Writing left handed

An Epidemic of Serial Daters

Looking for SomeoneI was talking to journalist Nick Paumgarten about his recent piece on online dating in the New Yorker when it hit me— okay, I wasn’t actually talking to him per se (I was sitting at my desk logged into his “author chat” over at newyorker.com and talking “to” him via a heavily moderated comments box)—but here’s what I came up with: serial dating is becoming a thing.

Not that my generation is the first to embrace the quantity vs. quality approach to dating but we’re the first to do it with the assistance of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and, best of all, Match.com.  I used to think I was the only girl in the world to obsess over my dates as I do—the spreadsheets, the “types,” the “manthropology,” if you will—but according to Paumgarten’s piece in the New Yorker, I’m not alone.

Evidently he interviewed a woman who has dated fifty-eight men since her divorce (fifty-eight!  I wonder if her mother was able to furnish her with a new outfit for each one…) and she “maintains a chart, both to keep the men straight and to try to discern patterns—as though there might be a unified-field theory of why men are dogs.”

Personally, I don’t think there’s such thing as a “unified-field theory of why men are dogs” (in fact, I had to Google “unified-field theory” to figure out what the heck Paumgarten was talking about and before I got totally bored by all of the physics-jargon, I discovered that is no such thing unified-field theory… of anything.  According to Wikipedia it’s an “open line of research.”)

Having maintained my own spreadsheet for the majority of my online dating “experiment” I’m pretty doubtful that this woman was trying to figure out why men are dogs.  I mean, seriously, who would waste their time trying to answer that question?  (Actually, I should revise that to “What grown woman would waste her time trying to answer that question?” because I wasted a lot of time on this exact field of inquiry during college.  After two years of agonizing over the stupidity of the boys on our campus, which was rendered all the more infuriating by the dearth of men in general, my roommates and I finally concluded that there was something in the water.  “Why didn’t he say ‘hi’ on his way to class?”  There’s something in the water.  “Why is he dating her?”  There’s something in the water!  “Why does he drive that stupid razor scooter around campus with his mouth hanging open?”  THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE WATER!)

Getting back to the men-are-dogs-theory, I think it’s a waste of time— and valuable analytical skills.  I mean if you’re going to sit around obsessing over your dating life, going through your spreadsheet with a fine tooth comb and a pack of color coordinated highlighters to separate the Pre-Raphaelites from the Impressionists, trying to figure out why everything always falls apart on that crucial fifth date, it’s better to stop trying to figure out why men are dogs (because clearly they’re not, at least not all of them) and start trying to figure out which sort of men/dogs you’re attracted to.

This way, once you figure out why you’re attracted to Old Masters or Nice Guys in the first place (I still haven’t figured out what to call the latter), you can attempt to determine whether those attractions are worth pursuing or not.

Of course, there always remains the possibility that life will throw you a curve ball in the form of a man who refuses to conform to all of the “theories” you’ve deduced from your “data” (aka Date #7) but this is one of the many occupational hazards encountered by women of my… er… profession.

But getting back to my original point: no wonder I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels here!  No research project is complete without a “literature review.”  I’ve been negligent in my duties as a (m)anthropologist!

You’d think I’d know this, having already gone to grad school and having already done the whole “lit review” thing (much to the detriment of my love life, I might add).  I guess I just got so caught up on my own writing on the subject of online dating that I forgot to see what else was out there.  I think it’s time to expand my investigations, to learn a thing or two from the great serial daters who have come before me.  Maybe with their help, I’ll finally figure out how to proceed (or at the very least enjoy a few laughs… you know, the kind that are not at my expense).

9 Responses to “An Epidemic of Serial Daters”

  1. Jenny Rebecca Winters

    (Again, the 40-something speaks) Hi Kat! Just me again. Granted, I started dating when “call-waiting” was new on the phone and had to push aside my Big Hair, but in the mid-90’s Yahoo Personals became big, especially the chat rooms. I was lucky enough to be divorced at the time (?) and Yahoo Personals were free. Not scuzzy, and not too bad. I dated a lot through Yahoo. Then I think it was Match.com. Then JDate. Then Eharmony. Then Match again. So I don’t know if that makes you “second-generation” of the serial dating persuasion, or if I was just either before my time or terribly bored.

    I had just signed up for Match AGAIN right before I started dating my husband, who I had met at work. Right before our wedding, I hear him calling me from our home office: “Honey? Um…Match.com just charged you for another 6 months…” I remembered that I had taken out the “guaranteed soulmate” plan.

    Well, I got what I signed up for…and Match was good enough to refund my money.

    Moral of the story? I have no idea. Except that serial daters in their mid-20’s started perhaps earlier than history has recorded. 🙂

    • Zak

      I definitely think there’s been a few generations already. I recall one of my high school/college friends constantly getting dates via AOL chat rooms and going on double-dates, bringing me along for his date’s “friend.”

      I think what Kat noticed, or is noticing and pointing out, is that our “generation”/”iteration” may be the first to have embraced it, or, if you ask me, the first to be using it substantially more often than regular means, such as meeting at a bar, work, a sporting, event, etc. Just my perception, anyhow.

  2. Landlord

    I think our generation (the older generation) is finally done rolling our eyes, or raising our eyebrows or thinking that everyone who searches on-line, etc. for a date is risking life and limb. It has become a much more accepted way to find romance. So, your generation is coming from a whole different perspective and that in itself opens up a different dialog worth writing and reading about. The fear/taboos/sketchy feelings have gone by the wayside, because almost everyone now can say they know someone who met their partner on line.


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