Your Guide to Online Dating Part 2: Sights on Sites

Posted on September 6, 2010

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See Part 1. Decoding the Email Address

The bad thing about online dating is that it has to begin online, and the first thing you learn is that there are a million ways to conceal things in this medium.  The second thing is that men are liars.  (Maybe women are, too; I don’t date them…no, that was actually a meaningless sop to political correctness.  Men are terrible, terrible liars.)

The good thing about online dating is that it has to begin online, and that allows you more time to come up with seemingly effortless witticisms, to art-direct your profile pictures, and to reject people for totally superficial reasons without ever having to justify yourself.  All of a sudden, you’re Goldilocks (he’s too short/too old/too prone to emoticon usage) whereas at last call you might more fairly be compared to beergoggle-wearing cling wrap, willing to overlook such flaws as abject ugliness and inability to form a complete sentence in any language.  Not you you, but you know, the general you.  OK, me.

(The beginning of my Sahara-like dry spell came when I hit on a 40ish recovering alcoholic who had been born with a name like James but insisted that everyone call him something like Snowflower.  I thought that I was casting the net so low that there was no way on earth I could come up empty, and he rejected me.  There is no WAY this man had achieved orgasm in the presence of another human being in the 12 months preceding this drunken (on my part) disaster.   It was stunning enough to make me shut down the vagina factory for dozens of months. )

(It turns out this anecdote might be more about my lack of self-esteem than beer goggles.  I did, however, once “snog” a short and nerdy Englishman named Simon on a bridge in Galway in a total last-call hookup, and it was fun, though online I would have never looked at him twice.)

(I know what you’re thinking: who picks up a recovering alcoholic in a bar, or an Englishman in Ireland?  What can I say, I’m a contrarian.)

Anyway, this highly subjective and bitter guide to the different online dating sites will help you start being superficial and judgy before you even start building your profile.

Eharmony

It’s scientific!  What could be wrong with it?  Well, to begin with, it’s there’s the whole thing about how they don’t match gays, allegedly because the founder is a right-wing Christian.  And then, the emphasis on marriage is kind of creepy, even for someone like me who really wants to get married (where married means “cohabitate with someone who is committed to and will impregnate me”).  But one could rationalize all of that–indeed, after striking out on every other conceivable site, one did–if it wasn’t so freaking lame. The questions are lame, the parameters are lame, the interface is lame, and in my three-month experiment, the people are really lame.  I think this is the site for people who know they have to start online dating because their mom met her boyfriend online, but who are totally intimidated and choose the least threatening option possible.  Also, this seems to be the worst offender as far as matching you with non-active men, which is just ridiculously frustrating.

Who You’ll Meet: A man in his late 30s or older, single for at least two years.  Photos will always feature a niece, nephew, or adorable animal, usually a dog.  Absolutely nothing spicy in the formulaic profiles, and so it is in real life.  This is a meet once for coffee, meet twice for dinner at some place juuust north of Applebee’s on the excitement scale, have very formulaic and missionary-position sex on a bed with percale sheets kind of man.  He lives in the exurbs, like Germantown, MD or maybe Springfield, VA.

(My three months on eHarmony did not result in a single date.)

Match.com

I know this is the big kahuna, and lots of people like it, but to me it is very…frat boy.  They make it too easy to slap up a profile, and the way you scroll through the matches means all you really see are headlines and profile pics.  Some people are genetically blessed enough to strike lust into the hearts of potential lovers on the strength of a 1 inch by 1 inch thumbnail photo; they should go to bars, where being a pretty piece of meat is an advantage, and let the rest of us have the pixelverse.

I’ve heard that there is quite a hook-up scene on Match, but I never saw it.

Who You’ll Meet:

A smiley and uncomplicated fellow, under 35, who totally loooved undergrad and still wears his alma mater’s colors on game day.  He’ll wear khakis and expect you to be in heels.  He works hard at something impressive but kind of boring, like finance or corporate law.   He lives in the close-in suburbs, or perhaps downtown or Adams Morgan, but is not planning on settling in DC.  Most of your dates will involve his boys at some point.  A good many will involve bars in Georgetown.  Not dead-on-arrival-vanilla maybe, but vanilla nonetheless.  But hey, vanilla is good sometimes!  For people other than me.

OKCupid

Get out your Stuff White People Like checklist–OKC has it all!  There’s ethnic and racial diversity!  The profile asks about books!  Everyone rides their bikes to the farmer’s market after yoga class!  You can choose to answer racy questions about sex!  You can show off how good your writing skills are–really let your “voice” shine!  You can make a joke about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on the “6 Things I Can’t Live Without” question, and everyone will get it!  Don’t hate it, date it.  They have an algorithm, man.  Just go with it.

Who You’ll Meet: A vegan activist who teaches Pilates.  Someone who still talks about their Peace Corps stint a little too often.  Guys who have dozens more passport stamps than you.  Guys who live in nicer neighborhoods than you.  Guys who speak six more languages than you.  Guys who read the same books as you! Career Hill staffers who think they are saving the world.  Relatively few married dudes.  Unbelievably nerdy men who flaunt it all over their “My favorite books and movies” lists, because they know there’s a market for dorks in DC. (Right here, baby.)

OKCupid guys may not be able to fix your car (they don’t have cars, because they live on the Metro line and also, they are much more environmentally aware than you.  You kind of suck, btw)  but they can probably fix your computer.  You’ll meet someone so nice and smart and interesting that you’ll start to think dangerous thoughts like Maybe happiness is within my grasp and I haven’t laughed this much in years! and This much chemistry must mean something!

Enjoy it while you can.  The other bad thing about online dating is that finding someone you like enough to see again is still only a tiny fraction of the relationship battle.  And everyone hates fractions, right? (See also: liars.)

Craigslist

Oh, Craigslist.  It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.  The barrier for entry is so low, and the turn rate so high, that literally anything can happen.  Some rainy day, when you are feeling sad about the state of your romantic life, write an honest and forthright few paragraphs about what you want in a partner, everything from a manic intensity about opera to a willingness to pull your hair with enthusiasm.  Be ridiculously, narcissistically specific.  And be upfront about who you are, whether it’s an untroubled soul who is steady and sane or a slightly OCD cat lady who desperately yearns to knit her mate a Christmas sweater.  Say everything you would never say in a dating profile attached to your real identity, and offer it up to the Craigslist universe like a prayer to a god you’re not quite sure you believe in.  Then sit back and watch the responses roll in.  (The volume can be quite gratifying if you’ve run a bit dry elsewhere.)

There is a decent chance that every single one will be from a nutjob, or from someone who doesn’t meet your baseline requirements.  But there’s also a decent chance that someone you’d never meet anywhere else will reply, and who knows what could happen? (But for heaven’s sake use an anonymous email address.)

Who You’ll Meet: Scientists, Hill staffers, lawyers, hockey players, hometown boys, IT guys, journalists, married dudes, architects, Republicans…and the list goes on.

In conclusion: Plentyoffish.com sucks.

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