IT was nine days ago, on a FaceTime call to my best friend Laura, that her frustration with my bewildered, preoccupied face got the better of her and she exclaimed: “For goodness sake, get on Tinder and meet people. You need the distraction, woman!”
She was right.
Ulrika has found the third lockdown hard especially due to the lack of social interaction
One of Ulrika’s profile pics on the app
This third lockdown has hit me hard — like so many others — and while our struggles are all relative, I’ve found the lack of social interaction tough.
Although I live in a nice house and have a great outside space, I’m basically at home with a 12-year-old boy, Malcolm, a 16-year-old girl, Martha, and a dog with leukaemia.
The only other adult I see is my ex-husband whenever he picks up or drops off our son.
Oh, and obviously I see people on my dog walks. But something has certainly been missing.
I have to admit, I have been uncompromising about the prospect of dating apps.
Not only am I a technophobe — I took 12 months to transfer my old phone to my new one — I’m also an old-fashioned bird.
I like things, in part, done the traditional way — certainly the “meeting someone” part.
When I was young that would happen in the pub or on a night out. It might even have happened in the workplace.
Ulrika – pictured here on a previous photoshoot – has been adverse to dating apps in the past
Someone caught your eye, brushed past you and made your knees weak- en, wafted their unique scent in your general direction or made your heart race at the sound of their voice.
It was basic, instinctive and animalistic.
Then the world changed. We all got mobile phones and romance went out of the window.
But I stood firm. I refused to be sucked in. I didn’t feel it would be the rightful place for my heart, my mind or my loins.
However, just over a year ago I was asked to endorse Lumen, a dating app for the over-50s.
As a 53-year-old, newly single woman, I was a pretty perfect fit and a sexy, provocative photoshoot was executed.
I looked and felt great. Yet I found the vast majority of men on there looked like they were over 60.
Some had photographed just the top of their balding heads, looked as if they had crawled out from under a stone or weren’t in possession of their right and proper faculties. I shuddered. Nothing appealed.
IT WAS PURE FANTASY
I’ve written in this newspaper about how I long for someone young and fresh and energetic, not staid and grey and dull.
Regardless of how superficial it sounds, I want “shiny”.
And then came lockdown three — once again with restrictions, remote-ness and estrangement.
And so it came to pass, that moment nine days ago, when in the virtual presence of my best friend I clicked on “join” on the Tinder app, purely to please her, to try to save and distract myself — and possibly be titillated.
I have many confessions but I will stick to this: I set my age range of potential suitors at 26 to 50. My oldest child, Cameron, is 26 and it would feel a bit thorny to throw my nets out to younger fish.
I posted three personal, natural pictures and didn’t add any words to define myself or suggest what I might be looking for. Just three photos and my age: 53.
From the outset, the process felt brutal. I was asked to swipe to like or dislike the little faces that popped up in front of me, at what seemed like a furious pace.
Ulrika posted three natural pictures and didn’t describe herself or suggest what she might be looking for, just adding her age: 53
I felt terrible for swiping left and said a little “sorry” every time. But I also came to the realisation that I’m essentially uncoordinated, and I unintentionally “liked” people I didn’t like the look of.
It felt pressurised and I found myself engrossed for a good hour without knowing.
I matched with a few young guys — and also those I’d inadvertently liked by mistake — but my spirits lifted.
There seemed to be a pattern to how conversations would go with younger guys.
They would initiate conversation, enquiring as to how I was and then, two or three questions in, they would ask if I wanted to be furnished with a picture of their Sgt Major.
I think, from that moment on, I always knew I wasn’t likely to find love’s young dream in this way.
I have to be honest, it was fun. It was a thrill and I happily engaged in chat with a couple of guys because I took it for what it was — pure fantasy.
If it’s a game for the guys, you can be damn sure I’ll make it a game for me, too. I also have needs, after all, and I won’t be made to feel shame or embarrassment because I do.
I’m done with the humiliation of women on account of their physical, sexual or erotic desires.
I’ve had enough of my fellow females being debased, discredited and dishonoured because they have other feelings than love and period pains. We have every right to express our sexual needs. And an even greater right to have them satisfied.
Ulrika is mum to four children: sons Malcolm and Cameron and daughters Bo and Martha
She says she’s really an ‘old-fashioned bird’
As if you didn’t know, we’re in a pandemic. The world is much altered. The opportunities for hooking up, meeting up, kissing a stranger in the pub, have been eroded. So there is a real place for dating apps — now more than ever.
They offer something essential for people — hope, despair and fantasy.
You might find a match who is interested in getting to know you, asks you questions about the shape of your life, and there could be hope for something profound.
But equally, if the script starts with a headless torso and his — or most likely someone else’s — exterior plumbing exposed, the chances are he’s not settling-down material.
If he issues you with a “shopping list” for sex, it could just be that he isn’t interested in what star sign you are.
However, there is a place and time for making superficial connections based on desire and longing. It is utterly possible to have virtual sex. It’s just impossible to have virtual intimacy.
I’ve enjoyed taking part in what I consider to be a giant social experiment. And while I didn’t spend much time on Tinder, I learnt more about modern life in that hour than I have in 53 years, and I’m still on there. And on another app.
Some people have definitely lost the ability to be decent and respectful — there is a lack of sincerity out there, truth and frankness has been lost.
A lot of modern dating life is about instant gratification and expendability.
But if you’re liberal, open-minded and willing to accept an element of brutality about the system, it might just fill a hole in your life.
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