Caption: This lemur does not use Match Dot Com.
I am ambivalent about online dating. It can be a fun diversion that gives you hope. It can also be time consuming and hope squelching. My receptiveness to it depends on the season, on the moon, on hormone cycles, but above all on my current prospects for romance on- and offline. Right now I’ve swung negative, but my opinion may shift in a few months.
Three years ago I would have never considered online dating. The only person I knew who had tried it was my then boyfriend’s sister when she first moved to New York. She went on one date and the man got so drunk he peed himself in the bar. Sample size of one was enough for her and enough for me to characterize the type of people online dating. Loser guys and resilient, proactive women, who are one bad date away from a breakdown and one breakdown away from going on another date. Oh precious single people! My then boyfriend and I pitied his sister with that distanced, self-satisfied air that makes couples so insufferable.
Fast-forward a year and I was that girl: single, new to a city, proactive. I joined Match Dot Com, heretofore referred to as MDC.
The timing was ideal—seasonally, lunarly (?), and hormonally, but most of all professionally. I had just finished my first semester of graduate school and had January free to relax and frolic in the sparkling enchantment of winter (oh wait, it’s Boston, so I mean trudge through freezing shit wintery mix shit). I had recently been let down by a guy (to say heartbroken is hyperbole now, but was appropriate then) and needed to forget him through displacement. Plus I got date outfits for Christmas, which had to debut.
If you’ve never done MDC, this is how it works. You make a profile with fill-in-the-blank biostats and preferences (eg: pets? yes/no/dogs/cats/exotic) as well as free verse 500-words, through which to convey your essence and appeal. The service sends you 5 Matches a day—profiles to peruse that some algorithm has determined may lead to a “connection” (I think we say “connection” because “love” sounds presumptuous and conventional). The rationale for these potential connections is weak. It says at the top, “Like you, he likes movies!” “Like you, he likes to travel!” I often get, “Like you, he sometimes lifts weights!” Do I? I guess I checked sometimes, when given the choice of yes/no/sometimes, but I would rather die alone than start a relationship making small talk about weight lifting. “So how many sets do you like to do? Do you have your own or lift at a gym?”
Not that these superficial similarities matter because I only consider four things when viewing a profile: occupation, education, tone/wit of the 500-words, and pictures. No pictures, no chance.
Most 500-words begin with a justification of why this person—who is surely compelling and comfortable enough to find love in physical reality—is now seeking a connection online. Everyone, “never thought I’d be doing this,” has, “a sister who met her husband on here,” is “too busy at work,” and “not into the bar scene.” We know. We’re here too. You don’t have to explain. In fact, I’d prefer that you didn’t.
After skimming the profile you click yes/no/maybe and have the option to send them a message. After a few compelling message exchanges you meet for a drink. After a few drinks you make out. After a few make outs you forge an eternal connection, get married, and enter the lore of people who people know who met on MDC. It’s super easy and only $34/month.
I first attempted MDC with the approach of a scientist accustomed to binges of productivity: I arranged dates on seven consecutive days with a sample likely to represent the variability of men. I selected a diverse group of businessmen, lawyers, students, and postdoctorate fellows, who had graduated from respected undergraduate institutions. Diverse renditions of the same prototype. By day five I burned out and canceled the rest.
All of the dates were fine, which was the worst possible outcome. I wanted extremes—either a date so disastrous that it gave me a good story or one that made me swoon and eager to see him again. Fine dates with fine men are a waste of time. I’d much rather stay in and watch lemur videos on YouTube (here’s a lemur montage set to Moby).
The mediocrity of the men on MDC was profoundly disheartening. I canceled my subscription and resumed my normal pursuits and diversions. I’m too young to settle for fine! Then of course one night last month I stumbled home and reactivated the account. Sidenote: It is very easy to reactivate your account. You don’t even need to re-enter your billing information!