By leaps and bounds dating and mating websites are losing their print equivalent and afternoon playmate taint, taking on a whole new level of seriousness and acceptance. They are no longer avenues for the desperate, hangouts for the habitually single and chronically loveless–today, dating sites are becoming a first choice for the busy person, the person whose friends are all paired up, the person who just isn’t certain where the heck to get a decent companion anymore. The bar scene was never it, and it can be a little dicey to date someone from the workplace. So where do you go?
Enter the digital matchmaker.
Rather than restricting you to a tiny, unobtrusive square box which affords you no more embellishment than a hundred words or less in which you’re to entice a prospective mate, online dating sites offer a wealth of ways for you to highlight yourself as a prospective partner. These sites range from offering only a few, preset stock questions and answers that you choose from a multiple-choice quiz-like atmosphere, to lengthy question and answer responses that require you to put some thought (hopefully) into what you’re advertising about yourself. These sites offer space for photos, your personal stats, and the stats of the sort of mate you’re after. Prepared questions range from what your favourite pets are, to what you find sexy and what sort of items you can’t do without in life. Some offer enough blank space to let you be individually creative.
I’ve noticed a trend away from cliché responses to those that have a ring of humour, and truth. Gone are the dating game refrains about pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, fireplaces, bearskin rugs, and walks on the beach at midnight, and hello to the days of “I like eating spaghetti in bed”, “I can pick things up with my toes”, and “I’ll be your devoted slave if you can do an impression of Carol Channing.” Men, and women, are branching out of what they think people want to hear, and heading off into the unknown, and much more interesting, land of individual truth, quirks, and the kind of brazen honesty that will catch you a companion, playmate, or spouse.
I’ve seen some beautiful effort put into profiles, effort that results in something that is completely captivating. Then you hit the profiles that make you wonder how serious the people really are about finding someone; like the guy whose profile picture is his lower half, and all he’s wearing is a no-sleeve t-shirt and tighty whities; or the guy who’s almost completely naked except for purple, plastic buckets covering his tender parts. Pictures aside, though, the most telling aspect of a person’s profile, for me at least, is the language. I’m not talking about vulgarities or crudities, I’m talking about basic spelling and grammar. I know there are some that will see it as a sign of snobbery, but this is something I cannot apologise for: poor language skills are a real turn-off. If you’re trying to catch the attention of someone who’s put some effort into their profile, it’s likely not so good an idea to “rite 2 them using spelling lik this, bcuz ur not likely 2 get much attention” — especially not if you’re a grown man claiming to have a Ph.D. Oh, and if you’re trying to catch someone’s attention, you might also want to avoid posting photos of yourself in dirty clothes, in compromising positions, coupled with members of the opposite sex, or looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed and not showered for the past week. Trust me, these aren’t turn-ons, and will not make me h0t 4 u!
I’ve yet to decide what’s worse: People who obviously put no effort into their own profiles, or the ones that put no effort into paying attention to yours before they contact you. No, in fact I am in no way interested in dating someone twenty-five years my senior (or ten years my junior), who lives several thousand miles away in a country not known for fair practices toward women; nor am I interested in someone who looks like he’s just got free of the judicial system, and I don’t mean someone who’s just left the law offices of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe. For all the good that is finally creeping into the online dating world, there are still some things that can make it all a real… adventure.
So far I most like the personals site that allows me to put into my profile things like the last book I’ve read, the five things I can’t live without, details about spirituality, music, and art, my opinions on sports, more information on what I want in a man that extends beyond what most sites offer, since many sites don’t bo much beyond eye colour, height, income, and whether or not he’s got children and wants more. Those are about the last things that I consider when contemplating whether or not I want to date someone. I need more pith, less patina. I want some meat, substance, information that — when I look into a person’s eyes — I can see ticking around in there, like the books he’s read, the music he likes, and whether or not he likes to eat toast in bed and wear silly hats when gardening. You’d be surprised how appealing a good grasp of hat wearing can be.
Of course the digital dating system is not foolproof, nothing is, but it does provide a somewhat safer environment to introduce yourself to strangers than picking them up in a booze-laden bar that’s too dim to really let you get a look at them, and too loud to let you hear the nuances of their speech. I don’t want to get stuck going out with some man because I thought he said he wanted to have port with me, not “pork” me. Oh, you think I’m kidding about that, I bet. Sadly, it’s true — I know a man who refers to having sex with women as “porking” them. He’s still single, by the way.