By Nadine Ott
Online dating. After trying it out for a while, I got used to people giving me that, “I think you’re crazy, but society says I can’t just come out and say that,” look and politely asking why. I would give them the usual responses. “I’m networking in a new city.” “A bunch of people told me it was so much fun, I do it for the outrageous stories.” “I get to check out a cool new bar with a potentially cool new person every time I go on a date.” What I never mentioned to these skeptics was that while all of these reasons were true, it was the hopeless romantic trapped deep under my protective blubber of logic just screaming at me to give it a shot, because maybe (just maybe) I would meet the one. Well, I didn’t. Not even close.
I did, however, meet a guy who thought it was “so cute when I got annoyed and argumentative,” that we ended up getting in a fight. I put money down on the table and stormed out of the coffee shop, never to see him again. There was the guy who had gained a good 40 pounds since all of his pictures were taken, and I wasn’t so much deterred by this new body he lived in but mystified that he thought it was a good idea to start himself off at such a disadvantage. There was the guy who was so rude to me on the date that I received an “I’m sorry” text an hour later. At least I assumed he was apologizing for the bad manners. Maybe he was apologizing for never making eye contact but giving my chest plenty of attention, telling me there must be something wrong with me for being single, or checking his phone every 60 seconds the entire time. I guess I’ll never know.
The ultimate, however, the one that makes all of these guys pale in comparison, was what my friends fondly refer to as “man-purse man.” Yes, ladies and gentleman, he carried a purse, a black leather satchel that he wore over his right shoulder, the strap cutting diagonally across the torso. It stood out even more than you might imagine given that he wore an entirely white outfit. Telling myself I was being completely shallow and I wasn’t on a date to find a guy who understood the value of a wallet, we began to talk and I was immediately disappointed to find that many of the smart retorts and comebacks that he seemed to possess in our online exchanges were lost in person. What had seemed in writing to be a quick sense of humor and clever wit was in fact something he must have put some time into portraying, for in person it was nonexistent.
Needless to say, we didn’t go on a second date. I came home and disabled my online account. I fell asleep that night going through all my failed dates in my head and figuring out what I did wrong. Here’s what I concluded: some people are dishonest, and online dating makes it very easy for people to misrepresent themselves. Some online daters are there because in person they haven’t had the best luck, so they think that if they lay groundwork first, the first interaction with a potential romantic interest might give them different results. Finally, it is easier to gauge your chemistry with a person in 10 seconds of face to face interaction than it is after months of daily email exchanges.
What does this mean for the tireless romantic inside of me who has probably resorted to collecting stamps as a result of all the recent neglect? It means that a computer algorithm will probably never connect me to my soul mate. I will never be able to gauge if a person can make me laugh based on their wit in a message, and that I can’t assume online dating is a level playing field. Let me explain. I choose pictures that will give someone a good idea of what they can expect to see if we meet up for coffee or beer. I portray myself as I am: the goofy, the good, and the unsavory. Not everyone does, in fact I might even say that most people don’t. Expecting this from people online is unrealistic.
Having said all this, I feel obligated to admit that a week ago I reactivated my online account. Why? Maybe that hopeless romantic I try to suppress is dumber and stronger willed than I realized. She must be if she’s willing to ignore all the data collected in an attempt to find someone to watch Netflix with, to go check out a killer DJ with until 3am, to be my official taste tester for five variations on double chocolate cookies. And hey, if there’s someone out there who might fit the bill, and that hopeless romantic in me wants to roll the dice a few more times to find them, who am I to stop her?