Internet dating! What could be more obvious? I’m always amazed how the application of a little technology can change our lives for the better. I mean, look at how the internet has revolutionized the way we shop. We can search for items using the words for specific characteristics we want. We can look at and evaluate the items to see if they’re really what we want. We can compare similar items to see which version we prefer. And if it comes down to it, we can even shop for location and price. We are living in the future. Technology to the rescue once again to solve yet another of humanity’s problems.
I can just picture the original dating site programmers figuring out the algorithms that would pair me with the partner of my dreams. (Now there’s a frightening thought: geeks playing cupid.) It seems like a simple matter of data entry and analysis. What is it that makes sparks fly between two people? Attraction and chemistry. And what are the ingredients that make those essentials possible? All the things that couple have in common. Common interests. Common likes and dislikes. Common history. Common hopes and dreams. Just answer a few questions about yourself and put them online, and someone who finds your description appealing (or at least intriguing) will call attention to him- or herself, and with any luck, the two of you will start carrying on a conversation that will lead to bigger and better things.
Of course, that’s the theory behind internet dating. Say, “hello.” Break the ice. Reveal yourself to be the pleasant, decent, reasonable person you know yourself to be, and you should be rewarded with a chance to meet some interested stranger for dinner, lunch, or at least coffee. And all that from the comfort of your home without having to stand in a bar nursing a beer or having to put on a clean shirt. The actual practice of it is another reality.
What are your favorite movies? What are your favorite books? What are your favorite bands?
Yes, let’s discover what things we’ll be amazed we share an interest in. You like that TV show, too? My favorite is the scene when Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman first meet. I also grew up listening to albums like Close to the Edge and Catch Bull at Four, but it was the rock music of the ‘80s that really caught my ear. And no, I don’t follow sports much. The last time I watched a Bulls game, Michael Jordan was still on the team.
What’s your favorite cuisine? What’s your favorite vacation getaway? What do you like to do for fun?
You’re putting bits and pieces of your complex self out there. Limited to only 100 characters per answer. And of course, there’s the content behind the content you’re inadvertently sharing, too. Can I form complete sentences? Do my thoughts flow in a coherent fashion? Am I familiar with concepts such as grammar and punctuation? All in all, I’d say I passed muster. In fact, I can even share with you some of the actual entries I posted. I got to the point that I was giving so many different dating sites a try, it made sense to copy my profile and save it to make the information easy to enter elsewhere.
In no particular order...
I love music. That's been the guiding creative priniciple of my existence. Music has both inspired my career, nurtured my heart, and informed my life.
Having said that, I have to admit to being especially partial to rock. You'll find jazz and blues and reggae and classical on my iPods, but no opera and not much country.
I'm not athletically inclined and never follow sports. I do walk for exercise daily, but I have no workout regimen. Still I'm slender and in good health.
My twins are my life's priority right now: helping them navigate their teenage years and getting them launched in the world. Although they are freshmen in high school, they still tell me they love me and let me hug and kiss them good night. How cool is that?
I make a living with my creativity: writing copy, voicing promos, editing and mixing sound. It's kept me employed locally for nearly thirty years. And in broadcasting, that's saying something.
Some things I like a LOT:
dark chocolate (at least 67% cocoa content)
leather pants (on me or you)
Szechuan spicy pork with brocolli
funky shoes and boots (I've lost count how many I own)
green tea bubble tea latte with tapioca
playing bass guitar
homemade scones with clotted cream
getting geeky with one of my Apple computers
pesto pizza with shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes
martinis (at last, a drink that doesn't leave me hung over)
watching movies (at home or in a theatre)
designing personal graphics projects
kissing under a starry sky
Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream
quiet moments just enjoying the company of close friends
my homemade guacamole
making someone laugh...
How 'bout you?
All in all, I think I did a fine job advertising my wares. There was playfulness. There was variety. There was confidence and warmth. And there was honesty, too. Yes, indeed, there was honesty. It’s humbling to read back through it six years later and discover that in spite of my own impatience with profiles that featured incomplete sentences and improper word usage, I managed to post my own information with both “principle” and “broccoli“ misspelled. D’oh! I don’t expect that actually cost me any winks, though. I clearly made a case for who I was and expected that the facts would speak for themselves.
I posted an attractive photo, of course. That’s required if you want to get anywhere on an internet dating site. I like to think it would be common sense, but given some of the pictures that other users had posted of themselves, I’m not so sure. I simply wanted truth in advertising. I certainly didn’t think I was every woman’s cup of tea. But looking back, I thought I displayed a healthy individuality that, coupled with my written profile, merited serious consideration. Sure, long hair on men isn’t for everyone. But I didn’t think it would necessarily be a deal breaker.
Right up at the top of my profile page I had the opportunity to post my own slug line. Something pithy that would intrigue the passing visitor. Something that would sum up my approach to life and signal to some potential match that here was someone whose heart and mind and 50 characters worth of personal philosophy was in step with her own.
What’s a quotation that sums you up? Tell our members something about yourself.
Well, that’s easy. In my years in analysis I discovered how much I enjoyed marching to the beat of a different drum. I had worked hard to know myself. And though it wasn’t easy, I struggled to be true to mine own self. In my many wanderings, I made the acquaintance of a young lesbian who was into the leather scene in Chicago. One night back in those much more closeted days, she and her partner met my wife and me for dinner. At first glance she was just a pretty woman in glasses, short wavy hair, and a leather jacket. But then she demonstrated how with the addition of a length of chain here, a bit of bandana and a leather pin there, she could quickly convert her motorcycle wear into something that communicated her interests very clearly. It was a significant time in my life as I began to glimpse how some people had learned to embrace their differences and thrive because of them. How fitting that one of the most meaningful quotations I ever heard came into my life because of this woman. The words were written in the 19th century, but the sentiment was very much in step with our time. The author, Robert Louis Stevenson, captured the vision I had not yet put words to. With his eloquent thought, I found myself granted a star to steer my ship by.
To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying "Amen" to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive.
That’s what I posted at the top of my dating profile. It was a proud proclamation of what I had found to be a powerful truth. And I thought it would certainly resonate with the women online who were searching for a unique companion and a future to be shared with someone out of the ordinary.
How did I do?
Well, how did I honestly expect I was going to do?
You see, at the time, I was aware that shoes were an important component of my life, erotic and otherwise. Yet the conventional format for presenting myself on a dating site would make my unique tastes come across as bizarre. I’d have to go out of my way to properly highlight my passions, but then that would make me seem unhealthily obsessed. Wouldn’t it make some sense to have a category for each candidate’s erotic life? Name three people or things you’ve fantasized about during sex. Yes, that would be bit more honest than most folks would be ready for in advance of a first date. And I certainly knew it had to be a part of the discussion...if I could only get some of the women who visited my profile to have a discussion. You know, for a service that people came to in order to meet somebody, there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in actually meeting me. Among my circle of acquaintances, I can think of two woman friends who found their husbands online so the process apparently works. But in my case, they’d best not ask me for a testimonial.
The theory is that a person can go online and discover another person who has a lot of things in common. In actual practice, I came away with an awareness of how very particular those things in common would need to be. I wrestled with the possibility of romance via the internet for about a year and a half. In that time, I’d guess I probably sent dating service e-mail to let’s say 60 or 70 women that seemed worth contacting. Only 20 or so actually ended up carrying on a conversation with me, and then only a dozen actually led to exchanging phone numbers. Out of those, I got to meet just six or seven in person. And none of them made me hear wedding bells. They were all decent, well-adjusted people. But they clearly weren’t from my tribe.
Take Christine. Short clipped white hair and dressed in black. The profile photo with her on her motorcycle in riding leather promised some potential for adventure. But the two times we got together, she showed up in her Danskos. Apparently she’d turned her ankle recently and was done with heels for the time being.
Take Helena. Short and spunky and recently divorced. She was intent on making up for lost time. Invited me back to her place during dinner. When it came time for a second date, she had on espadrille platform wedges that made me say, “Gurg!” We obviously had different illustrations accompanying our internal dictionary entries for “sexy.”
Take Anna Elise. A can do woman who owned her own two-story house in the city. At time she was studying to be an acupuncturist. We’d go out for dinner, watch a DVD in her living room, then head up to bed. Her taste for Børn clogs gave me a short-lived pang of hope that we might work something out. But when she explained her “no shoes indoors” policy on my first visit, I saw for certain that we weren’t meant to be.
I wonder how I would have fared if I had simply posted under Likes: awesome shoes, fearless sex, and emotional intimacy. Clearly, the man I was wouldn’t translate well on dating sites. I couldn’t picture adding my own What’s your favorite fetish? response to the conventional list of icebreakers. Once, I actually did run across a woman who posted in her profile that she had a shoe fetish. So I sent her a message with a reasonable expression of my enthusiasm. She, in turn, sent one of the most aloof and distant responses I ever received. (Really, honey, if you didn’t want men showing an interest in your shoes, then why did you mention them to us?) You’ve read through a sampling of the things I posted in my profile. You’ve seen that I have quite a few other passions and interests that I pursue. There’s more to who I am than just a fondness for footwear. But I had come to see that shoes are a significant part of my essential self. Not just a whim. Not simply a diversion. It’s not some thing I do on the side like taking a class in glassblowing or learning to drive a stick shift. No, for some inexplicable reason, wearing the sort of adventurous shoes that caught my eye in the women’s department was something that energized me. In the same way that my creative audio projects at work energized me. In the same way that creating an interesting blog energized me. Or performing music with a band energized me. Through footwear I was engaged in an equally powerful creative process, the process of creating the person I was intended to be. Just following the standard template of how to be a man was not going to work for me. I was engaged in discovering a potent new way of expressing myself in the world. The simple act of wearing women’s shoes was my foothold, if you will, into that new existence. And looking back, I can say there wasn’t any way an internet dating site was going to let me speak that truth.
Instead, I had to find another way to express that growing sense of myself.
[On the feet here as I blog: a pair of Nat lace up clog boots from Dansko and the crowd-pleasing Lynnea clog boot from UGG Australia.]