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iDating: a Brave New World
by joseph    Jan 14, 2001


Just weeks before I hit the tender age of 29, I found myself quite alone, living in a dismal shack, in a city where I knew a sum total of one person. I had gained quite a bit of weight in the preceding year, spurred by a poor diet and an enthusiasm for the bottle. I had at least by this time obtained gainful employment and found myself just beginning to gain some traction against the creditors (wolves) who bared their teeth at me through registered mail and made their eviscerating intentions quite clear through a series of thrice-daily phone calls reminding me of my obligations.

So, being anal retentive, I sat down and made a list of how I would get my life back in order. A regimen of exercise and a diet high in fiber and lean protein and low in fat and booze was the first step. A careful budget was next, as was finding a new place to live. All of this went swimmingly, it could be said. My employment I was enjoying very much; I found sobriety to be a welcome change of pace, and my one acquaintance in the city found a truly first-rate shanty in a hoity-toity neighborhood that we could call our own.

As the pounds shed and my liver breathed deep sighs of relief, and my bank account, while not overflowing, at least started affording me options hitherto unavailable, such as paying the rent and eating something besides Top Ramen for the month, I still felt that something was lacking. And so I decided that I needed to find love.

My romantic life had consisted of essentially three relationships over the course of a decade. I have been married once, and engaged thrice. Commitment was not a phobia of mine--on the contrary, it occurred to me that my desire to commit, to move a woman in and start playing house, was an unhealthy impulse that required rigorous action. That action could be none other than shotgun dating and random and meaningless sexual encounters.

So where else to seek such meaninglessness and shallowness than the Internet? I struck out for online dating services where I could prop up photos of my weary old bones and try to summon enough charm out of the electronic ether to invite consideration by what I imagined were hot, horny college nymphomaniacs who could talk about Kafka while manipulating a guy's erotic areas into sensory overload. And so I surfed around, decided on the venerable Match.com, plopped down my $25 a month, and rode bravely ahead.

What I found in this brave new world was a lot of desperation and loneliness on both sides of the gender divide, masked by cheap wit and poor grammar ("Can and do like to ride. What do I like to ride?? You will have find out. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about...(smile)"...I actually do not and doubt if I ever will have any idea what she's talking about). I decided to get my money's worth and write to a handful of honeys, choosing them based upon their photo and whether or not they had some kind of stipulation against my height, weight, hair color, racial background or educational training (Match.com kindly provides its love-seekers an opportunity to narrowly define his or her ideal romantic candidate).

I wrote to about half a dozen women. I was witty, sincere and engaged in my e-mails--the sole advantage to the writing life is the ability to pretend to be witty, sincere and engaged in an e-mail -- and the responses were generally positive. I met two of them for dinner and drinks. In all honesty, I found neither of the experiences all that engaging. The first was a decent sort, a good woman but with a distinct lack of humor and what I considered to be an overly severe face. The second suggested we go to a nice restaurant, then ordered nearly everything on the menu and expected me to pick up the hundred dollar tab after telling me she was bothered by guys who were intimidated by her salary, which apparently was substantial.

And so I let my membership lapse, thinking that $25 would be better spent on catnip, since I now was in the habit of getting my cats super-freaked since I no longer did much of that myself. But then Halloween came and went, dateless and with no place to go, and so in mid-November I picked up the mantle once again and dutifully typed in my check card number and re-entered the imbroglio of the e-dating scene.

One learns many interesting facts when attempting to find love through the Internet. The first is that women seem to find that the "kissing frogs" analogy is just too rich to resist. You will scroll through many user-provided headlines which are some variation of "This girl has kissed enough frogs" and "No more kissing frogs for this girl." I'm not entirely sure why this folk tale has such resonance for the female single online dating community, but apparently it does. What I find more irksome is the fact that everyone who employs this analogy apparently doesn't quite get the point of that folk tale -- the frog actually was a prince and a kiss was required to prove it, but who takes Match.com headlines all that seriously? You'll also discover that a lot of women are looking for "honest, intelligent, nice guys." Well, there's the shocker of a century. I for one certainly imagined that everyone on these sites was looking for a dirty-hearted bastard who would sell his own mother into slavery for a pittance.

And so the adventure, the descent into the brave new world continues. So if you are a single female in the Seattle area and are into long talks, moonlight, etc., be sure to delve into the world of the Internet singles community, and perhaps you'll find me there, unless there's a sale on catnip that month.


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