By Josh Leskar
I don’t look good on paper.
Transcripts, résumés, test scores and applications all show mere bits and pieces of the entire person I consider myself to be. I always had this nagging feeling that if these people – college admissions staff, potential managers – who were supposedly deciding such integral parts of my future could actually meet me in person, they would have a much better sense of me: Joshua Aaron Leskar, the charming, silly, smiley guy who can chat to a brick wall for hours.
Instead, I find myself confined to a two-dimensional computer screen or an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper.
But when it comes to romance, my bubbly demeanor pops and spills into a puddle of awkwardness. I’m a notoriously terrible dater, plagued with “nice guy syndrome” and paralyzed with a fear of overstepping boundaries in an effort to be polite, chivalrous and gentlemanly to a fault. As a result, I am placed in the friend zone more often than not.
When I confessed of this to my first roommate in San Francisco, she prophesized that within three months of living here, I would be on OKCupid, a popular online dating website for my peer group.
Initially I resisted, scoffing at the thought of meeting some stranger on the vast expanses of the Internet. Indicative of our society today where so many of us hide behind text messages and emails, online dating seemed to be just one more excuse to have less real-life, in-person interaction: a skill that I believe we as a culture are losing. Besides, despite my awkward tendencies when passion comes into play, I figured my odds were still much higher when I didn’t lead with that bland sheet of paper.
Yet almost three months to the day, I caved. I rationalized to myself that if dating was indeed a numbers game, a service such as OKCupid would significantly narrow the pool of women to a subset with whom I had a higher probability of getting along. And making friends in a new city proved more difficult than I had anticipated, so even if nothing romantic came of my endeavor, I could perhaps add a few more friends into the mix.
It was exciting – answering questions that really made me think about myself – both my innermost values as well as my superficial desires. Percentages popped-up: how compatible were we as friends? As partners? As enemies? Eagerly, I sent messages to women with similar interests – referencing our shared love of James Taylor, cooking dinner, or traveling the world.
Just as in real life, however, online dating seemed to produce the same results: or lack thereof. The guy is nearly always expected to make the first move – in this case, sending a message. And more often than not, I was met with the same rejection that typically plagued my “live” version of dating. And the dates that I did end up attending in real life were mediocre and fizzled quickly. Too many aspects were lost in translation from screen to reality. It all just felt so forced.
For a while, I found myself in a constant struggle - how much effort should I put into an online platform when that effort could otherwise be used for meeting people in real life? Was my time better spent in front of a computer or in front of a bar?
Ultimately I decided to leave the world of online dating. But every once in a while I do find myself logging back in, just to see if my dream woman has also decided to take a chance to see how she looks on paper.