Sunday, June 17, 2012

Matching Chemistry

A year ago, I signed up for an online dating service. This was not my first dalliance with modern matchmaking technology. My most recent marriage began with a match-dot-com introduction in 1999, and even though it didn’t quite turn out to be a forever thing and ended in 2008 with approximately 10-pages of a marriage dissolution agreement, I was willing to give the concept another shot. I crafted a profile representing the active lifestyle I prefer and posted several photos. Choices were made for preferred physical and philosophical traits in a companion, the requested credit card number was tapped in and the excited anticipation began for the flood of handsome, available, allegedly compatible matches located within a 50-mile radius. I mean seriously, my gal pals and facebook cyber friends boost my ego all the time telling me how great I am, so it only makes sense that there would be a veritable stampede of men in the local viewing area clamoring for my attention once they realized my availability. Right?

I don’t think I heard you over the sound of all the crickets. I am correct, right??

There was no flood. It was more like a drought interrupted occasionally by a drip. The rate was approximately one drip per week, and most drips were not even good matches on cyber paper. Maybe the pool of potential mates is shallow in my approximate age bracket. Maybe I am just too picky. Perhaps some nuance of the process has escaped me. In any event, I was not impressed by the offerings presented. It is possible my grasp of the English language is flawed, but if my narrative talks about dressing up and references black-tie events, what in those words attracts the camouflage and flannel-clad crowd professing a love for NASCAR, backwoods camping and hunting? Color me red lumberjack plaid confused.

After the three month subscription had run its course the membership was cancelled. There had been exactly one date with a man who was remarkably close to what my profile said I was looking for. He was educated, employed, attractive, funny and even had a photo of himself indicating he had worn a suit at least once in the current decade. We had a nice dinner with interesting conversation and we laughed a lot, but unfortunately, his switch was flipped to the 'off' position and he seemed to instantly lose all interest when I did not attempt to drag him off to bed at the end of the evening. Sorry, the admission fee to that amusement park is a greater investment of time and acquaintance than a few short emails, a phone call and a steak and potato dinner. Call me an old-fashioned bitch. It won't, however, help the situation.

Oddly, after the subscription expired, the drip exploded into a near-thunderous flood of five to ten matches per day. Where were all these men hiding for the three months I was a member? Even odder, I thought I had removed my profile from the program, so why was it even receiving matches? But there it was -- a regular stream of daily emails notifying me of messages on their system and encouraging me to meet Robert and Ben and Michael and JNoDrama and dozens of others. I recognized it as a ploy on the part of the service to get back into my wallet and it wasn’t going to work. Sorry, but I am not stupid enough to think a zillion appropriate matches just happened to join the service the minute I left it.

Over the weekends of Memorial Day and Father’s Day, the service offered "Free Communication" events. My email burst with messages of potential computer matches. A quick login to the site on Father’s Day and a visit to the inbox that seems like it shouldn’t exist on a closed account found it occupied by 101 system matches. I don’t know what some of these guys think women are looking for, but a scan of the listed profiles bore the riveting headlines (and I quote) "howdeee  ladies,,,!" "looking for fun times" and "Who’s you’re Daddy?"

In spite of the claim to provide matches based on chemistry and the lengthy questionnaire that declared me an "Explorer" personality type, the system seems to have gone into overdrive, favoring quantity and ignoring all qualitative criteria. Thanks, but I am already acutely aware that there are millions of the wrong man for me out in the world, and that is why I took the time to read the options provided and make selections that represent “what I’m looking for.” These were not taken lightly by me and are solidly based on my own real-world, comedic production of a love life. That is why, within my profile, time was taken to choose the buttons indicating that my “ideal match” be a reasonably fit, non-smoker in possession of at least a college degree. 

There are few factors on which I steadfastly hold my ground, but years of self-examination and some notable missteps along the way have reinforced this baseline for me -- I know that I am most attracted to educated, non-smoking men who are taller than I am. The elitist editor in me awards bonus points for correct spelling, grammar and sentence structure that doesn’t require an interpreter. Yet, the 101 recent gifts from the cyber matchmaker feature a statistically shocking number of regular smokers with a high school education who can’t string together a complete sentence. The computerized matching system may consider me an "Explorer," so I’ll just save us all some time and go lick a dirty ashtray while attempting to converse with my sofa. At least it won't have to ask for definitions of the words I am using.

Clicks the "not really" response to "would you like to learn more?" prompt.

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