Monthly Archives: September 2014

OK-Stupid

That was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had.

When a friend asked me to be a willing victim subjected to a “professional dating coach,” I figured at the very worst, this would be an excellent life experience (and blog fodder). Did I have an online dating profile? Sure. I have one. I don’t USE it, but I could re-activate it, and in the name of SCIENCE, I could totally be a guinea pig for how online matching analytics work and/or how SEO principles apply to dating profiles. I love Science.

I show up to a TV studio, looking reasonably TV-appropriate; Dating Expert is late. Significantly. By the time she shows up, the cameraman is antsy and the Producer is annoyed, but trying valiantly to hide it. She asks me repeatedly whether her hair looks okay and needs complete silence to review my OKCupid profile. I’m already snickering by the time we roll tape, but the Producer is adorable and seems quite sincere about this project. Mental recorder on; filters firmly in place.

Despite reviewing my profile, Dating Expert launches into her canned advice about HOW TO FIND A MATE (clearly a traditional heterosexual monogamous life partner). She is very clear that this is the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT THING I WILL DO WITH MY LIFE. I don’t ask what the first is – I suppose I assume it is curing Ebola. (Or writing a concerto, making first contact with alien life forms, finding the next Higgs-Boson particle…something actually meaningful to society. Jesus, I’m naïve.) She is very clear on the gravitas of this task: DO NOT approach online dating casually! Treat it as if it is a job! FINDING YOUR MATE IS HARD WORK!!! (I learn later, after asking the Producer because for the life of me I can’t remember what she said, that in fact the FIRST most important thing I will ever do is procreating. I can’t even begin to express all of the things that are bass-ackwards about this worldview as applies to me…let’s just move on).

The first notable red flag she points out on my profile is that I’ve listed that I have a law degree. She advises that I should definitely remove this or any other academic achievement such as a PhD or a Nobel Prize, as it could intimidate many men who could otherwise be good partners but perhaps don’t themselves have a degree. I’ve gotta say: if you are intimidated by my baseline LAW DEGREE from an average Midwestern school (no offense DePaul peeps), you will almost certainly enter cardiac arrest at rounds two, three and four…I think it’s a good gatekeeper, and cuts down on my liability risk.

Second, she notes that this profile is really heavy on my interests and hobbies. I should remove a lot of that, and emphasize what I bring to the table as a partner (wife)! It was so very very hard not to respond, “OK, got it. Add ‘great cook, gives dynamite blow jobs’ to skills section. Check.”

(Sidenote: When I leave this interview, I go home and make a lasagna for a friend who is having a rough time of life this week. I take this homemade lasagna to my friend while dressed up in an extraordinarily steampunk-skanky outfit, heading to the kind of party which the kind of nice girls this woman envisions as the world’s ideal absolutely would never attend. I want a snapshot of this moment, to include as the embodiment of “what I have to offer” on my profile.)

She asks me point-blank “what I want in a man” – what my “requirements” are. I tell her that my approach to dating and meeting anyone has always been that I am open to all people – for the unique, crazy, special individuals that they are…that I don’t have a list of checkboxes or requirements, but would like to meet a variety of interesting people and see what or how they could contribute to and/or enhance my life and perspective of the world. She ignores this answer completely.

(Through it all, she keeps saying man…man, man, man, man. My profile says I’m bisexual and my “relationship style” is “strictly non-monogamous,” which she either didn’t notice or chose to ignore. I deliberately use gender-neutral pronouns in responding to her questions, even when that is grammatically awkward (“when HUMANS look at my profile…”). There is no thought that I would ever be looking for anything but a man, who would be my committed, monogamous life partner.)

Her suggestion to her clients is that they make three lists: What they have to offer as a wife, what they want in a man, and “dealbreakers.” She suggests that sometimes, dealbreakers may be more flexible than they seem. For instance, if you meet a man who is perfect in every way (Good earner! Nice man! Good father-potential!) but has one of your totally arbitrary dealbreakers (let’s say, “is a gun enthusiast”), perhaps challenge the dealbreakers! I vocally agree with her sage wisdom, and note that a gun enthusiast would be vastly more useful on your zombie team. This flies over her head until the cameraman loses his shit laughing and needs clarification. Zombie team? “Right, your zombie team. The folks that you are going to gather close when the zombie apocalypse happens, to stave off having to eat each other for a couple weeks.” We reshoot that sequence a couple times…I so hope that makes it into the final cut, because I’m finally starting to have a good time. The Producer asks (desperately trying to get us back on track, and not having read my profile): Does her sense of humor come through online? Expert says, erm… maybe I could emphasize that more? I note that the VERY FIRST LINE of my profile is: “I have a zombie team and a go bag,” and wonder what more I should do to convey that philosophy. I can almost hear her tut-tut as she admonishes: “Is that really what you want as the first thing people know about you?” And for the first time I am serious about an answer: “Yes. Yes it is. Because people’s looks, careers, etc. will change over the course of our lives…but in the end, all that is left is someone’s personality and sense of humor, and yes, that is exactly the first thing I want someone to know about me and the most important thing I would EVER look for in a partner.”

I try very hard to play the straight man (!) and ask her questions that will move the interview forward, such as: “What should you do if you go on a date with someone whom you do not like/hit it off with, but who messages you afterward to say he had a nice time and would like to see you again?” Her answer is shockingly Mad Men: Go out with people you don’t like for repeat dates – three times total. Just because you find them unattractive or boring doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a great life mate for you. This is part of the natural “screening process.” !!!

When asked to elaborate further, she lets me know that if I practice the deep breathing/meditation techniques that she advocates during her private counseling process, which was developed by a neuroscientist, I will be able to intuit immediately which men will be good mates for me. Obviously, I am NOT using enough of my brain. Must be all that wasted space used up getting my law degree.

In the interest of learning more about whether dating sites work on normal SEO (Search Engine Optimization), I inquire about whether you should use certain keywords or phrases to enhance your results (like online job-searching, where words and phrases like “optimized productivity” and “synchronicity” boost your shitty resume to the top of the bot-pile). She snorts derisively, noting that she 1) does not believe any particular keywords are useful, and 2) DID YOU KNOW THAT ROBOTS ANSWER YOUR EMAILS? Clarification reveals that she actually believes that Robots respond to numerous initial emails through online dating sites, which is why it is vitally important to exchange phone numbers and actually talk in person. (I always suspected it was Optimus Prime sending me dick pics!)

Before you speak in person, however, you MUST email your potential husband a few times to establish whether he fits your parameters; also, do not ask for help on this from your friends or family, as it is a matter of intuition. If you are accurately following the meditation schedule she proscribes, you will be able to instantly and accurately know whether someone is right for you. I refrain from asking her whether I should still go on two more dates with unacceptable matches if I am following the spiritual meditation script, as this doesn’t seem to be sporting. Plus, she notes: Don’t meet for coffee, meet for happy hour… then dinner if it’s going well. God help you if you think something like teaching someone to shoot a longbow is a great first date. (One of the best I ever had, actually.)

I inquired what her opinions were about internet dating safety? It’s always been my philosophy to 1) not give out my actual phone number to strangers, and 2) if you’re going home with someone, go to their own home, and text someone that you are doing so – people are less likely to kill you in their own home, since disposing of your body will be annoying and messy, and quicklime might not be on sale this week. She assures me that everyone who is online on dating websites is legitimately, sincerely trying to find LOVE and would never, ever abuse one’s trust in any way. Yeah…. #letmeshowyousomelovelydomesticviolenceTemporaryRestrainingOrders.

Other pro tips: Always write back if they message you a well-written email. It wouldn’t be nice if men wrote to like 10 women and didn’t get any responses – it would be bad for their self-esteem (let’s talk about crazy shooters who have 4Chan and Reddit profiles). But, what if they send you something obscene, like the lovely fellow who messaged, “I want to fuck your face-hole?” (Actual message I received last week.) Some people, she acknowledges, are “just beneath you.” Whew. At least I don’t have to give that guy three dates… I’ve got seven face-holes, six of which fucking isn’t an acceptable overture towards.

Further, never, ever post pictures more than six months old. Forget that picture of you doing a handstand on the Great Wall of China, or piloting a rowboat in Central Park looking back at 55 Central Park West (nerdy movie fans, UNITE!). Men could think that was deceptive and feel dangerously misled by your potential change in appearance over time during your life!

At one point I thought she had figured out I was fucking with her. I almost lost it when she told me definitely, definitely don’t date more than one person at a time. (I didn’t ask for clarification on whether sex with more than one person at the same time was also verboten.) Nonetheless, we managed to finish the interview unscathed and without actually coming to blows.

Once she left, Producer asked if I picked up any good tips. I told him that if I ever want to go back to 1950 and take up the mantle of traditional housewife I’d give her a call. Then I asked him out.

He’s regrettably Not Available (c’est la vie – can’t hurt to try). But I did spend a subsequent evening with a charming man who actually read my disingenuously-activated profile and was vastly more interesting than I would ever have hoped to meet online. Can’t say the whole experience was a waste, after all.

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A hard night’s day

The day really started when he took off his pants, and finished his story wearing a dirty tee-shirt and one neon-orange sock while gesturing at us with a can of PBR and his flaccid penis. Then again, he only took off his pants because we weren’t wearing any, either.

We’d spent the night before at a bar in the far north suburbs of Boston, while the wind howled unseasonably and icy rain periodically pelted the more ambitious of our friends who had actually gone out for the nine-mile run. The saner of us escaped from the frigid darkness into the cozy embrace of the neighborhood’s diviest bar, watching the Bruins smoke through the opening playoff games and drinking as many local beers as we could tolerate. And, of course, making every effort to find someone to spend the rest of our evening under with.

Having identified a willing-enough candidate from our incestuous little group, and having done the appropriate dances, I left the bar with my companion in search of a taxi…and waited. And waited. Literally an hour later, as the bar was folding its drunk occupants out of the exits, we were still waiting for our promised taxi (assuredly on the way, said the dispatcher each time I called, increasingly more desperate and irritated), now much more soberly facing the breathtaking April chill. Some friends took pity on us, offering us a ride, and we reluctantly accepted. Noticing they meant to seat 7 humans in their Ford Focus — one of whom looked imminently ready to hurl — I evaluated my options and crawled into the trunk.

We didn’t make it 50 feet before the Volcano demanded the car halt so she could erupt. When the doors popped open, she took off as if shot from a cannon, in search of the perfect spot to chunder…and promptly disappeared. Kaiser Soze-style disappeared.

After a few minutes of deserted silence, fearing that she had fallen unconscious, been otherwise injured, or perhaps was abducted by aliens, three passengers gave chase (in the staggering, Monty-Python-esque running-in-circles way that only the truly inebriated can execute a search-and-rescue), leaving only the driver, the front seat rider (my erstwhile Date), and myself occupying the vehicle. At some point, happily, it occurs to my Date to pop the trunk so I might have some headroom and fresh air while we wait for everyone’s return. I pop up whack-a-mole style, delighted to have found a packet of airline peanuts in my pocket and pretty pleased with myself for not being tonight’s trainwreck.

5 minutes or so later, the night is still. None of our passengers have returned, date and I are no closer to naked, and as we examine our driver, we find that unfortunately, he is about as far from sober as one can possibly be, and fortunately, he has fallen asleep. Nonetheless, this does not bode well.

We shake Sleepy the Driver awake enough to volley him into the passenger seat. By this point, Date and I are pretty sober, having hours ago prioritized the sex we’re currently not having over the beer we could have drunk, so we take over the driving and navigation, despite not having even a passing notion of where we are or where we might be going. We decide that heading back to Sleepy’s house seems like a reasonably-attainable goal, and through a combination of solicited hand gestures and groans from Sleepy, and the miracle of GPS, manage eventually to succeed. Unfortunately, our heroic efforts to also locate any of the other four original passengers of the car are wholly unsuccessful.

Upon arrival at the house, and examination of the solitary key we extract from the ignition, Sleepy reveals that he has absolutely no idea where to locate his house key. After only a moment of panic, given the tenor of the evening, I try the door, and it yields freely. I worry briefly that we have just broken-and-entered into a hapless stranger’s apartment (hopefully an unarmed one), until I notice the six cases of cheap beer in the living room. Nah, we’re in the right place, and a cheerful dog bounds out the door in search of a healthy patch of grass to defile. Sleepy disappears after him, and round two of drunk hide-and-seek begins. Date locates him staggering around the next cul-de-sac over and herds him back towards his own lookalike townhouse, dog in tow; once inside, Sleepy staggers up the stairs and passes out cold on the hardwood floor, two feet from what seems to be a very comfortable bed.

Date and I have only a moment to ruminate on what might have happened to the rest of our merry band of idiots when they pop through the door. Volcano is looking much better, although she is being led by her hair, now an unholy rats-nest almost twice the size of her head. She mutters some kind of gypsy curse and careens up the stairs. The more composed of the others has apparently called an Uber, which shows up forthwith and whisks two away, leaving Date and I glancing worriedly back-and-forth between the unwelcome Third, by far the worst-off of the bunch, and the two couches. A once-over of the establishment reveals an exceptionally well-appointed kitchen and no additional sleeping berths, and when we return we find that Third has face-planted narcoleptically into one of the sofas.

Figuring we’d wanted some flesh-pressing time anyway, and now essentially alone, we yank the blanket out from under Third’s wasteful arms and crawl together into our makeshift bunk for some heavy petting. Third is down for the count, not even flinching despite our complete inability to stifle the heavy breathing and occasional moans, although the cat takes up residence three feet away and tries to burn holes in our flesh with her kitty deathstare. 20 minutes and the removal of all of our clothing later, we step over her and go searching for one of those condoms we brought with us…

…to no avail.

Despite the decided lack of blood to our brains, after fruitlessly searching our belongings four times, it occurs to at least one of us that the couple who have passed out here probably fuck, and based on the lack of sportsing equipment and other variously male paraphernalia, do not seem to be living together; we surmise that there’s a pretty good chance there’s rubbers in the house somewhere, and set about searching. Jaybird-naked, I bolt up the stairs, stepping gingerly over Sleepy to check the bedside tables…nothing. Surrounding area, dresser, and underneath the bed also yielding nothing, I head for the upstairs bath, discovering Volcano conveniently sleeping next to the toilet. Wedging myself in far enough to rifle the vanity drawers and cabinet, I am disappointed yet again.

Returning downstairs, I can see immediately that Date has come up similarly empty-handed. Hoping for the long shot, we ransack the kitchen cabinets and the downstairs powder room, before we climb back onto the cozy little sofa in resignation. Having no other options, we tuck our limbs comfortingly around each other and lament the ridiculous lengths the universe has gone to in order to cockblock us this evening. As we drift off to sleep, the cat throws up.

The crack of a beer wakes us up at 7:13 a.m. Third, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, is thrilled to see our lids blink open and immediately starts a steady patter, which doesn’t register as human speech in our coffee-deficient brains. Third grasps that we’re having trouble with comprehension and hands us each a beer, planting his foot solidly in cat vomit as he wheels around to return to his couch; this fazes him not at all, as he strips off his sock and cracks his second Pabst. Mid-sip, he notices that neither of us are wearing a shred of clothing (but still clutching haphazardly to our shared blanket for warmth and cover), and jubilantly announces his pleasure at the pantslessness of this party.

His mouth has not once stopped moving since we’ve sat up, naked, sex-deprived, disoriented and confused, in a foreign living room 2600 miles from home, surrounded by complete strangers. Feeling the light buzz seep in from the morning beer, I rally, stagger to the kitchen to make coffee, and stare fixedly at it until it finishes percolating. Returning to the living room, I groggily take in the scene before me, reevaluate, and drop a stiff belt of Jameson in the mug to fortify myself for the kind of morning that starts with this.

Tickets!!