I’m back at the library and— Ohmigod!— the girl who has just sat down on the computer in the front of me is cruising Match.com! She looks normal enough. There’s a certain stigma about the sort of people who have to “resort” to online dating. I like to think that I, being the fabulous, charming, socially adept non-Cyclops that I am, have blown this stereotype out of the water, but that doesn’t stop me from peering over the top of my laptop and wondering, “What is wrong with her?”
She’s not in the greatest of shape. In Match.com parlance, she’s “about average,” “curvy” or even “a few extra pounds.” Her hair looks like she’s trying to do dreadlocks but they’re not quite working for her yet, which is probably why she’s shoved the entire mass into a baseball cap (which, in turn, is probably why she’s been forced to “resort” to match.com).
Still, it’s only a weekday afternoon. And this is the public library, not Rodeo Drive— story time, actually, has just ended— so if she wants to go out in her messed up dreads and her baseball cap, that’s her prerogative.
All the same, I’m curious. I know (and my dates know) that I began my online dating career as something of serial dater. I also know that my four-first-dates-in-four-days frenzy was not normal. But I like to think it wasn’t that abnormal. Surely I’m not the only one who’s taken the Royal Caribbean approach (“Get out there!”) to online dating. And I can’t help but wonder: what’s this girl’s story?
A proper anthropologist would just get up and go ask her but unlike the majority of the Sou’ Philly library patrons who frequent the Charles Santore branch, I don’t talk in the library. So I’ll speculate instead.
Based on my observations, she’s probably not very popular on Match.com. In addition to her rather unfortunate hairdo, she only spends about thirty seconds on the website before switching to Facebook and take it from me: you can’t spend thirty seconds on Match.com and expect to get any results. Certainly not record breaking four-dates-in-four-days results (and yeah, this probably going to be my claim to fame for some time because I have neither the energy nor the desire to do it again).
As I’m sitting here, taking yet another undeserved break from the completion of my masterpiece, I decide that Match.com should probably just hire me as a consultant. I could advise young women across the US (and internationally, actually; did you know that Match.com has gone global?) on how to abandon all sense of priority (and propriety) and devote themselves entirely to the world of online dating.
I could tell them how to write an awesome profile (mine rocks, if I do say so myself) and how to select photos that make them look sexy but not skanky (and “athletic and toned” or even “slender” instead of “a few extra pounds”). I could tell them how to get dates, how to cancel dates, how to dress for dates on a freelancer’s budget and how to—actually, that’s all I’ve got so far. Because the actual process of building a relationship with someone is a skill I have yet to master. But I’m sure I’ll get there eventually, and then I’ll be a true Match.com poster child.
In the meantime, I’m wondering if any of my dates are serial daters, and if so, have they ever encountered Dreadlocks Girl? Maybe they’ve winked at her; maybe they’ve emailed her; maybe they’ve even gone out with her! And that would be truly weird— somehow incestuous, even—but these, I suppose, are the anonymous times in which we live.
I experienced a similar moment of panic while salsa dancing at Brasil’s earlier this month. During the lesson, one of my partners asked, “So, what brings you here tonight?” I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no one was listening (online dating, like homeschooling, does have certain connotations) before I finally divulged my secret.
“No way!” my partner cried, “A date with someone you met online? Me too!”
And that is when I really started to panic. What if I had winked at him? What if I had emailed him? What if I was scheduled to go out with him during the course of the next 48 hours?
“Which service do you use?” he asked, spinning me into a cross-body lead.
“Match.com,” I replied, willing the instructor to call out “Switch partners!” as she had been doing every 30 seconds for the past hour. “And you?”
“Ok Cupid,” he replied.
Crisis averted. I might have winked at every Tom, Dick and Harry within a ten-mile radius of Philadelphia (I think I have, actually) but only at those T’s, D’s, and H’s who subscribe to Match.com. Ok Cupid is an entirely different story, and one which I never hope to tell.