Trying to date online when you're a post-50, divorced suburban dad is kind of like settling in for a transatlantic flight, only to discover that the films they'll be showing star Adam Sandler. Both experiences are far from perfect, but you accept them because you don't have other options.
That explains my tolerance for the woman who, upon hearing I was a writer, asked me to do a story revealing how her jealous ex-husband had secretly implanted a tracking device in her uterus after drugging her. And why I stayed for the woman who brought another man with her to our date. Although after last week, I may finally be tapped out. That's when I received my daily list of suggested matches from an online dating site, and at the very top was someone I knew from the outside world, who has rebuffed my date requests for years now because she "just wasn't ready for a relationship." I appreciated the honesty, although it does seem a bit contradictory now given that she's on a dating website.
Shortly after that discovery, I did a search of my own and up popped the profile of a woman I'd met online and dated for a couple of months, until she broke it off by telling me it was still too soon for her to be seeing anyone. And yet, there she was as well, still checking her dating profile on an hourly basis. Granted, I've been out of the game for a couple decades, but I have to assume this is not a sign of someone opting out of dating.
This was pretty discouraging, but not because I'd been done in by the classic "It's Not You, It's Me" escape clause. No, what brought me down was the fact that I now knew the excuse was, well, an excuse. Twenty years ago, you could be shot down and pretend your rejecter was keeping herself off the market because there was no evidence to the contrary. Thanks to the Internet, however, such proof is readily and unfortunately available.
I feel like the Rip Van Winkle of dating, waking up after being out for a long time to find that modern technology has perverted the matchmaking process. Take the online dating sites, for example, which have made searching for a lifetime companion like trying to find a DVD on Amazon.com. Type in exactly what you're looking for and you'll find it. Convenient? Sure. Fulfilling? I don't know. I miss the mystery of waiting until you met someone to learn she likes bike rides at the beach, Roadhouse and Ethiopian food. Now, you know all that before you even communicate, which you might not even do if he/she doesn't meet your specs. Sure this eliminates the time and expense of incompatible dates, but it also takes the element of surprise out of the equation.
Facebook is another unfortunate technological crutch. For instance, after deciding I'd put too much personal data in my profile, I deleted some of it. That included my relationship status. Within minutes, I was getting messages from friends congratulating me. I asked them why. They informed me that they saw the post that "Craig Tomashoff is no longer listed as single." They assumed I'd finally found someone. As did the woman I'd gone out with a couple of times, who decided this meant we weren't exclusive. And we never went out again.
Then there was someone who, after we met for dinner, went home to post about what a great date I was. I woke up the next morning to several messages congratulating me on my new girlfriend. Who I never did go out with again. I'm not sure which was the bigger problem here, someone who felt compelled to share our evening together with the world or the friends who were monitoring my personal life that closely via Facebook.
And then there's the scourge of Google-ing. I still remember one of my first post-divorce dates, where we'd barely sat down to dinner when she started talking to me about some of the places I'd worked. When I asked how she knew my resume, she informed me that it was now customary to Google anyone you're going out with so a) you could see if you'll be compatible and b) if they've ever appeared on "America's Most Wanted".
I started to do it too, carefully studying every Facebook timeline or LinkedIn profile before any coffee meet-up. The upside was, I could decide whether or not I really wanted to go through with the meeting after seeing her drunken birthday party photos or learning she once contributed money to Newt Gingrich's campaign. The downside, however, was that I'd allowed the anticipation of first dates to become bigger than the dates themselves.
Once that occurs, the level of expectation (whether it's positive or negative) rises and makes it impossible to relax and let whatever is going to happen simply happen. The solution, of course, would be to just go web-less when it comes to dating. Which makes as much sense as, say, swapping your DVR out to put your old VHS machine back in. We're too far down the road to turn things around now. Using the Internet to help with relationships is instinctual now, proven by my first reaction after getting dumped recently -- which she did via text, yet another technological advancement that allows us to share emotional decisions without having to actually confront the emotions. As soon as I got her news, I went straight to Facebook and de-friended her. What better revenge is there these days?
The Internet has certainly contributed some positive things when it comes to our social lives. Without it, where would we ever get our pornography? Still, I miss how things used to be, when it was more about the date and less about the data. So, if and when I find someone who'll go out with me, I vow to get back to a simpler time by going Google-less and Facebook-less until after we meet in the real world. And I just hope she enjoys the evening of butter churning I've got planned.
Follow Craig Tomashoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@craigtomashoff