Monday, January 24, 2011

Just Call Me

I'm not quite ready to enter the world of dating, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't given it some thought. Here's something to consider: The last time I was single was sixteen years ago. Do you know how much has changed in the world since then? In 1995 when I was last single, Bill Clinton was President—and we hadn't yet even heard of Monica; Kevin Mitnick was arrested by the FBI for hacking into secure computer systems—and since PCs weren't widely available yet, most people didn't know what that meant; the state of Mississippi finally abolished slavery (yes! that's true); Timothy McVae and Terri Nichols set off the devastating bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; and O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder.
   More specifically, do you realize how much has changed in the way we communicate? In 1995, only 34 million people in the U.S. had cell phones (as opposed to 270 million in 2009), and the devices were the approximate shape—and weight—of a brick. Think about it. Sixteen years ago, when a man wanted to ask me out on a date, he either had to call me on a LAN line, or ask me in person. Recently, I was told by a single friend to never expect a man to call me for a date again. Text. Email. iChat. Yes. Voice to voice communication, not so much. Really? Really.
Milton Bradley's Mystery Date (circa 1965) was ahead of its time.
  Of course, online dating did not even exist sixteen years ago, and that is—apparently—the way a lot of adults meet today. According to a recent study conducted by Match.com, 17% of those who married in the past three years met online. The survey showed that online introductions were only bested as most-frequent means of introduction by meeting through a mutual acquaintance or at work or school. So, apparently, more people meet online than in bars, clubs or at social events. (Of course, Match.com would want that statistic published, so I take it with a grain of salt.) And there are other forms of new media, Facebook to be specific, that are just as popular for meeting new mates—or old ones. According to thetechjournal.com, "Facebook is now cited in one-in-five online divorce petitions." Online divorce petitions? Well, I suppose it stands to reason that if you meet online...you divorce online.
  I honestly don't think I'm going to meet my next Prince Charming online. But, heck, it could happen, so just to test the waters, I made forays into the cyber world to see what's out there for me. Call it a social media experiment.
   There are numerous sites, of course, so where to start? One of my best friends in life found her husband through JDate (the Jewish dating site) so that gave me an idea. Since I typically have a lot in common with people who were raised Catholic, a dating sight for Catholics might be a good place to begin my experiment. Sure enough, there's CatholicMatch.com.
   For a nominal fee, I signed up, filled out my profile, said a few Hail Marys and an Our Father and became a CatholicMatch member. Winks, nods and genuflections ensued, but at first, the respondents, though fine fellows didn't strike my fancy. Then I received a response from a gorgeous man in Chicago named Agostino. He was a 44-year old widower from Italy, no less, and said that his dear, beloved wife had died tragically in a motorcycle accident, leaving him with an equally gorgeous six-year-old son. Agostino seemed to be a lovely man, but his writing was, understandably, stilted since English was his second language. ("I speak with a heavy Italian accent," he wrote. "I hope you don't mind." Mind?! Do I mind that a man speaks with an incredibly sexy accent?! Gee, let me think about that...) He also wrote  that he would enjoy ever so much (this is my rephrasing, not his)" taking long walks on the beach and watching the sunset with me, or, alternately, just hanging out on the sofa, watching Andy Griffin and eating popcorn." Although I've never been a huge fan of Andy—yes, I do like Andy, but not enough to put him on my agenda for a "perfect date"—I wrote Agostino an effusive note, saying I would love to hear more about him and mentioning that I was a successful editor who worked for Time. Suddenly, my beautiful Italian disappeared. Within moments his profile was gone from the site. Poof! So much for my dreamy Italian lover. Oh, well, in e-dating, easy come, easy go, right?
   I didn't have to wait too long to receive another note in my Inbox. Fred was not a tragic Italian widower, but he wrote I am a successful man who only wants to please you. We can take long walks on the beach, holding hands, or just sit on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and watch Andy Griffin if you prefer... Holy crap! Do all men think that women dream only of having sand between their toes, or curling up with a bowl of popcorn and Andy reruns?! I started digging a little and found no less than six profiles of men who included almost exactly the same "perfect date" descriptions right down to the beachside strolls, sofa-sitting, Andy-watching and popcorn-eating. I smelled scam. So much for meeting good, honest Catholic fellows!
   Of course, there were many other dating sites to try, but not wanting to shell out another $30, I found a free site called plentyoffish.com and decided to see who might be swimming there. Let me assure you, you get what you pay for. I didn't need to read beyond the headlines that these bottom feeders provided as "date bait" to know I was not going to find my next true love in this pond. Here's an example of some of the typical headlines. (I love the last one. I mean, the guy has such low expectations, you just have to feel for him.)

Looking for a great woman: Hello ladies, I am a well liked man. I am a very nice person. I like to go to the beach 'n spend time with that someone special. I like going to the movies, fishing 'n I like to hunt....
Lookng [sic] for sexy lady: I'm a single parent of two boys. We have a good life. I like music and I'm looking for a lady thet's kind, loving, fun, romantic, sexy and god fearing.
Looking for a drug free woman: I love music and sports and traveling to new places. My hobbies are woodwork and drawing. I'm easy going and love life. I work hard and like my job. 
   No thanks, I'm not going to drop my line in that water anytime soon. And yes there are Buddhist social/dating sites, but none of them are too vibrant nor are they well populated by fellow-Buddhist singles in the Birmingham, Alabama area. Yet for the adventuresome, online dating site options are quite limitless, and like all good websites, they are often targeted at specific demographics. For the Faithful, there's "ChristianSingles.com;  for the unfaithful there's "Date Hot Cheating Wives" at AshelyMadison.com. Want to meet ethnic beauties? Go to "BeautifulLadies.com" ("founded for lonely European, Asian and Black beautiful ladies"). And if you are superficial, but not that picky, there's Ugly-Millionaire-online-dating-agency.com—the name says it all.
   It's doubtful that I'll end up as one of the reported 120,000 annual marriages spawned by online dating services (according to Online Dating Magazine) but, who knows? I suppose when and if I'm ready to date again, I might give a legitimate online dating site a try. And in our world where millions of people are accessible 24/7 through the power of a global, digital stream, anything is possible. But I can assure you this: Before I go out with a man I meet electronically, I will need to hear his voice. No matter how good he appears to be on paper, ultimately, I will require good old-fashioned communications skills to seal the deal. E-mail is so limiting when it comes to nuance, inflection and tone, and no emoticon can take ever replace the beautiful sound of a spontaneous laugh. Call me old fashioned, but electronic communication will never replace the genuine tenor and warmth of voice.

No comments:

Post a Comment