December 04, 2008

Online Dating: A Retrospective

On the upside, online dating doesn’t get nearly the amount of flak it used to. People are marrying other people they met online; everyone knows at least one couple who met on the internet. It’s not creepy anymore—at least, not by definition. It is still occasionally creepy, as well as disheartening, sickening, exhausting and frustrating. In short, it’s like any other kind of dating, but you can do it without leaving the house.

When you sign up for a new service, there’s always a swell of promise. This is the site where the good men are, not the other site you’ve been using. This is where the smart, funny men abound. You bookmark a few people. You ‘wink’ and you ‘woo.’ You make a few ratings, take a few quizzes, earn a few badges or whatever. Then you get an email. Two emails! Men are fighting over you, begging for your affection. It goes to your head. You lie down before answering either of them, overcome by their desire.

When you get around to answering the next day, one of your suitors has left an epithet in your inbox for not answering him. You hurry to answer the other one, racing the sell-by date on his love, but he is… 19. You don’t really want to go to jail. You decline to answer, hoping that will be sufficient brush-off. While you’re there, take more tests. Answer more questions. Sooo many questions.

You decide to run your first search. After much thought, you enter ‘read’ into the text box, hoping to ensnare the literate. You realize after half an hour that the word ‘read’ has many applications in a paragraph; ‘not a big reader,’ ‘haven’t read since third grade lol’ and ‘IM me if you can read this’ among them. Dismayed but optimistic, you enter ‘book.’ Prospects are much better.

You wonder, flipping through, why so many people have pictures in tuxedos. Many of the pictures are in bad lighting from a straight-on angle, which frightens you. You make a resolution not to pursue anything with anyone who has only a single webcam shot. You reinforce that upon seeing said webcam shot minus any article of clothing. Wonder why so many men have guitars. Wonder why so many men are twenty-one. Wonder what in hell a 21-year-old is thinking when he uploads a picture of himself shirtless with his guitar. Talk self out of dropping him a note asking to speak with his mother.

On page seventeen of your search, you start to become disheartened. Reject the notion that the people who are here are ‘here for a reason,’ as your coupled friends would have you believe. There are good people here, you just haven’t found them yet.

As time wears on, you start to dismiss things that would have horrified you mere weeks ago: has children, smokes, liked the DaVinci Code. You keep flipping through the search pages, convinced that if you close the window your future husband will have been one click away. You start clicking on screen names you previously mocked, like “hot man 4 u” could just be misunderstood. Feel like Dorothy Parker at the Renaissance Festival. Resent evil elitist tendencies. Resolve to die alone, as relationships are for much nicer people.

Block skeezy shirtless man after fifth email demanding you turn on your IM, like, no. And: euugh.

Three months later. Winter has come. You stop shaving. Break resolution to never spend more than 20 minutes on any dating website and hit search pages for 3 hours. Feel as if you have been freebasing despair.

It occurs to you: You are slowly morphing into Cathy. Panic attack. Immediately schedule pity sex with sympathetic male friend, or wine on the couch with female friends. Realize you are actually not Cathy, but Bridget Jones. Feel bolstered by thoughts of Colin Firth.

Have epiphany: online dating has a lot to offer for the mainstream demographic. Assume, like in any given population, 90% of the members are ‘laid-back,’ ‘friendly,’ ‘easy-going’ people who ‘like to have fun,’ 5% are serial killers, and 4% are people who are too damn niche for their own good—smarty-pantsy, sarcastic evildoers of Galileo proportions. You belong to the latter group, and would actually only date about one percent. Since most of the world falls into that 90% bracket, the fault is entirely yours for wanting to date a tall man who can make you laugh so hard you wee yourself. 1% is a slim margin; you argue signing up for every possible site is fiscally irresponsible, especially when it’s so much cheaper to buy a cat.

Watch The Big Bang Theory. Relate.

Realize that online dating is literally a crapshoot; some days you get nothing, and some days you hit it big. Wink at a nice, well-read man, who happens to be tall. Await email response. Look back at other men you rated highly because they weren’t bad; compare to super-human future husband. Wonder what you were thinking.

Exchange a few emails with Prof. Tallpants. Realize he is a much nicer person than you. Hope you can fool him into going out with you. A few days go by without emailing; realize this is an online breakup. Mourn for twenty minutes, which would be longer, but you’re an Aquarius and he misused "construe" once, so how would you have raised the children? Bookmark two other men for rebound stalking. Stay off site for two weeks, eat carrots, do yoga.

Eventually... check email.

Edited to add: Sometimes it’s not as bad as all that. I have to remember that my love life mirrors my actual life; I’ve had a few MGM moments, but mostly split the difference between retarded and shameful. Online or in person, any hope I hold out for dating is tempered by adventure: I’m doing it as much for the one that takes me off the market as the one that comes to blows.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

How did you get into my head to write this post? :o)
G

Sarah Beedoo said...

I think women have a collective hive mind on this topic. At least all the ones I know. The really annoying thing is that all the women on there are smart, funny people that I would love to hang out with...

I need to have five sons and raise them in hilarity. For their future red-headed librarian wives.

Gibulet said...

Seriously, the smart women need to at least find someone to pony up the sperm and help us have the awesome sons.

We may not get the love of our lives, but future lucky women will thank us for creating an entire intelligent and sweet male generation from scratch.

This message brought to you by the realization that I WILL be alone with the cats, so I might as well volunteer.

Ian said...

I'm a bit late to this one, but the bit about receiving an angry note due to not replying struck me as funny.

When I stuck my toe into the frigid, cold water that was this experience, I was getting initial messages from women and then never getting replies to my replies.

Thank goodness for steamy, torrid affairs with co-workers; I'm not trying this again anytime soon unless I have to.