Alison Berkley: Love, America Online style
The only problem with shopping for a boyfriend on the Internet is that you have to choose from the kind of guys who would shop for a girlfriend on the Internet. I mean, seriously. What kind of loser guy would do something cheesy like that?
Like so many of you have pointed out in your kind and loving e-mails, I am a reputable journalist who will go the distance to get to the meat, er I mean the bones, of a story. It was my duty, then, to see firsthand what this nationwide phenomenon of Internet dating is all about.
It had nothing to do with all the decent-looking professional guys with six-figure incomes, or all those charming things they listed about themselves in their bios, like how they speak six languages, love their mamas and spent 18 months traveling all over the world before starting med/law/grad school. I am not that much of a sucker – give me some credit, please!
I’ve had a lot of friends meet their ideal mate on the Internet, and they all tout it as the wave of the future, the best way to meet people in a big, crazy world that leaves little in the way of healthy, community interaction. (Obviously these people have never been to Eric’s or Sunset on a Saturday night, even if all the guys there are all illegal aliens/gay/married/drunk/under 25, men abound!) Drop the stigma, they say. This is the best way to find a man who is looking for a “real relationship” and maybe even willing to father your children before you dry up like a shriveled prune.
Dude, I’d be happy with a man who would buy me dinner, forget the minivan. All I want (besides the occasional spa treatment or new pair of shoes) is someone who might be interested in investing in something besides their next bag of weed.
So you go to these sites and they tease you with a free search. Just enter a zip code, area code or city, an age range and voila! Here are a list of eligible men, their faces smiling at you from little photos like puppies at the pet store, whining and scratching at their cages, going, “pick me pick me pick me.” It’s both pathetic and endearing at the same time. You feel a distinct urge to throw a bone, just to see who will fetch it.
Next to the photo and bio are these little buttons that say “e-mail me,” promising the potential of a whole new life with the click of a button – for suckers who actually think they’re going to find their mate on the Internet, that is.
I had a muscle spasm and accidentally tried to e-mail this one rather attractive lawyer and got a message that said, “you must log in to send this member a message.”
Drats! In the name of good journalism, I threw down the measly 30 bucks. I had to summarize myself in 100 words or less. I had to decide if I like “American/Barbeque” or “Chinese Dim Sum” and quantify whether I drink “occasionally” or “very often” even though by Aspen standards I’m straight as a presidential candidate. I had to come up with a stupid screen name. (That’s easy: everyone knows it’s your middle name and the street you grew up on.)
I had to choose a photo of myself that wouldn’t create unrealistic expectations. I had to try not to think about all the perverts and ax murderers who would now be able to incorporate me into their demented fantasies. (Sheriff Braudis, please take note just in case I mysteriously disappear. P.S., I would love to be rescued by you.)
The whole photo thing penetrated my thoughts at the oddest times. I’d wake up in the middle of the night going, “I know! I’ll use that one of me on the beach in San Diego!” It rapidly digressed into a sickness.
Within the first 24 hours my new bio is posted, e-mail from all over the country comes flooding in. These are the bottom feeders, the desperate freaks who probably sit at their computers all night going back and forth between porn sites and the dozen dating sites they’re registered on, waiting for fresh feed. I sift through them coldly, and toss them aside like I’m running a male prostitution ring. Too fat. Too bald. Too old. Too eager. Even in “real” life, I’m not one of these bargain hunters or comparative shoppers. I see something I want and I get it.
It’s not like I have all day to gather information for my column, I have a day job! So I picked the guy I wanted, er, could tolerate for the benefit of my readers, and e-mailed him. The phone didn’t come into the picture until two nights before our first date. I was so nervous I spoke for approximately 32 minutes without breathing and didn’t really let him get a word in edgewise.
Maybe that’s why when we did meet, I could tell right away he didn’t like me (I should have worn my push-up bra, damn it!). I can’t say I was that turned on by him either. My ex would crush him like a bug, a visual that stayed with me through most of the meal. He was a good sport, though and paid for drinks and an expensive sushi dinner (I’m sure my mountain girl high alcohol tolerance and insatiable appetite didn’t impress him either: “If you’re not going to eat that last spider roll, I’ll eat it!”). But at the end of the date, he said,
“I’ll call you if I come to Aspen to go skiing this winter.”
Whatever! At least I’ll never have to tell my kids that I met their father on the Internet. After all that hard work I can honestly say the bar scene is not nearly as two-dimensional as I thought.
[The Princess is going through a phase where she’s scared of getting old. Send your reassuring e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org]
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