After 1,500 dates, Mark Restuccia still can’t find The One. Why? Because the internet has turned him into a serial first-dater. Too much choice is not a good thing, he argues

My name is Mark Restuccia. I am a stand-up comedian and the most prolific internet dater in my weight class. I’ve been on almost 1,500 first dates in an effort to find the perfect woman. You’re probably thinking I sound like your worst nightmare and a bit of a player. I swear I’m not. I didn’t join a dating site because I’m a Lothario, I wanted – want – a girlfriend, but somewhere along the line, the internet got in the way.

Description: Now, internet dating was pretty taboo back then

Now, internet dating was pretty taboo back then

At school, I was bullied by a gang (well, more of a netball team, really), and I’d given in to the fact that I’d never get a girlfriend. I always seemed to ask a girl out just as I crossed into the ‘friend’ category. I also had no idea how to talk to girls. I thought a good chat-up line was, “Nice shoes – my nan used to have a pair of them.” All I ever wanted was a soul-mate and a best friend rolled into one. And that’s what the girls I knew wanted too. Just not with me.

Then, about ten years ago, I discovered a dating site called Dating Direct. Now, internet dating was pretty taboo back then. No one admitted they met on a dating site, so I assumed it would be full of oddballs. But I logged on and couldn’t believe how many good-looking people were on there. The site was full of attractive, intelligent, available women who were actively seeking boyfriends. Not only that, you could specify exactly what kind of woman you’d like to meet, from profession to eye colour.

Website: DatingDirect.com

I began my search. I trawled through some profiles and it was pretty easy to weed out the people I immediately wrote off – and I don’t mean just judging potential dates on looks (although I obviously did that too). For instance, for me, women pictured doing adrenaline sports or building schools with African children were out. I don’t want to go out with someone who’s going to make me get a part-time job on holiday. And the ‘bathroom mirror shot’ was an instant turn-off. Men are as guilty of this as women, but seriously, people, it makes you look like you’ve got no friends to take a photo of you. The worst example I’ve seen is someone who didn’t take the trouble to flush the toilet before taking the photo. When it came to writing my profile, I wanted to stand out, so it went something like this: “If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a man, in which case you shouldn’t really be looking at me. I’m here for a partner in crime, as I’m looking to do over a few petrol stations in the West London area. I’m a glass-half-full kind a guy, mainly because I’m very clumsy carrying drinks. I sometimes work hard and play hard, depending how much Viagra I take, and I’m always kind to animals (in front of people).”

Maybe women were sick of reading clichés about the love of red wine, DVDs and sofas, but unbelievably, it worked. So it was on to the email chat. At this point, I should point out that people (me) can be very snobby about spelling and grammar. It’s not attractive when someone in their mid-thirties still can’t spell. It doesn’t matter as much in emails, but on your main profile, take the time to spellcheck. The worst example of this is when I saw a list of ‘likes’ in a girl’s profile, saying: “Going to the cinema, eating out my nan” If never a comma was needed, eh?

My first ever online date didn’t look much like her photo. For a start, her hair was a different colour, which she referenced. I politely said, “That’s fine, grey’s my favourite colour.” But joking aside, despite no ‘chemistry’ (a word you hear a lot in internet dating), we got on well. She’d been online dating way longer than me, and during the date became an Obi-Wan Kenobi-type mentor. I’d registered for three months and she advised me to get my money’s worth by dating a lot of women. She had only a couple of days left, and said she’d be making full use of them.

That advice was to be my undoing.

Description: I was put off by someone because they had a BlackBerry instead of an iPhone

I was put off by someone because they had a BlackBerry instead of an iPhone

Soon enough, I was going out with four or five women a week. When one didn’t tick all the boxes, I’d move on – there were endless options, after all. I was chatting to loads of different people from loads of different websites at one time. Friends of mine who owned sites like toyboywarehouse.com and lovestruck.com were feeding me free membership. Why would I refuse? But still, I held out hopes of meeting The One, and one of the main driving forces was to make my dear mother proud. All she ever wanted was to see me settled and happy, so when she got ill with cancer, I really stepped up the chase. At one point, I was going out with three women a day in a futile attempt to find perfection. The more I looked for it, the harder it was, and the fussier I got. Recently, I was put off by someone because they had a BlackBerry instead of an iPhone and I wouldn’t be able to play Draw Something with them. I know. The last girlfriend I had, I met in a bar among a group of friends. We simply fancies each other and went out on a date, without worrying about whether one of us was a vegetarian or if we preferred lattes or cappuccinos. But online, with all the search functions, you can refine your search to find ‘the perfect woman’. On paper. But you don’t know what someone is really like until you meet them. Having all this pre-prepared information is damaging. When you meet someone ‘naturally’, you know nothing, it’s just about the physical attraction and excitement of someone new.

Description: Website: lovestruck.com

Website: lovestruck.com

Online dating has ruined my ability to live in the moment. It’s ruined my ability to settle on one person. I rarely get to a second date, as I’d rather be alone than with someone incompatible. And if one bit of information raises even the tiniest of red flags, it’s easy to write them off as incompatible and log back on for another try.

That’s not a good thing. Deep down, I know there’s no make-believe world with a queue of women waiting for me to date them, where finally I get to the end of the line and see the perfect avatar, tapping her watch, asking what took so long. But it’s so hard to say no. new people join dating sites every day, and a ‘Monday morning matches’ email from your site doesn’t help. It’s impossible to escape unless you cut off all your internet access.

So, I’ve gone ‘cold turkey’ to see if I can trust myself to find someone in the real world. I’ve even been for hypnotherapy to cure my addition. Although, would you believe, my therapist was actually someone I’d previously been on a date with. Anyway, so far, I’ve attended the only wedding in the country with no single people and been out to a friend’s birthday in a gay club, but I did bump into a girl in a coffee shop, which made her drop her croissant, and resulted in an apology, a smile, an exchange of $4.64 and a brief chat. I can do this!

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