I’ve always spoken out quite publicly (ranted on my Twitter) against online dating, and I’ve been poo-pooed by almost everyone for it, even, allegedly, my biggest fan (you know who you are). People always come at me with the classic “don’t knock it until you try it” reasoning, at which point I snidely respond, “I don’t need to eat shit to know it doesn’t taste good.” I guess eventually the old adage “online dating is not analogous to eating shit,” won out and I decided to give it a red-hot go before I made my mind up. I figured the worst that could happen was date rape or murder (too far?), and the best would be being able to say, “I told you so.”
I chose to use Nerve.com’s dating service, mainly because my girlfriend works there but also because OKCupid and other sites I’ve browsed seem to be inhabited by online dating militants, and I felt very much out of my depth with all the crazy features. One of the reasons I’ve always shied away from online dating is because even though I’m a writer, I’m very much a “show don’t tell” kind of person, and most dating sites tend to weigh you down with, well, you. They’re personality resumes, and I don’t believe I’m half as lovable on paper as I am in real life.
I’ll admit – Nerve was still really fucking scary. The first time I got a message I squealed, covered my eyes, groped for a button on the keyboard of my computer, any button, and managed to close the browser all the while shrieking “ew, ew, ew, ew, ew!” It wasn’t even the guy – I had barely looked at his photo let alone his profile. It was just the fact that someone had messaged me. I felt sort of… Violated.
What followed was like catching a spider in a jar and not knowing what to do with it: lots of pacing, weighing up my options, and texting friends. I could either kill the spider, or be a real man and set it free in the garden. I decided that if I was going to try this online dating thing for real, I had to take it outside and set it loose on a tree. Metaphorically speaking.
So I went back to Nerve and started filling out my profile. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no “profile” component, per se, and that the site operates a lot like Twitter, with a series of status updates based on your daily life and random culture questions generated by the site. I eased into it quite naturally, and for a split second, I felt like maybe online dating wasn’t just for the emotionally desperate, divorcees and the obese, and I actually thought, “hey, I can do this!”
Between messages from crotch grabbing weirdoes, guys old enough to be my dad and guys who seemed normal but approached me with cheesy one liners, a few stood out and I settled on one to meet for a date. Ok so I’m lying, it wasn’t that easy.
After setting up the initial date, I cancelled, mere hours before. I’d had a long day at work and the last thing I wanted to do was go hang out in a bar with some stranger who was probably a total freak with a fetish for adult diapers or something equally creepy. To my date’s credit, he took the cancellation well, and we rescheduled for an afternoon drink on the weekend, after which we both had other commitments, a perfect escape route for my already skeptical self.
When the weekend rolled around I was no more enthused about the date. Which is the first problem I found with online dating – there’s no anticipation to see someone you really like, and instead it feels more like a chore or a job interview for a job you don’t really want but have to take because you’re broke. I thought of all the ways I’d rather be spending my afternoon – catching up with friends and loved ones I barely get to see; instead of making small talk with someone I’d never met before.
In the name of journalism, I went on the date anyway, although in all honesty I’d already decided online dating wasn’t for me. Choosing people to date from what is essentially a menu takes away the serendipitous nature of dating, and that “you could meet anywhere, any time” possibility is synonymous with New York, and why I love dating so much. Take that away and all you have is another errand to fit into your already bursting schedule. Moreover, while serendipity might not lead you to prince charming, when you’ve met someone in person before you date at least you know your attracted to them. So even if the conversation is a flop, you can still look forward to a bone at the end of it, which ensures your shitty date will alwys be worth it. Not always so with online dating, as I found out.
I won’t say too much about the date itself. It was brief and boring, although the guy did seem nice enough and he wasn’t rapey at all. He was much more into me than I was into him, although I was caught off guard from the moment he walked in by his height. His profile said he was 5″7, but his guy shared my eyeline, so was 5″2 at best. I was being generous going out with him in the first place (I don’t date guys less than 6 foot) so you can understand my reservation. I’m not really sure what he thought he would gain by lying – I mean, we were going to see each other eventually. I would figure it out. I have eyes. But as my dad shrewdly observed, “he got the date, didn’t he?”
So nope, online dating is not for me. I think I’m too much of a romantic. Either that or my life is just so busy I don’t have time to waste interviewing for the position of potential boyfriend. If someone great falls into my lap some day that would be wonderful, but I’m not looking for a formulaic relationship. And I’m willing to be alone rather than with just anyone, for the sake of it. New York is such a big, exciting place and I sort of hope that one day when I’ve spilled latte down my shirt and I’m playing angry birds on my iPhone, I’ll lock eyes wih him across a crowded subway car, and the rest, gentle reader, will be history.
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