There is a narrative to online dating.
Guys go onto online dating sites, and they go through thousands of profiles, sending messages out to the women they like. They wait for messages to come back, and hear a resounding silence. They have to send out 100 messages for every response they get. They feel invisible and unappealing. Women, on the other hand, are inundated with messages. They suffer from too much choice. They spend so much time emptying their inboxes that they never have time to do anything else. They feel like an interchangeable object, the reward for successful completion of the OKCupid quest. “Turn in 100 rejection tokens to receive your Girlfriend.”
This narrative is, like many cultural narratives, UTTER BULLSHIT.
First off, all women do not get hundreds of messages. Every time I update my profile, I get a few people swinging through to check me out. My last update was two days ago, and in the 24 hours after it, I got thirteen visitors to my profile. Three of them sent me messages. I’m going to quote all three messages pretty much in their entirety:
1. Hi there
2. Hey you seem interesting , I want to get to know you better. We should meet for coffee / drinks
3. Hey my name is Kevin. How are you doing today.
The only change here is to the name, which I changed. All punctuation is as it arrived.
For every message I receive, I check out the profile. Sometimes the message is interesting all by itself, but often (as you can see) it’s really just saying “I exist! Come look at me!” So I go to these profiles. Here is what I see:
1. “I am a sociable guy and ready to meet people from all walks of life. I am caring and have a good heart . I like hanging out with my friends, bike riding, walking around Boston, watching sports and just being outside when the weather is really nice. I am looking for someone to share my interests with. There are so many other things that I want to do but would be nice to share those activities with someone. I keep fit by going to Planet fitness at least four times a week; however I strive to get to five”
2. “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love for your dreams for the adventure of being alive.BTW for those who love dogs , I volunteer at a humane society as a dog walker ;)”
3. “My name is Kevin Douglas hi I am single and I have a 4 year old son named Leo. looking to meet someone new and to be able build a life with that special someone”
Number 1 looks interesting enough at a glance, so I send back a “Hi.” I’m going to let him put in more effort if he wants. He sent me an “I exist!” and I am sending back an “I see you!” If he wants a conversation… we’ll see where it goes. The other two just make me roll my eyes. Tell me something about yourself! I don’t want a vaguely man-shaped thing stuck on my life. I had one of those. I got rid of it. I want to be able to feel something of the person behind the keyboard. I need to be able to see something of who you are, either in the message or the profile.
For the record, and for comparison, this is what my profile says:
“I write letters to elected officials, and I write posts about feminism and equality on Facebook.
I no longer fit into the elaborate Renaissance and fantasy gowns I wore in college, but I still have a tiara I wear around the house, and a lap harp I pretend I’m good at playing.
I have three kids, and I watch Star Wars, Doctor Who, and MasterChef Junior with them.
It makes me sad that I no longer have the time or the social circle to play GURPS.
I haven’t written fanfic in nearly two years, and this makes me sad, but not quite sad enough to start writing it again.
I can argue at length about just about anything, and am very rarely without an opinion.”
So, sitting back and waiting for my milkshake to bring all the boys to my yard is clearly not working. Instead, I spend a chunk of time every day or two skimming profiles. I narrow my field down: men ages 30-44, within 15 miles of me, online in the last week. Sometimes I add other search terms, for fun. Author names, “nerd”, “geek”, “Avengers”, “punctilious”, “Obama”. (Seriously, it’s a fun game.) I skim them, rejecting anything without a picture (sorry!) or where the guys aren’t single. I read profiles. I look for something about the profile that jumps out at me. Most of them, there’s nothing. I move on. Some of the guys look absolutely fantastic. I write a personalized message.
I almost just want to leave it at that. You are the photo winner of the day. I saw your profile pic and just lit up. Awesome. It looks like a ton of fun.
(Dude was in SCA getup — full plate armor. Swoon.)
“Hello, world traveler! You have a great set of pics, and a REALLY great set of favorite books. Do you travel on business, or for fun?
Good music choices, too. Have you ever listened to Laura Love? She’s a self-described folk-funk musician, who plays bass and sings. She’s got some really fantastic stuff. I’ve been toggling this week between her, Mary Black, and Vance Gilbert for car listening.”
“I saw your comment about NaNoWriMo. Did you ever finish? Are you planning to do it again this year?”
My response rate on OKCupid for the last 3 weeks is 14 messages sent, 1 response. The single responder has not been giving me a whole lot to build on with responses, and I suspect we’ll lose steam before we get to an in-person meeting. He seems a little lackluster about the whole thing.
I really wish we could ditch this narrative about women having it easier than men. The real message behind it seems to be, “Women have it totally easier than men if they just play the game exactly the way men expect them to play it, don’t allow themselves any standards, and don’t care about their safety or happiness.” Which, yes, we all know. But (shocker!) women want to have agency in their own lives, too.
I am feeling discouraged this week.