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The Other Side
Of Online Dating

by Susan Johnston

I use my computer for just about everything. I book airline flights on Orbitz, browse the headlines on CNN, and search for cheap movies on eBay. One thing I haven’t found online is a boyfriend.

According to numerous dating sites, my perfect match is “just a click away.”  All I need to do is check a few boxes, select hair color, age range, occupation, even a religion, and…voila!  Thousands of single men right at my fingertips, almost as easy as ordering a sweater from Gap.com.  But in reality, I’m rarely happy with clothes I haven’t tried on first, and the men I’ve met online rarely live up to their profiles.

I had coffee with a guy who was so nervous he barely spoke for two hours.  I nearly got arrested on a date with a grad student who spent the entire time regaling me with stories about his lab rats.  And don’t get me started on the dozens of unsuitable suitors who emailed me X-rated photos or poetry too embarrassing to repeat here.

Online dating is not as simple as choosing a size, style, and color from your favorite online retailer.  I would say that it’s more akin to discount shopping. Sure, TJ Maxx has some great finds, but you have to dig through a whole lot of triple X t-shirts and irregular sweaters to find those perfect black pants conveniently marked down to 50% off.  Similarly, you have to date a lot of people who are ten pounds heavier, two inches shorter and a lot less witty than their profiles suggest before meeting someone who approximates boyfriend or girlfriend material.

Eight months into my online dating odyssey I met someone who embodied all of the qualities I thought I was looking for.  This tall, athletic Ivy Leaguer seemed perfect – he was confident but not cocky, romantic but not over-the-top, intelligent, but not stuffy.  However, two months into our awkward courtship, I realized that this “good on paper” guy was not the guy for me. Even with all my “criteria” met, there was still something lacking.

Often Internet daters look for superficial commonalities like a shared taste for Heineken or a mutual love of hiking.   Browsing online profiles will tell you someone’s hair color, star sign, and income, but it won’t tell you about their conversation skills, their dating demeanor, or their lovable little quirks.

You can only discover those things face-to-face, and by then you’ve probably ruled out a lot of potential matches based on their height, income or photo.  One of my exes pointed out that with my height restrictions set at 5’8″-6’3,” I never would have seen his profile.

If I limited my search to men who shared my love of show tunes and shopping, I would be in for long, lonely life. I can see Wicked and hit the sale racks with my female (and gay male) friends, while he plays poker with his buddies.  Most single city dwellers don’t lack for activity partners – it’s that unexpected spark with the opposite sex that is so hard to find.

And to find that connection, some online daters choose to comparison shop, posting their profiles on multiple websites.  However, instead of upping their odds, they often create more work for themselves.  Think about it – most of the large department stores have essentially the same merchandise, just as dating sites list many of the same people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard the success stories, the urban romances that sprouted in the face of friends’ skepticism and flowered into a living example of modern-day love.  One of my best friends has had two successful relationships with men she met online (not simultaneously.)  She recently moved in with Online Boyfriend Number Two, and they have a good laugh whenever someone brings up the circumstances of their meeting.

I, on the other hand, can only cringe when I think back on my cyber suitors.  Call me old-fashioned, but from now I’ll stick to meeting guys in person instead of relying on my PC.

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