Meanwhile, in reality, most online relationships end with It’s like I’ve met you, only don’t at all know who you are. So who online dates and why do they do it?
I won’t exempt myself from the crowd: I online date. Who doesn’t these days? I don’t go out to clubs, and if I did, giving out my number while intoxicated by one too many fuzzy navel shooters is the last thing I ought to be doing. Being a bit of a modern recluse with my nose stuck in a book where ever I go, meeting anyone outside of the staff at the Public Library, is a one in a million shot. To me, online dating is like a trip to a vintage flea market. Before you go out hunting for treasures, you psyche yourself up by daydreaming about all these potentially beautiful, one-of-a-kind, envy-inducing finds. But usually upon arrival you realize it’s a bunch of crap from J.C. Penny in the 80s being repackaged as “vintage”. Just like these flea markets, there aren’t any guarantees and no sure way of knowing if what you’re going to find is as advertised, in fact ‘embellished’ advertising is the name of the online dating game.
I once met a man for drinks who claimed to be in his mid thirties and had caught ‘the travel bug’ (his words, not mine). In reality, I was on a date with a man closer to mid forty (with a bad dye job) whose idea of traveling was visiting a Mexican resort bi-annually. Luckily, most false advertising is easy to spot and can be remedied with an excuse about a friend’s broken leg followed by must go now. See you never.
The danger/allure of online dating is that you can create this persona in your profile of the person you’ve always wanted to become. To write yourself down as you truly are requires a lot of self-editing and critique that the egos these days can’t seem to handle. But it isn’t always the 80s J.C. Penny rejects that do the embellishing. It’s those you’d least expect. To test the theory, my room-mate and I decided to run a little experiment. We created a fake ad, with fake snapshots, and advertised ourselves as a 19 year old, petite Japanese ex-cheerleader. The ad stated we were looking for fun, no strings attached,were eager and willing to please. Immediately (within 60 seconds of the ad going live) we received over 15 emails. Creeped out by our own creepiness we quickly took the fake ad down.
It’s a known fact that it took almost 2 years to get into the double digits of replies for my real ad. Most were just morbidly curious:
“Cranky mid-twenties lass, into the Clash & self-deprecating humour, collects guns and Jesus & Mary figurines seeking quiet companionship. Must not be into conversing before 11 am. In fact, if I don’t get coffee before 11 am, the world gets the silent treatment. Into self-destructive punk bands and discussions on colonial African politics, cooks spicy food unapologetically and if we end up living together, you may come home to find the kitchen painted fuchsia. I exaggerate. Tell great stories. Blow things out of proportion and generally speaking, I can be described as a ‘drama queen’. Oh yeah. It’d be nice if you weren’t married. Call me!”
But that’s just it though, isn’t it? If we were honest about who we really are, we could stop wasting time going on ‘fake’ dates and realize that only a miniscule percentage of the population is date-able. The crux of relationships is figuring out which issues/problems/personality flaws (cause everyone’s got ‘em) we’re good at dealing with, and maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get to fall in love with someone who has the problems we’re good at living with.
While faux ad was done in the name of harmless fun, seeing as neither of us had any intention of taking it any further, there is harm a plenty in creating alter-egos and white lies because sometimes those dangerous little white lies work. They work on men and women who are at a place in their lives where they’re inviting the opportunity. Burned out. Tired. Looking for eccentricity and excitement. Ready to believe in anything until you and your new Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde have everything in common. I unfortunately dated a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. He created this larger than life persona of what he called “being a real man”. He prided himself on not having commitment fear, of being a provider, of taking care of his ‘lady’. How quickly that Ivory Tower came crushing down, when I realized he made those same promises to his “ex” who he was still dating. He loved commitment so much, he wanted to be committed to as many women as possible. Touché.
The end of these online romances is anything but romantic.You wake up in the morning recognizing the face, not knowing the person laying next to you from a hole in the ground. They’re too good to be true because they aren’t real. They’re like that “vintage” Chanel bag at the flea market you found for $20. You know it’s fake but it looks so convincing. So you convince yourself its real. But carrying on such a charade is exhausting work, for both parties involved.
So why do I insist on returning to my online flea markets? Because once in a while, in a blue moon, when you least expect it, when you’re tired and exhausted, and the sweat from your brow burns your cheeks at the thought of another badly manufactured replica, in a pile of rubbish, buried deep I may find the real deal. And all of a sudden, all those fakes seem like a distant memory….