By Jackie Dunn
I’m just going to be honest about it. I have nothing to hide.
I met my husband through an online dating website.
That’s done. Now let’s look into how that happened.
You may think you know how it happened. Especially if you have a significant other that you met through normal channels, like at a bar or on Love Connection. You think, on some level, that online dating really is or isn’t much different that regular dating – you see someone, you chat, you exchange numbers, blah blah.... But the thing is, online dating isn’t even really about dating, it’s more like gambling, but the stakes are so much higher. Hope and heart are on the line.
I knew how to play the game. I’m not much for gambling, but I had some poker face for online dating! For a while, I was coaching friends on what to put in their profiles, the words to use to hook a man, get him to click on your profile and contact you. He’d better not just wink at you and think that would get him anywhere. And once he made the first move, I knew the red flags that would signal he might not be what’s in his profile. Is he wearing a hat in his picture? He’s bald. Only a head shot? He’s fat. Too good looking? That picture is from 1995 AND photo shopped.
Not that any of my own advice worked for me. I had tried a bunch of different dating websites, used different profile pictures, said different stuff but honestly, I never had much luck. Most of the guys that I “met” did not live up to expectation (and vice-versa I’m sure). But what kept me going back was the potential. That maybe the next guy would be the “one.” Peaks and valleys that rise and fall so fast you’re likely to trip as you pursue the next. “Look at his picture, his profile is so witty and well-written, he would totally “get” me, my family would love him. Our wedding is going to make the style blogs, and our kids are going to be so cute!” And then the date. Psssstttt … (insert sound of beach ball deflating here).
Mostly, I found it all so sad. Like the one guy I met who had been clean and sober for one week! He was really just looking for a sponsor. Or the homophobic hearing-aid salesman from San Mateo. I mean, what about that description isn’t sad? The guy with one ear? Sad. (His profile pics were all profiles! Damn irony.) The firefighter who only had like 2 good stories, which he told me at least three times once during a phone call and then again during our date. Sad AND boring. The one guy I ended up dating for two years even though we were totally wrong for each other but stayed together because we were both so desperate to not be alone? So fucking sad. So why did I keep going? Maybe, deep down, I really am truly an optimistic person.
Because as I’m going back now and remembering this time of my life, this relentless pursuit for a man that I was on, I’m trying to remember what it felt like. It really was just this crazy cycle of boundless dreamy hope and then just mild depression. Only mild because you half knew the date wasn’t going to work out before you even met him for happy hour.
When I tell people I met my husband on-line, they give me a look that says they think I’ve copped out. That I haven’t really done my time in the dating scene and I don’t deserve the prize. Well, I’m here to tell you – online dating is not a custom order. It’s as painful, tedious and heart breaking as in person dating. In some ways I think it’s much more difficult to keep going this way, to keep up the smile for the next date because he might be the one. But probably not. Sigh. Do you see how this cycle gets you?
You may ask what it was about my husband’s profile and date that finally hooked me. First of all, his profile picture was the ugliest one I had ever seen. So ugly, in fact, that it made me laugh out loud. (I found out later that the picture was taken on his climb to Mt. Denali. It was taken the moment he realized he couldn’t go on and wouldn’t be able to finish his climb. Now, he uses it as a reminder of what it looks like to be defeated. That he used this pic of failure to snag a girl, I find fascinating). To the standard profile question, “what are the five things you couldn’t live without,” where others would answer “My dog, my family, my sense of humor, your love…” (blech) he answered, “Cash and cokes.” Only two things. I already loved his rebellious spirit. His profile told me all I would ever need to know about him - that he’d be honest about who is. And that’s still true today. Life has been an adventure ever since.