The Experiment

For years, several friends of mine have been trying to get me laid. They failed miserably.

The biggest problem is that we have radically different priorities when it comes to men, sex, relationships, you name it. I come from an extremely intellectual family, I work as a web-geek professionally, and they, gods love them, are as blue-collar as can be. I’m not saying that I could never be attracted to a guy who rides a Harley. I just need to find a guy who rides a Harley who can also keep up his end of a conversation with me. Easier said than done, I’m afraid.  

Then, one day while at a renaissance faire, this cute guy and I are checking each other out. The next thing I know, we’re full-snog! I’m talking pull the chrome off bumpers, alien face hugger, tongues down eachothers throats, snog. Had the gal-pal with me that day been less hardy, or less randy in her own right, I think she would have fainted.

Still more surprising, the following weekend my snog-buddy comes over and spends the weekend with me. Of course we slept together. It is the 21st century, after all…

You’re probably wondering why this is such a big deal, so let me give you some perspective. I had been celibate for well over 10 years at this point, in spite of years of the best efforts of my well-meaning friends. Even more surprising, to me at least, was the fact that this break in my fast in the sex department seemed like no big deal to me. I was neither traumatized nor giddy. It felt as right and natural as could be. Right and natural and good.

When my snog-buddy/ice-breaker left Sunday after our weekend together, I knew we’d never sleep together again. Heck, we might not ever see each other again. Which was fine. It was what the kids call a “hook-up”, a brief encounter of the sexual kind. Somehow we had managed to ignore the differences that would have stopped me a short while ago, and in our short-lived pairing, full of tender text messages and delicate declarations of boundaries, this young man helped me remember a great many things I had forgotten. Things about myself, my likes and dislikes, my desires and needs.

Brief, tender, and somehow very innocent. It was a perfect appetizer, but now I realized that I wanted a real meal!

Hence, the Experiment.

Obviously, I had not used an online dating service in years. Moreover, because of my work I am all too aware of the risks posed by cyber-predators. Still, I decided it was worth a shot. If anything made me uncomfortable, I could kill the account instantly.

I did some research, picked a service, created an account with a username that had nothing to do with my name or any username I had used elsewhere. I answered the questionnaires, wrote brief essays about myself and what I hoped to find, and I somehow managed to find some images of myself that I was willing to post for prospective beaus to peruse. All in all, the process of setting up the account alone was worth my time and effort. The questionnaires helped me focus on why I was there and what I wanted to achieve. Remember, celibate for over a decade… I hadn’t given thought to any of the things asked in years, if ever.

Then I went hunting.

Man, there are a lot of lonely guys out there without a clue. And I’m not just talking about the ones who are homely and unemployed. There were several genuine lookers who wrote things in their profile, oblivious to the fact that it showed how damaged they are. Talk about an eye opener!

I’m not going to try to create a comprehensive catalog of the types of guys I encountered within the first 24 hours of opening an account, but here are some highlights:

  • Just looking for sex.
  • Spineless with a heart of gold.
  • Tell me your bra size.
  • Thanks, but no thanks. You’re not my type.

This is not to say that the guys were mean or in any way unkind. Which was surprising to me. I’m used to dealing with flame wars and cranky kids who don’t know how to restrain themselves before posting their rants. But these guys were amazingly cool, even the ones who turned me down flat. And when I said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to some of them, they were amazingly cool about it, too.

Before my account had been live even 24 hours, I was dialoging with a couple of different guys, getting to know more about them and trying to decide whether to take things to a face-to-face meeting. The next day one of the guys took himself out of the running. He’s the one who pushed the bra-size question, and, with some gentle coaching, came to understand that he had crossed a line. He was very sweet when he apologized, telling me he felt like an absolute jerk and asking me to consider him as a potential mate. Yeah… I don’t think so.

Shortly before the point where Contestant #2 eliminated himself, Contestant #3 appeared on the scene, opening with a mild mannered yet polite, “Good Morning”. After a few innocuous exchanges, I decided to reality-check something on his profile. Which is when everything changed.

You see, one of the things this online dating site included was a place to list your interests. Basically, you tag yourself with words and phrases that describe things you like, like “dogs” or “hiking” or “cooking”. Contestant #3 had “wine” listed as one of his interests, and since I know a bit about wine and wine tasting I asked him a wine-related question.

I had used the same question on a couple of other guys already. One didn’t respond and disappeared. Others had demonstrated that their knowledge of wine began and ended with Two-Buck Chuck, or similarly cheap wines best used in marinades or sangrias.

The question went as follows: If you knew that you were going to be stranded on a deserted island and you could bring only one kind of wine with you, what would it be? Red? White? Blush? Sparkling?

Contestant #3’s reply (paraphrased):

First, if the deserted island was the same one used by Captain Jack Sparrow, he didn’t need wine because there would be rum.

If, however, it was a different deserted island, he needed to know more about the climate because in cool weather he likes reds, but in warmer weather he likes white or blush wines. Oh, and he would need to know about the animal life so he could pair the wine with whatever game or fish might be available.

I was speechless. He hit it out of the park. All I could say in reply was, “Good answer!”

Needless to say, with that answer he immediately became pick of the litter!

By the end of the third day I decided to close my account with the online dating service. As far as I was concerned, the Experiment was a complete success. I had gone into the Experiment not knowing what to expect, completely open to discovering as much as I could while trying to find a new playmate. What I had not expected was how much I would learn about myself in the process.

Between the questionnaires provided by the online service, the questions asked by the guys themselves, and my own internal interrogation while writing and editing the content of my online profile, I had discovered tons of things about my desires and expectations. Nothing momentous, mind you, just a newfound sense of clarity about what I want, what I’m willing to tolerate, and what constitutes a deal-killer. (e.g. No more Mr. “Tell-me-your-bra-size”!)

I also discovered that using an online dating service is a lot of work! There are literally hundreds, of not thousands, of potential matches to screen, review, contact and field. It reminded me a lot of my younger days when I was seeing six different guys at the same time. Talk about exhausting!

And I got to reality-check some things I believed about the dating world that I had not been able to confirm before. Yes, there really are a lot of lonely people out there. Worse, most of them have no idea how much of the problem is theirs. This is not to say that they are bad, undeserving of love or unworthy of happiness. The biggest problem I saw can be summed up in two words: magical thinking.

Magical thinking runs along these lines:
                All I need to do is find my one true love and then everything will be alright.

The problem with this mindset is that it completely devalues the power of the individual to influence their own destiny. The entire focus, all the attention, is given to some mysterious outside force that will somehow sweep in and transform the life of the person in question. That force is conceived of and visualized as some idealized other, whether you call it a “true love”, a “soul mate”, or some other widely used cliché.

Obviously, I have a dissenting opinion.

Which brings me to the final, and most important reason that I closed the account after only four days. In the mix with the other elements of clarity I gained, I saw that in order to be attractive to the kind of man I want, I need to do more work on myself.

Don’t get me wrong – I like myself better today than I have in years. But, as of this writing, I still weigh over 200 pounds, my body is weak from years of neglect and working a desk job, my wardrobe is comprised of several pair of jeans, a handful of blouses I rotate during the week for work, and a bunch of baggy-and-comfy clothes. I’m doing better, day by day, but I have a ways to go before I will be happy with the condition of my body, my wardrobe, and my overall presentation.

For the first time in my life, I want to look good, but not just so I am attractive to others, men in particular. What is different is that I want to look good so that when I go out with a sharp dressed man, my appearance enhances his. I want to be part of a sharp dressed couple, and that means I need to up my game.

No one is telling me I need to do this. I want to do this for myself. I want to look good in that little black dress, to take pride in my appearance. And, while I have never before aspired to be anyone’s “trophy”, I want a man to be pleased to be seen in public with me. Believe me, no one is more surprised by this than me, but that’s what I want and how I feel.

Will I reopen an online dating account sometime in the future? I don’t know. For the time being, I have work to do so I have a better me to bring to the party. Besides, at the moment, I don’t need to look for a playmate.

Remember Contestant #3? We met last weekend and had a really good time.

Life is good…

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