So now a few months later at forty nine, I have thrown my hat in the online dating pool. It has been a bit of a weird experience so far. Not only am I a novice at dating in general, but the online aspect adds another layer of oddities. Like anyone who has signed up for Facebook, you are actively giving up some of your privacy with any dating site. As someone who has been posting semi-intimate details of his life on a public blog for several years, the initial act of putting my stuff out there on another site was not that big a deal, but there are new layers that I was surprised by.
You start by putting up one or several pictures of yourself. Naturally, you try to put pictures up that are not only flattering, but give some insight of who you are. All the decent photos of me were either from a run, a bike ride, or out in the woods on backpacking trip, so that worked out nicely. After putting up a dozen pictures though, I realized that I didn’t have glasses on in any of the photos. Trying to be as accurate as possible (apparently people lie on these things), I stepped out into my backyard and took a quick selfie.
Below the pictures is a section where you write a few words/paragraphs about yourself and what you are looking for. Sort of the cover letter to your online dating resume. And then you get to the checklists.
Back before I was actually divorced (but the writing was on the wall), I was over at a friend’s house for some gathering. We were all hanging out and chatting when one friend from across the room asked, “so, what are looking for in a woman?” It was one of those record-scratch moments when everyone stops talking and looks at you. Again, still technically married and not having thought about it, I answered off the cuff, “Non-smoker, non-hater.”
The non-smoking thing is obvious. I am allergic to cigarette smoke, but more importantly, I don’t want to kiss an ashtray. The non-hater thing is more about not wanting to be with someone who is always looking for the dark cloud behind that silver lining, going through life thinking the world is out to get them. I don’t need or want a Pollyanna as a partner, but I don’t want to be around someone who is constantly expecting the worst out of everything and everybody. To be clear, this was not a reaction to my soon-to-be ex-wife. She was neither a smoker nor a hater.
Several years down the line, I don’t have much of a better, quick answer to what I am looking for in a partner. There are definitely things I hope for, but the list of non-negotiables still basically sits at non-smoker. But with online dating, you are sort of trying to order up your perfect match.
There are checkboxes for height, body type, hair color, eye color, salary, astrological sign, faith, exercise habits, education, occupation, income level and more. I certainly get it, but the volume of it feels like a tailor made desire in what is more of an off-the-rack world. It is the online shopping mentality with the entire world at your fingertips, and it feels like we should be able to punch up our perfect mate on Amazon.com.
It is both amazing and discouraging at the same time. Through the website, you have possible contact with so many more people than you would ever see in your normal path in life, but the sheer volume makes you think there is always going to be someone more “perfect” for you if you just keep looking.
So you keep clicking on pictures, looking for criteria and reading introductions, looking for something to jump out at you. Back to the privacy thing, on odd thing is that when you look at someone’s profile, they know. On your own login, there is a little list of people who have checked you out. On the one hand, it is kind of interesting to see whose eye you caught, but on the other, you sort of hesitate to click because you are being tracked. You also know if someone has read your email. This is mostly nice, since you can’t fool yourself that the person you are interested in hasn’t seen it yet. Nope, they read it, and they just weren’t interested enough to respond. Move along, no interest here, keep clicking on.
It has only been two weeks, so we are a long way from any final judgment. It is an interesting new adventure, and we will see where the electronic path leads. Now please excuse me, I think someone just sent a wink to me.