When Willard Foxton broke up with his fiancé and subsequently another relationship ended badly, he decided that he wasn’t going to sit at home and mope. His blog 28 Dates Later charts his journey through the myriad of online dating, leading him on dates with cougars, psychics, animal haters, and satanic worshippers. Our Graham catches up with him after 22 dates to talk about broken penises, bad grammar and “Rape Jedis”.
Why did you decide to share your dating experiences with the world?
I’d read a blog called 52 First Dates by a woman who goes by the name CTS. She went on 52 dates- one a week for a year. I’ve always loved that blog but I always thought “Oh god, online dating- thank god I’ll never have to do it.” I work for two women who both met their husbands through online dating. They told me I’d be perfect – exactly the kind of man who does really on online dating, and that I’d be married in six weeks. So I started online dating and had a vague idea about blogging it, and went on my first online date and it was a complete disaster. I told everyone in the office and they were all doubled over laughing. So I sat down and thought to myself: “If I was reading a blog about online dating, what would I want to read?” and I thought that the most interesting aspects were that I’d never read one from a man’s perspective and that I’d never seen anyone do all the different dating sites. One of the first questions I had when I started was “what site shall I go on? Which is good?” I thought that if I go across the board I’d be OK, but unfortunately I’m a complete magnet for the bizarre. Most of my dates have ended up with the other person being completely bonkers.
Do your dates mind being written about?
I set myself some ethical guidelines, which were: no one that I wrote about would not know that I was going to blog the date; no one would be written about without their consent; girls get copy approval. This has made some things quite difficult, but there’s only been one post where I’ve had to cut everything about the woman. That was the woman who broke my penis.
Is the blog more about having something interesting to write about or are you look for the future Mrs Foxton?
I’m genuinely looking for the future Mrs Foxton. I’ve been out with a few women who I’ve really liked, and really enjoyed their company. I’ve said from the off that I would end the blog early if I found someone. It is real. I’m not just doing it for the shits of it. I am really looking for someone.
What has been your most disastrous date?
You’re up to date 22 of 28, so the finishing line is in sight. How do you feel about it coming to an end?
It’s been lots of fun. In a way I’ll miss it as it’s been so fun to do, but there’s some parts of me that’s looked at my diary sometimes and been like: “Oh my god I’ve got four dates this week, what the fuck am doing?” What a lot of people don’t realise about online dating is that it’s quite a mechanical process, it’s almost like having a second job, or even worse, it’s like applying for a second job.
Is it a bit like shopping?
It’s inevitable that you click on profile pictures that you like. For me, it’s visual from the off. Then there are some pretty easy ways to sort them: can’t spell; bad grammar. It’s harsh but as a journalist you can’t help it. I could never love a woman who confused “there”, “their” and “they’re”. More than shopping it’s like recruiting people, sifting through CVs.
The exception to that though has been the psychic. She sent me such a bonkers message that I thought I had to meet her. When I met her I got on really well with her, she was lovely. I went on a second date with her and unfortunately her psychic powers got in the way.
How much has the whole experience cost?
Not too much actually. Most dating sites will offer a free trial which, for my purposes is all I need. I’ve become quite good at keeping an eye out for free codes you can text. Or free messaging weekends. If you’re savvy about it and use multiple sites you can keep the bill quite low. My total spend, in terms of just the sites, has been about £100. A bit more than the average person. Where it’s really hurt is going on the dates. It’s not like I’ve got a permanent table at Le Gavroche, but it starts to get more expensive once you go on multiple dates. For a first date I guess I’d spend about £20. Sounds really cheap, but that’s the nature of it. If you’re spending £100 on a first date, you’re doing something wrong.
You’ve tried a broad spectrum of online dating sites. Do you have a favourite?
Guardian Soulmates is pretty good. I’m quite pretentious so I don’t mind it when someone says: “I really like organic yoghurt,” or something.
The off-the-wall one I like is Muddy Matches, farmer dating. I don’t know what it’s like in rural Lincolnshire but in London certainly it’s a great way to meet boys called Ralph or girls called Tamara, who wear pashminas and do church flowers and things like that.
What have you learnt from your 22 dates?
It’s actually been more like 50 dates to be honest. I’ve learnt a lot about online dating. I’ve also learnt that there is an enormous market for people who are bored at work. I’ve probably damaged Britain’s productivity, with 250,000 unique users.
Online dating gives a medium whereby you can meet people and everyone’s on the same page. When you ask someone from work “out for a drink” what does that mean? Are they looking? Are they single? But even after a first date, having a relationship with someone is hard.
I’ve learnt a lot about mechanics: how to do it well, how to do it badly. I’ve got to the point now where I’m really quite good at it. A lot of the “dating coaches” out there are full of shit. Taking money off idiots. I don’t see any of this advice working from these sleazy, misogynist websites. The people who I refer to as the “Rape Jedis”- the pick-up artists- I think that they are largely full of shit and are largely just awful people. I’ve spoken to some of them, and one of them, I’m pretty sure he had a border line personality disorder. A lunatic. Someone should be tracking him down because he’s mounting women’s heads on spikes somewhere. The FBI should arrest him.