Saturday, October 15, 2005
Yes, the internet is a wondrous thing -- a place of learning, a forum for the free expression of ideas, a global marketplace, a medium for mass communication, a community without borders, an international town square, and a pick-up joint.
Dating has never been an exact science, it's always been hit or miss, luck of the draw, a numbers game. But on the internet you can increase your chances of success by widening your universe of choices way beyond your circle of friends, co-workers or the regulars at the local bar. In addition you can avail yourself of highly developed selection systems developed by PhDs to help you narrow the field down to those with whom you are most likely to connect. It's like being a card counter at the blackjack table of love.
With this in mind one Saturday morning, I filled out a profile on Match.com and plunged into the brisk waters of internet dating. My interest had been stirred by a photo I saw on the Match teaser page of a nurse who lived right here in my neighborhood. I looked up her profile and found that we were quite compatible -- 82% compatible to be exact. How about that? Here's this attractive single woman living right near me with whom I have all of these things in common and we might never have met. So I wrote her an "anonymous" email, telling her how it was her photo that had encouraged me to sign up in the first place (they recommend a little flattery) and how remarkable it was that we were so compatible. This was very exciting, the possibility of making a connection on my very first day.
After I sent the first email, I instantly received several more suggested profiles of women who were similar to the nurse. One in particular was an adorable painter with a cheerful smile and smoldering eyes. I read her profile and found her utterly charming -- funny, intelligent and romantic. And wouldn't you know, we were also 82% compatible! I sent her an email right away, explaining that I was very new to all of this but I thought she was terrific and I wanted to find out more about here. I shared with her my understanding of the difficulty of reconciling the life of an artist with that of the workaday world. I felt we had the potential to make a real connection. Man, this was awesome. Compatible women virtually falling out of the trees everywhere you looked. I couldn't wait for their responses.
I probably checked my email about two dozen times that day hoping for replies to my earnest and heartfelt emails. None came. That night, however, I was at a restaurant with a friend waiting for our table when a woman walked in who looked strikingly familiar. But who was she? Suddenly I froze with panic -- it was the nurse! Oh my God, will she recognize me? Is she looking at me? Who's that guy she's with? Will we email each other about this and one day laugh about it? But then our table was ready and away we went. I never saw here or heard from her again. But every once in a while I check her profile and, sure enough, she's still out there looking.
The next day I was elated to find that my painter had "winked" back at me! And then she sent a follow-up email asking for my photo. That's when I realized that the photos I had uploaded hadn't been approved yet and there was no way the nurse could have recognized me last night. I explained to the painter that my photos would be online soon and she should check my profile again. Apparently she did because I did not hear back from her. Finally after two weeks I sent her another email in which I gave her my best argument: if someone has been dating for, say, ten years and they keep choosing the same "type" and none of those relationships have ever worked out, maybe their type isn't really their type. That got a response. She said she really liked my profile and I seemed like a great guy, but she'd already met someone and was going to focus on that relationship for now. Apparently she made the right choice, because when I went back to check up on her profile she had taken it offline.
Meanwhile, I had been sent another profile to check out -- a librarian/grad-student from the desert. She was very cute and her description was intelligent and very sensible. I really liked her sincere, no-nonsense approach. I emailed her and told her that I admired what she had written. Sure enough she wrote me back and said she was intrigued by my musical endeavors as she was a big music fan and used to work at a big-time publicity agency. We traded a few emails back and forth and finally I worked up the nerve to suggest a meeting. It took a few more emails to negotiate the appropriate time and place -- Saturday afternoon at a winery out in Santa Clarita -- and the deal was done. Wow. My first internet date and after only three weeks. I was so nervous Saturday morning, I decide not to shave for fear of slitting my own throat. I drove for nearly two hours out to the desert feeling like the people at MapQuest must be playing a sick joke on me, surely there was no winery way the hell out here. But then I saw the vineyards and realized that this was really going to happen.
I must recommend having a first date at a wine tasting. First of all, you're drinking wine. And even though you're only "tasting" it, after a half a dozen "tastes" you actually get a decent mild buzz going. Then there's the talking about the wine, which is very helpful for those potentially awkward pauses in the conversation. And, perhaps best of all, there's the wine steward, who comes by every few minutes to tell you about a new wine and pour some more wine into your glass and generally keep things flowing. We hung out at the winery for about 45 minutes -- after the tasting we walked around the grounds where they kept various animals -- horses, goats, peacocks, etc. I took a picture of her petting a beautiful palomino with a long golden mane that matched her hair.
We had lunch at a quaint little cafe around the corner and talked for about two hours covering every topic from work to cooking to music to family. She was really nice and smart and funny. She did seem a little awkward at times, but who doesn't on a first date. We hugged good-bye and made plans to make more plans. Driving home, I was pretty darn proud of myself. I had really done it, and I owed it all to the internet.
A few days later I got an email from her suggesting a sunset ride in the Hollywood hills complete with Margaritas and view of the Hollywood sign. Unfortunately I had to work that weekend so we had to postpone. I called her the following week to follow up, but had to leave her a message as she worked nights at the library. I waited a couple of days for her to call back, but didn't hear from her until Saturday evening. She sent me an email explaining that we couldn't see each other any more. She felt that she needed to focus on her studies and maybe she had rushed into the dating thing too soon and probably shouldn't have gone on Match.com in the first place. That was very disappointing but also understandable. I knew she was going to grad school and working nights and weekends. I emailed her and wished her luck with her schoolwork and said I understood how it was trying to balance several different pursuits and still maintain a social life. That was the last I heard from her.
Except that I still have her mini-profile saved in my list of women who have viewed my profile. And as it turns out that mini-profile is continually updated. For example, I can see that she is still active on Match.com, pretty much every day. I can also see that she has changed certain criteria in regard to who she is looking for. Originally, she had specified an age bracket that while it didn't actually include me, put me only slightly outside her range. Now however, she has revised it so that I am about ten years outside her range. I have to confess that hurt a little. But that's not what really got me. She also changed her photo. That in itself is no big deal, but it made me curious enough to go check out her full profile again. The new photo was quite flattering and would probably attract a lot of attention. In addition to it there were two others: one apparently taken in the same location but from a slightly different angle, and one of her petting a beautiful palomino with a long golden mane that matched her hair.
So, I think I will give internet dating a rest for a while. I still get the recommended profiles and every so often I check them out. One turned out to be a beautiful Canadian "model" who somehow ended up in Nigeria and desperately wants to come to Los Angeles. Another was a very sexy Russian woman who barely speaks English and is looking for the love of her life. Both of those are classic internet dating scams which end up with the women asking you to send them money for a plane ticket. It did seem odd that two such young, sexy, beautiful women could both be so strongly attracted to me so quickly. But it was fun to think it might be true, even if only for a few days. I'm much more sophisticated now and I don't fall for that sort of thing so easily.
But there is this cute blonde from Budapest...