When he sends a message on OKCupid, I flip over to his profile.
I start with the standard look: I weigh likes and dislikes. I geek out over the more unusual references with which I can connect (OMG, he likes James Keelaghan! Caroline Stevermer! Caroline Stevermer is awesome!). I make sure he knows how to spell. I check some of the key demographics: does he have kids? Does he smoke? What does he have down for politics? Religion?
Maybe I send a message back.
And then the waiting begins. While I wait, I start playing the obsessive stalker.
OKCupid is AWFUL for this. For those of you who’ve never tried OKCupid, it has these sets of questions. There are hundreds or thousands of them. I don’t actually know how many, because I have never gotten close to answering them all. They run an interesting range of topics:
Which of the following best describes Science, in your opinion?
- A belief system, no better or worse than Religion.
- A method one can follow to make predictions.
- A post-hoc explanation of God’s miracles.
- Hello? Like totally boring, dude.
Could you date someone who already has children from a previous relationship?
Who do you think was smartest on this list?
Do you own any dice with more than six sides?
Would you consider roleplaying out a rape fantasy with partner who asked you to?
If some men are doctors and some doctors are tall, does it follow that some men are tall?
Or one of my absolute favorites:
“Your a bitch!” What bothers you more about the above sentence?
- The profanity
- The grammar
- They both bother me equally
- Neither one bothers me
You answer (or don’t answer) these questions, and then you put down what acceptable answers are for your partner. You can say, “Any answer is fine,” but if you choose to say some answers aren’t okay, you can add how much you care about them: a little, somewhat, or very.
OKCupid then calculates a match percentage and an enemy percentage. Without really thinking about it, I tend to group match percentages into 3 categories: 85+, 50-84, and below 50. The enemy percentage is the interesting one, though. If your enemy percentage is high, there are some compatibility issues: either you or they have said no to some of the others’ answers.
As an interesting note, most of my enemy issues with men have to do with either:
- Their objection to my “extremely important” answer to the question: How important is religion/God in your life?
- My objection to their “no” answer to the question: Could you date someone who already has children from a previous relationship?
So, when I start to stalk someone on OKCupid, I flip over to their questions page and start looking for our matches and issues. If you haven’t answered a question, you can’t see someone else’s answer, so sometimes I find myself staring at someone’s question sheet. They answered the question “Do you consider yourself dominant or submissive in bed?” Do I care enough about their answer to put my own answer publically out there? Usually, my answer is no.
Sometimes, the answers make me laugh. It always cracks me up when someone has said getting the right answer to a logic problem is a deal-breaker because they figured out the wrong answer. STALE is to STEAL as 89475 is to…
Mostly, though, it’s about getting a larger picture: it’s about seeing more of a person. I worry that it makes me overthink: it’s so easy to disqualify people based on arbitrary rules before you’ve met them and seen how they light up while they talk about genetic algorithms, before you’ve cracked up at their dry humor, before you’ve gone deep into a talk about the worldwide response to the Ebola crisis and been impressed by the breadth and range of their insight. They checked off the wrong box! No date.
But the questions are there, and since they’re there, I can’t seem to stop looking at them. I stalk people quietly, feeling vaguely obsessive, like a voyeur. The questions are there to be looked at, but I really don’t want to know so much, so soon. What happened to the process of exploration?