This is a journey of one man's probe into the death of traditional dating and the erection of the new and improved Internet dating scene.
How it all started:
John: are you going to movie night tomorrow?
Me: I am taking tomorrow off...a dinner tonight then movie, bed and sleeping in!
John: nice! dinner date? sorry, I forgot her name?
Me: no, my old group of friends from kickboxing gym.
John: yeah I know how that goes. i'm really enjoying the freedom of being single.. and by freedom I mean just chilling and doing whatever.
Me: yeah...I gotcha...I have done that for the last 4 yrs...I wouldn't mind some female companionship.
John: the last 3 serious relationships i've had were on there I just wasn't ready for them. lol.
Me: really? I have never done that...kinda freaks me out.
John: yeah man. its actually really good. just be honest in the text part. and let someone else choose your photos. how do you think I met Sara, Emily and Denise? except Emily and me never dated. actually met almost a dozen girls off there. and this time of year is the best time to join. lots of hot girls for some reason.
Me: hmm...maybe I could approach it as an experiment...and write about it...the only way I might be able to respect myself.
John: ha ha ha ok whatever makes you feel better. get a girlfriend to pick your photos though and don't expect much out of the first 3 weeks. but you have to be active on there.. make the first move and stuff.
Me: ugh...seriously, freaks me out...what if someone I know sees it!?
John: no biggie. you can call them out cause they have to have a membership to see you too!
Me: sounds like so much work...
John: dating is man. its fun though. I consider it shopping, not dating. ha ha.
Me: it kinda is. I see it that way too...not sure women see it so black n white.
John: worked for me, I actually got a few friends with benefits from it too.
Me: hmm. oh, another thing...how much does this cost a month?
John: it depends on how long you choose. I usually do the 3 months, its like 19.95 each month.
Me: ok, after new years...I will try Match if you come over one night and help me out. maybe invite Kerry or Allison over too, for the female perspective. I am not good at selling myself...or writing about myself.
John: yeah we can definitely do that. Kerry would LOVE to help. lol.
Me: ha...I will ask her when she gets back from the holidays.
John: have plenty of photos ready.
Me: already plenty on facebook, ready to go.
So then I contacted Allison:
Me: favor. so john convinced me to do the Match thing....you know how I feel about this...so I want to do it for writing purposes. so I need help. you and john as advisors...to set up whatever it is.
Allison: what?? you are going on Match?
Me: well, I was considering doing it...but I would need a male and female perspective.
Allison: sorry you! haha, ok. I can help. you know who else is on it...Zeke.
Me: I cannot sell myself.... and you know how uncomfortable the idea makes me feel.
Allison: I know I know, and it’s all about the profile blurb (from a girls perspective)
Me: I hate that people will know and did you talk him into it? see, I need your help. well, john said he would help too so lemme know when you might have time and we can meet up at my place and have a drink and get it launched.
Allison: LOL! you are too funny. "launch" like we are doing a whole website or somethin...
Me: it is a social experiment for me to write on. take someone that said never and do it...and go for it.
Allison: ok, that sounds good...I will make a suggestion for now though...write down some of your passions/hobbies/interests
Me: great, nothing to offer. no real career. no money. just an average dude. ugh..hate this already!!!!
Me: I feel like my mom just yelled at me!
Allison: I mean...you are funny, a deep thinker, trustworthy to the bone, a great communicator.... those are things I mean by what you OFFER in terms of the RELATIONSHIP...and I did just yell at you : )
Me: I need to vomit.
Allison: What!!! you are crackin me up!
Me: really...I am going to write a classified ad...for sale...awkward way to meet a man...
Allison: how is it that someone is such an introspective, thoughtful, insightful person...and can’t write a little one-pager on themselves?
Me: why can I not get work? I can't sell myself. I need a photo rep. and a cave.
Allison: well you COULD approach your whole profile from a very funny unique and creative way...not really talk about yourself...or talk about yourself but be totally fictional in an obvious but funny way. I have read those before.
Me: might be easier...I will get drunk by myself, watch a chick flick, eat a gallon of ice cream and attempt to write something on poster board in bubble letters.
Allison: hahahahahahaha. ooh goodness! did u ever do one of those 25 random things about me blogs on FB? you could potentially just post pictures, and then say refer to your FB page for more info?
Me: I think I have my start to my article...social Internet anxiety yes...was my 1st FB piece.
Allison: well use your 25 things then!
Me: oh...that would save me...if anyone cared they can get to know anything about me there...and there is a lot there. in every section I will post my FB link!
Allison: LOL! I am not sure you can do an actual link, but you can point them that direction in a way that Match won't remove. and you don’t HAVE to fill out every section. I skipped a lot, bc my profile got too long, no guy is gonna read that much. ok, running to lunch.
Me: k. let's meet next week for the 'launch'!
Ok, let's pause here. Since you might be thinking, "Oh how boring and unoriginal. Another boy makes bet with boy, boy meets girl, girl learns truth, girl dumps boy, boy tries to win girl back story."
Well, your guess is as good as mine since this is a true story being written as it happens.
John, Allison and I decided to meet the next week. So I tried to sit down and do the homework Allison assigned me. First of all, it is not easily explained what I want in a woman. It is much easier to express what I do not want, which is mostly what I have had. However, I finally narrowed it down. Next I tried to write the five things I have to offer and this was much more difficult. Besides creative I could only think of the same five things I want in a woman. I guess I want a much more attractive female version of me. I decided to wait on input from my Match advisors. For a writer it is always a painful experience trying to sell myself. This is one of the many reasons I don't think a social dating site is normal. All this initial info I put out there but one of the best things about meeting people is getting to know them. I think we are just as likely to overlook someone who offers their life on paper as much as by chance not meeting them.
This is all I could come up with on my first attempt without help.
Five things I want in a woman:
open-minded, physically active, witty, easy-going, good communication skills
Five things I think I have to offer a woman:
creative, (who am I!?)
I grew up in Louisiana, went to college for five years leaving with two BFA's and moved to Nashville and have been here since.
I emailed Allison my progress.
Allison: Well that's a great start! you know, it's not considered bragging to write down a little about how you see yourself in the relationship. What would an ex-gf say about you? How you make her feel xyz or that you were really good about doing/expressing xyz. She loved when you did? Or that you were so xyz. Describe your personality or describe your relationship skills. You can also add some dislikes to your girl list-pet peeves.
Me: yeah, like a playboy centerfold, 'I don't like mean people', etc
So the next step was to figure out how to describe myself. I emailed about ten women friends and asked them how they would describe me to another woman. Since the way you perceive yourself is different from others I emailed close friends as well as new ones. I received a lot of responses. Some made me laugh and others perplexed me. It is interesting how different people see you through their eyes. Obviously, I could not use all of them and would not want to use most of them.
The good, the bad and the ugly:
a man of many talents
a man that longs to be loved and in love, but refuses to let love in
a real friend
always on the go
can be an old man sometimes
different enough not to be weird
easily adaptable in situations
easy to talk to
experienced turmoil but overcome it
fears rejection and failure
funny that comes out when you least expect it
good sense of humor
good taste in music
great grasp on relationships
great insight into the human spirit
has savior complex
has slept with a lot of women
has unworthy complex
helpful with others
man of many words
man that has a caring heart
man that sees into the detail of things and situations
not afraid of a beer and a party
on the rocker side
overall stellar man
pleasant to talk to
quick to smile
scared to be happy
Scared to not be needed
scared to succeed
seasoned in experience but young at heart
shies away compliments
somewhat spontaneous and can sometimes do the unexpected
tells stories so funny I could pee myself
thoughtfully selects words
too frightened to open up
very cool guy
I emailed John and Allison a few of the bad and funny ones.
John: Those are all over the place!
Allison: THAT is hilarious! I don't think you should include "has slept with a lot of women" LOL! May be a little too honest there. "slightly anal" hahaha, goodness. I'm guessing you pissed off some of these women?
Me: Ha, nah. I'm not going to use these but I thought there were funny ones!
I blame my fear of resumes and forms on being creative. I was always terrible at standardized tests in school. I am better with the formats of an IQ test, and I get higher scores too. So when it comes to creating a profile it seems so flat.
I am much better in person; you don't know me unless you hang out with me. Reading my writing or seeing my photography might give a glimpse but I have many sides. I am boring and seem lame on paper. I have to choose photos of myself for this too. I am not good with being photographed. There is a reason I am on the other side of the lens and at home writing alone. I look bad in photos so I always try to look goofy and silly while having fun. I just can't take myself seriously in photos.
I will need to find a creative way to express myself in the confining formats of online dating information. The more I learn about this the more work and effort it seems one must put into this. There must certainly be an art and formula to this but so far it seems forced and manipulated.
Due to conflicting schedules Allison, John and I were unable to meet this week so we tried to progress the process via email. I asked Allison to suggest some of my photos off my Facebook page. She did so and I asked why she chose these particular images. In her response she gave valid and understandable reasons for her choices.
Allison: well I like the one where you are half naked, for obvious reasons. hey, we all wanna get an idea of the goods.
you are outdoorsy - so include some of where you are doing those activities, with friends
I like the kickball one too - shows you 1) have friends 2) do activities
the rest are good face shots I think. I don’t like when someone posts just shots where the smile is the same in every one. its good to see all the angles to get a real idea of what they look like. plus you look like your goofy/fun and you are. I'd also include some of your cool photography work! since you'll probably say something about that in the body of your profile.
Me: Ok...sooo many photos but I get the idea. when I pick them I will send to you to ok! thanks for your help!
So I set out to find images of myself that met the criteria. Thanks to the digital age I have more images of family, friends and myself than I have time to go through. I have dedicated tonight to find the perfect shots to fill the bill. As a photographer I know how difficult it is to choose images of yourself to put out there for other people to judge you by before they even meet you. I will be emailing my choices to be approved by Allison. Wish me luck.
I narrowed my choices down to fifteen photos keeping in mind the criteria Allison set up for me. In the meantime John has been sending me other online dating links. When a service is free I call it questionable. I think paying eliminates the less truthful and serious contenders. Also, how many of these can one join and maintain without spending too much time and effort. I mean, it is starting to sound like some guys who can't regulate the use of their home video games.
I am a skeptic. I don't believe in ghosts or miracles. I have never personally seen evidence to prove that ghosts exist and I have been to haunted houses with both still and video cameras. By definition a miracle is something that cannot be explained scientifically. So I am challenging Match to prove its hype.
Ok, I did it. I tried to log on to Match.com to browse and I feel like I got railroaded into joining. It all happened so fast. I committed to three months, which was $60. I am now a reluctant member. The actual process was fast and easy especially since I was prepared with photos, a description of me and what I was looking for.
Now I was ready to jump into the pool of potentials, but I had problems finding the diving board. I finally found a ladder, which was not nearly as exciting. I was very honest when filling in my search criteria and the sad results were that only six women matched and none of them I found attractive in the least. I tweaked my search information for over an hour and finally out of about eighty-five results I saw one woman that I found both attractive and interesting. Only one.
I was frustrated that being honest I found nothing out there. I was even more frustrated that I had to allow what I really wanted to be morphed into what seemed like a desperate and lonely old man grasping for straws while choking on his heart medication staring at a nearly empty glass of water.
After expressing my frustration to John he assumed that you have to give it more than a month and to lower my expectations and to stretch my horizons. By that he meant lower the age in searching. I reduced the age by one year and suddenly over eight hundred women met my loose criteria. So then I stripped away the fat and still wound up with only about seventy-five potentials. Unfortunately, I still only found about five who were mildly attractive or interesting to me.
I broke down and emailed the original one who caught my eye. Much to my surprise she returned my email the next day. She seemed to have a good sense of humor, which is always high on my lists of must haves. Since then we have hardly communicated. I find it hard to keep conversation with someone that you don't know. I quickly exhausted the few things we had in common.
Then there are the 'winks' and other simple features that I just don't get similar to the 'pokes' on social networking sites. Really, is this what dating has come to a series of winks, pokes, nudges, etc!? I felt like a boy again on the playground at recess watching another boy pull a girl's hair, insult her and run away as she is left crying. Ah, the beginning of the wild and unexplained flirting behavior. Is it me or am I discovering that my instincts to reject this method of dating are being quickly founded with overwhelming evidence?
Then there is online dating etiquette. What do you do when a woman contacts you and you have no interest in them? No one wants to be rejected, even if it is easier to do via technology. Is there an automated reply like you can set up on your work email? "I would like to thank you for your interest. However, due to the heavy amount of email traffic a response will be delayed." or "Thank you very much for contacting me but I have no interest in pursuing this opportunity." Seriously, what do you say? So you choose to say nothing.
Then there is the scam. I received my first questionable email yesterday. A limited profile was set up with a message stating that she was not a member but to text her if I was interested. I emailed Karl since I recently found out he was on Match to get his advice. That afternoon as I read his response I logged in to see the questionable email again. Ha, I was right! It must have been a scam. The profile no longer existed.
Now a week later, not much has changed. I am getting interest from women around my age but honestly I do not look, act or have the same interests as most women my age. I am single with no kids and very active physically and socially. Most women my age are nothing like me. I have different goals and interests as a whole. Maybe I should lie about my age. It is only a number right? So often people are surprised at my age, in a good way. I want to find cool, fun, active women to share my interests and life with. I am not into settling down and giving up on life. I don't think you have to change for someone else, you find someone more like you.
Two weeks in and I have decided Match serves a personals version of Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com and the like. It is like an online resume for you. You upload your 'resume' and the potential 'employers' peruse at their leisure. You might get a bite or two but to land an interview in a flailing 'job' market is harder than it sounds.
Week three and I am not optimistic. Auto daily matches and manual searches seem to find maybe one a week I might find interesting. I am in no rush to get old, fat and boring. My age seems to attract women that should be in my age bracket but few women my age are of my mindset and lifestyle. I feel like most people have a plan and follow it. Women that I can relate to are a little younger. They are usually more carefree and less rigid in their game plan of life. Why do people work so hard to save to live life by their own rules when they are too old to really live by then? I feel like I am shopping for carpet but all the showroom will show me are small 4"x4" samples. I am much better in person. How can you display your sample of yourself in a manner that is really a fair representation of the whole you? Then again, why would you? One of the best parts of a relationship is getting to know the person. It reminds me of graduating from college and having a hard time landing a job when you don't have experience. That damn Catch 22!
I am five weeks in now and have made little progress. I have been wondering what to do if someone contacts you that you are not interested in. So far I have just not responded. However I recently received a no thank you return email from someone that I had emailed that I was interested in. I read an automatic response as if it was from a business contact I had emailed and they were out of the office. Also, I have been slightly tweaking my profile. They offer tips for this as well as for a first email to someone. Most of their tips seem like common sense to me though. I have briefly conversed with a few women but it seems hard to keep much going. There is one that has been responsive. So far it has been easy small talk but it is more than I have been reciprocated with thus far.
After speaking with women friends who are also on Match, I realize not to put too much stock in doling out winks. If they are attractive most women are bombarded with winks and emails since they are being pursued. I think an email is more personal so I have been working in that approach more. It is more proactive.
One friend went as far as to challenge me to ask out two women per week. She emphasized not necessarily ones that I think are "perfect" for me rather ones that meet my basics. Well, that makes a point I have been trying to make, that this is a flawed approach. I know how different attraction levels can be in person. I still feel that I would rather meet a woman in person and know right then if there is a connection or not. It makes a first date less awkward if your first impression is in person rather than building a persona through the Internet.
So people really do this? I feel like Match is just a series of redundant clicks.
I have lost interest and have received no interest after more than six weeks. So I slightly exaggerate but on a scale of 1 to 10 my success and enjoyment with this is a 3. Initially it was interesting but now it seems more like a chore and a waste of time. I think even in this format most people still simply judge a book by its cover. I have sent over 35 emails and winked at least 45 times and I have had very little response. So far I have concluded that there are too few women on Match that are even close to being compatible with me. Surely I am not an odd case. There are too few women who interest me and the ones that may I must not interest them. I just think it is a face value, shallow and disconnected way to meet someone. There is nothing that can come close to the experience of meeting someone for the first time. No matter if there are sparks or not nothing can replace face-to-face human interaction.
Seemingly at my wits end I made a decision. I was thinking, 'screw them'. Either people get me or they don't. Then I thought something wasn't working so I should alter my profile. Wait, am I trying to sell myself? Is this a game? Maybe I would find an article online called, "How to be successful on Match.com" No, I did not look for it because it probably exists. Next I was thinking how confining they have this display of you set up. I hate being defined by x numbers of words here, quote here, photos here. How can a creative person express himself or herself like this!? So I deleted 3 photos and dropped a lot of text they said I should use. I also had another plan. I am a writer so I dropped my last piece called Love Is... into my profile. Now let's see if I get any bites. I feel like I am fishing in uncharted waters and I am using every bait in my box till I hook me a record sized bass. Time will tell. I am persistent
An excerpt from Love Is:
'I wonder about her demeanor after a long day at work, the expression that lights her face in a moment of joy, the color of her aura during a passionate kiss. I imagine the feelings of doing my laundry and finding one of her hairs entangled in a shirt as if clinging onto me while she is not in my presence. I daydream of rolling over and smelling her on my pillow case and knowing she was previously lying right beside me. I try to picture watching a movie together. Does she like to cuddle if the movie is sad or scary? Does she leave her underwear and toothbrush out? Would she enjoy drinking wine and conversing as I prepared a homemade meal for her?'
Well that profile makeover made a huge difference. I immediately had more response even yielding my first to VIP emails and response from a Top 5 Daily pick. I have had primarily female readership on my blog and on Facebook so it makes sense that my writing elicited more response on Match. However, I now have new dilemmas. I have been receiving three times the interest that I was before.
If you are as clueless about the VIP emails as I was here is how Match describes them:
Don't miss the chance to let your email stand out from all the rest.
What makes your VIP Emails special?
• Only one can be sent per week, so anyone who gets one is sure to know you're a Very Interested Person.
• They stay at the top of the Inbox for 7 days, or until responded to, so they're never overlooked.
• You can see when these emails have been read.
I recently received two VIP emails on Match, two interested, and two winks. In your Daily 5 you answer yes, no or maybe. Evidently when you choose yes it notifies that person. Yet, of all the recent attention only one truly stood out to me. So, I emailed Baily and we began dialogue.
The first flag is that she has a kid. Ok, not necessarily a red flag but one that would not been overlooked before. I am trying to be more open-minded. She has shared custody so she has some time to herself or to share with someone else. I am trying to get to know women for just them and not run because they have additions that come with them. Although I hate drama and stress. Maybe it is because I am an only child, or that I have only had to consider me most of my life or that I have never dated anyone with a child or that I have rarely been around kids at all most of my life except for when I was one myself. I do know I would rather be with someone and enjoy that before kids were ever part of the plan. But I am almost forty and I just don't think of having kids as I would be sixty or older when they graduated from high school. On the other hand I worry about them already having a kid or kids and the lifelong issue you would have with the ex and learning to love and deal with kids that are not yours. All of this is so foreign to me. I am sure you can tell but I will state it for all to hear, kids scare me.
Secondly, she lives in a town thirty minutes away. Again, I have not even considered this before. I do know how difficult it can be to make time when distance is an issue. I live in the city, I mean really in the city so the thought of spending time in a small suburb town is again scary to me. Small town life seems so stagnant. Everything from the mentality to the options is different. Damn, I guess I am a snob. That is depressing.
So after several emails on Match we moved to gmail and then to chatting. She hinted at meeting up soon so I sent her the email below.
'Well, to answer your question yesterday...I do not have time to date much but I think if you and another dig each other you make time. Also, I do actually meet a lot of women but between being so picky and timing, it is usually an 'I’ll pass' situation. I guess Match takes the timing out of it. I have only been on for six weeks and I have not gone out with anyone I have met yet. So back to me being picky...my friends tell me I am a snob but I choose to say more picky and wise. Plus, I do not see the point in wasting your time or theirs if it is not right. Even if you are just having fun, hanging out is cool so long as you are on the same page. So, yes we need to actually get together. I am apprehensive though. I have never met anyone online. I am used to meeting someone first in person. It is easier to tell right away if you are attracted to them and if there is chemistry or a connection. Anyway...so you come in town a few times a week? When will you be in next? I am busy but hopefully we can coordinate a time soon.'
She said she was making out her schedule for her time with her daughter and tossed out a few dates and we settled on next Wednesday since both of our weekends were packed this weekend and next. I told her I would take her to a dive bar near my place. Dive bars are very trendy now days but this is a real dive bar. They have a jukebox, one pool table, one booth, four tables and a bar. The majority of people who go in there are regulars and most are thirty-five to sixty years old. They do make a great yet simple made fresh burger. Also, the beer is cheap and it is quiet enough to hear each other for a first date discussion. Now I just have to not think about what I am doing and run every scenario through my head before I even meet this woman. Good luck to me.
The night before our date I saw a missed call from Bailey. I was surprised since we had not spoken on the phone yet. When I listened to the phone message I heard she wanted to speak to me before our date. My mind began racing. She said 'before our date' so she is not canceling. What could it be? It is not her in the photos, although they did not give much information anyway. She has a boyfriend that she already met through Match and she doesn't feel right going out with someone else. Nope, I was wrong on all counts, she just wanted to chat. Bad timing can be more painful than direct rejection because rejection is definitive and with bad timing you might never know. So far if there is one positive, it is the way Match is that it eliminates the factor of bad timing. People are on dating sites to meet someone special therefore a mission is stated. Possibly another positive to a dating site is that there is rejection with anonymity. You don't have to respond and neither do they. No harm, no foul.
First date and done. First of all, her one photo of herself was years old and before she had her child. I have an older photo on my profile too but I don't look much different. Her personality was larger than via email. She was funny and made some very animated faces. She was laid back and able to just roll with things. I really dug her and we had a good time. However, I just did not feel it. There was something missing. It felt like she was more into me than I was her. I have been there and I didn't like that feeling and I did not want someone else to feel the same way. Maybe I am just not ready for a serious relationship like I had thought I was. I told her that I don't want to waste people's time or lead them on. I am no BS when it comes to many things, especially these matters. She was disappointed and honestly so was I. I had to tell her that I thought it would be best to not pursue the situation. The sense of relief was equal to the feeling of disappointment.
So, was my first date a success? I think I met a very cool woman but not in a romantic fashion. She deserves to be with someone that can and will give her what she needs. I am sure it could work at least for a while but why would I stand in the way of another person's happiness? How dare anyone take that away from anyone else!? She was very understanding and appreciated my honesty. I think I have made an amazing new friend.
As my three month period on Match.com is coming to a close I have finally met someone very special. However, I did not met her on Match but through natural selection in the real world. Even this wonderful match comes with imperfections. At my age and this point in my life, I think we all carry a little baggage. It is the past that defines who we are. Adversity builds character. This experience has taught me that the smallest things make the biggest difference. When you are open to possibilities anything is possible. No amount of checked boxes or self descriptions can match that initial personal connection. You can't replace chemistry with any amount of formulas or gimmicks. The first spark is the purest. There is no faking or mistaking chemistry. You can't compartmentalize or contain love. If we meet fate half way miracles can happen. It really does happen when you least expect it.
by Trey Mitchell