As a happily married man, I have not had the dubious pleasure of dipping my toe into the murky waters of online dating. I have friends who met and are happily married thanks to the power of the internet and have several more for whom the idea of checking their email fills them with dread. Quite aside from the usual array of freaks and weirdos concomitant with such activities, the language of the dating scene has changed a fair bit since I was a boy. Forget WLTM (would like to meet) and GSOH (good sense of humour), there’s a whole array of terms to describe the unpleasant and unsavoury things people will do as they jockey for position in the online dating race to the bottom. If ever there was an activity to provide us with a new array of words and meanings, it’d be the mating game. “The power of love is a curious thing – make a one man weep, make another man sing” as a famous philosopher once said.
How about I shut up and get on with the words? OK then. These are all the ones I’ve come across that stand out for me because of their frequency of use, or just because I think they are words or phrases that have been re-used creatively. Please feel free to add your own at the bottom of the page but please try not to start a whole new battle of the sexes in so doing. There are no ads on this blog, so I don’t need the page views to make a few bucks. Thanks.
Catfish: One of the probably more famous ones in recent times, largely thanks to the somewhat bizarre antics of a US Football player named Manti Te’o. During Te’o’s rise in fame as a Notre Dame College football major to playing for the San Diego Chargers, he mentioned his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. After the story broke about her dying in a car crash following a battle with Leukaemia, the public were largely sympathetic. Until it came to light that Kekua never existed. She had been an online relationship and was, in fact a man, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Te’o had been catfished. The word itself comes from the plot of the 2010 mockumentary, Catfish, in which a young photographer begins an online relationship with ‘Megan’ via Facebook. In a series of unlikely events (at least in terms of a real documentary) it becomes clear that Megan is really a construct of a real girl called Megan but mostly in Angela – her own mother’s – imagination, as it was she really doing the wooing.
It’s all pretty convoluted but the term comes from a conversation about people who ‘keep one moving, keep one alive’ in which the story is told of Atlantic fishermen who transported live cod in barrels to market. Often, the cod would move very little, causing the muscles to atrophy and the flesh to be worthless. A couple of catfish tossed in the barrel would nip at the tails of the cod, keeping them swimming until they reached market. Catfishing can be – and often is – used for nefarious or fraudulent purposes, such as the serving soldier scam, or simply to bump up the credibility or kudos of the person concerned, about as effective as a pair of rolled up sports socks in your underpants. The truth will find ye out, or so I’m told. Alternatively, it can be used as a front to experiment with ones sexuality. By creating a persona whose sex is the opposite of your own could be useful in exploring what a same-sex relationship might be like.
Love Bombing: A phrase first used by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (older readers will probably remember the Moonie cult) it refers to a veritable deluge of love and affection, showered upon you night and day. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, it isn’t, if done for the right reasons but, as you’ve doubtless guessed, love bombing is very far from right. As it’s usually perpetrated by males (usually) I’m going to use “Axel” as the guy and “Rose” as the girl. A meets M via the dating app, Tinder (more on this later). They go out for coffee, he is amazing. I mean, he totally gets her. Things start to move fast, he sweeps her off her feet, he calls her every day, there are little love notes in unexpected places, she can’t move for flowers and that thing that she once told him she liked. It’s almost as if he trawled her entire online presence to find out every detail about her…
Rose is loving it – who wouldn’t, right? She’s never met such a kind, caring and attentive lover as Axel before and she really feels she has found – in his words – her ‘soul mate’. After time, the cracks begin to show in Axel’s perfect veneer. He gets a little tetchy about her seeing too much of her friends. Her ex? Right out. Why is she spending so much time with other people? I thought we were besties? Why are you being so unfair to me? Once the pattern of psychological manipulation and bullying ends, the physical violence begins. Just a little restraint here, a slap there. he doesn’t mean it, he’s just worried, he cares. Then there’s the time she had to tell her mother she walked into an open cupboard because Axel got a bit heavy when he found out she’d started evening classes.
This is the worst-case scenario but the fact remains that the love bomber will see you as prey, sniff out any weakness and drive the wedge in. They are sociopaths who read people extremely well and are very used to getting their way. The lovey-dovey is a means to an end and they will often be incredibly contrite, showering you with gifts and affection after physical or mental abuse. The tough part is trying to figure out, in the beginning, if he’s a love bomber or just a soppy guy whose hormones are all a-flutter. You’re on your own there but as soon as you get a whiff of what’s to come – go. For more and better-explained info, have a look at the excellent article by Dale Archer MD in Psychology Today.
Negging: Not nagging by a poor speller, unfortunately. Although that would be annoying. No, negging is the ‘grown up’ (quotes used advisedly) equivalent of pulling the hair of the girl you have a crush on in school. I’d say this was more of an even split as far as the sexes go, although I base that on zero evidence. It’s a word blog, not Stats Nerd Weekly. I will preface the upcoming paragraph by stating, for the record, that I have never tried this technique. No sir, back in the old days, if I thought there was any inkling a woman might want to have sex with me, I didn’t want to blow it. So to speak.
So, here I am, international playboy, at the club, the beats is a bumpin’ etc. I spy an attractive lady so I walk up, Martini in hand and say: “you’re pretty cute for an African girl”. So far, so racist. If she hasn’t thrown her drink at me, or called the cops, I might go on to say. “Hahaha, seriously though, you’re very attractive, buy you a drink?”. I return with the drink, we talk, I flirt a little, a bit cheeky – “wow, are those boobs real? No, I mean it’s just like…isn’t one slightly bigger?” So it goes on. I chat a bit more and follow up with how she’d look much better with a little eyeliner. “Not a lot, I love your natural look”.
So, you can no doubt see where it’s going. Basically, the trick – and it is a trick – is to throw the target off balance and pile on the negativity so she is committed to defending herself and in turn, trying to win your approval. Before she knows it, she subconsciously wants to impress you and then she’s squarely on the back foot. Needless to say, this is hardly a tactic used to secure a long-term partner. If you want to beat the negger, just walk away. Or tell him to fuck off, then walk away, whatever works for you.
Ghosting: Pretty simple, this one. If you have no morals, no spine and are just about the weakest human being on the planet, this is an excellent way of ending a relationship. Quite simply, you cut off all communication and sever all ties with the victim. Delete his number from your phone. Block him on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Blacklist his email, change your Netflix password (I know, harsh). Rather than the inconvenient kerfuffle of “it’s not you, it’s me” or “I think we’ve become different people” this is a guaranteed way of not having to face up to the fact that something is wrong. You know what happened at the end of Lost when we all felt cheated and had no idea of what the hell was going on? Well, that’s how it’d feel to be ghosted, probably worse. Man (or woman) up and tell them, it’s kinder.
Gaslighting: My favourite but only because the etymology is directly traceable with no ambiguity. The practise itself is a dreadful one and is used only by advanced practitioners, i.e. bastards and sociopaths. The basic principle is to slowly wear down the victim until he or she believes they are crazy, or must be because “x would never do a thing like that”. The first thing to do is to create a negative narrative, then to reinforce it by constantly repeating it. If called out on it, deny everything, twist the argument to put the blame on the victim. Never give up, never back down. It’s all about manipulation and control. In the end the victim is very suggestible, as he or she will no longer be able to rely on the quality of their own judgement. The term is coined directly from the 1944 Ingrid Bergman film, Gaslight. In the film, Bergman is convinced, slowly but surely by her husband, Gregory (Charles Boyer) that she’s going mad – and a very good film it is too, even if only to show the terrible power this form of control can exert. I have to admit that the Wiki page for this is about the most concise and accurate for the layman, so have a link.
Swipe Right: Pretty obvious if you know the mobile phone app concerned. To ‘swipe right’ is sometimes used casually to mean you find someone attractive, as in “I’d swipe right on George Clooney” (for younger readers, he was once Batman. No, seriously). The Tinder dating app is a largely visual affair, relying as it does not so much on the ‘bio’ – a precis of the person’s qualities or salient points – as it does on them being the sort of person with whom you could imagine doing rude things. To use Tinder, you simply swipe the screen left, browsing a set of pictures of potential partners (some of whom may be real people and not Russian Mafia or Nigerian scammers) and when you see someone that catches your eye, you swipe right, a kind of counter-intuitive action if you consider that swiping is like reading a book. This presumably cuts down on unintentional matches. The swipee (is that a word? I guess it is) will then get an indication she or he has been swiped and may then respond in the fashion they see fit.
Netflix and Chill: Sex. There, I said it. Quite possibly started innocently enough as an invitation to watch Netflix (other subscription entertainment services are available) and chill (out) with a friend, probably of the opposite sex. Of course, once the Netflix movie or episode was finished and the chilling done, there would have been a terribly large gap at the end of the evening. What to do, what do? Of course, Netflix and chill these days is all about sex and very little to do with films. I’m genuinely not sure if I’d be disappointed if either scenario played out as I imagined. I do like a good movie.
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