Ed. Note: I will be dedicating Fridays to my online dating experiences. This won’t lighten things up, so much as inject a little schadenfreude. Enjoy!
I started online dating in the summer of 2014. I had tried it twice before, with terrible results. First was an E-Harmony profile. Within seconds of it going live, an actual male human contacted me through the site. In terror, I slammed my laptop closed, thinking maybe he could see me. I promptly deleted my profile. Sometime later, I set up a Match.com profile that lasted about a week. There was one guy to whom I gave my phone number, but with the caveat that I was on a deadline and couldn’t talk until the weekend. He called within 30 seconds, left a voicemail, and I never called him back. I rationalized that it was because he couldn’t follow directions, but in truth, I was terrified. There was also a guy who emailed me through the site to ask why I didn’t want children. His tone was blank and hostile, and I resented his entitlement. “Why don’t you want children?” is an enormous question for which there is seldom a simple answer. And I hadn’t even explained it to myself yet. I shut down my profile immediately and cancelled my subscription shortly thereafter.
Last summer, I got my first-ever smart phone. (a late adopter, yes) My friend Meagan was visiting and puckishly put me on Tinder. Swipe left, swipe right. It is addictive.
My first-ever online date was with a guy we’ll call “Col. Asshole.” I can’t remember his name, and I even put him in the Spreadsheet (yes, I have been on so many first dates that I created a spreadsheet to remember them) as such.
I knew very little about him going into the date, but he had a dry sense of humor that made me laugh, which is rare. We met at a coffee shop. He was blonde, clean cut, very fit, and about my height (5’8″), though he claimed a few extra inches. (This will be a common theme.)
It was clear within the first few minutes that I absolutely hated him, but I also found him kind of fascinating. Basically, Col. Asshole was the dating equivalent of sticking your finger in your navel, discovering a really foul odor, and then continuing to do it out of rank fascination with your own disgustingness. We talked for over an hour, partly because I wanted to hear his world view, partly because I wasn’t really sure how much of my time I owed him.
He claimed to be the “head” of Marine Corps Intelligence. I never verified if this was true. (He was definitely a Marine; you can’t fake that shit.) I can say with certainty that if he had told me what he did for a living, I never would have gone out with him. And he had ample opportunity to tell me, so I suspect that he concealed his occupation in full awareness that it might be an impediment to getting laid. That’s ok; I usually hide the fact that I’m a professor from potential suitors as well.
That he was a Marine wasn’t the problem. It was that he was ideologically bankrupt. He was a soldier in the global war on terror, and yet he clearly had no firm belief in the necessity or efficacy of the project of combating Islamic extremism. He didn’t even have much belief in the Marine Corps or the United States. A true believer would have been conventional and frustrating, but reassuring. A climbing, calculating automaton–I couldn’t deal. I realized right then that I can’t be attracted to men who aren’t, in some small way, dedicated to the process of making a better world. Or, if they aren’t making the world affirmatively better, then at least they can’t be profiting from making it worse.
Col. Asshole was pretty smart, and he knew what I did for a living, so I half think he trolled me on the date. For example, having established that I prized living in my ethnically and economically mixed neighborhood, I asked why he chose to live in his neighborhood. “I love yuppies,” was his quick reply. (If he was trolling me, well done him!)
He had also told me he had a Master’s degree in the humanities, so going into the date I thought perhaps he was a sensitive type. Nope! He got an online interdisciplinary degree that required no in-person contact with faculty, and he did his thesis on Evelyn Waugh solely because “it was conceptually easy.” WHUT? The degree itself was just a credential to rise in rank; there were no medals for intellectual curiosity, creative expression, or self-improvement on this Marine’s chest. He told me he saw no value in graduate education or why it required brick-and-mortar classrooms or in-person instruction, knowing full well that I am a professor at a university who runs a graduate program. It was almost as though he sensed that I saw no reason why we had a Marine Corps, because it’s redundant to the other services! We could not have hated each other more.
After a long discussion of US foreign policy–which revealed him to be as paranoid as every other member of the intelligence community I have ever met–I thanked Col. Asshole for his time and left.
I know the perils of meeting people online, how you can craft a false identity for them to accord with your own desires. (Let me tell you about Afghanistan Man sometime!) Driving home, I realized that I had done exactly that–taken the ephemera he provided me (photos, a few biographical details, some dry wit) and molded them into a man I wanted to meet, but who could not have been further from the man he was. I decided right then that I was deleting Tinder and never online dating again. But I didn’t, because Tinder has an insidious way of capitalizing on the drug of hope and catering to the gambler in all of us: “Maybe THIS is the guy.” Swipe right. “It will be the next one.” Swipe right. “Just one more.”
That night, I texted warmly with another match. His name was J*.
We had our first date the next day…