I shut down all of my dating profiles and whatnot earlier this year. I’d had some sort of internet dating presence active since some time in 2008 and have been willing to admit it since 2010-ish. I actually started with Yahoo Dating but have tried all of the big ones: OkCupid, Match, PoF, and a month on eHarmony that caused me to absolutely hate that service. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with those services that’s been about a 10/90 percent split throughout. Even so, I’ve tended to have at least one (OkCupid, really) active at all times since completely deactivating all such activity seemed tantamount to admitting defeat.
Well, “admitting defeat” might be too strong of a concept. I’ve been referring to it as “retiring.” That’s also a bit too strong, kind of like “retiring” from my basketball career in junior high because I wasn’t good enough to make the school team and they didn’t have park district basketball for my age group anymore.
If you’ll indulge I’d like to offer a snapshot of my dating life.
Birth to 18 years: bupkis.
The summer after I graduated high school I started dating Ashley. It lasted nine months or so and ended when I found out she’d cheated on me. This didn’t actually completely destroy me, since it gave me a damn good reason to break up with her.
Six years later I met Amy. That was three months of something approaching bliss followed by a year and a half of misery. She didn’t see any future but lacked the ability to tell me to fuck off for whatever reason. I kept thinking that meant I could come up with the right combination of things to say or do to make happily ever after happen. I also alternated with wondering when to call the whole thing off. For the record, the answer in that particular case was, “The minute I started asking the question.”
After the Amy thing ended I found myself at a crossroads. I had left the church and graduated from college. That made meeting women difficult at best. Internet dating seemed like a decent stopgap solution to the problem. For the next three years I went on maybe 4 dates a year. None of those were second dates. Fun fact: all of my dates in Texas were awful. If you’re single and in Dallas just give up.
I decided to try Match over my one Christmas in Texas. I signed up for their 6 month package with a free six months if you didn’t meet anyone (spoiler alert!). In June of that year as I was gearing up to move back to Chicago I switched that profile over to say I was moving back from Texas and almost immediately started exchanging emails with Megan. I think that one lasted all of three or four dates, plus one thing where we decided to hang out for reasons that may or may not involved me being a giant dumb shit who had not learned anything from the past. She basically decided that everything was going to be rainbows and sunshine for us before the first time we ever met. I was being cautious, as is my wont, so when it occurred to me that she started telling me how I was supposed to act on our first date I was not impressed. We tried communicating a few times afterwards and it always immediately devolved into her telling me we were perfect for each other while I was being busy trying to figure out who it was she’d met and why she didn’t just go off and date that guy because he obviously wasn’t me.
This was followed by a string of first dates with no second. Of those there was only one where I’m all, “Yeah, too bad nothing came of that.”
Then in February or March of 2013 I met someone at a party. I immediately knew it was a bad idea but since I’m not given to actually follow through on bad ideas and I was bored I thought, “Eh, what’s the worst that could happen?” What happened was a series of phone calls where it became increasingly obvious to me that we had absolutely nothing in common and one terrible date wherein she picked several fights with me and repeatedly fucked with my radio, which is just not done. Also, she kept switching to this weird baby talk voice. I was a combination of baffled and annoyed by that one. Several months later I was reading some stupid internet listicle of the top 10 things women do that they think men find sexy and that was one of them. So I had an explanation but it wasn’t a particularly satisfying one. Should any single woman read this just don’t do that. Ever. It’s weird and off-putting.
In March of this year I went on a date basically because it occurred to me that I hadn’t been on a date in two years so, hey, why the fuck not? That one quickly devolved into a political discussion wherein I learned that she was, in fact, the mythological conservative woman who believes her boss should be allowed to decide whether or not her insurance should cover her lady bits. She also threw some hilarious Republican Party talking points down when I was all, “Yeah, I don’t call myself a liberal, I call myself a progressive.” That…that one ended poorly.
So now I’m 34 and I’m single and I’ve finally realized that’s exactly how I like it.
I was not cool when I was growing up. I was the fat, socially awkward kid who dreamed of the day the hot girl in class would suddenly wake up and realize that, holy shit, she should totally start dating me. Why she should ever come to that conclusion is beyond me, but it was the fantasy.
Religion got in on that act, too. I think it was part a Puritanical notion that god would show favor by bestowing the gift of hot girl and part my increasing belief that god was, in fact, a cosmic jackass and, as such, I would have to find salvation elsewhere. Women seemed like the option there, too. It was a form of validation that I couldn’t figure out how to get anywhere else and a form of concrete love that seemed just as elusive as the love I was told I was supposed to get from god.
Amy had the great misfortune of meeting me right at the moment all of that came to a head. I’d just gone through a stretch that broke my faith and nearly broke my psyche. I was not yet willing or able to completely give up so much of my past so when I met her I decided that she represented the thing that would make it all better and allow me to get back everything I had lost. That was not fair. It’s neither good nor kind to try to force another person to become something they aren’t just because that’s what you think you need them to be.
It’s funny how a song can take you back. The other night I heard The Saw Doctor’s “World of Good” for the first time in I don’t know how long. All of the sudden I was back in a cabin on a freezing cold night in Wisconsin listening to that song and realizing that Amy and I would never be a thing and I’d have to say goodbye.
The worst thing to me about that memory is that I know now that I would then spend the next year and three months fighting that realization tooth and nail. It was a desperate, rear-guard action from a scared, lonely person. I think I knew it at the time. I just wish I’d been able to do something about it.
The good thing is that I haven’t pulled that shit since. The bad thing is that I’ve pretty much swung to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. How else do you explain such an abrupt transition from a year and a half trying to convince someone to love me to seven years of not even going on second dates?
I’ve developed a theory that if you’re in your 30s and single there’s something wrong with you. For some people it might be something minor that can be fixed or at least dealt with relatively easily. For others it’s something major. I am in the latter category.
I’ve come to realize that I’m fundamentally emotionally broken. The weird thing is, though, I’m emotionally broken in what might be the best possible way. I would rather everyone just leave me alone. This, honestly, makes me kind of a shitty friend, as I’m prone to disappear for long stretches without explanation and I’d usually rather hang out at home by myself than go out and do stuff. Seems to me that that’s actually a beneficial cycle, however. Eventually people stop trying to hang out with me and I don’t notice.
The problem from a dating perspective is that I’ve held to a belief that some future me will eventually get mad at me for not finding someone. Over the last seven years as current me has gone on fewer dates than past me and future me ended up going on even fewer I’ve realized that the theoretical angry future me is less and less likely to show up.
I’ve also realized that keeping up this charade that I’m still active in the dating world is wasting everyone’s time. So I’ve decided to quit. There’s a pretty good chance that no one noticed, though. I’m totally fine with that.
It’s hard to explain, I guess. I try to tell stories to fill in the gaps but they don’t seem like they really get the lesson across. I guess the best way to explain it is this. I got tired of trying to figure out how to get someone to save me and decided that instead it was best for me to figure out how to figure out how to value myself. In the process I accidentally created a life for myself. At some point I realized that I was spending so little time dating that any thoughts or effort I directed towards that activity seemed like wasted energy.
I stopped worrying about how much better my life would be if someone else would come in and validate it. Now I don’t need anyone else. That’s all there is to it.
Some people are meant to be alone. I am one of them. Everything got better when I just admitted that.
Every time there’s a long holiday weekend eHarmony does one of those, “Find your love for free this weekend,” promotions. Back in 2009 I was all, “Aight, sure.” That was a massive scam. For one thing, yes, you can send and receive emails for free during that particular weekend but, and this is crucial, you can’t see pictures. Also the site was set up so that you had to communicate in this really forced progression that required you and your match to basically send each other questionnaires for the first series of emails before there was even a blank entry option to say, “Hey, wanna see my dick pics?” or whatever. This could easily take more than the free weekend. So, y’know, scam.
There’s also about a 95% chance I also have a Christian Mingle profile floating around out there somewhere because I had the brilliant idea to troll Christian Mingle. In my defense I was bored. And they were advertising every other commercial break during the NBA Finals, which seemed really weird.
No, I’m not yadda yaddaing over anything important. I did not go on a date for six years.
The best part of that one was when she tried to convince me that she was right about the whole being perfect for each other because we’d been matched on a bunch of different dating sites, including eHarmony. She then called me a lying asshole when I told her it was impossible for that to have happened since the only time I was on eHarmony was a brief stint in 2008 and I would never, ever go back to that site again.