Jeremy Glazer writes about the ups and downs of internet dating in his story, Mismatch.com. Glazer read this piece at a recent Lip Service event at Books & Books in Coral Gables. It was recorded at the WLRN studios.
So I’m on the dance floor at a club and Susan is dancing in front of me. It’s that formless kind of dancing. She’s looking down and swaying back and forth with her shoulders pulled up to her ears like a little kid saying “I don’t know.” And then she starts moving her arms like she’s pulling Kleenexes out of her pockets and tossing them up in the air. She turns around and backs into me and puts my arms around her waist. She’s still swaying, but now rubbing up against me too. And then, she reaches back and puts her hand on my crotch.
And this was my FIRST internet date. In fact, it had only been 72 hours since I signed up for the service and nervously typed in my credit car number. Quite a fast return on my investment.
At that moment, fresh out of a five-year relationship, I was finally convinced that the internet was revolutionary. If a shy nerdy guy like me could find a girl in three days without going to a book fair or a Star Trek convention or an NPR fundraiser—and get felt up on a dance floor—then we truly were in a new age. I could not believe what technology had put in my hands. Or, more precisely, in her hands.
I had realized dating changed as soon as I went on-line three days before, typing in my search parameters, looking for women who shared my taste in music and movies and books. When the results came up, there were hundreds of women who met my criteria, and that was just within a ten-mile radius of my apartment. Hundreds.
Pre-internet I had maybe met twelve who had met my criteria in my whole life. See, I was never a guy who could pick up women, so dating was an extremely painstaking process. It usually involved a woman I knew as a co-worker or friend, or friend of a friend, whom I would see for months or even years before mustering the courage to ask her out. But this was a new world. Now I had hundreds to choose from. And they all looked amazingly datable. In fact, they seemed to be just waiting for a clever email from someone like me. I went crazy that first night on-line, with a manic energy that I had previously associated only with crystal meth addicts. I spent about four hours going through all the matching profiles until my eyes were watering from looking at the computer screen. I sent out a torrent of messages, winks, and flirts.
I have talked to friends about all this since then and my behavior fits the pattern. Everyone says that when they first go on-line, they are overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of possibilities. This initial fever wears off quickly, though, especially after a few dates when you realize that profiles are more aspirational than informational. We all post who we wish we were, not who we really are. Very few people cop to the magazines, TV shows or movies they actually watch, but prefer to list the books or ‘films’ they may have uncomfortably sat through or even just heard about. On your profile you’ll say that you love ‘The Wire,’ not ‘The Dukes of Hazard.’ You listen to Arcade Fire, whom you’ve heard once, but not Christina Aguilera, who’s on the top 25 most-played list on your ipod.
But, I knew none of this then and was in the midst of that heady first 48 hours when I got Susan’s reply. I was home alone on a Friday night so I wrote back immediately. A rookie mistake, but she must have been a novice too because she replied again within the hour, and two hours later we were chatting, first on-line and then on the phone, making plans for me to pick her up the next night.
Susan brought a friend, Lucy who wanted to go dancing, so after a few drinks at a bar we drove to a retro club that had just opened in the Design District. It was a place I had only heard rumors about and I couldn’t believe I was heading there with two hot women. Lucy had clearly been brought to rescue Susan in case I was a lunatic, but she disappeared with some guy after ten minutes in the club. Either I had passed the test and seemed trustworthy, or Lucy was too big a mess herself to chaperone anyone.
Susan and I tried to shout a conversation over drinks, but the music was too loud. She pulled me on to the dance floor, we danced for a while, and suddenly there we were, hand to crotch.
After that initial oh-my-god-is-this-real rush, I realized that I didn’t want to be felt up on a dance floor. Or maybe I did in some music-video-fantasy kind of way, but when it was actually happening, in the midst of a crowd of twenty-somethings with a woman I had just met, it felt creepy.
Luckily, Lucy came over and said she wanted to leave. Apparently things hadn’t gone so well with her guy and we all decided we’d had enough.
After we dropped Lucy off, I parked in front of Susan’s building and walked her to the elevator, and then up to her place. She invited me inside and I went in, wondering what I was going to do next. I was still caught up in this completely unfamiliar new world. I had only known Susan, really known her in person, for about six hours, not my usual six months or six years, and now I was in her apartment. She pulled me down onto her couch and we started to kiss.
It was at that moment I knew, even in the new internet world, I was still the same shy nerd and there was no way I was going to sleep with this stranger. It wasn’t about any kind of moral code or anything, it just felt wrong. And, honestly, part of it was my ego. She was drunk and, not that I’ve gotten a lot of offers of drunken sex, but I don’t like to feel someone has to get smashed to climb into bed with me.
“You drank a lot more than I did,” I said. “I should probably let you go to bed.”
“What? Are you saying you aren’t drunk enough to do this?”
She seemed deeply insulted as I stood up from the couch.
“You aren’t even going to call me,” she slurred.
“I am going to call you,” I said.
But she was right. Up until that moment, I wasn’t going to. But I just said I would, and now I had to.
How had I ended up with this woman on top of me on her couch just because she had typed on her profile that she liked ‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and going to galleries in her spare time? I had no idea who she was, and at this point, I didn’t want to know.
I tried a few more internet dates, and while I didn’t end up getting groped on any of the others, they all left me a little empty. The promise of this new dating technology wasn’t really what I had hoped. Sure, I could now look at a menu and pick from a variety of choices that seemed to meet my criteria, but relationships aren’t about criteria, they are about something else.
I decided to go back to my old ways, to what I call the Slow Food form of dating. No more fast-food McDates. So I’ll take my usual six months or a year to know someone and get up the courage to ask her out, provided she hasn’t moved away or gotten married in the meantime.
But that’s fine. Because the truth is, while it was great to be able to find gobs of women who read ‘The Onion,’ and love Jon Stewart and Radiohead, it was kind of like having a McGriddle for breakfast. It may look great in the picture, but once you eat it, you’re sick for the rest of the day.