Thursday, October 19, 2006
(This is an article I wrote a while back about my experiences in the online dating world.)
I was very skeptical about entering the world of online dating when I initially signed up with match.com. As a 48-year-old single male with more issues than Reader’s Digest, my expectations were understandably low to start with. I’ve never been married, I don’t have any kids and my best friend is my shrink. I decided early on that I would probably be satisfied having a relationship with someone who simply had fewer problems than I did.
I had heard both horror stories as well as wondrous tales about the online dating experience, some undoubtedly as much fiction as truth, and all of them left me extremely tentative about entering the fray. One woman I know went on 26 online dates before meeting a suitable mate, whom she eventually married. I admired her thoroughness and determination. When I went to purchase a new car, I only looked at about five vehicles before making a decision. This gal kicked more emotional tires than I can count on all my appendages combined, which means she’s either a.) a complete control freak, b.) very high maintenance. c.) desperate as hell.
I guess what I felt might make me so potentially easy to match up with someone was the simple fact that after so many years of being either lonely or in dysfunctional relationships, I was quite frankly numb. A woman with a pulse who had the ability to talk in complete sentences would do just fine. My expectations were understandably quite low.
To get set up, I put a fairly honest and rather simple description of myself on match.com along with a recent photo. I hate it when people put misleading pictures of themselves online. If they say they’re 40 years old and the picture shows them standing in front of a Chevy Vega wearing a peace sign necklace and bell bottoms, you can pretty much tell that the photo is about a current as an old copy of the Magna Carta.
I immediately got responses to my profile and a few stood out right away. One woman sounded really nice and her picture was incredible. A really hot looking 30-something blonde with a killer body in a little bikini, she immediately caught my eye.
Two weeks later, after a series of e-mails back and forth, we met at a restaurant on Union Street in San Francisco. When I got there, I had problems finding the place. She was blocking it, along with the sun. The last bikini this gal wore had to have been the size of the Bikini Islands. I admit, I’m no svelte athlete myself, but the upper sections of this individual’s arms were bigger than my legs. I am so grateful that the place where we met was a buffet; otherwise I would have had to take out a small business loan to cover the bill.
I’m not someone who is usually too hung up on looks, but to be deceived to this degree didn’t sit too well with me. I could see she had a pretty face, and I’m assuming that the photo she had on match.com was at one time in the distant past actually her. But, since then she had gorged her way into being the behemoth that sat right in front of me – well, actually all around me. Discouraged and feeling defrauded, I bailed out halfway through the tiramisu – it was all-you can-eat and I could tell she was just getting started.
Undaunted, I went home and got back on the computer to see if there were any honest people out there who wanted a guy they wouldn’t be tempted to eat.
The next woman I started talking to was a school teacher from Berkeley. We met for coffee on a Sunday morning in a little café down on Telegraph. She was gorgeous, intelligent, vibrant, compelling, funny and….extremely opinionated. Listening to her was like watching CNN, the O’Reilly Report, MSN, 60 Minutes, Crossfire and the 10:00 News simultaneously on crystal meth.
Within minutes, I knew all of her feelings on Bin Laden, Bush, Rice, Cheney, Hillary, Robertson, Gore (both Al and Tipper) abortion, illiteracy, baby seals, childhood diabetes, fossil fuels, the greenhouse effect, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Bosnia and some other countries I’d never heard of.
When she wasn’t hugging trees, creating colorful protest signage or pelting right wingers with rotten, but always organic fruit, this woman was angry at everything she felt was wrong with the world. At first, I thought it was inspiring. Wow, here’s someone with a set of beliefs that she’s not afraid to live by.
But, eventually I found out that one of the main items on this gal’s list of diatribes was the entire male race. She wasn’t just angry at the wrong things in the world, she was mad at the world in its entirety, at the human race in general, and men in particular.
Eventually she began to focus on all of the many things that are wrong with me and started a crusade against them. Needless to say, I bailed even more quickly from her than I did from Jabba the Hut.
Returning back to my Compaq Presario like a puppy that had just been chastised for peeing on the carpet, I slowly but reluctantly got back into the online dating game. I changed over to another web site, eharmony.com, figuring I’d have better luck. But, what scared me was that I started to see a lot of the same photos and profiles that I had seen on match.com.
I began to realize that there are people out there who are addicted to online dating. They use it like a shopaholic uses malls or a junkie uses smack. It’s a seductive vehicle, I must admit. Where else can you shop for potential mates and bid on them like baseball cards on e-bay? Where else can you meet so many different people in such a short time and in one location? When you go to the Humane Society to look for a pet, they only have a couple dozen cats and dogs there, maybe 40 at the very most. But, the selection on a popular dating site can provide you with hundreds, even thousands of viable choices.
So, I continued my search with a vengeance and a new-found commitment. I figured hey – maybe that woman who dated 26 guys had it right – play the field and have some fun and if you never find Mrs. Right, so be it. Play the human love lotto and let the chips fall where they may. Life isn’t fair, in fact, it specializes in being unfair. But, I thought, what the heck, I won’t invest too much into the process so how badly can I get hurt?
I’m happy to report that ever since I took that attitude things have been great. I’m not quite at 26 dates yet. I think I’ve met about 11 women online. But, instead of looking at it like a do-or-die situation, I treat each experience like a fun new adventure. That way I’m totally at ease, there are zero expectations and consequently no disappointments.
I used to think online dating was a quagmire of false hopes and a respite from our shallow lives. But, now I know that’s exactly what it is and consequently the whole thing is just a lot more fun.
I hope Chewbacca has lost a few pounds, because she seemed nice enough, between mouthfuls. And I hope Ms. Berkeley has mellowed a bit. Maybe I’ll meet up with one or both of them again on another dating site in the not-too-distant future and we can look back at the entire mess and have a good laugh. But, one thing I’m sure of is that this time around it will be better, because I’ve put the whole online dating thing in perspective. I’m happy with it and content with myself -- for the first time in a long, long time.