Whatever the reason (or the instigator), from time to time, every single woman finds herself in need of a distraction from the dating game.
Boredom, meet despair
This séjour from the male species could mean more “me time”; a period that usually consists of re-examining our life choices through a routine of self-reflection (long hot baths and yoga), learning more about what we do want (reading a lot of books and watching other women make worse mistakes than we have via reality TV) and making drastic changes to our current lifestyle that don’t include men (healthy eating, new hair cut, physical activity). For those of us who aren’t very good at reflection, we look towards our girlfriends to keep us busy. Whether it’s dancing, dining, movie watching or wining – nothing says “you don’t need a man” more than laughing uncontrollably in the company of strong women as you watch Kate Hudson and Mathew McConaughey duke it out in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, or crying hysterically as Hilary Swank tests life as a single gal following the death of her husband in P.S. I Love You.
Unfortunately, despite the momentary (perhaps even month-long if you’re lucky) comfort these substitutes provide, a woman can only go without seeking the company of men for so long before the itch starts to resurface. All of a sudden you find yourself dressing up in order to stalk out your favourite nightclub in search of fresh meat, or applying extra lipstick in the morning just in case that cute delivery man stops by with a ridiculously big package, just for you. Snap out of it! You’ve stalked that club before – and that obsession with the the mailman has got to stop. It’s a hard habit to kick but if you’re looking in the same places for something new, chances are you will get disappointed all over again.
This was the point I had reached back in 2007 when I decided to explore the world of online dating. I’d been on and off with the same guy for a couple of years and it was going nowhere – fast. The problem was, I didn’t know where else to turn! Here I was, still a student but feeling as if I’d exhausted every bar, restaurant, community event, university get together and athletic function in my search for a viable mate. So, in between classes, I decided to dip my hands in the social sciences and conduct a little experiment of my own. I wanted to see how effective online dating was when it came to bringing two people together who had any hope in finding common ground. The results? Mixed – and here’s why.
From my own experience, online dating was a complete, and utter failure. In the beginning, it’s pretty fun. After signing up for the free version of Lavalife, I created a profile depicting exactly how I saw myself and what I was seeking in a life mate. I’m sure my criteria included words like “tall, traveler, cultured, intelligent, athletic etc…”. Given the specific demands I was throwing into the online pool of available men, I figured I’d get one or two hits. Big mistake. All of a sudden, my screen was flooded with “winks” and “smiles” tossed my way by men who were supposedly capable of living up to everything I’d been waiting for and more. Oh, okay! So all the available perfect men were online? Sound too good to be true? It most definitely was. After bathing in more attention than any single girl could possibly dream of, I got down to business.
The countdown: 3, 2, 1… disaster.
I went on approximately 8 dates or so with people I met online, only one of whom was as tall as promised. He, however, was about half the waist size advertised in his profile picture. No, thank you. I’ve dated one guy with a smaller waist than me – it didn’t feel good. The flow of these dates became increasingly routine. We would meet in some restaurant, dine together while clawing through the most gut-wrenching and awkward conversation, and then, at the end of the night, I would leave quickly and either block them from seeing my account online, or make up some excuse why I wasn’t quite ready to dive head first into a serious relationship. Of course I was lying and no, I didn’t feel particularly good about myself. Who wants to be known as the one date wonder? That being said, I ask you honestly, how do you reject someone based on false advertising. “Sorry, I thought you’d be taller”. Ugh. It’s a lose-lose situation and the whole date experience doesn’t make you want to give it another try. But I did, 8 times, before I finally smartened up and signed off for good. During this little experiment which lasted maybe two months or so, here are brief depictions of my top three worst dates from most tolerable to epic fail:
Number 3? Mr.Manners. Mr. lack thereof perhaps. After showing me the buildings he designed downtown Toronto (this was the last guy I ever went on a date on and the only one in T.O) and telling me he owned a condo around Yonge and Bloor, I thought this guy (who hovered around 6 feet or so) was looking pretty good. That was, until we decided to have a drink at an up-scale sushi joint and he entered panic mode. After mumbling incoherent questions to the waitress in an exceptionally rude manner, he ended up ordering water, his discomfort growing more and more obvious with each passing moment. Apparently we’d entered an environment less suited to him than the streets of T.O. Maybe it was the chopsticks on the table that did it, or the menu with names of fish he didn’t know, needless to say, after that little blow up I quickly blew him off and thanked my stars I’d seen his alter-ego before date #2.
Number 2? While this date was definitely one of the most awkward, this guy was the nicest I went out with by far. To start things off, he offered to pick me up – near campus, not at home (danger-danger). When I got to his car, there was a present on my seat. Before I disclose the contents of the bag, keep in mind, we’d only ever chatted online (maybe 3 or 4 times before meeting up). Ready? Waiting on my seat was a hard cover copy of the Harry Potter novel that had only been released the night before. This meant that not only had he spent upwards of $70 on a gift for yours truly, due to the overwhelming popularity and heavy demand for copies of Rowling’s next book, he had stood in line to get it. I was entirely taken aback. Unfortunately, this is the same guy who had a waist size that measured the circumference of a ten year old girl (among other physical turnoffs – I’ll leave out the detail). Needless to say, I felt terrible and I resented being put in such a horrible position! I could go the way of the superficial blond and reject him on the spot, or suffer through the date and enjoy a nice meal and gift, courtesy of a guy I knew I’d never see again. Great. So, what did I do? So as not to be rude, I let the date run it’s course. As it turned out, he also had exquisite taste in restaurants and took me to the Empire Grill downtown Ottawa where we ran a tab of $150+ for appetizers, dinner, desserts and wine. For the record? I would have been willing to order water and a salad but he insisted on providing the full dining experience. Disaster. To top it all off, despite my effort to go Dutch, he footed the entire bill.
Number 1? The worst experience I ever had online dating was when I made the stupidest move a girl could make. After meeting up with this guy for a coffee and thinking he was pretty cool (but nothing more), I agreed to go back to his place for leftovers of a huge meal he’d cooked with friends the night before. He was a chef in training and I… was hungry. Apparently however, we both had appetites, but for very different things. After about ten minutes at his place, this guy dove in for kill, catching me completely off guard and entirely unimpressed. To make matters worse, he didn’t back off very easily and I had to make a quick bolt for the door. On my way out however, when he was in the washroom, I decided to get my revenge. Before the attack, I had taken a 2 minute tour of his living room and kitchen, where he showed me a bookshelf where all of his books were arranged alphabetically. This wasn’t even the worst of what I now realize was most likely some obsessive personality trait but it was by far the easiest to mess with. I was so pissed off at having been molested by a guy I was whole-heartedly disinterested in that on my way out I snuck into his living room and re-organized his entire shelf. A small victory but it made me feel better.
I stopped looking – and then I found him.
After two months of awkward dates full of disappointment, I reverted to my ancient techniques of meeting people in person. The funny thing is four months later, I met my husband when I least expected it, under the full moon of Koh Phangan. I wasn’t looking for him, but he found me and now, four years later, I can’t imagine why on earth I was ever looking so hard for anybody else.
For my purposes, online dating was a social experiment, a distraction and a way to get over an ex-boyfriend who had made me forget myself. Even though I was never open minded enough to give it a real shot, I know more than one happy couple who connected online and whose relationship is still going strong. So ladies, my advice? If you’re in a rut and feel like dipping your toes in something new, go ahead, sign up for online dating! It’s a great ego boost and there’s never a dull moment. Just keep your expectations low and if you have any hopes of finding Mr.Right, never, ever wear heels on the first date.