad I’m not one of my students. I’d be going home with a “work not done” sticker. Which I would promptly ignore.

This is a rant. A relatively light-hearted rant, but a rant nonetheless. A goodly amount of people will completely disagree with some of what I say, and as always, I have done no actual research before writing this post, so they may well be right. But it’s what I believe. Erm, what I believe today.

I’ll start by tellling parents they need to be more involved with their kids and end up saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have kids without a license. Stick with it, it’ll be a laugh riot!

Here goes.

Parental involvement

All the literature says that the biggest contributor to a child’s success in education is not the school they go to, or the expensive iPad they use, nor the wonderful teachers (shooting myself in the foot here) or the canteen food. Student success is directly linked to parents’ involvement in their education.

Stuff the research. I spend all day with students and could point at each student and say “he rarely sees his parents after school” or “his parents read the English novel as well so that they can talk about it.” On parent/teacher interview nights, I complain that the only parents I see are those of the kids who are doing well. But that’s an indication. If the parents cared enough about their kids to show up to parent/teacher interview nights, I might be saying better things about them.

Of course, there are always the harried parents, shuffling from teacher to teacher, knowing exactly what they’re going to hear and dreading it. They love their child, and hate hearing teachers bad-mouth them over and over. Or offering helpful, sympathetic advice. Or saying “he seems like a nice kid, BUT”. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions. It may be that this child with caring, loving parents, will bloom after school: in their career, or as an adult. Or they might just be broken, and all of the love poured into them dribbles out through a hole in their damaged little soul.

Parents that are involved with their kids breed kids that are going to be interesting and involved adults. Not necessarily nice adults. But at least they’ll be involved in society. What’s more, nice, involved teenagers come from children who were cared for and had parental involvement from birth. Leading me to my next commandment:

Read to your kids.

This one I’ve seen from both sides of the equation – teacher and student. From when I first met Shereen, she would read to her daughter every night before bed. Picture story books, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, The Magic Faraway Tree and any number of others. We also had books on tape, that Ophelia could listen to as she was winding down in the evenings. Now she’s in Grade Two. I bought her How to Train Your Dragon for Christmas when she’d just turned six. At seven, she’s just finished Pratchett’s Bromeliad trilogy, The Amazing Maurice and is almost done with Wee Free Men. She’s read all of Roald Dahl’s books.

Esio Trot

She read Esio Trot in just over an hour. I smiled to myself and thought: “Ah yes, read.” And started to ask her questions about the plot. She could answer comprehension questions on every chapter. I was amazed.

Now I’m not saying that she is this good because Shereen read to her. I am saying that she wants to read all of these books because Shereen read to her. I am saying that reading to her gave her the curiosity and the drive to want to learn to read so that she could explore these worlds for herself.

And I see the students in my English classes. I can again tell the students who have been read to, and those that can recite whole episodes of the TV show Ben 10 but can’t tell you who Peter Pan is (“that’s a Disney movie isn’t it?”). The Three Little Pigs are slowly disappearing from our culture and Red Riding Hood has been relegated to a truly awful movie directed by the woman who destroyed the first Twilight movie. And seriously, making that book worse was an achievement!

All of my nieces and nephews have a love of the story. And they’ll all do well at school, one way or the other.

Read to your kids.

And stop feeding them garbage.

ADHD is a Myth

Man, that was a terrible sequeway. But I’m ranting. Expect shifts in topic.

I’d change the heading for this bit, but I want to be a bit controversial. Obviously, ADHD is a documented medical condition. I’m not a doctor. And as per normal, I’m not doing any hard research on this to try and disprove it.

ADHD is real. Most kids don’t have it.

Ow. Ow. Stop throwing things at me. Really. Doctors over-prescribe ADHD because parents don’t listen to the original diagnoses: your kids are eating too much rubbish. Your kids aren’t getting enough sleep. Your kids are watching too much TV and playing too many computer games and aren’t getting enough exercise.

You don’t care? OK. Here are some pills.

Food

mmm, brekky.

Diet is incredibly important to the growing child. Different foods and drinks have astounding effects on children. And probably adults as well, but we are better at masking it. I despair when I have to deal with a child who is diagnosed as ADHD and they come to school with a can of Red Bull in one hand and a donut in the other. Might this combination not have some effect on his behaviour?

No doctor should be allowed to prescribe Ritalin or any other ADHD drug before the parent can prove that they have put their child on a month-long balanced diet, free of processed foods and stimulants. Hell, make them put up with what I’ve had to: no dairy, gluten, sugar, red meat. Fresh vegetables, lots of fish, plenty of water and see me in a month. If they’re buying crap at school, don’t give them money to spend at school. Be a dictator. We’re not allowed to run the country properly, at least run the child properly. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.

Actually, no. They probably won’t thank you at all, but they’ll be healthier and lose less teeth from Ritalin poisoning.

Sleep

Teenagers need more sleep than adults do. Their bodies are war zones of hormones and emotions and even if they’re only saying “mawaiunno” to you when you ask them a question, their brains are whirring with a thousand seemingly vital problems.

If I make a random statement about Game of Thrones, which starts at 9.30 and a Year 7 pipes up with “Yeah, that bit was great! She had nice boobs, didn’t she?” then that Year 7 student is either stealing TV from the Internet or not getting enough sleep.

And they have nice taste in boobs.

However, that aside, it isn’t a bad thing to say “no computers in the bedroom”, “no TV in the bedroom” and most importantly “no phones in the bedroom”. My iPhone is almost more powerful than my computer. It is by far more useful for instant communication and retrieval of information. And it connects me to my friends and work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I do have my phone in my bedroom. I don’t sleep as well as I should. But when I do want to sleep, on goes Airplane mode and away goes the power of communication. There is no way that a student is going to do this. So, to be prepared for the following day (or whatever they will believe), phones are all on charge in the kitchen before bed.

And lock ‘em in. Stuff the fire safety codes.

I didn’t say those last two sentences. That would be incredibly rash.

Stimulation

She doesn’t deserve to die!

This one should be a no-brainer. Grand Theft Auto IV is rated MA15+ for people aged 15 and above. If a Year 7 student is telling me how he cut the throat of a hooker to get his cash back after the trick, someone has dropped the ball on following the ratings system.

But that’s not the point. The point is that playing computer games hyper-stimulates your brain. It tricks the body into thinking that it is participating in a fight-or-flight scenario and fills you with lots of lovely chemicals designed to help you avoid the tiger or pillage the neighbouring village.

Without the accompanying exercise – frantically climbing a tree or setting fire to a grass hut – all these chemicals do is give you a pleasant buzz and a desire to KILL SOMETHING NOW AARGH ARGH.

Television and computer games are specifically designed to provoke emotional responses. That’s what makes them popular. Letting them loose on your children without checking them out for yourself is … how much trouble do I get in for calling that irresponsible? It’s a rant, I’ll risk it.

It’s irresponsible. And then you send them to us, the teachers, and wonder why they aren’t doing any work at school, hopped up on Red Bull, jonesing on 4 hours of post-gaming sleep and spoiling for a fight.

For the most part, we love your kids. Why else would we do this job? We want to see them achieve their best and become useful, productive and interesting members of society. And for the most part, we do our best. And in most (?) cases, we succeed.

I just don’t want that success to be in spite of what the parents are doing. I would love it to be because of what the parents are doing.

And I’m probably not talking to you. The parent who is doing everything, or most things right. And I get that raising a kid is hard. As I say, I’m on both sides now. And have been before. And sometimes, no matter what you do he still goes out and sets fire to the tennis court, or smashes down a toilet door.

And I get that sometimes it’s just too hard to cut up the vegies, when Maccas is around the corner. I’ve been there too, and have the extra 20 kilos to prove it.

And really, probably, the people I want to read this don’t read. Or won’t read. Or can’t read.

Oh damn. I really nearly finished this off then. I have one more thing to say. Something Pippa and I have been advocating for years. Something most teachers would probably get on board with:

When you hit puberty, you have to give up your reproductive organs. I’m sure there’s a safe way to do it. Keep ‘em in a jar beside your bed to remind you of what you’re aiming for.

When you decide that you want to become a parent, then you undertake the parenting test. There is a theory component and a practical. It would be competency based. You prove that you are fit to usher a new life into the world and shape it into a productive member of society.

Then we give you your P plates – your Parenting license. And you can breed like rabbits and the world will be a better place.

My only sneaking suspicion is that parenting licenses might bring on the rather speedy extinction of the human race.

OK. Done. I think I managed to insult or offend almost everybody on the face of the planet. Sorry.

PS. I was looking for a P plate for the start of this post and found the following picture, which now has a completely different connotation:

Look, she has her Ps!

Look, she has her Ps!

Success

OK. Pick 3:

  • be fabulously wealthy
  • become a household name
  • marry a supermodel
  • become the boss of the company
  • create your own company
  • have kids
  • act on Broadway
  • Have hundreds of people attend your funeral
  • pass the million followers mark on Twitter
  • own your own house
  • get published
  • fill your passport with stamps
  • get married
  • be known in your field
  • have lived in over a dozen countries
  • reach old age
  • own the sports car
  • have a YouTube clip go viral…

Which of these three things mean Success to you? I’ve always wanted to be successful, but when I decided to make it a focus in Finding Damo, I found that I had to actually think about what that meant.

The book’s not finished yet. I’m not done thinking. But a few things have become blatantly clear:
1. Success is fluid.
2. Success is elusive
3. You should never be able to achieve it.
4. It is very different for everyone I’ve talked to.

At the age of 20, working in a shocking job, but earning real money for the first time, my ambitions were simple: the house, a wife, three kids and a string of successful novels and computer games based around characters Dave and I invented.

At 26, working at Racing Victoria and headed for a semi-successful IT career, I went to a psychic. She told me that somewhere around 30 I would get married to a girl with long blonde hair, tied at the back with a red ribbon. We’d have two kids and I’d write a novel which would be published after a chance meeting with an overseas investor. That all sounded pretty good, although I’ve never had a thing for blondes.* Then I went to Japan, had a year where I could write for four hours a day, and got to meet all sorts of foreign people – none of whom have bought my book.

Yet.

At 33 I was living in Dromana, living the beach life. I was unmarried, unpublished, still renting, and had no kids that I knew about. My younger siblings both had all of this. My first novel was in editing limbo, I was building up a collection of “this is great, but it doesn’t quite fit” rejection slips on my short stories.

It sounds grim, put like that. None of the things at which I wanted to “succeed” were eventuating. But I was happy. Living by the beach, acting and directing in local theatre and very happy at school. The house and the kids seemed like less of an issue, compared to the fame and the sunny beachy days. I was getting ready to travel again. Lots of plans. My idea of Success at that stage could have twisted off down two very different legs of the trousers of time.

Have you seen Sliding Doors? Imagine that with even more Monty Python references.

Funnily enough, it was then that I met a girl – completely uninterested in a domestic lifestyle – who cemented my concept of success as “wife, kids, house”. She already had a house and wasn’t interested in marriage or kids – and that made me realise that they were things I couldn’t live without.

And now, I’m living the trifecta all in one year. Well, two out of three aint bad**. Now all I need is the fame and fortune.

That’s my success. I’ll get back to you on success for other people.

* Except Scarlett Johanssen, and who wouldn’t?
** Pratchett points out that, actually, it isn’t great. It’s only 66%.

The gap in the picture

Before I start, I should warn you. This one’s heavy. Really heavy. If you’re looking for light-hearted comic relief, take a week off from Finding Damo and go and read Least I Could Do, which is a fantastic online comic strip. Next week will be lighter. I promise. I really want to start getting into the characters I deal with in Finding Damo. I want to look at their motivations and, as I mentioned in the first couple of posts, the meaning of success, which is an important theme in the novel.

But I keep getting sucked in by real life. In this case, I was thinking about my upcoming wedding. And my brother’s wedding. And my sister’s wedding. My graduating to become a teacher. The birth of my nieces and nephews. All wonderful, happy joyous times. All missing one vital participant.

My father.

Ian Perry was an incredible man and a wonderful father. He was as full of life as any man can be. He was involved in all aspects of the community and was surrounded by friends and colleagues who had nothing bad to say about him.

He died of cancer back in 2000. His funeral was inspiring in the number of people who came to pay their respects and the great things they told us about him. I looked around on that day and realised that if my funeral was anything like his, then I would have achieved as much as anyone could expect.

I look back at myself in my 20s and think “hmmm, mediocre.” Not bad, not a complete loser, but really, not having done anything particularly worthy either. My job was enjoyable but ultimately not going anywhere. My relationship at the time very similar. I was marking time.

Dad’s death pushed me to action. My first action was to run away. I ran to Japan – culturally and linguistically as different to Australia as possible – to teach English. Dad had always told me that if I was going to travel, that I should go to an Asian country. That had nothing to do with my decision to go to Japan – that decision was my partner’s – but it was utmost in my mind on a number of occasions while I lived there: “Dad should still be alive to see me living in Japan.

By the end of the year I knew that I loved teaching. I applied to Bendigo University to do my Graduate Diploma in Education. When I graduated, at the same time as my sister, I looked at my graduation photos and with one part of my mind I saw our triumph and success and with the rest I saw the gap in the picture where Dad would have slotted in.

I was ecstatic when my brother asked me to read something at his wedding, but teared up on the day as the first of us to get married did it, surrounded by friends and family, everyone we really loved, save one. Again, there is a gap in the wedding photo. My sister’s wedding, the birth of all four of his grandchildren. Gap gap gap gap gap.

And that gap isn’t a bad thing. I don’t always look at the gap and feel sad. The gap is my father, still there in his absence. I don’t want to get into the minefield of religion and the afterlife, but even on the most basic level, I look at those gaps on my good days and see that his non-presence in each of those photos, those life-events, is the reason why those events happened. Most certainly, the joy I hear in the voices of Dad’s ex-students as they reflect on his teaching was instrumental in my becoming a teacher myself, hoping that I could inspire a generation of students in the same way. I’m still working on that.

Spoiler alert for those who love How I Met Your Mother, but are a few seasons behind…

Everybody left with me is up to speed on HIMYM? Good.

When Marshall’s father died, my fiancé and I, who have both lost parents, were deeply affected. What was worst for me was Marshall railing against a world that would take his father from him before he could show him the man he had become, the man he would become. My own grief is expressed in the same way: why the hell should my father be taken from me before I could show him what I’ve become? I’ve been to Japan, I’ve become a teacher, I’ve finished my novel and now I’m getting married. And I did all of that after he died. I have no idea whether he’s up there watching over me. I might believe one way or the other, but I don’t know. So I really would have preferred that he was down here and I could see the pride in his eyes. I’ve accomplished so much in the time since he died.

Is melancholy the word I’m looking for here? A sweet sadness, looking back at the man he was and the gap in the picture that is. In my mind, in the man that I have become because of him, he will definitely be there at my wedding.

I just wish he could really be there as well…

First Love

The lost cap, pre-graffiti

I stood on the bridge overlooking the creek in Halls Gap and watched as my cap floated away in the water, gone forever. I could just see, written in black permanent marker on the peak, the letters CE surrounded in a heart. Cap and love heart sank beneath the rushing waters. Gotta love a metaphor.

It was 1985. I was 11 years old. The loss of that cap was one of the most devastating things that happened to me that year. That and the loss of the girl that went along with the letters CE.

People who pooh pooh the love that we feel in those pre-teen years just don’t remember what it was like. That first obsession is everything. Nothing is safe from the permanent marker, the love heart, the initials. Tree trunks, books, clothing, desks, all tattooed with the symbol of young love, usually unrequited.

CE wasn’t my first love. My first love was KK, back in Grade Two, in Heathcote. That was a tragic story. Kathryn was in the grade above me. Pretty and blonde, she let me catch her in kiss chasey and the romance blossomed from there. But it was a romance doomed to fail. We were separated when Mum and Dad took the family to Queensland on a six-week holiday. I don’t know whether she pined for me, but I managed a few illicit holiday romances up north. I remember a curly-headed blonde somewhere around Noosa, who was more interested in kissing than conversation. That was fine by me, although after a couple of days I was a bit tired of it.

When I returned, we tried to continue on the way we were, but something had changed. We both knew it was over, but kept it going for the sake of appearances. We had my father as a teacher that year. He had us create poetry. Hers went something along the lines of:

Kathryn had a little lamb
Damian was its name
And everywhere that Kathryn went
Lambie also came.

Obviously, I was incensed! How could she humiliate me thus! I chased her around the room, trying to get the poem back before she handed it to my father. I got hold of the paper, it ripped. The tearing of the poem mirrored the rending of our little love affair. I don’t even remember speaking to her for the rest of the year.

So, maybe that wasn’t exactly love. It was more involved than my first girlfriend; I met her in kindergarten. I want to say Cindy, but I’m sure Mum has a better idea than I do. Another blonde. My tastes changed. We walked to kinder together, along with our mothers – excellent chaperones. One day, on the way to kinder, we were pretending to be cats. A little bit overzealous, I hissed and swatted Cindy with my claws out, leaving a decent scratch across her cheek. She didn’t forgive me for that, and the relationship was over.

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t love.

But CE, that was love. Unrequited, from start to finish. Starting in Grade 5, I still carried a torch for her in Year 8, but by then we were living in different worlds and didn’t meet very often. By then she’d become an ideal, and when I caught up with her at the Ky Show in 1988 and asked her out, I wasn’t overly worried by the rejection.

Just. Radiant.

CE was beautiful. Her hair was long and brown; her eyes always carried a smile. She had a smattering of freckles across her cheeks and she had a fresh, lively personality. CE played tennis, which showed in her athletic figure. I was smitten from the first time I met her and loved her with a purity only matched by one other person in my life.

Once you hit puberty, even the truest love has an undercurrent of desire. CE was never sullied in my mind by impure thoughts. But she did break my heart, a betrayal that I never quite forgave her for, even while I continued to love her.

She was in my class. I was trying to build up the courage to ask her to go out with me. We were friendly. She melted me with her smile and the focus she gave me when she said hi in the mornings. I have no idea how I responded. I can’t imagine it was overly suave. I worked through my plan with Matt. I’d go in, have Matt distract her friend so that I could get her alone. I’d ask her to be my girlfriend (and what a mammoth undertaking that was at the age of ten!) and I would marry her shortly afterwards, our lives twining together into eternal bliss.

I came into the class early. Matt grabbed her friend with some pretence, I walked straight up to her and asked her out –

“Oh, Damian, I’m sorry. Tim asked me out just a few minutes ago. He’s my boyfriend now!” And, just to stick the jagged knife into my heart: “But, if you’d asked me first I’d have said yes.”

Tim. My nemesis! A loud, boisterous child, more active than intelligent and obviously just a little quicker off the mark. It turns out he wasn’t even really interested in her. He just knew that I wanted to go out with her, so he got in first because he could. Handsome, smarmy, pre-teen git.

And so CE was lost to me forever. I loved her still, but I couldn’t go out with her after she’d been out with Tim. I pined for the rest of the year. Well, obviously I didn’t pine for the entire year. But I kept her on a pedestal, my beautiful CE, with her only flaw being her terrible judgement of character.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t look at the cap floating down the river and think “well, that’s indicative!” but it stuck with me as an image. That heart, scribbled onto my cap with the initials within is burned into my memory.

PS. The adult me is damned ecstatic that the stupid cap floated away. I must have looked like a complete dill wearing a navy blue cap, covered in graffiti. How could my parents allow me to continue to wear it?

PPS. My other pure love lasted from 1986 until, well, let us say well into the new millennium. It took me seven years to ask her out and that rejection put me under for a week. I loved her, I desired her, I lost her and then I found my best friend. She has been my best friend ever since, and means as much to me as family.

Finding Damo’s Guide to Online Dating

I was going to do this blog on conspiracy theories, after the aliens and angels got into my head from last time. Two things stopped me:

  1. The secret government group that monitors all web sites referencing conspiracy theories (hi guys) and stops us when we get too close to the truth, and
  2. A friend contacting me to find out what she should do to improve her online dating profile.

lunatic fringeNow, this might have been at the request of the secret government group – I’ve been quite lax in wearing my tin foil helmet lately – or it may be that I’ve just gotten engaged to a girl… that I met through online dating.

You decide.

Either way, apparently now I’m a success story (don’t get me started on success. That’s a whole ‘nother blog). I hit the firewall running and came out, oh, fourteen years later with the future Mrs. Perry (or not Mrs. Perry – a whole ‘nother blog).

Some might say that fourteen years counts more towards statistical probability rather than success. I’m a cup-half-full kind of guy. I say it’s hard work, perseverance and a winning smile. But a goodly number of my friends regularly use online dating (for some, it’s like a heroin addict uses needles). I’ve seen my fair share of dating profiles. I know what works, and I’m willing to share.

So read on.

Finding Damo’s Guide to Successful Online Dating

First up, it helps to be incredibly attractive, wealthy and fit. If you’re all three of those, you’re pretty much set, and you can just write “hi, I’m single” and wait for the contact requests to start flowing.

If, like most of us, you just have to get by on being incredibly attractive, the following might help:

1. Choose your site.

I’m only going with what I know, and there are thousands of dating sites out there, but there are a few major types worth mentioning.

The major dating sites include RSVP, Match.com and eHarmony. These are the ones that advertise in Prime Time rather than after 11pm. They are usually associated with a major publishing firm. RSVP belongs to the Fairfax Group. Match.com was, last I looked, attached to Yahoo7. They’re slick, well populated and a good safe starting option.

There are a number of free dating sites, for the cheapskates and the brave amongst us (yes, I’ve been there). Oasis and plentyoffish are the two I know about. My experience of both of these is you get what you pay for. My contacts through Oasis included two amiable lunatics and one island girl who wanted me to buy her a web cam and a plane ticket.

There are also a number of “adult” dating sites out there. I’m not linking to these, but it’s enough to say that members of these sites are not, in general, looking for a long term relationship (and no, I’m not accepting comments on here from people who claim otherwise).

My most success has been with RSVP. I’ll concentrate on that one.

2. Choose a pen name

This can be an absolute date-killer. Or it can be an instant in. For example, I was searching for a friend of mine on RSVP to show the girl mentioned in the opening. I looked for a guy between 35 and 40 living on the bay. Here are some guys I would never date, without even looking at their pictures:

CuteEuroMale, Metrosexual007, Laidbackguy71, Kissesdeep1000m, Hawkz2011

Here are some guys who, if I was a girl with similar interests to me the guy, would pass onto the next round:

Shivermetimbers (gotta love a pirate), Bombadill, EdRooneysOffice (save Ferris!), BashfullyCheeky, ilikebooks (but I wish he’d used capitalisation), JustGotBackToAus (travel: tick!), EmbraceAdventure (ditto).

My own moniker was OmenToo. It amused me, did nothing for anyone else, except for the girl who said that she was slightly disturbed by the demonic references. See? Names help.

3. Choose a photo

Once they’ve gotten past the scary screen name, they’ll have to deal with the photo. For all of you out there reading, gorgeous folk that you are, this shouldn’t be a big problem. However, there are a few pointers that might help:

–       don’t wear sunglasses – your eyes are your best feature, no matter what you think.

–       Don’t use photos that you’ve taken yourself by holding your phone out at arms length, or standing in a mirror. Self-taken photo = “I have no friends”. It might be false. You may have hundreds of friends. Then, we ponder, why couldn’t one of them  taken a photo for you?

Do as I say, not as I do

The highlighted section is one of my profile pictures

–       Don’t use photos of you and your ex with your ex cropped out. Seriously, that disembodied arm could either be an ex-girlfriend or Thing from the Addams Family. Either way, not pleasant.

–       If you’ve been somewhere brilliant or done something breathtaking, AND you had a friend or total stranger take your photo, AND your ex or Thing wasn’t in the shot with you, why not use it as a profile shot? You in front of the Sphinx is way cooler than you in front a brick wall.

4. Write your profile

The penultimate step. Also, the hardest. I’ve written a novel. I’ve written three full-length plays and innumerable short stories. My online dating profile was the hardest thing I’ve ever written (to my darling fiancé: don’t worry, I haven’t started on the vows yet). Profile writing is an art. Compressing yourself into the breathtaking first-impressions-count summary of the century isn’t just difficult, it’s virtually impossible. But the following might help:

People who run these sites keep saying “don’t say you have a great sense of humour, show it.” My profile ran to Dad jokes and Monty Python quotes, but it worked. And girls knew what they were getting: bad puns and pop culture overload.

Living in Australia, it was useful to stick a bit of Nihongo in my profile, because it was unusual here. What is special about you? Make sure it’s in your opening statements.

You should increase “How do I look?” from “Average” to “Petty damn good”. Don’t tell me you’re “a little overweight” when you’re actually quite slim, as far as Australia’s average is concerned. A lot of guys (and girls) will do searches with a baseline of Great or whatever. One of my fiancé’s more embarrassing stories about me is that one of her reasons for seeing me in the first place was that I wasn’t overly interested in body image, as I picked “average” body type and upwards. My response was “Oh, no. I just know that women usually underestimate their attractiveness and didn’t want to discount a beautiful woman with low self-esteem”

Conversely, don’t lie. On one date, my supposedly “slim” date (with no photo) sat in the booth of the restaurant where we were to meet, red flower in her hand. I had to look twice to make sure she wasn’t under this 150kg imposter. And I’m not so callous as to just cut and run, which was my first impulse. But I felt a little betrayed at the lie, and the date went absolutely nowhere.

5. Go on dates

This sounds obvious, but the fact of the matter is, you can be on all the dating sites you want. You can have the perfect profile and have guys or girls contacting you in a flood of anticipatory longing. But if you never meet any of them, you’ll die alone. With your cats. And an old dressing gown. Yelling “WILL YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN?” But you don’t have a lawn. Trust me. It’s not good. And don’t have unreasonable expectations. I’ve been on some shocking dates. And some ok dates. And a couple of fantastic dates that went nowhere but both of us had a good time. And a couple of fantastic dates that led to long-term relationships.

And one that ended in proposal by the water in Williamstown, with her laughing through her “yes” because I’d pretended to drop my sunglasses so I could get down on one knee.

So online dating can be fun. It is a minefield of hidden messages and secret rules (and codes for meetings of secret government agencies) which you’ll only decipher after going on a few dates and saying “ah, so THAT’S what it means”, but it’s worth it. My friend told me:

“I work seven days a week, so if I have spare time, I want to spend it with my friends.”

Which is totally fine. And as I said, go on a few dates and you’ll start to learn how to weed out the unsuitable from their profiles. But in today’s 7-days-a-week lifestyle, with our insular, Facebook-driven social lives and our forsaking of bush dances, ballrooms and church picnics, we need other avenues to find that special someone and propagate the species.

I found my special someone. Now, Grasshopper, I have taught you what I know. Go out into the world and become a man.

Or get yourself one.

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