Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dating as a 20-something

Aside from worrying about the economy, climate change, deforestation in Brazil, civil rights and the debilitating schism in our political system, everyone  I know is getting all lovey dovey and twitterpated in preparation for the spring. Part of me is all “eww” and another part of me like “aww”. It’s one simple vowel that polarizes my insides.

I’ve tried not caring (but actually still caring, so then we’re back to the dueling insides conundrum).  I’ve tried dolling myself up and being more open to men outside of my traditional attractions. But then I just get hit on only by old men. And every time I tell someone that I have this weird thing where old men hit on me, another one hits on me. It’s like Multiplicity in a nursing home. I recently almost accepted an invitation from my mechanic simply because he had a few zits and wasn’t collecting social security.  But after sleeping on it, I decided we weren’t meant to be and concluded that what I really needed was an online dating account. I know there’s a stigma about it, but I’ve never been one to judge without first experimenting (except for drugs, Mom – I promise). I also have quite a few friends and colleagues who’ve used this portal of love to connect with their soul mates.

In embracing this new medium, my dating world has changed dramatically. Instead of wondering if that dude I gave my number to at the bar is a serial killer (normal question, right?), I now wonder if cerealkilla214 will email me back. I can shop for men, not unlike the old board games where you could switch the hair or the profession to concoct your two-dimensional dream boat. I can peruse the prospects like shoes at a BOGO sale. Would this one look good on me? Mmm, not my size. Professional, sporty, summer fling…what is it that I’m looking for?

But the problem with both dating and shoe sales is actually committing to the purchase. Do I actually want to talk to this person?  And meet him in real life?  It’s an interesting sociological study to examine what we choose to put out there in the world for others to see as a first impression. In the physical world, I can see right away if he has food in his teeth, or mange. But in the world of online dating, we have to read what these men elect to share about themselves and a few pictures of their choosing.  But ultimately in either realm I continue to come across wandering vagabonds whose life aspirations are nothing more than to live in the moment and to try their hand at sprouting seeds from their beards by lying flat for three days. One man listed under things he was good at, “distinguishing between Michelob and Bud Light with a blindfold on.”  THIS is my dating pool? And yet, everyone around me is chirping with new love, many of whom found one another on this same dating site and do not pose a risk to our gene pool were they to bear children together.

I plunge onward, and try to explain to my grandmother why I show up single to the weddings (double jordan almonds, duh) and regale my aunts with dating tales of silent meals, sock puppets and sad beers left unfinished after bolting through the fire escape.  The generation of our parents simply doesn’t understand the new arena we’re playing in. It’s not their fault – chat rooms were coffee houses when they were growing up, and partners actually courted a love interest rather than saying in a slightly slurred yet ironically demure articulation: “So, you like, wanna have a hangout?” or just assuming she would magically manifest on his doorstep with a movie and a pizza. The game has shifted, and now all of the hidden codes are on the internet. And I’m sitting on the outside, rapping on the Windows, trying to get someone to let me in. And our parents are looking over our shoulder saying "have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?" "Have you looked at the manual?" Maybe in the days of debutantes and drive-ins there was a manual, but like everything else in the 21st century, we now turn to Google as the guiding light with all of the answers. Dear Google, where are the code keys? Where are the cliffs notes and the courtship tactics of yesteryear? Where are the men who have a sense of direction and do not think belching is the language of love?

Time and time again I've heard that you can't find him until you stop looking. But the shopping opportunities are everywhere - the bars, dating sites and streets are like magazines and scrolling billboards and the occasional coupon clipping over a long, fuzzy weekend. This professional workshop I took recently helped explain that in order to identify you're goals, you  have to focus on the "how", not the "what". I'm certain that's relevant somehow,  but I can't explain it yet. And really I just wanted to slip in a token of sage advice for those who were naive enough to think this post was going to serve as a guide rather than a disjointed smattering of commentaries (when that's obviously Google's job). Until the next dating saga, that's all she wrote.