EVERY so often I think about what life would be like if I were still single.
Actually, this is a lie. I never think about that, because the very idea frightens the living daylights out of me, and not just because I’m happily married. Single people now have to be made of a lot sterner stuff than yours truly -- at least, they do if they want to hook up with anybody else, permanently or otherwise.
Still, I can’t help but read the reports from the front. Recently, I saw yet another of my pet illusions slaughtered, in a Columbia News Service (CNS) story online. It was an exposé about those adorable notes you can read in the Craigslist section called Missed Connections -- the ones directed at nameless strangers the writer has traded glances with on the subway or in a Starbucks lineup, whom he or she shyly admits he or she would like to pursue. Well, it turns out that some people use these vulnerable declarations as opportunities to make sexual conquests.
CNS reporter Megan Gibson placed an ad in Missed Connections, falsely claiming to have been on a particular train wearing a particular outfit reading a particular magazine and that she’d noticed a guy who had piqued her interest. She received a dozen responses from men claiming they were the person she had seen.
She wound up meeting one of them, who’d written that he thought they should “try to make each other feel better about that missed connection.” I’m not sure what this proves – really, it’s the story of a woman who lied to get attention and then concluded that the men who pretended to be the person she was looking for were pathetic. Stop the presses!
I guess the story at least points to the fact that these times are fraught with challenge for lonely hearts. True, they can list themselves online at the dating site PlentyofFish.com, where they’ll find people much like themselves, who yearn for a connection but don’t want to spend a cent to get it. Is it any wonder when dates found on freebie sites, which start off as a Dutch treat rendezvous in a coffee shop, fizzle on the second or third try, when it’s time to ante up for a full-blown experience that’s either a little costlier or requires some genuine effort made to entertain the other, beyond flirtatious repartee?
A friend of mine used to find dates online. On one initial coffee date, her potential man-friend took a look at her and immediately answered a business call on his cell-phone, proceeding to blather endlessly to the person on the other end while she silently sipped her coffee. Needless to say, there was no second date.
Another friend of about my age reports that the men she meets online invariably identify themselves as 50ish but say they are really looking for someone extremely attractive, age 25-35. If they wind up agreeing to meet her anyway, she always finds herself wondering how anybody who so little resembles George Clooney ever got such high hopes.
I’d love to see statistics comparing the “success rate” of free, do-it-yourself dating sites to ones that cost more money but actually involve a third party matchmaker. But how would such stats measure success – by participants who got married, or went past a third date, or simply those who don’t describe themselves as utterly demoralized by the process?
It’s not that conventional approaches to dating are any less humiliating. We humans are an intolerant bunch. A chum once ditched a boyfriend because she couldn’t stand the fact that he kept using the word “irregardless” and mispronounced the word “beige.”
Back in my dating days, I did just as many lousy things to my boyfriends as they did to me, and we weren’t even a particularly crummy bunch. There were certainly no beatings administered, except to each other’s egos. Back then, we just bumbled along, met someone we liked, dated them for a bit, then broke up in some blockheaded fashion.
But at least we didn’t learn that we’d been dumped by reading that our boyfriend had updated his status to “single” on Facebook. We didn’t have to come up with a new ad for ourselves and then post it on the Internet for other people to comb or mock. We didn’t need to make ourselves pretty for assignations over swiftly cooling lattes with total strangers whose veracity had instantly come into question when the self-described “hunky executive” turned up in an old indie rock band T-shirt and yoga pants a size too small. In other words, we didn’t have to lay it on the line in public.
Those were the days. Too bad we didn’t know it at the time.