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Thursday, 24 October 2013

(Mis)Adventures in Online Dating

Against my will, my better judgement and my self-righteous protestations ('I will fall in love with the dreamy man sitting next to me on my next international flight!' and, 'I want romance!  I want to share a beautiful story about how we met!'  and, 'Hello, I meet new people all the time anyway!') I joined an online dating site this past spring.  I did it because my female roommates did.  We would sit on couches in our living room.  I would watch while they checked their profiles for messages and catalogue-shopped for men.  I felt left out.  It was peer pressure really.  And the fact that I was left at home three nights a week while they gallivanted about town on various fun dates.

Catalogue-shopping for our next date.

The site I joined was called OkCupid.  I suppose that means something to the effect of, 'Okay Cupid!  I'm ready!  Take aim now with your cyber arrows and computer clicks...'  Anyhow, my roomies helped me to sign up.  Within an hour I had heard from someone.  A man.  'Oooh!  This is so exciting!'  I squealed.  Except that...it wasn't...The very first man to reach out to me was a very kind person I already knew.  He has chased after me at our local folk festival for the past five years calling out, 'Freckles!' and asking me on dates.  I have spent the past five folk festivals studiously avoiding contact.  I expect that he is an amazing person, but I am most definitely not interested.  Clearly, I've run into online dating pitfall #1:  you make yourself very available to others.  I suppose that's the point.  But maybe you don't want to be found so easily by everyone...

I woke up early the next morning and the first thought that crossed my mind was, 'I wonder if anyone has sent me a message through OkCupid today??'  I reached for my iPad while still in bed.  And abruptly sat up.  'Uh oh...'  I realized that I was already addicted.  I had to quit before this went any further.  And so I disconnected and removed my profile before ever actually communicating with anyone or going out on a date.



My family and friends kept surreptitiously prodding when it came to the topic of my love life...'Well...have you considered dating online?'  I referred to the aforementioned 'Freckles!' example and then to appease them I'd say, 'Well...if I don't meet somebody awesome this summer, I suppose I'll give online dating a try in the fall'.

And then the fall rolled around.  I was committed.  So I took a peek at Match.com.  I hated it.  It 'matched' me as a 91% perfect fit with someone who had broken my heart in the spring.  Oh, and 'Freckles!' appeared again almost instantly.  So I quit.  I looked at eHarmony.  It is prettier than the other dating sites.  It asks more relevant questions.  'Freckles!' is here as well but heck, I've gotten used to him by now.  Seeing him here just feels like bumping into an old friend. 

There is a saying in the online dating world that certain sites are for folks seeking marriage and others are for people with a much shorter timeline in mind.  They say that eHarmony fits under the former.  I clicked around, reading about various men.  Much to my dismay, I could not view any photos or communicate with people unless I paid 3 simple installments of only $19.99 a month.  I mean, "WHAT?!!!!!!!!!!?!?"  This process is so painful already....and now I have to PAY for it?!!!  You've got to be kidding me.  I should be PAID to share my most intimate personal details here in this way!  Disgruntled, I took the very cheap approach and began to use the one free function of the site.  The 'I might like you' winky face.  I sent winky faces to numerous men at random (you may notice from my blog that I do like the winky face...)  In any case, I heard back from some of these men.  They began to sound interesting.  I shared this with my sisters while home visiting for Thanksgiving.  They insisted that we pay to explore this further and that at the very least, it would be worth it for a night of entertainment. 

So I very unwillingly pulled out my credit card.  And I paid the bare minimum - which in this case was $60.  My sister wisely suggested that if I get one or two $60 dinners out of the deal it will provide a decent return on investment.  I'm not sure about that logic as I tend to pay for myself (and often my date as well)  but I clicked 'confirm' nonetheless.  We poured some Prosecco and began perusing the catalogue.  It was fun for me for the first five minutes.  It was fun for my sister all night.  Below, for what it's worth, I will share my insights.

I expect this picture may make you think I found the love of my life.  No.  It simply represents my sister and I drinking champagne.  The post is too plain without images, ok?

First, I have determined that men who date online do not have any female friends.  Or sisters.  Or mothers...but wait, that's not possible.  They all have belly-buttons (or at least I hope they do...)  I digress.  In any case, if these men DID have sisters, or females of some form in their lives, they would not be allowed to post the profile pictures that they do.  In no particular order, here are the photos that men choose to post to their online dating profiles:


The requisite 'bad mirror selfie' shot


The 'me and my siiick tattoo' shot
The 'me & my buddies love drinking' shot
The 'I spend most of my time with my muscle car' shot

 
 
The 'I can't quite cut out my ex-girlfriend' shot
 
 
I realize that I am being mean and judgemental.  My own profile could use some work.  But boys, I'm just trying to help!  Please allow me to instruct you as to what a girl wants to see (read: what I want to see)  Your face.  Smiling.  You doing what you love (is it really just drinking beer with your buddies??)  You and your mom.  I imagine us gals have terrible photos and ridiculous profiles too.  I haven't looked.  Though at this rate, I may have to, as I've burned through all my male 'matches' and haven't felt interested yet.  
 
All the kind people who met their partners at parties ten years ago, in college or (lucky you!) in highschool sweetly assure me that they know tons of people who are using, 'Oh, what is it called...."Lots of Fish in the Sea"?'  And that they even went to a wedding last summer where the couple had met online.  I can't help but find this patronizing and painful.  I consider myself to be a normal, awesome person - a 'catch' if you will.  I believe that I shouldn't 'have' to date online and I don't want to.  Well, let me tell you something.  We all think that.  The reality is, if you're single today, you are probably dating online.  Most of us are.  In fact, Stanford University conducted research that shows that one in three relationships now start online.  (Ummm...what?  Stanford is studying dating?  Don't we still have to cure cancer?)  Anyhow, apparently if current trends hold, come 2015 online dating will be the most common way for somebody to enter into a new relationship or meet their future spouse.
 
I have hated the process so far.  My distaste for meeting a man through a computer screen biases my writing - and I apologize for all the offensive things I have written.  The truth is, though I have an online profile, I am unqualified to comment on the whole thing.  I have yet to actually meet a single man in person - and that's where it may all change for me.  After all - it's people that I love.  Not computer screens.  I can't seem to feel any attraction to an image.  Nor excitement over an 'about me' paragraph.  I still can't shake the stigma.  Nor can I shake the romantic dreams of love at first sight, 'the one' and having a dreamy man write a guitar song for me.  But the truth remains:  behind each of those profile images lies a unique being who, just like me, is waiting to fall in love.
 
I commend all of you beautiful and bold people who are posting profiles online.  You are asking for what you want and reaching out to connect with others.  It takes courage and a lot of patience.  It seems that this is the way of our times.  Initial contact may be slightly different from bumping into someone at a cocktail party, but I am convinced that if you can make it past the screen, that falling in love will still feel the same.
 

P.S.

Oh!  A very important post-script:

Quite frankly, my mom is THRILLED by the idea of online dating (most people who aren't doing it for themselves are)  Anyhow, back to my case and my mother.  I think she's champing at the bit to log in and find my future husband.  It's the closest access she's yet had to an arranged marriage.  She and her friends jokingly plan arranged marriages between their progeny during their dinner parties.  I find this appalling (and...ok, somewhat hilarious).  But in truth, for modern times, eHarmony, etc. are the accessible and appropriate (?? I'm still dubious) way for a WASPy Canadian mother to plan her daughter's arranged marriage.  In fact, Mom actually gave me a book a few years ago (after a particularly bad boyfriend choice) entitled, 'First Comes Marriage'.  I, obviously, abhor the whole idea.  But Mom, yes, I hear your point.  And yes you can have the login information for my eHarmony account.


Thanks Mom.




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  1. At first glance, this might appear unrelated, but especially after reading the comments and looking at all those in their 20's to 40's around me, it really started to resonate. Anecdotal evidence suggests that you are navigating the same uncharted territory as many of the current generation. There are myriad factors, too numerous and nuanced to explore fully here. One that comes to mind after reflecting on your article is that we appear to have so much "choice", thrown at us from every direction (ie. catalogues upon catalogues of people on dating sites, endless "presentations" of people and lives on Social Media - not actual people or lives.)

    In a society where, in addition to being consumers and byproducts of extraordinary material wealth, historically speaking, almost every projection of ourselves and the people around us is now also a product to be consumed. We are untethered and untethering from tradition, historic need, and purpose. It is a wonder that we are not more lost.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/young-people-japan-stopped-having-sex

    -T : )

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  2. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for reading and for sharing your insights!
    I so appreciate you sharing this article - wow, fascinating! I love the final paragraph, in which the therapist states that 'she sees daily that people crave human warmth...' - she's hit it on the head - and that's the piece that's not coming through the screen for me....

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