When I was a little girl, I would spread the Sunday paper’s personal section out beneath me, my knobby elbows creasing the inky paper as I leaned down onto it, eyes scanning the page for something unusual. Then, with markers at the ready, I would unleash my inner Yente on the SWFs and DWMs.
People I thought were well suited for one another were circled in the same color and connected with a line — the same way kindergarten had taught me to identify pairs.
I should have realized that now, as an adult, online dating sites might become a preoccupation for me. Now, search algorithms seek compatibility the way my markers sought similarities.
Personality tests tease that they hold the secret to romantic happiness—a plethora of categories and questions designed to determine the most compatible partner. Self-summaries, astrological signs, pictures and trivial data about a possible significant other are in a virtual Rolodex, right at your fingertips.
I can lose hours reading profiles: paragraphs sharing hobbies, achievements, and self-deprecating descriptions followed by lists of favorite bands, books, and movies; the “message me if” section at the bottom like a shrug exposing just a little uncertainty.
Profile photos are like a digital scrapbook: exotic trips, outdoorsy adventures, cuddling with cat, last year’s Halloween costume. Body shots beckon and European backgrounds wow.I wanted to believe the percentages and personality tests, especially since West Coast relocation and the amazing, but mostly female student population of Mills College, had rendered my once savvy dating skills a little rusty.
So it’s no wonder that one night, a few glasses of Chuck Shaw Cabernet, the recent wedding photos of my high school crush and the ridiculously late hour collided; the result: a newly created OKCupid profile.I didn’t waste any time; during the next month I met three or four men.
My 99% match got into a tiff with the server when his medium well steak came out well done (it was his third course and near closing time) as I, a veteran waitress, tried to melt into the seat.
The classical musician asked to smell my neck as I began my first cocktail, staring lustily at my skin like he hadn’t seen any up close recently besides his own.
A fellow East Coast transplant and I watched a riveting socio-political documentary, but community college woes, his song-a-week music project, and my non-committal interest let him fade quietly into oblivion.
There were a couple creepers— the men that made my gut screw up, small and unsure, before the first date could even happen: the insistent and slightly argumentative man that had initially contacted me via OkCupid’s instant messenger barraged me with fifteen verbally abusive texts when I asked to reschedule, 9 hours before we were supposed to meet.
Another guy, unsolicited, commented on elements of my profile he believed were character flaws with barbs designed for high school hallways.
After that I got punchy. I modified my profile to honestly reflect my skepticism about dating; I warned readers of mood-dependent responses and a waffling interest in actually meeting—but I won’t know how that method would have turned out because I disabled my account.
I climbed out of my self-made whirlpool when I received a zero on an assignment that I was perfectly capable of doing correctly- had I been paying attention; I felt shame that I wasn’t being the student I knew I could be.
In all fairness, OkCupid lived up to its purpose: it took me to dances and gave me a shove out onto the floor—whether I stepped on someone’s toes or snorted out the punch was up to me.
Read The Campanil’s staff editorial on online dating.