I was recently watching a sitcom, which I’d prefer not to mention by name, about a man telling his children the retrospective tale of How He Met Their Mother. Set in New York City, the program’s premise is that among 12 or so million people, finding your soulmate can be an exhausting, disheartening, though notionally comic experience. It’s a reverse Cinderella story, with an optimistic and romantic Prince Charming slipping glass slipper on foot after foot, clinging to his belief in the right fit, the One. It’s a terrible show, but one relevant to my interests currently, as I am [portentous swell of the string section, here] dating.
The televised Prince Charming is a 27-year-old architect in the most exciting city in the world. I, on the other hand, am a 48-old-year single father and writer living in a town that recently struck the word “sanctuary” from a resolution because some residents are afraid of Middle Eastern headgear. Point is, the process of finding the One in an available pool of, at minimum, some several hundred thousands, seems an embarrassment of riches. I work alone in a basement office; I’m far too old and wise to cruise bars; and still a bit too young for swim aerobics. So, it seemed my options were to watch my attractive friends’ Facebook relationship statuses like a stock ticker, or stalk the Hannaford produce section like Otter in Animal House. Instead, I’ve ventured into the digital public space. I am dating [timpani and cymbal crash] online.
Your vision of what online dating is like will have something to do with your age, as well as your own personal and romantic interests. Many people will think first of Match.com, which still seems the go-to in this area for the non-digital natives. (Some of you will think first of Craigslist and/or Backpage, but, be honest, even when that was still available it wasn’t really “dating,” was it?) Younger people may be more familiar with Tinder, which has grown out of its early-days reputation has a hook-up site. And there are a slew of others: OKCupid, Bumble, Hinge, Bittr, Spinstr, Stalkr . . . OK, I made a couple of those up. But there are quite a few. Those of us well outside cosmopolitan centers will probably have the most success with some of the better known. Or such was my thinking.
I tried both Match and Tinder. Of the two, Tinder is far cooler. It’s youthful and forward: more like cocktail conversation than a book report about divorce. Which is probably why there were virtually no respondents within the first geographic range I set. When I broadened the radius, I found lots of bookish, artsy women in Western Massachusetts (a high percentage of them librarians or art conservationists), and crafty, artsy women in the Hudson Valley (a high percentage of them with boutique lapel-pin businesses or farm-to-table experience). A quirk about Tinder to keep in mind is that, if allowed, it ties to the user’s phone’s GPS and shows you where they are at the moment. Tip: If you want to date interesting, successful and attractive women from New York City, get a job at a ski mountain in the Catskills.
I did get one date via Tinder and had a very pleasant but confusing lunch with a woman in Saugerties. But the psychology of online dating, in which you state your preferences or requirements upfront, seems to dictate the face-to-face exchanges, as well. Comparison shopping is the vibe, and flexibility isn’t always offered. My date’s schedule was curious, leaving her available Monday through Friday during school hours, but she wasn’t interested in casual sex. Also, she announced her plan to move to Canada this summer.
At which point, I thought about refusing to buy dessert. I relented, and she enjoyed the vegan cheesecake. We parted amicably but agreed to skip any further dates.
In this area, Match is, evidently, the go-to. But, frankly, it’s pretty dismal. There are, generally, two types of profiles in my age group:
1) The woman who “is most comfortable at home for a quiet evening in, but still likes the little black dress for a night on the town.” This woman is, also, she makes an effort to point out, a sports fan: “Go, Sea Slugs!” or whatever. This woman seems to be trying both too hard and vaguely. You like being home and not at home. Good. You have more than one outfit. Good, I guess. And, out of recent curiosity, how often do pro ball franchises come up in separation papers? It might be much more often than I previously suspected.
2) The woman who has had it up to here. “I am an independent, busy and happy person and, though, I’d like to share my infrequent free time with someone, I don’t need to, and I won’t take care of anyone ever again. So, go fuck yourself, Brian.” Seriously, dudes, raise your game. Your bad behavior is alienating and embittering a lot of capable women. Fuckin’ Brian . . .
Aside from the sameness of many of the profiles, there is the comparatively limited number of people within any grouping of search filters and the “SmAlbany factor.” I’ve seen at least two former classmates, and a pal’s ex-girlfriend on the site. Most frustratingly, a really fun and witty exchange with a very pretty, vivacious woman went sideways when we realized, while making plans to meet, that she was my ex-girlfriend’s ex-husband’s ex-wife. We abandoned our plans.
I have recently met for drinks with a very bright and funny woman, whom I met on Match, though. We’ve got plans to meet again. So, don’t let me put you off, if you’re thinking of giving online dating a shot. Just be prepared to have your patience and optimism tried. Hold on to hope, Prince(ss) Charming.
And, fans of that TV show, I haven’t watched the whole series: Please, please don’t tell me that dude eventually meets his kids’ mom in swim aerobics.