Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.
Free perfect boyfriends and husbands and ice-cream sandwiches for everyone! And also magic pandas!
Okay, this column really cannot accomplish that. But in my last column, Bullish Life: I’m Engaged! What I Learned From Twenty Years of Dating, I did promise to write about how I found my betrothed via online dating.
Don’t get me wrong: At times, it was hell. Sheer hell.
But, if my fiance turned out to be a flesh-eating zombie vampire (hereby, “zompire”) and I escaped and had to start dating again, I would definitely go back to OKCupid. Why? Because OKCupid allowed me to pre-screen my dates in a way that would be completely socially impossible in real life. For instance:
Cute Guy: Hi there. We have something in common! Now I am making a literary joke that I have cleverly intuited will appeal to you. I love a woman who looks good in pinstripe. I am leaning closer so you can smell my pheromones. Inserting unnecessary and yet impressive vocabulary word now. Soon you will discover that I do not shave my chest hair.
Me: I am very interested in all of this! You’re an atheist, right? Do you want kids?
So, no. You can’t really do that without seeming crazy, even though it is imminently reasonable to want to only date the kind of people you could ever possibly shack up with. (Note to non-New York readers: For most people in NYC, it is not financially possible to have kids and continue to live in Manhattan. I think most men say they ultimately want kids, but they want them in a very distant and mythical future that does not require them to give up the amenities they currently enjoy.)
Now, don’t get me wrong — I think it’s crazy that women are thought to be crazy for 1) stating their actual goals in a straightforward way, and 2) planning accordingly.
I wrote in Bullish: How to Build a Modern Woman’s Hope Chest Without Looking Like an Insane Harpy that it is bizarre that we reward people for planning ahead for nearly every type of goal — for instance, if you want to go to graduate school in the next few years, it would be great to save up some money and stockpile seasonally-appropriate clothing for wherever you’re going — and yet people will think you are batshit insane if you say something like, “I saw these adorable baby clothes on sale for practically nothing, so I picked them up and am going to stash them in a drawer. No, I’m not dating anyone, but statistically, the majority of women have children, so I took a chance with my $15.”
On OKCupid, you can cut to the chase really fast. Before even responding to someone’s message, in fact. There is a very detailed system of questions that everyone is encouraged to answer. Furthermore, if you don’t answer questions, you can’t see other people’s answers to those questions. (You can also annotate your answers. In response to, “Do you believe in dinosaurs?” I clicked “Yes,” then added, “You can do it, Apatosaurus! I believe in you!”)
Some of the questions are obvious (Do you smoke, do you smoke weed, have you ever been arrested?), silly or trivial (Do you chew gum?), or IQ-type qualifiers (What’s bigger, the Earth or the Sun? What comes next in the pattern 11, 23, 47…?) And some of them look like this:
Well … that just saved me a lot of time! (I Photoshopped Clooney onto some guy’s picture in the graphic above). And my time is worth money. For reals. Importantly: I didn’t even have to speak with this guy — much less suffer through drinks with him — to determine that we want totally different things in life. YAY COMPUTERS.
Similarly, I was all set to go out on a date with a guy I seemed to have a lot in common with, when I saw that (surprisingly, based on his other views) he was opposed to gay marriage. I asked him about it. “Yep,” he said. “Sorry.” And that saved us both a lot of time, although I don’t really care about the time of bigots. On an actual in-person date, when on earth would I have gotten around to asking what my date thought about gay marriage? Probably after finding out what his penis looked like. (If only bigots had some kind of penis-stigmata that allowed you to identify them straightaway!)
In terms of saving time, pain, and forehead-slapping frustration, just think of the hours I could have spent cavorting with some cad before figuring out this:
I don’t care too much about chivalry — I think we’re at the point where we can do a little role-playing for prom and weddings if we want but otherwise base our systems of niceness on “being nice to everyone” and “helping people when they’re down and out” and “taller people reaching for stuff” — but, if anyone still wants to practice chivalry as traditionally conceived, can we please eliminate the part where some dude pulls out my chair (unlike opening a door, which saves labor for the recipient, pulling out a chair just makes it really, really awkward to sit down and usually necessitates this weird half-second of squatting over thin air) and trade it for not asking a woman out on a date when you have the attention span of a priapic fruit fly?
Or, at least have the reading comprehension skills to check out the woman’s answers to these same questions, which will indicate whether you are in very different places in life. Obviously, some women also want someone to go out with for just a few months; databases can help these people find each other!
So, while OKCupid has a reputation as being a bit of a hookup spot, good software engineering means that users looking for very different things can still control their experiences accordingly. After my fiancé and I went on our third date, I tentatively logged into OKCupid, wanting to see when he had last logged into OKCupid, but knowing that doing so would reveal that I had logged in to OKCupid (why yes, I do think about these things).
I discovered that he had taken his profile down. Happily, I had already saved all his pictures to my hard drive. I went to take down my profile as well, and OKCupid asked why I was leaving the site: I didn’t meet anyone? I met someone on OKCupid? I met someone offline? I clicked “met someone on OKCupid” and the site wanted to know who, which seemed a little invasive. I demurred.
When I told my fiancé that I, too, had taken down my profile, he said that he had, of course, gotten the same “Why are you leaving?” questions, had selected “met someone on OKCupid,” and had entered my username. He said he wanted OKCupid to have the data so they could improve their algorithm and help other people find each other.
That’s good citizenship!
Here are a few more thoughts that might help. (Note: OKCupid is not endorsing this post in any way, and I do not mean to make light of all the dickish messages and disappointment that will almost certainly be the price you pay for any success you have there.)
Assume Your Friends, Co-Workers, and Family Will Find Your Profile
At one point, I was texting with my brother, and it came up that we were both on OKCupid at the same time. I realized that — OMG — if we were in the same city, we almost certainly would have found each other:
But seriously: virtually everyone wants sex, companionship, or both. Everyone does this online now.
When I put up my profile, I kind of thought, “I am slightly famous. Someone will know it’s me!” and also, “I have taught THOUSANDS of adult students!” So, I just kind of accepted that someone I knew would see my profile. It’s cool. My main picture didn’t show anything body-wise, but was “sexy” in the “I live in a house that gets dark at night!” kind of way.
The profile contained one brief innuendo to show I am not a nun: “People always think I want to play Scrabble, but I don’t. I’m moderately good, but our time on Earth is short and that game is 300% too long. If I’m in a position to play Scrabble with someone, well, I could think of better positions to be in.”
And then I just kind of accepted that the thing was public. And honestly, the read of my profile kind of read like a Bullish column. If you’ve read some Bullish columns, does this excerpt surprise you in any way? (Note that I was mostly giggling while linking phrases from my online dating ad to various Bullish columns on TheGloss and The Grindstone.)
I like to pick random foreign countries on Expedia and fly to them and drink their beer and examine their most venerable buildings. I love zoos outside of the U.S., where liability concerns do not prevent you from touching awesome animals at your very own risk. I am completely comfortable thinking about being sixty in 28 years. I collect gorgeous work-appropriate dresses. I dislike people who believe that money is inherently evil; I think that making money is a skill and using it for good is an art. I like men in soft, cuddly t-shirts as well as in crisp suits (I think men should perhaps be Constitutionally forbidden from wearing latex, spandex, or any other fabric ending in -ex). I am a serious introvert.
I was the first person in my family to go to college; I think a lot about class in America. Luxurious things all seem hilariously new to me.
I am in a “Get those kids off my lawn!” phase of life. I am not amused by Burning Man, live-streaming things that don’t matter anyway, or any activity that involves wearing a costume in Brooklyn.
I deeply love adulthood and all its perks, pleasures, and responsibilities that can be recast and refigured into a well-crafted life. So, if you have crow’s feet (totally sexy on guys), please act as though you are content with the fact that your youth is over!
I enjoy enforcing justice on wrongdoers. I would like drunk drivers to be sentenced to being hit by cars (okay, not really, but sort of). I would like loud cell-phone talkers to have their phones confiscated. I regularly tell street harassers that their behavior is “inappropriate,” which usually leaves them without a proper rebuttal.
By the way, no line ever got more response from men than, “I enjoy enforcing justice on wrongdoers.” I was totally sincere about it. A friend predicted that I would get messages from male submissives wanting to be dominated, but I did not. Rather, it got me messages from bankers and oldest-children. Some of us just have different ideas about “wrongdoers.” (I have previously expressed that I would happily stab a gang-raping warlord in the throat with my very own hands and kitchen knife.)
So, whatever. You all can read that. So can my business associates. If you would drink with your clients in a bar, it’s really not a big deal if they see that you like chest hair or whatnot.
Oh, and I was recently hiring someone on TaskRabbit to run my errands, and saw that someone advertising himself as an errand-runner had posted his OKCupid pictures to his profile. Oh, so the guy who will be assembling my new coffee table also goes on dates? SHOCKING. Not really. Let’s collectively shrug and get over ourselves.
Ignore Hate Mail. If Possible, Outsource the Hatemail to a Personal Assistant or Large, Belligerent Friend
Somehow, my profile generated less hate mail (and fewer truly objectionable come-ons) than those of many of my friends. (I did get plenty of “U R SEXY” and one “You sound like a total pain in the ass.”)
One friend says she gets near-constant hatemail for her list of reasons why men should not contact her. She gave me her profile name, and I checked her out (haha, *leering*), expecting a litany of off-putting complaints.
What I actually found was a charming, verbose profile that began, “ i craft ridiculous headpieces and put together outrageous costumes, both often involving volumes of plumage. i’m a super-fast reader. i may lose at scrabble occasionally, but that’s because i chase good words over points” and continued for about twenty paragraphs before specifying:
You should NOT message me if:
– you have no photo/fake photo/unrevealing close-up, or a half-assed profile (i’m NOT a fan of spy-worthy terseness and “if you want to know something, ask me”)
– your writing is a forest of run-ons and misspellings (and you don’t think it matters)
– your message is going to be along the lines of, “hi your cute! whats up? LOL” — substance required if you want a response, as are correct grammar & full sentences. capitalization clearly optional.
– you can frequently be seen in public in a baseball cap/trucker hat/white sneakers/ill-fitting baggy jeans
– you think i’ll jump in bed with you just because i seem to like sex so much
– you don’t live anywhere close to NYC
May I say… THIS IS SO REASONABLE.
Why the hate?! One stab at an answer: Her profile is rather sexually forward. Maybe the men sending hate mail are of one of my favorite varieties of men: those whose general manner of dealing with women says, “Why is the talking head part of the woman always cockblocking me away from the vagina part?!”
You really can’t let those people ruin your fun.
As I mentioned, online dating was, at times, hell. And yet, it was worthwhile. Also, the writer of the above profile is also actually very happy with someone she met on OKCupid.
You have to suffer some fools to find what you want. Fortunately, in the world of online dating, it is easier to screen those fools before ever encountering them in real life or even giving them your contact information.
That said, OKCupid has many soul-destroying features. For instance, you can submit your photos to be “rated” by other people, thus increasing your exposure at the expense of your gravitas. If you answer a question like, “How many dates do you usually have with someone before you have sex?”, your picture and answer will be displayed to others, out of context, in a Facebook-like timeline.
By using online dating to find an adult male life partner, I did feel like I was hacking the system a bit.
And my fiancé was on online dating, on and off, for eleven years! Looking for me! When we chatted online, before our first date, our conversation went in an odd direction that resulted in his writing me a charming short story about needing to get to the Chilean embassy, post-haste, with a chimpanzee in tow. Other women, I’ve been told, have responded to similar displays of verbal peacocking with a grim, “You don’t have to try so hard.” (I think willingness to try hard is the best possible quality in a man!)
And yet, of course it was worthwhile. As I wrote in Bullish Life: 3 Romantic Mistakes That Young Women Make That Cause Weeping Among The Angels And Kittens, please remember that the universe is indifferent to your well-being.
No one has a master plan for you. There is no story arc, no poetic justice. You’re driving.
Be clear about what you want. If what you want is just one guy (or the still rather small number of partners most polyamorous people can fit on their dance card) it’s to your benefit to scare off those who are not worthwhile or just not right for you. What are you going to do with all that time you could’ve been spending on dates that go nowhere? Oh, I don’t know — accomplish amazing things?