Adventures in Online Dating: Chapter One
This is what it has come to, folks. I haven’t been myself for weeks (months?). The culmination of walking pneumonia in May, the break up in June, and the injury in July threatens to shift my perspective too far into to the negative, a place I do not want to go. I have an overwhelming desire to go on long walks, to get my heart-rate up with outdoor exercise, and to tone the shape of my body a bit to make up for the lack of/inability to exercise for too many months now. That energy has got to go somewhere, because I won’t be able to do those things until late fall, at best. I’ve never been one to be passive in my own life, so here goes…If anything, this will be something to write about.
I complete the personality profile online. Yes, I am Buddhist. Yes, I drink a few times a week. No, I do not smoke. Yes, I am organized. The three most descriptive things about me (selected from a list) are, paraphrased: I make and achieve my personal goals, I am a good friend and confidant to others, and I value growth and awareness in daily life. No, I do not want to date a smoker. No, I do not care what ethnicity my “future life long partner” is. Yes, I value family. I also value silence, time alone, and creating. I love children but haven’t decided for against having my own someday. No, I do not watch television. Yes, I enjoy a good debate. Yes, romance and chemistry matter.
By midnight, I’ve completed the profile. I try to read eHarmony’s “summary” across 29 spectrums but can’t stand to stare at the screen any longer. Later I go back and check it, realizing that this is what potential “matches” might look at. eHarmony decides that, when it comes to “agreeableness,” I am: understanding, unquestioning, humane, gentle, kindhearted, gullible, indulgent. They offer a five paragraph description of how I interact with others. Here’s the opening:
“Here’s one important truth about you: you have a tender heart. Yes, you know that others need to learn to take care of themselves. Yes, you know they need to accept the consequences of their foolish or bad behavior. And sometimes, even when your instinct is to help them, you will let them fend for themselves and let them suffer the consequences of their choices or circumstances.”
There are other categories – openness, emotional stability, conscientiousness, and extraversion. Piles and piles of summary, analysis, one-word labels. I can’t get through them all, but they’re out there, for others to see.
Once I finish, I can click on “My Matches” to see who is out there, waiting for me. I am not trying to be sassy about this, really. Perhaps it is my self-consciousness about the whole idea of online dating that makes me need to write about it now and explore it further. That said, I click and wait to see if Mr. Right awaits me on the next page.
Mr. Right, apparently, does not exist anywhere in these mountains. Or, as eHarmony puts it: “There are currently no matches to manage.”
Manage. I think about that word for a minute. Laugh a little. Then I go to My Settings and edit My Preferences (seriously, they’ve created their own language. We’re talking total immersion here, folks). I adjust the settings to that My Matches fall within a 120-mile radius. Before, I’d set it at 60, which only includes BigCity, NC and LittleCity, TN.
I check again. Still: “There are currently no matches to manage.”
I reset the settings to include a 300-mile radius from my zip code. After that, the choices are by state and then by country, god help me.
I check again, and receive the same message.
I go to sleep feeling like a little dot on the map of the world, imagining a 300 mile circle around that dot in which no one, not a single soul, exists to fall in love with.
I know this is not true but it crosses my mind.
In the morning, there are “8 New Matches.” Where they sprung up from or how that happened, I do not know. But I do know that already I can see and feel the psychological impact of online dating. I hadn’t given that part of it much thought, but really, there’s a lot at stake here if I let it feel that way. I do not want to spend my time waiting, measuring, checking the odds. I don’t even want to spend that much time online checking profiles and blah, blah, blah, but wait…there are two hopefuls, one within a decent radius and wow, we really do have a lot in common.
I sign off. Sit on the floor for a while and stretch. I don’t want to do this. I do want to do this. I just went to a wedding where the bride and groom met online—two totally hip, creative, liberal, lovely, stable, normal people now happily married and ready to make babies. I don’t want to travel for this. I do want to travel for this. Shit, this is already taking up WAY too much thought-energy.
But I’ve made it this far and so I join. Yes, I actually pay $60 (approximately 15% of my monthly income) to have access to this information for, yes, 30 days. I can’t believe I am doing this. But I do.