Rethinking the Dating Game
Exercises in Fruitility: Taking Myself Off the Market
I have officially thrown in the towel. I have given up. I don't know what you all want and I no longer care. All I know is that I am not the issue. So I've stepped out of the online dating pool, dried myself off and left the proverbial resort. As of my most recent birthday, all four of my online dating profiles have been deleted.
Some will say that thirty-two is far too young for such a drastic measure but I've already been dating online (or at least attempting to) for nine years. In that time, it has become increasingly more difficult to meet people as the wallflower mentality that infected the bars and clubs has also permeated online chat rooms as people sit and wait for someone to send them a private message because they are "too shy."
In a real-life, face-to-face setting this is perfectly understandable. I'm quite social once a conversation is somehow initiated, but terribly shy when it comes to approaching a guy in person — even if to just say hello. And the few times I actually mustered up the courage to do so have all ended in comic disasters. Despite the humor of those situations, there is something profoundly damaging about a guy either disregarding me to my face or simply being nice even though they are really not interested. I don't know which is worse, but I would rather they not suffer through a painfully awkward conversation to avoid being rude.
It is easier to rebound in the virtual world, which is why I have never understood how such shyness or fear can transfer to the front of your computer screen. There are days when I force myself to send a private message to every guy I find even remotely interesting. The return on such an investment of energy is minimal since most don't even respond but the ones who do simply say “hello” and leave it at that or offer only one—word answers to standard questions— which is far more annoying than being ignored. Since no connection was made and no emotional energy expended, these rejections barely register as such.
But it has gotten to the point where people don't even want to meet up at all, which leads me to believe that the process will only become more and more fruitless for me. I don't mind having time to spare and doing nothing with it, but I certainly don't like wasting it.
I'm not suggesting that I haven't met a good number of men online. Some of them are now great friends, a few have occupied space in my heart at one time or another and a handful simply filled a physical need. The majority of them, however, just made a one-time appearance (many for good reason) while the rest just sit in the studio audience to watch the comedy of my sitcom life unfold.
I found meeting people to be a lot easier when I was younger— not because of my age but because I was newer to the scene and more people were actually interested in meeting up for a cup of coffee or just some action. And there was a lot of action back then. But despite all the action that was available for my taking, what I really wanted at the time was a boyfriend – even though I was barely out of the closet and far from ready for it. Like many of us, it was the idea of having one that was most appealing.
Perhaps I'm still not ready for a serious relationship, because in the years since there has been a shift in my attitude and in that of those who remain in the proverbial dating pool. Whilst I am far more interested in having a few regular friends with benefits or just a couple of playmates, I am coming across more and more people—older and younger than I— who want a relationship because it's more of a possibility now than ever before.
But I find that a lot of guys don't actually know what they want or are afraid to admit to themselves and prospective dates what it is they are really looking for. Some guys say they want a relationship but really just want to hook up— regardless as to the reputation of the site they are logged onto. There is nothing to be ashamed of if that is what you are looking for, but so many still attach a stigma to it as if it is akin to meeting in the bushes of Central Park.
Then there are those who want a relationship but put out a restrictive laundry list of "I want" and "you-be." I understand that everyone has their preferred types and is entitled to them, but such preferences are counterproductive to the dating process.
The most typical response to this is: "Why should I bother talking to guys who are not my type and therefore know I'm not going to like?"
My response is, “How do you know you won't?”
We tend to go back and forth on these two points because they maintain that they are just not attracted to guys who don't look a certain way. I maintain they don't know anything until they've given someone or something a chance. Because while they sit (often silently) in these chat rooms for hours at a time waiting to be hit up by only the most modelesque and musclesque of guys, the relationship they profess they want is probably out and about meeting people. I would even go so far to say that Mr. Out and About will not check out on several points from those laundry lists. I will go even further to say that Mr. Out and About will fall well outside many people's so-called "type."
I personally blame Katherine Heigl and her ilk of romantic comedy queens with their typical Hollywood movie ending where the girl ultimately gets the handsome stud guy by some fantastical stretch of a screenwriter's imagination that requires a major suspension of the audience's disbelief. Like millions of single ladies, millions of gays have decided that this is how it should be for them.
What people fail to understand is that Katherine Heigl and her ilk have co-stars they have to wind up with at the end no matter how much the screenplay tries to keep them apart for 90 minutes. So while they show her and her ilk dating at the beginning of the movie; that falls away pretty quickly so that the Cinderella story can unfold.
In reality, one must date and one must date a lot in order to get to an actual relationship. They don't just fall into our laps. We have to put the work into it. So throw away the laundry lists. See what's out there. For it is only by dating that we will truly know what we like and what we don't like about a guy beyond the mere aesthetics. And if you are seeking an attraction to someone based merely on a description, a set of pictures, text messages and pics, then you may as well just grab the lube and go to town.
If there is some semblance of interest beyond that, it may be worth a shot. After all, what is a coffee or a drink – especially if they wind up paying? And the fact that we've all spent countless hours in these chat rooms, dating and hook-up sites is proof positive that we all have the same yearning for companionship.
So make it easier on yourselves to actually find it. As for me and my happily single house, we are going back to meeting people (all sorts of people) "the regular way." If something comes out of it, great. If not, my life will in no way be diminished. In fact, deleting those online dating profiles was quite freeing.
Terrence Moss is a Los Angeles-based writer. He is launching a website in early 2012 for people who like to read. Visit his website at www.terrencemoss.com.
Images: Photos.com, for illustrative purposes only.