What happens when that sea is a poisoned swamp plagued of abnormal and mutilated feral fish that just want to devour you whole?

Plenty Of Fish (or POF as the kids call it nowadays) is an online dating service with over 100,000,000 registered singletons looking for love (and the occasional fuck boy who will totally destroy every inch of self-confidence and worth you have) and an astonishing 2 Billion views per month. POF has been ranked the number one dating site worldwide (sorry Tinder) and with remarkable figures like that, it’s not a surprise to learn why.

I first came across POF in 2007 (post-Britney meltdown) as a 24-year-old Gay male, single and frustrated with the amount of gay dating sites that promoted sex and promiscuity typically associated with online gay dating.

“The closest thing to a candlelit 3-course meal for us was the local Chicken Cottage under the flickering of a dodgy lamppost late at night.”

So when I first laid my eyes on POF it all seemed so, well… normal! This is how heterosexual people date!? I want a piece of this.

That was almost 10 years ago now, a decade of disastrous dating which has resulted in regrettable encounters, failed relationships, and cringe-worthy meets that would even leave the most optimistic dating hopeful shaking in their boots. I have had a love/hate relationship with POF over the years and there have been times where I have vowed never to return and deleted my profile in an emotional haste, yet always finding myself crawling back in humiliated shame.

So here I find myself again, back on POF.

I love romance, I am a hopeless romantic, hopeless being the most appropriate word, literally! My first ever serious relationship was at the ripe age of 19, my significant other in question was 16 and still in secondary school. We lasted for 4 years and to say it was an emotional teenage hormonal rollercoaster of emotions was an understatement.

To be honest, neither of us knew what true love or romance actually looked like, the closest thing to a candlelit 3-course meal for us was the local Chicken Cottage under the flickering of a dodgy lamppost late at night. Juvenile, that is the word best used to describe this relationship, young love amidst a society that truly didn’t understand us, it felt like us against the world when in all honestly we lived in each other’s pockets and lost our identity in the process.

The love soon fizzled out after we grew up and grew apart, both of us gagging for breathing space and the chance to learn, develop and evolve and above all else, grow up. That was my longest ever relationship and to this day a record that has not been broken, despite my very best intentions.

“These days I am more afternoon tea than Chicken Cottage.”

Since that relationship came to an apocalyptic end it has been a blink and you’ll miss it a whirlwind of dates and relationships that have not gone past the 6-month stage. The most I have managed has been 4 and a half months (go me!)

I’m older now, I know what I want from a relationship, and my tastes have grown more sophisticated. These days I am more afternoon tea than Chicken Cottage and I know what my idea of romance looks and feel like. I know my worth, I know what I can bring to a relationship and I know what I look for in another, yet despite my best intentions I still can’t seem to find him.

My dating life leaves a lot to be desired to say the very least. It seems to be a roulette of the most awkward, agonizing and cringe-worthy situations I could ever find myself in. The blatant disinterest, the inevitable painful silence or the fact both parties just don’t want to be there is palpable.

Illustration by Jimmy Hay | jimmyhay.co.uk

The struggle is indeed real, yet despite the obstacles and the emotional hardships, here I am, still looking and still longing that I find a physical and spiritual connection with another human being.

So I will continue to be the constant dating optimistic, getting those nervous yet excited first date jitters as I wait anxiously at our planned meeting point for my date to arrive.

Maybe this date will be the date where I meet the one?

Maybe he will fall in love with me at first sight?

Or maybe he will take one look at me and make his excuses and leave as he mutters something about his dog needing to be taken out for a walk.

So here I am again, creating another POF profile for what seems like the umpteenth time. You see, despite my disastrous dating life, I still want a boyfriend, and I know one day I will meet him. They say there is plenty of fish in the sea, but I say please save me from these shark infested waters and rescue me… whoever you are.

Michael Lee

@MangledMichael

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