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Archive for the ‘dating services’ Category

I mentioned in an earlier post that, despite my misgivings, I’d registered for an online dating service last month.  I was a bit dismayed by many of the messages I received, but there was one in particular that struck me immediately and has become a sort of shorthand for all of the inappropriate comments strange and nearly-strange men make.

Oh, there are many worse messages out there, but there’s a distinction in my mind.  At a certain level of vulgarity, I have to assume that it’s intentional, that a man is looking for something fast and cheap and wants to make that clear from the beginning.  But this type of message seems different; it’s so common that I can only think of two possible explanations:  there are more truly vile men out there than I want to believe, or they think they’re being complimentary.

The first message in this series had the subject line “sexy”, and the entire text of the message was “your sexy babie”.

I’m a writer by trade, so the first thing that struck me was that the message was three words long and two of those words were misspelled.  When I got past that to the substance (using the term lightly), the whole thing just got worse.

I’m not one of those women who takes offense at words like “baby” (when they’re spelled correctly), but I do believe they should be reserved for people you…well…know.  And I’m certainly not opposed to a man telling me he thinks I’m sexy if a) he thinks that and b) I know him and c) he’s basing his impressions on more than a thumbnail headshot.  Coming from a complete stranger who knows nothing about me, it can only mean one of two things:  either he says it to every woman he contacts because he thinks that’s what we want to hear, or his criteria for “sexy” can be applied with a brief glance at a couple of photographs and two paragraphs about me.  In either case, he’s not a guy I want in my life.

I’m sure there are women who are flattered by that kind of comment and respond positively, and I was going along happily believing that men like this were simply looking for a certain kind of woman with those comments and probably finding them.

When the same man sent me “your sexy honie” and then “your hot sexy!!” (with no apparent recognition that he’d contacted me before), my theory was supported.

But just about the time I thought all was well again and was just cheerfully deleting those messages without a second thought, Mike went and told this woman he barely knew in an online forum that he’d like to see her under his Christmas tree.  Rocked my world, I gotta tell you.

See, if I’d seen that comment from a stranger, I’d have written him off pretty quickly. It’s not much of a leap to make assumptions about a guy who sees a woman as something that should be wrapped up and presented to him–especially a woman he doesn’t know anything significant about.  I’d think “tacky” and move right along.

But I know Mike.  I couldn’t make those assumptions, because I know who he is.  I know that he’s a great friend and a great dad, that he’s looking for a serious relationship and that he takes fidelity very seriously.  I know he’s smart and funny and creative, and that he takes pride in his work and feels strongly about doing what he’s said he’s going to do.  In short, he’s exactly the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to write off on a dating site or in some other public forum.

I shot off a quick comment to him about that line being pretty much on a par with “your sexy babie”, and damn if he didn’t defend it all over the place.  I’m not going to get into the details of his point of view–I’m sure he’ll do that himself.  But the bottom line is that it had never crossed his mind that the comment might send any of the messages that it sent to me.

That discussion, and both of our subsequent conversations about the issue with other friends of both sexes, have me thinking that this is an area in which there’s a real perception gap, and one that might have decent men cutting off whole huge sectors of the population as dating options and women ruling out guys who will never know what they might have done wrong.

Photo credit: xenia from morguefile.com

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Mike, I think this whole “too many choices” thing takes us right back to the issue of how we look at other people.  You’ve made the argument in favor of weeding people out in advance, but I think that’s the very same mentality that leads people to think of one another as “choices” rather than as other people who can play varying roles in their lives.

If we encounter members of the opposite sex as options to choose among to fill an empty slot in our lives, of course we start fearing buyer’s remorse…sure, this one might look good, but I haven’t checked all the shelves yet.  I don’t really know whether I’m getting the best deal.

If, however, we take people as they come–if we interact with them naturally and view them as humans instead of prospects and don’t start sizing them up to see whether or not we might want to “buy” the moment we lay eyes on them–then there’s no reason to make any kind of choice at all in those early days when we don’t have enough information to choose in a way that makes sense and lends itself to certainty.  We can get to know a variety of people in a variety of contexts and explore moving one toward a romantic relationship if and when our inclinations have grown in that direction based on the relationship we already have.

It frees us from having to line up virtual strangers and try to guess which one might or might not be a good “prospect”.  It frees us from interview-style dates and it frees us from circumstances in which we feel compelled to start crossing off rules to make a “relationship” that was never a relationship at all “keep” working.

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That crossing out rules thing Mike mentioned in his last post is exactly what I was talking about earlier this week when I suggested that maybe a lot of us had a tendency to give new relationships more of a chance than they deserved.  The effort to make it work moves into the foreground, stealthily taking precedence over determining whether or not there is anything to make work, and you cross out rule after rule and soon–if you’re successful–you’ve managed to solidify a relationship that’s exactly what you don’t want.

Someone suggested, in a comment on that post, that women were more inclined to this sort of behavior than men.  I don’t know whether or not that’s true in general, but it’s definitely not true around this blog (if you get my drift).  While Mike has been busy crossing off rules to try to keep his latest budding relationship afloat, I’ve jettisoned an entire dating service in seven days flat.

It isn’t that I’ve ruled out all of the million or so men on the site or anything like that.  Not exactly.  I didn’t even exactly rule out all of the couple of dozen men who contacted me in the three or four days during which I was actually opening messages.  Some of them were absolutely vile, but that’s another post for another day.  The bottom line is that I just don’t believe that we can find life partners–or even casual, friendly relationships–by shopping for them like grapefruit.  Despite the fact that I’ve always believed that, I wanted to give it a fair shot.  Whether or not a week is really “a fair shot” is certainly open to debate, but in that week everything I saw confirmed my original belief.

Because the Internet gods (probably employed by Google) are psychic, on the very day that I decided to ditch the dating service, an ad presented itself to me inquiring as to whether it was really time to bail on that dating service.  “Have you,” it demanded, “tweaked and re-tweaked your profile?

Nope, I sure hadn’t, and here’s why:  if it worked, I’d be in exactly the same position Mike described, crossing out rules.  I’ve made a good portion of my living in marketing, and I’m pretty good at it. I could, I have no doubt, create a profile that “sells”.  But what would I be selling?  Not me, that’s for sure.  Just an image created to draw someone in, so that one day not far down the road he could sit in a coffee shop with me and cross out rules as he learned about the reality and I could cross out things about myself that I didn’t think would sit well with him.  Having chosen with inadequate information, we’d be faced with the question of bailing early or trying to ignore the red flags.

So I’m not tweaking my profile to get a better response.  I’m not answering the guy who sent me three separate messages, all with the subject line “sexy”, and who misspelled two out of three words in two out of three messages. And I’m not even going to look at the apparently nice guys who send benign messages and pretend that they could have seen something in the two paragraphs of my profile or a photograph that truly tipped them off that there was some reason to think we’d get along.  I hear a lot about how tough it is out there and I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is lies in the real world, where people relate to one another in three dimensions and not items in a catalog.

Photo credit: aconant from morguefile.com

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Brat.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with meeting for coffee, and you know it. I’m talking about the significant number of men (maybe women do this, too–I never see their profiles, so I don’t know) who explicitly announce that they want to meet for coffee so as not to waste their time on someone with whom they lack chemistry.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. I actually find this phrase to be the most useful thing a person can say in his profile. Right away I know that:

-He considers talking with any woman he doesn’t want to screw a waste of time;
-He’s so shallow that he thinks if he doesn’t want to screw a woman the moment he lays eyes on her, he never will; and
-He’s enough of a neanderthal that he doesn’t even realize he’s just told the women of the world that if they’re not good meat, they’re not worth acknowledging.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that much of what’s good in life comes as a complete surprise, so I try to be open and take things (and people) as they come, but these guys are an exception. The simple announcement that it’s a waste of time to talk to someone if it’s not likely to end in sex is really all I need to know about a person to get far, far away.

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It seems to me that if I were truly “jaded” I would have a more pessimistic outlook of online dating. I wouldn’t be so quick to point out that wanting to meet for a cup of coffee is superficial and shallow. Actually, it sounds like a good approach to me (No, that’s not on my profile).

I have met several people organically that I often get together with for a cup of coffee. It’s a great way to sit and talk, catch up with an old friend or get to know a new one. If you get together for dinner, you are eating which makes it harder to talk. Combine that with the fact that restaurants are typically louder than coffee shops and faster paced. Meeting for coffee can be quick or you can sit there for hours, it’s not very committed but that can work for both parties.

I didn’t say (or imply) that people don’t have value unless you meet them with a specific goal in mind. But if you have a goal, shouldn’t you be upfront about it? There is a reason that we talk to people “organically”, it’s not random. Maybe there’s an attraction, maybe you noticed that you have the same phone, maybe you overheard them say something that intrigued you or made you smile. But there is a reason, a purpose. Something prompted you (or them) to start up a dialog. So, what is wrong with that reason being that two people are both single?

What made me decide to try online dating was the realization that many single women are simply too busy to meet men, or so they think. I was at the mall a few years ago shopping for a few new shirts. As I was perusing the shirt rack in one of my favorite stores, I suddenly found myself distracted by the sound of angelic laughter. Despite my protests, my eyes became drawn to this woman who was entering the store. She was beautiful and close to my age. It may have been presumptuous but I already felt like we had a few things in common. She was laughing which tells me that she has a great sense of humor, we were both shopping in the same store and I could tell by looking that we had a similar fashion sense.

This lovely woman was enthralled in a conversation on her cell phone and it would have been rude for me to interrupt. She glanced my way, approaching the same shirt rack that I was riffling through, not looking at me but through me. The cell phone and shopping appeared to be all that could occupy her mind at this time.

As we stood there (just inches from one another) searching for the perfect shirt, I overheard her say, “But I would have to find a single guy first and they all seem to be hiding” and there was that angelic laugh again. I quickly looked for a shirt that I thought she would like. My plan was to show it to her and ask, “Is this what you’re looking for?” Referring to a guy to shop with, not a shirt. But my plan failed as she was gone in an instant.

To me, this was a missed opportunity to meet someone “organically” because technology got in the way. So, why not use technology to make connections rather than prevent them? I believe that there is a percentage of women who keep themselves busy and distracted to offer an excuse for why they are single, to hide their frustration with the dating scene. But in those quiet moments, after the kids have gone to bed and their friends are spending time with their husbands or boyfriends, they find themselves alone, feeling like something is missing and turn to online dating.

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Mike, you sound so jaded.  It makes me kind of sad.  I begin to fear that you may be one of those people who notes on his online dating profile (nope, I’ve never peeked) that he’d like to meet for a quick cup of coffee first so that you can avoid “wasting each other’s time” if there’s no chemistry.

Have we really come to the point where other human beings aren’t worth getting to know unless we expect that they will fill a pre-defined need or desire?  Is it not worthwhile to take a person as he or she comes and make whatever connections come naturally?  Is it a waste of time to get to know someone kind and interesting if she can’t or won’t become a romantic partner?

In my experience, the best way to get to know someone is not to narrow my view of him/her in advance. That means not reducing someone to a particular category or deciding that he might or might not qualify for an open position in my life.  The quick screen (Are you single?  Am I attracted to you?  Are you looking to get into a relationship?) reduces people to far less than they really are, dismissing so much possible value.

It seems to me that the scenario you seek to avoid–the situation where you find out someone is in a relationship and “pretend to be happy for her”–is actually triggered by the mindset that identifies someone as a prospect instead of just a person.  If you meet someone and relate to her as a human being and someone who could become one of many things–a casual acquaintance, a date, a friend, a co-worker, someone you might not wish to continue a relationship with at all–then there’s no expectation and nothing to be disappointed about if she turns out to be unavailable.  Maybe, on those terms, you might even find yourself actually happy for her if she were in a good relationship.

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Not surprisingly, I can’t agree with Tiffany on her downside to online dating.  I think that, considering the intent, it is better to know upfront that someone is single and looking.  If your goal is to find someone who is a dating prospect you will be more focused to ask the questions and talk about the topics that are most important for you in a mate.  Sure, it is a bit like you are a commodity but you wouldn’t shop for a car at the grocery store.

Meeting people organically, as Tiffany prefers, is fine for making new friends.  That’s how she and I became friends.  But at what point do you ask the question, “Are you single?”  You get to know someone, find out that you have a lot in common, spend hours talking about your common interests and phlisophies on life.  You find that you have the same dreams and aspirations.  Maybe, in the back of your mind, you start to think about what it would be like to have a future with this person.  Then, they introduce you to their spouse.  “It’s like meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife” ~ Alanis Morissette.

To me, time is precious and I meet new friends all the time.  Who knows, I may even end up with one of those friends.  But I definitely think that I can save time by getting straight to the point.  Online dating quickly answers the question, “Are you single?”  There just seems to be no point in getting your hopes up for someone you meet organically who may already be taken when people are advertising that they are single online.

With online dating, you have already cut to the chase.  You don’t have to ask your friends, “What’s his or her story?”  You don’t have to have that awkward moment where they mention their spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend as you try to pretend to be happy for them.  I just don’t see how being upfront with someone about your intentions can possibly be a downside.

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