THE BLOG
10/24/2014 11:18 am ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

(LIVE) MAN WALKING: Online Dating's Meet-Up

Having a walk with meet-up coffee is more palatable for me than sitting across the table from a stranger. For most, a meet-up is for discovering whether you like each other enough to go on a first date. There's often an abundance of excess energy present. Walking relaxes me. I can be more myself when walking side by side rather than sitting face to face. Plus, if it doesn't work out, at least I've gotten in some exercise.

During a meet-up this week, a nice man brought up the tendency for quick rejection common to online dating. While we walked and talked, he expressed his yearning for earlier years when people took more time in getting to know a person. He also held himself accountable for being a "quick picker" who chose those he'd like to date based solely on their looks.

I found him outwardly attractive but, it became obvious that we were in very different stages of our life journeys. Rather than take my energy out of our interaction, or quickly end our time together, I stayed present and enjoyed simply getting to know who he was, without an agenda.

His interest in me was apparent. I responded to his desire to see me again by commenting on the wide gap between our visions for the years ahead. I didn't see us advancing beyond this pre-date stage. That's when he let me know he needed a walker. With an 89-year-old dad in New York, I knew what a walker was. (Although dad's electric blue scooter is his preferred mode of transportation.)

As this man was keeping pace on our walk, I inquired why he might need one. "No, not that kind of walker," he clarified, "I need someone who will walk me. A walker who would motivate me to go on daily walks"

Moving images came to mind of 6-8 dogs being walked on leashes; while I observed, multiplying the dogs walked by pay per hour and considering a career change. I chuckled softly at the idea of holding a leash and walking a man; or several of them.

"I'm serious," he said, clarifying his health-related need for motivation. Switching from reverie to the practical, I pondered which friends might consider supplementing their income. When I asked for a job description, he made it clear that the position was specific to me. While, I didn't take the offer, I was delighted with his creative way of dealing with rejection and attempt to stay connected. We parted with genuine smiles.

Turning down another's interest in you can be as challenging as being rejected. Why do we so quickly reject each other online? Are there gender differences regarding rejection? I began keeping track of the comments made by dates and friends.

Will, a man I met after keying in my dad's New York zip code during a customized search, had similar thoughts to man-walker about superficiality and online dating.

"For myself," my new east coast friend emailed me, "The initial spark is definitely based on physical appearance. I don't like this about myself, but I suspect that in more normal circumstances, I might have given some women I have met further attention. However, because the dating sites always seem to hold the possibility of someone who is just as nice a person, but better looking, I move on. This makes me think that the immediacy of the internet has caused us to be in too big a hurry and no longer willing to let love evolve more traditionally and naturally. Perhaps it is making us more superficial."

I had to admit to my own shallowness after receiving this response from another man. In my second no, thank you note, I reminded him of his previous invitation to meet up; which I had declined.

He wrote back :

"Your profile is not easily forgotten.

Just trying again.

Don't mean to be an irritation.

Take it as a compliment.

Wishing you much happiness"

I was humbled, having mistakenly grouped him with others who had forgotten.
Here was an opportunity to apologize for my misunderstanding and allow him to see my vulnerability at not feeling memorable. I could have observed how he related, noticing if he had other qualities besides the physical, that I would find attractive. I might have told him of those who had not taken my no for an answer. Despite my declining their invitations, they returned for several tries growing nastier with each until I blocked them from my inbox.

Unfortunately, this didn't happen. I let pass a chance to deepen our connection through sharing our humanity for the sole reason of not finding him physically attractive. Had the attractor factor not been missing, I might have been open to changing my mind about meeting him.

While only scratching the surface of instant rejection and gender, from my ample sampling of men and women, both friends and strangers, superficiality appears to be alive and well in both.