When Social Functions and Popular Neighborhood Hangouts Fail

My recent foray into the world of online dating was both brief and excellent. It all started back in September, when, in an attempt to make my life more interesting and, as my friend Mike put it, “find a nice guy and have a life experience,” I created a profile on okcupid.com.

There are essentially three reasons I love online dating:

  • You pretty much know what the other person is looking for. Unlike meeting someone at a social function or a popular neighborhood hangout, you know if the person prefers your own gender, is single, is ready to mingle, etc.—or not.
  • I meet people at neither social functions nor popular neighborhood hangouts, but I met tons of people online—and they were all single, straight men. It was actually really bizarre; I’d never seen so many in one place before!
  • It’s hysterical. Let’s just say, there are a lot of really interesting characters out there.

I answered a few essay questions about myself, such as six things I can’t live without—comfy socks, kayaking, and a pile of pillows all made the list—and something interesting about myself—that the only ankle I’ve ever broken was not my own. And somehow, the messages started arriving in my inbox. Some just said, “hey.”

Others said a little too much:

I would be glad to show you my travel pictures and see yours. And, perhaps we can check off one of the continents together from our list.. hehe.

Others were surprisingly flattering:

Look, i’ve seen your profile, and it seems like i want to get to know you, I mean, your really pretty, you have a great personality, and i cant help but to like that. So, i was thinking, would you want to talk with me ?

And still others just seemed to get me:

I’d love to hear your thoughts about social issues over a meal. Specifically, I’ve been pondering over this article and what it means for the future of our society.

It was a terrific experience, and once I got over the fear of meeting a potential serial killer for coffee, it was nothing but smooth sailing. After four dates with four different guys, I’m now four hundred times more comfortable on a first date, and I realize that I am, in fact, incredibly datable, which was news to me. In fact, I recently tried to donate dating lessons to a silent auction benefitting youth ministry. (My offer was, inexplicably, declined.)

In the end I realized what it was that was ultimately dissatisfying about online (and regular) dating: it’s a lot like a thrift store. There’s a plethora of options­—each one full of possibility—but it’s hard to find just the right fit.

It was, shall we say, stressful. There was a lot of reading through profiles of guys of widely varying interest, putting time and effort into writing just the right thing so that I would come across as just the right amount of charming and witty, friendly, but not desperate, and a good representation of myself, but without revealing how both uptight and insecure I really am. It was a time-consuming endeavor.

And then the guys would write back, and they’d be charming and witty and smart, and I would be back at square one, having to craft just the right response. Now that I think about it, it was actually (probably) a lot like real live dating, but sped up. Instead of meeting someone and desperately wanting to impress them every year or so, it was suddenly happening four or five times a week. It’s a lot of nervous awkwardness for this girl. And all this is on top of all the other things I have going on that make me awkward and nervous on a daily basis.

Although this particular dating tactic didn’t lead to anything for me, it was a hugely positive experience. I’ve certainly noticed some small but significant changes in myself since embarking on this big adventure. And it may just be my cheery disposition, or that I’m wearing my signature comfy socks and drinking a warm beverage, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic at the moment.

9 Comments on “When Social Functions and Popular Neighborhood Hangouts Fail”

      • You _think_ you haven’t found it yet. However, you could also be committing something called a Type II error (aka false negative).

        Your null hypotheses (default position) is that you know when you haven’t found it. Unfortunately, the null hypotheses can never be proven – you can only reject a null hypothesis or fail to reject it (failing to reject is not the same as proving).

        In Type II errors, you fail to reject a false null hypothesis – it is an error of excessive skepticism.

        Have you read “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”?

        Anyway, Rachel moved to Seattle and just started her new job at Nordstrom! No wedding bells yet though ;)


      • I haven’t read it–have you? Are you settling for Ms Good Enough?

        Error of excessive skepticism sounds like it describes me pretty well. That’s one of the small but significant changes, though–I’m learning to rethink what I think I’m looking for.


  1. Hey, Annie! Liz pointed me to this post after I told her yet another story of online dating gone awry. I’m telling you what I always tell myself: if nothing else, a first (OK, or second or third) date makes for some excellent writing fodder!

    Good for you to venture out online. I’ve done the same thing over the past several months—it’s not easy! Godspeed.


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