Not a member? Sign up now
True Stories: Getting Offline
After resisting for years, I turned to the internet to find love.
By Tim Kreider
I finally broke down and decided to join a dating website after meeting my one millionth attractive, intelligent, funny woman who turned out to be married. To me, going online to meet women felt like a final abdication of dignity, but my friend Ben dismissed this squeamishness. "You and I are old enough that we think of internet dating as a last resort, for losers. The young people have no such stigma about it, and they are online," he told me. "And they, my friend, are having sex."
This argument was persuasive to me. The site I joined encouraged me to answer a series of questions to narrow my range of preferences and find more ideally matched partners, questions that ranged in subject from personal values to sexual mores to factual knowledge. I dutifully answered all of them until I got to a simple arithmetic problem that, for me, might as well have been Fermat's last theorem. I was also asked to rate how I wanted prospective partners to answer the same questions, and to weight the relative importance of their answers. The only response I rated as "mandatory" among my partners was to the question: "Which is larger, the earth or the sun?"
If you spend enough time perusing online-dating profiles, patterns begin to emerge. These are all broad, unfair generalizations, since they're based on an unscientific sampling of astronomically literate women between the ages of twenty-eight and forty-five whom I happened to be attracted to, but they might still be interesting to bat around:
A lot of women's self-descriptions read like horoscopes, abstract and metaphorical, appearing to describe someone elusively unique, but in fact universally applicable: "I am a paradox: a centered seeker, a grounded vagabond," etc. This was mostly true of women still in their twenties, who haven't actually done enough yet for their selves to coalesce.
One of the blanks you're asked to fill in on your profile is, "The first thing people notice about me is: _____________." In answer to this question, a bizarrely high percentage of women make some self-deprecating reference to either how tall or how short they are. This seemed inexplicable to me until I noticed how many women had also laid down persnickety parameters for their desired partner's height. They were projecting their own preoccupations onto the men they imagined looking at their profiles.
This is a fallacy common to both genders: wrongly presuming that the opposite sex wants the same things you do. This is also why some men send unwelcome shirtless photos to women — because they'd be thrilled if women were to send them topless photos of themselves. There's a kind of lunkheaded innocence to it: How surprised and pleased she will be to receive this picture! My naked torso cannot fail to woo her. (A cynical genius of online dating would reverse-engineer his own profile based on a study of women's: "The first thing people notice about me is: How I tower over them. I am a lonesome Lothario, a gallant Goofus, etc.") Ladies, rest assured that your height is not the first thing any man has ever noticed about you.