Shortly after my divorce, I found myself in the middle of the dating scene after a nearly ten-year hiatus. I was no longer the fresh college-grad single starting a new career. I was pushing 40, leery of the club scene and not interested in dating dozens of guys in order to find a suitable companion. Then, a friend introduced me to what seemed like a perfect panacea: online dating.
It seemed so easy browsing through hundreds of photos and bios, selecting exactly what you want and clicking on those faces you think might appeal to you. All the messiness of meeting new potential partners seemed to evaporate instantly. No awkward date refusals, no flirting unless I agreed to it and the seemingly spotless anonymity that came with it.
After posting just two pictures on my profile, I found my inbox flooded with admirers. Altogether flattered beyond measure after a messy divorce, I dove in head first to what would be far worse than anything I encountered at the college bar scene of my twenties. Just a few months into online dating, I was burned beyond recognition — my heart in ashes, my feelings blistered over at the treatment I received.
Online dating in Houston would soon become the bottom drawer of my dating experience. Everything from photos that were an unrecognizable match in reality to creepy fetish phishing emails and weirdos galore making unwanted advances.
Here are ten easy reasons I’ll never go back and why you shouldn’t either:
USED CAR SHOPPING SYNDROME: After the first few dates, I noticed a pattern in the questions I’d field from on-line daters. Feeling like I had my tires kicked, I realized that by placing yourself in a pool of potential dates, you are naturally subjected to unfair comparison. It’s all too easy to dismiss someone if we feel like a better one might still be out there. Unless you’re perfect in every way, expect to be passed up often.
HAUNTING OF THE EX: Most of the men my age were also divorced or separated and obviously not ready for a commitment or serious connection. It was not uncommon to meet a man who talked about his previous married life with all the red flags of someone who needed counseling, not a new girlfriend. I learned to ask, “Do you still love her?” and surprisingly, most of the responses were, “Yes, I want her back.” Sigh.
NO ONE READS YOUR BIO: Most of my time spent on dates involved answering questions I had already articulated in my profile responses. It was clear that most men only viewed pictures and left everything else to chance, which meant there were more misfires than targeted hits.
PRESENCE IS KILLER: More than a few times, I seemed to make a connection online only to find that the feeling immediately evaporated upon meeting someone in person. A presence is really what you fall in love with — not an image. When falling for someone online, you’re really building up who you think that person is, not who he or she is in reality. Sparks between people are a funny thing. Elusive at best, sparks can fly in person, but sparks don’t always develop in a first encounter, yet that’s the expectation. The reality is that relationships take many encounters to develop, but many online daters that I met felt that it’s all or nothing in one meeting.
DOWNFALL OF TEXTING: Constantly texting someone every inner thought and emotion before the first date and then suddenly trying to interpret body language, voice inflection and word choice from someone you just met is confounding at best. I found myself asking things I’d never normally ask on a first date — “What does that mean?” “Can you elaborate?”
GHOSTING IS THE NORM: Moving from a flood of romantic texts and calls to an abrupt silence after one date is the new, impolite way of saying, “Sorry, I’m not interested in you.” Because I was raised with expectations of common courtesy, this behavior confused me. Had this person been in an accident? What happened? Are they okay? Until the dreaded realization occurred to me that this person was perfectly fine, just ignoring me for all eternity.
ANGRY NON-RESPONSES: Loneliness is perhaps the worst emotion a human can endure beyond any reasonable length of time. There are many, many lonely people in the world and 99 percent of them engage in online dating. I soon learned that if I didn’t respond to a “chat request” or answer an email after it had been “viewed” then, I could expect a sarcastically toned follow-up email thanking me for ignoring them, when I really just hadn’t found the time to respond. Honestly, in the beginning, I tried to respond to every sincere message. "My God, these are people," I thought. "I wouldn’t ignore a 'Hello. How are you?' in real life; why would I online?" But sitting down to dozens of new emails every day made it absolutely impossible.
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GRAZERS COME IN MALE FORM, TOO: Aziz Ansari coined the term “grazer” on his Netflix series Master of None to refer to a woman who goes on an online date solely for a free meal. One evening, after an expensive meal with drinks, my date began to recite a story about being unable to pay for the bill — or even his own half — because he had bought Christmas presents for his family the day before. Grudgingly, I paid and felt doubly swindled. He was not interested in me; he was interested in taking himself out for dinner.
CATFISHED BY A MARRIED GUY: There are people online who claim to be single when they’re actually married. Most are looking for sex. These people are called liars. Avoid them at all costs.
WHY AM I PAYING FOR THIS ABUSE?: No, really? At the end of the month, my online dating subscription with perks topped out at more than $80. It begged the question, Why am I paying for this service that is causing me so much grief? While I could certainly slam my skull into a cinder block wall for free, I didn’t see the necessity of throwing my hard-earned money into the pit of Dating’s Ninth Level of Hell. I subsequently canceled my subscription, only to receive email after email of offers “To come back and find love” almost a year later.
If that’s modern love, I may die single, but I’ll die completely at ease knowing I never have to date online again.