Thursday, April 06, 2006

Do you remember the first time?

It was a more innocent time back then. Except that "innocent" is completely the wrong word for it. It just sounds better than "It was an I-had-no-idea-what-the-hell-I-was-in-for time back then."

We're going back several years here. I had recently broken up with a man I thought I was going to marry. I took some time to deal with it in a healthy, mature way (drinking too much and having reckless sex), then I got my shit together.

It was time to try something new. My friends were using this website to meet people. How bizarre! It was like shopping online... but for people! Initially I thought the folks on there were going to be sketchy, but once I realized all these cool people I knew were doing it, I decided to give it a whirl. It would be great to meet guys outside of bars/clubs or ones who were friends of friends.

[Forget the fact that more than 80% of my dates ended up involving bars, anyway. Is that real-ironic or Alanis Morrisette-ironic?]

When I put my ad up, I received a good number of responses. How exciting! The internet was my dating oyster and I was sure it would be no time before I found someone special.

I decided to dig up what I wrote after my first online date:

Bachelor #1 is G.

G is originally from the mid-west, works in magazine publishing, is 25, an Aries, and his favorite film is [name of movie I love]. He's cute and, looks-wise, actually reminds me of a gay boy I kissed in college (I miss Truth or Dare).

I met G in Carrol Gardens and we went to a quiet little bar, sat in the back garden, had a few cocktails, and chatted. G impressed me greatly by telling me about meeting [director of movie we love] (he briefly interviewed him for a film magazine). He also is involved in these multi-media art/film projects that sound fascinating, even though he sees himself as more on the production than creative side. G is maybe the first person I have met that does not have a strong wanderlust, but it is because he feels that New York is the capital of the world and no place can possibly be more exciting (he has traveled only a little). It's kind of refreshing to talk to somebody so steadfast, who is perfectly content where he is.

As for chemistry, I think it's too soon to tell. I've decided to actually get to know people and not make immediate judgments on whether or not I'm attracted to them (I used to be the type that would know in the first minute if I would sleep with a guy; I've been told I have a male mentality with regards to certain aspects of relationships and sex).

At this point, even after talking to G for over three hours, I feel like I still barely know him. It could go either way. But he would definitely make a cool friend if things did not work out romantically.

Okay, now I need to send an email to the guy I'm going out with on Thursday (this dating thing is too much fun).

Unsurprisingly, that was the one and only time I saw G.

After all these years, I liken online dating to a treadmill: lots of time and energy expended, but the destination remains constant. All this time and I still have dates that could "go either way." Except that they usually go one way: nowhere. The internet has been great for my sex life but terrible for my love life. I know lots of people have met their lovers/spouses/whatevers via the internet. I also know that's not how it's going to happen for me. Call it a hunch.

The most wretched habit I have been unable to fully kick is online dating. Yes, I have met some fine young (and not-so-young) men, but deep down I have always known it was a diversionary tactic. Too much time wasted. Too many missed connections. Too many choices with too few real possibilities.

Every time I leave, I promise myself that it will be for good. This time, I really want to mean it. Seriously. Reading over the account of that date with G made me see what a Mobius strip my dating life has been all these years. Give or take a couple of failed relationships/flings, it's been a repeated scenario with no progress, like Groundhog Day minus Andie MacDowell's wooden acting. Don't I have better things to do than to peruse a cyber-buffet of men?

Why yes; yes I do.

I am officially done moping about FF and every other guy who I have ever moped over.

I am officially putting a permanent halt on all online dating, even via Friendster and MySpace. Instead, I am choosing the land of three dimensions (well, four, if you count time-- eleven if you want to get all string theory-ish about it).

I like it here. I think I'm going to stay.

21 comments:

Sarah said...

Oooh, wow. That's quite a step -- good luck!

Sam Fisher said...

In my , admittedly limited, experience of people into online dating there are roughly two types(I feel a theory coming on). The first are people looking for marriage, and the second are people looking for soul mates who they may end up marrying.

When two like minded marriage seekers find each other and discover a decent mutual attraction then things can work out long term. For better or for worse.

The second group is many orders of magnitude less likely to get lucky in the long run.

I'd put myself in the latter category, but then who wouldn't. The first group definitely exists; I've seen it many times.

Just a theory, perhaps I'll call it Fishers Theorem as apparently Fisher's Hypothesis is already taken

StrangerInTheseParts said...

This post really pissed me off.

I thought you were really someone who was tuned in. I can't believe your f-ing balls!

You write these long, seemingly insightful posts, full of so much vocabulary and 'experience' but now I see you for who you really are.

Read my lips, Dolly: Andie McDowell's acting was NOT wooden.

Dolly said...

Sarah,
I've tried to take this step many a time. Here's hoping this time it sticks.

Sam,
You forgot about the disproportionate group of people on there who are on the rebound and/or looking to get laid. Those far outnumber the soul mate/marriage seekers.

NotCarrie said...

Good luck in the 3-D (4 or 11, too).

NotMiranda said...

I'm right there with you, Dolly. I just know in my gut that online dating just isn't for me.

Stretch said...

I'd say real ironic...Alanis Morissette ironic is taking your profile down the day before your "soulmate" (or at least a really cool guy you would enjoy meeting and spending time with) finds it. ("like meeting the man of your dreams...and his beautiful wife")

The percentage of guys you find online just looking to hook up really isn't any different than the percentage you will find anywhere else, because so many young singles are online nowadays. Sam Fisher is onto something with "Fisher's hypothesis." I think there really are a decent number of people on websites like Fster and Mspace (ok, mostly women, but a few men, too--just like real life) hoping to find a "soulmate" online. Which is why these internet-inspired encounters have such a high failure rate.

As you described, Dolly, many women and men sign up for these services hoping they can order a partner the same way they can order a Whopper with Cheese...sesame seed bun, hold the pickle, extra ketchup. But even in online relationships you usually can't "have it your way."

The guy you end up meeting WILL be different in many ways than the way you built him up in your mind through witty banter over email, IM, and the phone (so will the girl). Removed from your initially safe online world and facing each other in real life WILL be at least a bit awkward at first. And because of the expectations and hopes you had built up around this person, you WILL be disappointed when that happens. It all goes back to the expectations theory mentioned in Unhooked Generation....two weeks ago I was thrilled to get the chance to simply jump rope outdoors with a group of kids I walked past, because the experience was totally unexpected and spontaneous. But my date that night with someone I met online left me feeling rather neutral, even though I probably would have been thrilled to have met that person by pure coincidence.

So I guess there are two ways of dealing with this "problem," if you want to call it that. One is to stick to the unexpected surprises and let fate take its course, sans cyber-intervention. You might feel better because of the increase in jump-rope-like experiences, but the people you meet will be less likely to share your interests and more likely to posess traits you would consider "disqualifiers." Or you can use the internet to meet people you are more likely to have something in common with, but lose the excitement that comes with the chance encounter and deal with the fact that these encounters might therefore be less likely to develop into relationships over time.

In reality, this is a false choice. The two aren't mutually exclusive. The third "option" is just to see the online world as another resource at your disposal and accept it for what it is, perhaps trying to have the same frame of mind with the people you meet online with those you meet in chance encounters. Why limit yourself?

Stretch said...

The difference between meeting people online vs. in person is that the internet results in a large number of false positives: when you get to "pick" the type of guy you think you would like from the provervial smorgasbord seemingly available online, you are more likely to think you have found "the one." In contrast, meeting a guy in a bar or on a streetcorner is more likely to result in a false negative. Because of the large number of guys who are probably hitting on you, you are less likely to take the time to find out something about him that you would find intriguing. One really isn't any better than the other. I say "Say Yes!" to both.

N said...

LOL at stranger's post... for a second I was worried things were getting all confrontational again.

Dolly: realising you're jaded and changing your outlook is so sensible I can't believe more people don't try it! :)

Serendipity said...

I was reading an article recently in which some research appeared to show that online dating tends to promote a 'checklist' mentality, where we choose people based on a wishlist of criteria. Ironically, the result tends to be a much longer period between relationships.

I can see why. I think the real connections we make don't work that way. If we think about the people we've actually been in relationships with, do they match those criteria that we think we really want?

I'm currently getting to know a chick I met in the online forums of a local dating site. What opened up the bounds of possibility was not a selection criteria for either of us, but the fact that we fought like cat and dog.

That's always a good sign as far as I'm concerned. Whenever I conflict with a woman, there's passion and passion is hot.

I have no illusions but it strikes me as slightly more natural than simply checking out a picture and a profile, then writing a vapid email designed to stand out from the crowd.

I suspect we're all just learning more about ourselves and other people. Your choice may be a lifelong one or it may just be a phase. Either way, I'm curious to see what kind of a difference it makes.

jo said...

i haven't tried online dating and while i'm not exactly ruling it out ('coz i know a friend who had a long distance online relationship and wound up marrying the guy, i'm not exactly jumping into it with my eyes closed either. i say just go with whatever you're comfortable with.

coasta said...

>Give or take a couple of failed relationships/flings, it's been a repeated scenario with no progress, like Groundhog Day minus Andie MacDowell's wooden acting.

It's not just about 'making progress'. It's about learning. You seem to have learned quite a bit about yourself along the way.

Ya know, one of the things I've noticed about your dates is that they are always meet ups at bars. Why don't you try something different? Go shopping together...mess around some cool stores...walk in central park....play frisbee...explore a different part of the city...look for books together...whatever. Have a mini adventure. Get away from the interview-bar format. Just a suggestion.

pookalu said...

YAY! to whatever choice you make, because, obviously, it has to be one you feel most comfortable making.

i have no opinion on andie macdowell. ok, i do, but it's not all pleasant. let's focus, instead, on bill murray, and how much we love him, especially in groundhog day.

Dolly said...

Stranger,
I was laughing about your comment all afternoon yesterday.

NotCarrie,
Thanks!

NotMiranda,
Maybe you could join our I Hate Dating club. Or we could start a separate I Hate Online Dating club.

Stretch,
Believe me, I'm not limiting myself. After a huge number of dates with guys I met online (we're probably talking high double digits here), I can honestly say it's not a way I want to spend my time again. The filtering process takes way too long and I'd rather meet someone face to face than try to determine initial chemistry over the internet. Besides, I spend enough time online as it is, and this way I'll leave the house and engage with the real world more. Sounds like the opposite of limiting myself to me...

Stretch,
Saying yes to both requires a time commitment I don't want to give. And I've had way too many false positives and inconsequential encounters to believe it's something that will add any further benefit to my life. Besides, I'm too busy and focused on other things right now to date at the pace I used to.

N,
Yeah, Stranger had me going, too. Oh, and to clarify, I'm not jaded. It's not that I believe there is no one out there for me, it's that I think I've been spending too much of my time looking, and in the wrong places. Some quality Dolly time will do me good.

Serendipity,
The thing about the checklist mentality is so true. I'm trying to pare mine down. And yes, bickering with someone can result in great chemistry! I love that kind of passionate banter.

Jo,
I've seen the online thing work out for lots of people, too. I just have a strong gut feeling I'm not going to be one of them, so it's time to log off.

Coasta,
You're right, it's about learning. I have learned sooooo much over the course of dozens of dates. The thing I've learned overall, however, is how much the itnernet sucks as a tool to find a romantic partner. I hear you on the bar thing, too. Dates that are less alcohol-centric would probably do me good. However, I hate to shop and I love to drink, so my favorite dates usually involve bars. Of course, if a guy suggested something like having a picnic in the park, I would totally swoon (and offer to bring a bottle of wine!).

Sam Fisher said...

Thanks for the advice, I've updated and refined the Theorem as a result.

The geek in me (and there's a lot of him) decided a martix was required, if you care to take a butchers it's here

Downtown said...

You know what's great about taking a break from online dating? When you go back there will be so many new potentials, new recruits who just signed on, or are coming back to it.

There will never be a shortage of guys to meet online. (That said, there will always be a shortage of QUALITY men online.)

Dolly said...

Pookalu,
You're right, we should focus on Bill Murray and his incredible ability to make stuffing and entire donut into his mouth gross, funny, and oddly endearing.

Sam,
Words fail me.

Downtown,
Have you no faith in me? When I go back? I never want to go back. I want to resist the lure of of the post-hiatus fresh profiles once and for all.

Betty on the Beach said...

Ween yourself from the dating teat Dolly...Online Daters Anonymous could be the next 12 step program!

I gave it up about a year ago. I felt exactly the same about it. Most guys use online dating sites as a catalog for sex. They don't read your profile. They troll the waters by photograph and pick girls that way. In short, they chum the waters with hopes of getting a bite. When they do, they'll do a little reading up on you. but really...they just want to get in your knickers. Lots of first dates but that's as far as they ever go.

Dolly said...

Betty,
Amen, sister. If you can go a year wihtout slipping up, I'm sure I can, too. You're right, you end up on so many go-nowhere first dates. There has to be a better way!

partygirljessica said...

Online dating has helped me a lot with my dating problems. Since joining webdate*com, I've gotten a whole new perspective on the whole dating thing. I'm not saying all my dates were successful, but in general terms, I've learned a lot from the experience.

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