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Archive for May, 2010

Profile, 2

30 May

Having spent the weekend in careful analysis of dating profiles (which I like to think of as a sex resume: it has a lot in common with real resumes. You can’t talk about any number of things that you, as a prospective romantic partner, might want to know about. Much in the same way that it’s bad form to, say, demand six figures on your resume, it’s also bad form to, say, establish butt sex or clapping breasts as deal breakers on your profile), I went to work. My goals were to establish myself as masculine but not threatening, sensitive but not ineffectual, and unusual but not freakish.

I wrote six hundred words leading in with a careful, measured discussion of my beard, uploaded a photo of myself with a grey kitten on my head, and sat down to wait.

The next morning, I had three emails waiting for me. During the rest of the week, I got six more. None of these interactions amounted to anything, but they were useful as distractions from what was really bothering me: Rachel, Polly, and continued unemployment. Each of these topics was something I needed to hide from anyone new. Another rule of internet dating, especially at the beginning of an acquaintanceship, is that while you should not lie, never under any circumstances should you tell the complete truth. Tests, remember? You can only fail them.

And we, they and I, failed them with panache.

Ann, a child of Iranian immigrants, excited me with what I interpreted to be her wit and charm. Realistically, she excited me with her willingness to talk to me. Her profile boasted of higher education and extensive travel. (Travel is something that people use as a proxy for actual personality, but I didn’t mind. There’s a reason I bring up my stay in Japan so often.) She studied social work in graduate school.

Incidentally—a significant plurality, something like 40%, of the women who have initiated contact with me rather than vice versa have been social workers. Clearly that means something, but I can’t figure out what.

Her photos, smiling headshots only, depicted a young woman with a bright and warm personality. What they did not depict was a torso of deal-breaking girth.

We met for dinner at a restaurant called the Blue Danube. It had several virtues. It sported a remarkably wide variety of greasy diner food and a drop ceiling decorated with tiles that had been painted individually by local artists. Most importantly, it was modestly priced and located at the end of my street, so the walk was comfortable the date economically feasible. I wore a thrift store sport coat over a silkscreened t-shirt (a look that continued to be reasonably fancy in 2007).

As soon as we met, I knew it would go nowhere. She was too big.

A few weeks ago, I implied a level of shallowness in the faceless masses of women for excluding shorter men from their dating pool. I stand by that assessment, but here is another rule of internet dating: men are fucking shallow.

Often we tell ourselves (by which I mean I tell myself, but I project the behavior onto other people in order to make it more bearable) that our motives are purer than they are; that it doesn’t matter what a person looks like as long as they have a good heart.

This is untrue.

Particularly in relationships, this is untrue. While a good heart is important, someone’s good heart is not what you plan to become naked and sweaty with. And while I have occasionally been attracted to large people, they have been the exception rather than the rule.

If you are uninterested in someone, but you feel bad about your reasons for not being interested in that person, the best course of action is to make that person uninterested in you. It is an effective technique.

I spend the entire date talking about Polly.

 
 

Profile

25 May

Like any other relationship, your relationship with your dating site fluctuates.

Joining a dating site works like joining any other club. Assuming that you are not objectively unattractive or objectively awkward (both barriers to dating that are surmountable only with great difficulty), the established members of the club, most of whom are drowning in a frothy stew of need and ennui, crave novel stimulation, whether they know it or not. Mostly, novelty means new people, who are just old people they’ve previously ignored. They’ll obsessively, frantically court you for a few weeks, a few months in some rare cases, before realizing that you aren’t really that different from anyone else there they’ve been talking to. They’ll stop sending drinks around. When they do that, you might make the mistake of thinking that you’ve been rejected from the community. You’ll finally realize that you’ve really joined the group when fresh meat arrives, and you fall on it with the same lonely desperation as everyone else.

After Sarah stopped speaking with me for the third and final time, some time passed before I talked to anyone else on Match. When I first joined, I’d been swamped with email, much of it from women whose photos made them look attractive. (Like Facebook or whatever other ersatz social site you happen to pick, people on Match tend to choose pictures where they look as good as possible. Similar to the façade you put on when you’re out to dinner with someone’s parents or having a business lunch with your boss, these representations of oneself tend to bear only a passing resemblance to reality).  Naturally, I assumed that all this attention meant that I was attractive, and naturally I assumed that this attention would continue. Naturally, I was wrong.

I hadn’t had a new message for a week and a half. Hardly anyone new had even looked at my profile. For neurotic internet daters, being given access to that sort of information is sadistic. I reasoned that patterns existed in the profiles that people created for themselves. I began browsing through profiles belonging to both women and men. Correctly or not, I decided they were my competition, so I needed to analyze them.

One pattern emerged almost immediately. Inherently, people (by which I mean me, but by which I also definitely mean you) are narcissistic, and that quality is never so apparent in them as when they are asked to talk about themselves. A dating profile asks you to do that, and it also asks you to describe who you would want to be with.

A side effect of this situation is a used-car lot mentality: If a low-mileage, fuel efficient sexpot doesn’t drive itself right into your lap, you decide that rather than take a risk on something less than perfect, you’ll just keep watching porn. I mean taking the bus. I mean whatever. The point is that everyone ends up with a list of exclusions. Another side effect is that daters also assume that what is interesting about them to themselves is also what is interesting about them to a potential romantic partner. To wit, no one has ever given a cold shit about your love of bass fishing or shopping on the weekend.

Also I noticed that people often described themselves using words that people who actually had the quality in question would never use. Attractive people do not need to describe themselves as such. It is obvious. Likewise, genuinely spontaneous people have performed enough genuinely spontaneous actions to know that spontaneity is boring, unpleasant, or utterly horrifying at least as often as it is memorably fun, and as such it’s the sort of thing you want to keep a lid on until the third or fourth date or so.

I decided to rewrite my profile.

 
 

Sarah, part 4

16 May

Sarah and I had sex once more, and then I never saw her again. I don’t know how much I really feel like talking about it.

She hadn’t called me since Tuesday. It was already Saturday, but I didn’t notice very much. I had other things on my mind. Everyone who dates has baggage, internet daters more so. It had been months since I’d been with anyone else, but I still felt like I was cheating. Not on Yuko . . . she was the inexplicable girl I dated in Japan. I’ve no idea why she dated me, I’ve no idea why she dumped me, and in between any number of things (breaking into her next door neighbor’s apartment so she could feed his cat, for example, or accepting her instruction in Japanese dirty talk, which, by the way, felt very, very silly) happened that I didn’t understand.

Before her there was Rachel. After her (and also before, and also in between) there was Polly. I used to say that I had complicated feelings for them, but they were less complicated than I lied to myself that they were. Mostly I wanted to feel them (each of them, both of them) down the front of my pants, and the thing that was complicated was creating a world where things like that happened. Sometimes I think I do things just so I can feel bad about them later.

Sarah invited me over for dinner. It surprised me, not least because a feeling nagged at me that I’d done it wrong somehow when we slept together before. The memory felt pickled and hazy. I remembered her expressing disappointment when I put the condom on too early.

“But I wanted to suck your dick,” she pouted.

Generally I’ve found it’s best to assume that a given woman does not in fact want a mouth full of my penis, but it’s always (well, usually) pleasant to have that assumption disproven. I offered to remove the offending article, but, as she explained to me, that’s like picking olives off your pizza. That is, the taste remains, vile and irremovable. I wasn’t sure how to react. No one likes to be told that his dick tastes bad.

I stood in the corner of her kitchen, watching her cook. She stir-fried red peppers and mushrooms. I fidgeted with her cookbooks and refrigerator magnets. We drank wine. I don’t remember what we talked about. We went upstairs.

She took my hand and led me toward her bedroom. I kissed her, wrapping one arm around her waist and touching her face with my other hand. This is a move that people have traditionally responded well to. She kept her light on (a floor lamp, an intensely contemporary affair, clearly from some High Street boutique or other). My scalp prickled with sweat, an involuntary and uncontrollable reaction to nervousness. Vaguely, I realized I needed to pee. I pushed her gently in the direction of her bed. “No,” she said.

I stopped. My left hand had already undone her belt and buttons. “Um,” I said.

She pulled me to the floor. “I don’t have sex on my bed.”

Oh.

I didn’t ask why, and she didn’t explain. She asked me to spank her, so I spanked her. She wanted to use her vibrator. We did that. It didn’t feel like I remembered sex feeling. No one had ever asked me for a spanking before. I felt silly. With Rachel or Polly I knew what to do.

I left her house with carpet burns and a sense of indefinite failure, although all her visual cues indicated that I’d fulfilled my role adequately. The next day I left an unreturned message on her voicemail. I think I might have mumbled.

 
 

Sarah, part 3

09 May

Sex happened.

Sex is a thing that happens. Sometimes, at least, it happens. I guess sex is the point of dating. Well, one of the points. A point, certainly. If we’re going to talk about dating, and success, and successful dating, sex serves as a metric we can use to measure these things. The last time I’d been undressed with someone I’d been living on a different continent, so I counted this as progress. Further metrics exist; for example, we can consider the question of enjoyable sex. We can also consider how we feel after the sex happened, regardless of how much we liked it at the time.

Sarah sat across from me on the opposite side of my futon, still unclothed. She had turned away from me and was fidgeting with something on my dresser. The air felt heavy and humid. After I sleep with someone for the first time, I always feel strange about things. Analytical, almost. I try to think about what I did, and what she did, and whether it was good, or okay, or whatever, and what it meant, assuming that it meant anything, which is a big assumption. I looked closely at her. Her hair was long, blond, and untied. A completely unnecessary and currently smeared mascara accented her blue eyes. Her nose, curved and hawkish, dominated her face. She possessed thin lips with an attractive curve. The tips of her fingers and toes came to odd little points. Her breasts were uncommonly large. At least, they were uncommonly large for breasts that I have experience with. I looked at them also.

“You’re staring at them again.” Sarah had turned away from my personal clutter to look at me. I looked up from her breasts to her face.

“Um, what?” I could feel my face reddening.

“My boobs. You’ve been staring at them all night.”

Suddenly I was very conscious of my own naked body. She was looking at me also, critically perhaps, and I felt glad we’d decided to have sex in the dark. What she’d said could be true. I couldn’t remember. I have a bad habit of staring off into the distance when I’m thinking, and if someone else happens to be in my field of vision when that happens, it tends to creep them the hell out. In the midst of conversation, often I will lower my eyes for the same reason. (Thinking, I mean, not creeping people out). Typically my gaze falls roughly to the torso, which is where most people keep their breasts. These habits are completely unconscious and uncontrollable.

Also, sometimes I just like to look at boobs.

I decided to assume that I’d been doing it on purpose. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. Well, they’re very nice.” I smiled at her.

They were very nice, but I couldn’t think of them erotically just then. Earlier, between moments of physical intimacy, she’d said, “Watch this,” and clapped her breasts together like she was applauding.

Every time you sleep with someone new, something happens that you’ve never seen before.

I’d never seen clapping breasts.

I had no idea how I was supposed to react, so I buried my face between them in order to make it stop. In retrospect, it seemed like the right decision.

Before I could invite her to stay the night, she’d gotten dressed again with the supernatural speed of the post-coital, cheerily excusing herself with something plausible and work-related. Inwardly, I felt relieved.

 
 

Sarah, part 2

02 May

Sarah hadn’t returned a phone call for a week. She hadn’t emailed in that time either.

Here is a rule of internet dating: If you are dumped, however inexplicably, stay dumped. Here is another rule: Everyone you meet, online, in a bar, or wherever, also has rules. These rules are secret, because to reveal them to you would violate their subjective usefulness and integrity. No doubt you also have an intensely private list of these rules.

In aggregate, they become batteries of tests that you can only fail. An interaction (notice I do not say “date”) might happen where you, through blind chance, do not violate one or another of these arbitrary prohibitions, or where the person you are evaluating does not violate one of yours. This is not a victory. It is only a postponement of failure.

I lay on my futon, face-down, my head and shoulders off the side of the bed, my legs propped awkwardly against the wall. My laptop sat on the floor in front of me. Beneath the futon, Greybert swiped at my hands as I typed. The room had begun to smell faintly of cat, but I couldn’t bring myself to kick her out. Her shed fur had begun to accrete into tiny dust bunnies into the corners of the room. Cory and Molly smoked together on the porch; I could hear their voices echoing between the buildings. That meant that I couldn’t watch porn, which is what I really wanted to do, because they’d hear me. Instead I tabbed back and forth between Match and Monster.

These websites have a lot in common. In each of them, you’re trying to bamboozle a stranger into considering you for a long-term relationship based on nothing more than a few pages of text and a photograph, and often quite less than that. I’d decided to get on Monster because I could no longer afford name-brand sauce for my Wonder Bread, and Giant Eagle brand red sauce tastes like it’s made from mice.

I’d decided to get on Match because I wanted Sarah to tell me what happened. Our previous emails and chats, which I’d neurotically scoured for some hint of impropriety, seemed okay enough. We’d even spoken on the phone a few times, and while I couldn’t audit those for asshole behavior, I didn’t think I’d said anything horrifying. My previous experiences had taught me not to reveal anything too far from vanilla too early—regardless, whatever line I might have crossed, it wasn’t the “girls fucking dinosaurs” line. I wanted to know why. I emailed her.

Surprisingly, she responded. Further surprisingly, she revealed one of her secret rules to me. If a potential suitor talked about what they might do on a second date before the first date had occurred, this behavior was interpreted as pushiness, or overeagerness, or whatever, and she cut off all contact. However, sending a suitor images of a stories-tall woman shoving an entire man into her cooter was entirely appropriate.

We decided to reschedule our date.

Like everything else, this was a mistake.