Four years ago, I exited the dating circuit. Back then, online dating was my singles lifeline. It was a way to meet new people, test the waters, gain experience, discover my likes and dislikes, and to learn about myself. It helped me feel connected, and occasionally made sure I had somewhere to go and someone to go there with.

Since then, I have watched a number of my friends go through similar experiences, leaving long-term relationships and entering the dating world: such a different place from all those years ago when we were starting out.

One of the most interesting things has been observing how much better my friends are at dating. I feel slightly cheated, as if I could have experienced so much more if only I was less cautious, less wary, and less afraid.

My friends have embraced modern dating in a way I never dared. Where I sat waiting by the virtual phone, my friends set their search criteria and dived right in for hook-ups, group encounters, and occasionally, relationships. Where I despaired at the lack of compatible matches and dearth of worthwhile messages, they hunted, eagerly responding to the kinds of overtly sexual messages that always seemed too aggressive to me, and sticking out the quiet friendly types who always seemed too shy.

I tended to hang back, waiting for something to happen. Sure, I went on dates; I even initiated some. Just not with the gusto I have witnessed in my single friends. Perhaps what I admire most is their willingness to put themselves out there, to know what they want and go after it. Sometimes they get hurt, but at least they try, and then try again.

It took meeting someone proficient at online dating, who confidently navigated his way through sexplorations on sites like Flirtfair and invited me along for the ride (you might recall me tweeting about KK at the time), to experience the adventures I craved.

If I were to have my time over, I would approach online dating strategically. To hell with gender stereotypes, lack of confidence and fear of rejection, I would not wallflower myself, but search for people I liked, instead of waiting for them to approach me. The best experiences I have had throughout my dating life have been with people I chose, rather than those who happened to choose me.

It has been good for me to see how dating can be done differently. These days I know how to stay safe and look after myself. I know how to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ unapologetically and with confidence, and I hope fear would not hold me back as once it did.

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