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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things I've Noticed About Online Dating #1: Passports

I’ve recently joined a free online dating site in an effort to meet new people. This is my first time on any sort of dating site and I’m still adjusting to the conventions and etiquette of the community. I have already noticed some interesting trends, tropes, and themes as well as some reflections of the equally absurd arena of real-world dating. In what I hope will be a continuing series, I will examine some of these in detail. Note: Since I am a straight male, I look at only women’s profiles, so these columns will assuredly be a little skewed in that direction. I would gladly welcome a female perspective on these issues.

There’s a lot of pressure to differentiate yourself on an online dating site, and more importantly, to do so in a positive fashion. Prospective matches, with just a click, can move on to any of the other thousand people with whom they supposedly have 90% compatibility. The law of large numbers turns us all into perfectionists.

The site I am registered with provides myriad ways to separate yourself from the crowd. Every user is given open-ended questions to answer that will be displayed on your profile page. Some of these are more open-ended than others, (One literally just asks you to summarize yourself, with no acknowledgement of how difficult a task that can be.) The hardest question for me to answer asks for “The six things you could never do without.”

I have a tendency to parse and split hairs, but I struggled with this question primarily due to issues over the definition of “things.” Am I to take this in the literal sense and list my six favorite objects? I try not to be so materialistic. Or should I interpret “things” more broadly, allowing me to include concepts, philosophies, or even persons. I have trouble squaring the idea of calling living people “things” with my reading of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The other problem is the ever-present conflict in the world of online-dating (and, I suppose, offline-dating) between transparent honesty and what I’ll charitably and euphemistically refer to as “resume enhancing”. If I were to be truly honest, I’d probably have to list my laptop and my television among the six things I couldn’t do without because, well, I use them both extensively, probably way more than is healthy. But I’m not trying to pass a lie detector test, I’m trying to attract a potential mate and propagate my genetic line (down the road, ladies, down the road.) I don’t want to come off as some borderline agoraphobe who just sits in his apartment watching TV and surfing the web. I don’t want to come across as myself!

I still haven’t solved this question; my answer is evolving. I haven’t quite made it to six things, and hopefully that’s taken as a sign of my philosophically deep anti-materialism and not as a sign of my limited imagination, or even my limited budget. (I shudder to think that some women might believe me so poor as to be unable to afford more than four things.)

But from browsing the profiles of my matches, it looks as though the young-female population has got at least one-sixth of this puzzle solved. Nearly every young lady I’ve scoped out has listed her passport.

Get it! This isn’t some regular girl you’re dealing with, this is a world-class traveler. She NEEDS her passport because otherwise she would never have made it to that village in Italy where her grandparents courted each other, or that street market in Marrakech where she totally haggled that guy on the price of a headscarf. Just think of all the cool stories she’ll have to tell on your date, on the differences between the dialects in the north of Spain and the south of Spain, or the most interesting architecture in Vienna or Prague, or how much better the coffee was over there, wherever there was, because you’ve probably drifted off to sleep by that point.

Just think of it! Doesn’t it kind of nauseate you? I’m imagining sitting there with my eyes glazing over as she relates the seventh iteration of a story with the central message that “despite the obvious surface differences, I learned that maybe we weren’t so different after all!”


And to seal the deal on their world-traveler status, all their profile photos have to feature them posing, arms spread wide, in front of some landmark or tourist attraction. Oh wow, you’ve stood in front of the Leaning Tower, and you did that HILARIOUS pretend like you’re keeping it upright pose, that definitely tells me so much about who you are!

Actually, that does tell me a lot. Thanks. Click.

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