Photo: Emily Long
At torturously long last, it appears that spring has arrived. The birds are (tentatively) chirping, flowers are groggily blinking into bloom, and my feet are demanding their first pedicure of the season. Change is once again in the air, and things are looking up.
Along with the glorious changes in skin tone and the shedding of the ever-oppressive down jacket, spring revitalizes our excitement to have new adventures and meet new people.
“I just want to meet someone the old-fashioned way.”
I’ve heard this phrase uttered many times. The old-fashioned way. At work, or through a mutual friend, or at a social function or a bar. In other words, organically. In other words, sans Internet.
But with more and more frequency, men and women are logging onto dating sites and meeting people in the “new” fashion. As a result of various algorithms that take into account personal preferences on physical features, financial state, religious background, etc, matched with one’s own possessed attributes, people are deemed compatible and set up for dates. It seems almost sci-fi to me. And yet, with more and more frequency, people are finding love and companionship with the help of the Web.
When I was 21, it was easy to meet someone the old-fashioned way. I was a senior in college, so I had a large and established group of both male and female friends, all with their own networks of men I hadn’t yet met. I was taking on average five classes a semester, all with somewhere between 30 and 300 students. On weekends (and let’s be honest, many weeknights) my friends and I were grabbing drinks at local watering holes or at football games, where 56,000 people and I had at least one thing in common. I am socially pretty comfortable, so I felt like I was meeting new people every day.
And then five years went by. Now I’m living in New York City.
Dating in a city is a different football game, so to speak. Maybe you will be introduced to someone through a friend. Maybe you will meet someone through work. Maybe you will meet someone at a bar, but wasting precious moments of one’s free time screaming over music and loud chatter to try to determine whether the subject in question has any red-flags ranging from mildly unpleasant to downright dangerous seems exhausting.
The more I discuss this topic with others, the more conclusive the evidence is becoming: online dating is the way to go. My friend Laura, in Phoenix, is a huge advocate. The date? “Coffee,” she said. “Dinner is just too long. If you don’t like someone, being stuck sitting through a whole dinner is a nightmare. I used to do drinks, but even that is too open-ended. Coffee. One coffee, and then even if I like the guy, I wrap it up then and there. If we hit it off, I’ll say yes to a second date.” Apparently it was a solid strategy, because after many dates with Mr. Wrongs, Laura met the man she is now engaged to.
But let’s be serious. There are just so many freaks out there. My friend Natasha went on a date with a guy that kept making ambiguous references to a secret talent throughout drinks. When they were walking along a pier afterward, he looked at her, whipped his jacket off, and said, “This is what I wanted to show you,” and leapt up onto the boat rope (that’s what they’re called, right?) and started tight-rope walking it. Delighted passers-by gathered to watch as he dramatically dipped and spun about, some even leaving dollar bills and spare change on his jacket. Natasha was impressed at first, but after twenty minutes of the act, she realized the date was over, and left the show.
My friend Karen had an experience that simultaneously freaked me out and made my blood boil.
Karen’s first date upon entering the online dating world was with a guy that will henceforth be known as “Sack.” Sack was witty and bright in messages and physically very attractive in photos, but when they met in person, his presumed charm was nowhere to be found. After a few drinks, she used the bathroom, and upon her return, saw that there were two checks waiting at the table. She left confused and hurt by his apparent lack of interest in her. She questioned him via text.
His response, and this is the point of the story when smoke starts coming out of my nose and ears, was: “Let me offer you a bit of advice. Describe yourself accurately on your profile. Guys get really pissed when they expect one thing and another thing shows up. You described yourself as curvy. You’re way past that point.”
I. Can’t. Even.
Not only is that a wildly offensive thing to say to a person, it was just so unnecessary. If you find that you are not attracted to a person upon meeting them, why not just politely slam one drink and then get the hell out of there? Why sit for two hours? Fun fact about Sack: he was unemployed (“currently”), and living at his mom’s house.
And perhaps what’s worse, I worried it would discourage Karen from going on any more dates. She’s incredibly attractive, smart, and funny. Sack was an asshole. It broke my heart to think of someone having the power to make her feel bad about herself, when she’d so bravely put herself out there. I thought, if it were me, I don’t know if I’d have the guts to give it another shot.
But Karen is a braver gal than I, it turns out. She shook Sack’s degradation off, geared herself up, and went on more dates. Some good, some fair, and some sparking little more than a quick and bland conversation over a drink. But the future looks bright.
When it comes to online dating, it seems there is something for everyone. Sites for hooking up, sites for seriously dating, sites for religious people, for group dates, for gay people, for divorced people, for people new to a city…and the list goes on.
Just like the beginning of spring, the possibilities seem endless. So there’s no better time to throw on a sundress, stick a freshly-picked wildflower behind your ear, and get back in the game.