I recently finished up a 3 month sentence – I mean stint – of online dating. My first foray into the wide world of shopping for love online was quite enlightening. Sometimes a little scary, sometimes downright hurtful, but I learned a lot. I learned a great deal about myself, other people, and how relationships are formed or forgotten in the digital age. I chose a paid site but not the “find your absolute soulmate after you answer a 700 question survey” site. I chose paid vs free because I hoped there would be more serious candidates if there was some money on the line, so I went with the site that rhymes with Catch-dot-com, which is also a good name for a dating site but it isn’t.
Things I’ve learned in my short stint of online dating:
It’s a total game. I’m used to single serve dating. You meet someone, you click, you date, you’re a couple. Clean, simple progression. Very little questioning. Online dating is not that. At all. It’s talking to, looking for, and dating multiple people while you keep looking for more people that you like. I’m no used to this but that’s how you’re supposed do it. It’s like car shopping. You can test drive one and like it, but something tells you there might be something out there that’s better with more features. This is an odd game to me and I’m trying to get used to the idea. My dear friend told me when I started that it is a “numbers game” and now I understand. You may have a great date or two or three with someone but you better be back on the dating site the next day trying to make connections because you never know if that great date might up and decide someone else has better features. I think people get swept up in the game because a dating site is just a smorgasbord of options that could be “better” than that person you actually really clicked with over cocktails. It’s the search for perfection in an on-demand society. I wonder how anyone actually finds love this way.
Many men do not know how to select good photos of themselves. I’m sure this might be true of some women but I don’t get to see “the competition” so I can’t speak to that. But some of these guys I almost want to reach out and help them. One guy that reached out to me had one profile pic that honestly looked like he was lying in a hospital bed post-op. Guys, seriously, raise the phone higher when taking a selfie, the low-angle makes you look like a serial killer. Get other people’s opinions on your photos and maybe get someone to take them for you. No shame in it.
Common courtesy goes out the window. I have had more than one person “ghost” on me when we actually had plans in the making or had been talking consistently for an extended time. I get it, you’re not interested, THAT’S FINE, but have the courtesy to just let me know. Especially when I am going to the trouble and cost of arranging for babysitting (these men actually had kids as well so I don’t buy the whole ‘they don’t get it’ thing) or if we have invested some time in getting to know each other. I myself inadvertently did this “ghosting” on the first person I went out with and he called me out on it (to be fair I sent the last text but he felt I had blown him off). Lesson learned. I do my best now to be nothing if not courteous to someone that I have actually met in person and spent time with. It is amazing to me that pretending someone no longer exists is considered a commonplace and somewhat acceptable form of “communication.”
People say strange things. I know, it’s hard to initiate a conversation. To be funny, witty, and attractive to someone using flat words on a screen and a post-op selfie on your profile is really tough. I get it. I fail at it sometimes. But there have been a couple of messages that I am immediately alarmed by. One guy actually messaged me several times, claiming computer problems, and said he was about to throw his computer equipment against the wall because I wasn’t responding. Another person told me he saw me out in public while I was with my kids. One guy told me he likes brushing long hair. One said he wanted to tickle me. Another guy messaged me repeatedly and consistently, saying things like he set up 50 candles in his den and wanted to light them for me some day and, my favorite, “this will be over soon.” Does it end with me bound in your trunk or as a skinsuit? The list goes on. People say strange stuff to strangers.
People can be very dishonest. I know, I know, this comes as no surprise to many people. I just think if you’re looking for a relationship and “honesty” is one of the foundations of a good one, that you would be honest about who you are and what you’re looking for. But, alas, it is not always the case. People will lie about their age (seriously some guys look like they could be my Dad not my date but claim to be in their 40’s, I don’t think so), their lifestyle status (one person’s profile said he didn’t have kids but he has one child), and even lie to avoid the common courtesy aspect of rejection (one person, after a great date, suddenly had a family emergency he had to attend to so he couldn’t meet up or text me… but he’s been online on the dating site every day. Nice buddy, real nice). The big whopper for me was when I was sort of “catfished.” Every picture in his profile looked slightly different so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into exactly (should have known better there) but when I showed up for the date I realized that his profile pictures were all at least 10 years and possibly 30lbs ago. I have no problem with aging or weight or any of that, but profile pictures that are not recent or don’t look like you currently are, in my opinion, not an honest representation of the person I’m trying to meet.
Rejection comes for all kinds of random reasons. “I think you’re adorable, but you don’t like horror movies.” This was an actual message I received. Granted, this person has changed his location 3 times in his profile (across state lines, to boot), so I probably dodged a bullet there. Now, I am also guilty of this. The ability to view a person’s profile and pictures allows in a certain level of scrutiny that is not readily available when meeting someone new in public. But, yes, I have passed on someone for little things like the kind of hat they wear in a picture or a certain hobby they have. It’s just the reality of things. We make the same judgment calls in life, I guess, but it’s easier to nitpick through someone’s detailed profile and array of photos then a person standing in front of you with little context.
Dinner is not included. Coffee and drinks are all that are being served, mostly. Maybe some apps. I think I can piece together about 5-6 full meals that happened in my three month stint. It became a running joke, no one wanted to feed me. I realize for a first date the coffee or drinks aspect is so one can make a quick getaway if they feel the need, but isn’t that what the old trick “text me/call me at 8:15 and if I answer, make up an emergency so I can get out of there!” is for? Don’t get me wrong, I have appreciated the abbreviated date in some circumstances, but always planning on abbreviated dates feels like you’re not allowing enough time to really spend with a person to get to know them. Plus, I like food. A lot. I get cranky without it. Please feed me.
It is not for sensitive people. I am one of them and I can attest to this one with conviction. Like my friend mentioned, it is a “numbers game” and sometimes the numbers just aren’t in your favor. You have to be comfortable with rejection – A LOT of it. You have to be prepared for people behaving badly and accept that people are going to do things or say things that you would never do or say. I ventured into this online dating journey really not knowing what I was getting myself into. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It can be fun at times but in the end, I realize it’s not for me. I’m a sensitive person and I can’t take the heat right now, so I logged myself right out of that kitchen.
Maybe I’ll rejoin sometime, when I’m feeling more up for it, when I’ve had a bit of time away to reflect on what I want and what I can expect. Maybe. For now though, I am thankful for the lessons. The ones I’ve listed but mostly the ones I learned about myself in the journey (those are private though, you Nosy Nelly). So I’ll revert my whole attention back to the wildlings and myself and revel in this glorious single mom life!!
Who wants to date me? I like to be fed, though…