Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Match this

A couple months ago, I joined an online dating site. Again. Here I am, toying with the mode of meeting a partner that previously provided mixed results. But real life isn’t exactly delivering lately.

Way back at the turn of the century, a now-ex-husband and I met through a popular (and still operating) dating site. We shared some fine adventures including an overseas military paper chase wedding and plans to be together forever.

Instead of forever, we lasted roughly a decade from dating to divorced. Granted, part of that time felt like forever, which is when at least one of us accepted we were incompatible and split. Ok, it was me who ran.

For a while, I kidded about suing the site for a membership refund and compensation for my time, but finally forgave them, accepting that the relationship’s demise had more to do with us being starry-eyed and mis-matched, and less to do with the site.

After a cooling down period, I ventured into the online dating pool of Tennessee and Kentucky.  Because I was both optimistic and on a budget, my commitment was limited to a three-month package. Unfortunately, there were few single, local men meeting my nonnegotiable requirements of no smoking, no heavy drinking, and holding a college degree.

Maybe my expectations were just too high. Good thing I omitted “must love the Oxford comma, criticizing television personalities for poor grammar, and discussing the AP Style Guide.”

There were email exchanges with a Kentucky man who wrote entertaining messages in full sentences. One day, however, he used his grammatically correct sentences to call me every foul name under the sun when I couldn't meet for coffee on short notice. And by “short notice” we’re talking within a couple hours.

After the name calling incident, he continued to email, demanding responses to rambling dissertations referencing his “great family wealth” and proclaiming I'd never meet another man like him. Let's hope he was correct about his particular flavor of crazy being in limited production.

Now I’m back in New England, and it’s my mother’s fault I’m involved in this online stuff again. She pointed out that potential suitors are not exactly storming the family fortress to take me on dates, and because I’ve lived with her for the past two years, there’s no pretending the situation is otherwise. Living 1,200 miles away had advantages I may have overlooked.

But hey, why not shop for a potential mate from the comfort of the home I rarely leave except to buy dog food and go to my part-time job? Antisocial, underemployed, kept by canines. Seriously, what man wouldn't want to be part of that? I probably don’t even need clever wording to make it sound attractive. But there I was, attempting to craft profile copy that makes me seem less boring than I’m afraid I am. Which is probably the scenario site-wide.

On a dating site’s “free communication weekend” I posted a recent photo and minimalist write-up, because I don't think anyone wants to read a novel for a dating profile. Or maybe it's just me, who also routinely rejects greeting cards for having “too many words.”

I vowed to respond to any and all messages received.

The first two days yielded 24 messages, which felt like more than the three-month volume in the Tennessee effort. It seemed an assistant might be needed, but it turned out I couldn’t respond without a paid membership. Apparently, “free communication” is a one-way channel, just like some offline relationships.

The wallet opened. Money was paid to cover three months of digital matchmaking.

Some 50 messages arrived the first week. Many were well written using complete sentences and correct grammar and punctuation, and seemed to be from sane men (as far as one can tell). Others were painfully brief: “hi!” or “ur pretty,” or “nice smile,” to which I responded with an equally minimalist “Hi!” or “Thanks!” What else is there to say to that?

I fell behind in corresponding while sick in bed for two days, prompting one guy with whom I’d swapped a few emails to declare an “impasse due to non-communication.” Seriously? It had been two days. I wonder what he’s like in an actual relationship. The woman probably needs to be microchipped with GPS.

Like the message lengths, the photos show extremes. Some profiles have no photo (what are they hiding?). Others have one photo, seemingly taken with their computer’s built in camera in horrendous lighting. The chin down, eyes glaring pose is less mysteriously smoldering and more Hannibal Lechter wants to FaceTime. It’s scary.

The other extreme overcompensates. The tab notation “25 photos” often means one pixelated image of a guy accompanied by random body parts and flowing hair of a mostly cropped out woman, and 24 images of scenery, vehicles, pets, and groups of guys at bars and sporting events with no clue as to which one is him. “Hey, look how cool my friends and I are! And I’ll never want to travel with you, because I’ve already been everywhere!” 

This could be interesting.