No, this is not about lockdown. It’s about online dating.
I had a brief dating experience late last year/early this year, which, as previous entries might have indicated, did not work out. With hindsight I can tell it was wishful thinking to try to date someone who admitted that they were looking to overhaul their life as soon as possible, especially as I, in contrast, was planning on staying exactly where I was for at least the next two years. But I don’t attempt dating very often, and it just seemed illogical when enjoying someone’s company to say, “Shall we quit while we’re ahead?”.
Anyway, the point of this entry is that I’ve worked up the courage to try again. I’d say lockdown was the problem but that would be a lie. I just don’t like online dating.
These are the main reasons:
I don’t particularly like my appearance and I’m not photogenic. I have quite a small selection of photos to choose from, so small that a few of my favourites are now years old, which is a faux pas. I did it anyway.
I also just don’t like judging by pictures. I’m introverted and autistic and so it’s perhaps a bit unusual for me to prefer meeting people for the first time in person, but I really think that people are more attractive in the flesh. The wedding guest outfit is dashing but the smile is forced. The mirror selfie, its polar opposite in choice of participation and, for men, often in quantity of shirt, does not say a thousand words. And the picture sitting on a cliff edge, taken from some distance behind – even less. But when people smile, laugh and talk, you can see how beautiful they are.
I’m not going to say I hate writing about myself because I am literally doing that right now. But I hate any exercise where I have to list my qualities or my experiences, particularly in a template. I joined OKCupid and deleted it within about five minutes because just looking at the long empty profile exhausted me. I can’t stand job applications or performance evaluations either – it is too bad that managers do not accept 800 words of self-deprecation.
A dating profile has to show your character. It is frustrating to see a profile that simply says, “I like music” or “I’m looking for someone nice I can have fun with”. What kind of music? What kind of fun? Often, I think writing allows you to express yourself with more honesty, creativity, and intelligence, but these very things also make it excruciatingly complicated. It’s all the questions you ask yourself when talking to someone (“Can I say that? Is that too weird? Am I being arrogant? Am I being annoying?”) but with infinite time to think about them.
The standards question
Every single person (and I mean that in the sense of everyone without a partner, and possibly every person that there is) has heard that to succeed in dating you have to “lower your standards”. So how do you approach choosing people to talk to? Say someone likes your profile, or gives it a star or a wink or whatever. And their profile is not exciting, but you can’t identify any reason not to talk to them (see “I like music”, mentioned above). Knowing that every interaction is potentially going to lead to love, but also possibly to nothing in particular, what do you do? Answers in the comments please?
Over the past few years, I have been to a lot of Meetup groups and I have developed my skills of talking to new people. A lot of the time I enjoy asking someone questions about their interests. But sometimes, like exercise, it feels better to have done it rather than to do it. This is another reason why the experience is so uncomfortable online; in person, it comes to a natural end in a few minutes, as you find something deeper to talk about or something distracts you. Online, your new conversation partner is still there hours later, waiting for you to say, “Oh yes, I need coffee in the mornings too!” or “How interesting, what is your favourite book?”. I’m avoiding three conversations with perfectly nice men as I type this, because the thought of replying makes me tired.
Even taking into account that no one is an expert in dating, I know I am inexperienced. There are novels’ worth of known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Childhood bullying has left me with a dread of being manipulated or mocked, and I worry very frequently I will invite it upon myself because I missed the signals. Also, women in general are frequently taught to, and expected to, put up with things we don’t like because that’s just how things are. Naoise Dolan, a queer autistic author whose book I am currently reading and hope to review for this blog, described this wonderfully in a recent tweet:
Really this says in 49 words what I’ve been trying to say in nearly 1000. Which is not to say I am done on this topic.
People do not find me, I have to find them, especially in this time of coronavirus when parties and Meetup groups can no longer exist online. I chose to join Hinge, because I heard it set you up with friends of your friends which I liked because my friends are excellent people with excellent taste. It actually doesn’t, but it is very easy to set up, it took me less than an hour.
It has questions you can answer on your profile, and one of them is ‘You’re my kind of weird if you…’. I get the impression this is where you write something cute and eccentric like “You sing Les Misérables in the shower”, and not something like “You have eaten cheese sandwiches most Sunday nights for as long as you can remember”. In the end I went light weird, and said I look up the reviews and trivia of every fictional thing I consume. Will this work? I will report back.
And if you have made it to the end of this entry, I want to hear from you! Please leave a comment, and if you are interested in contributing your experiences to this blog, please get in touch! You can also find me on Twitter at @smallscaletweet.