Why I Quit Internet Dating (Again)
Internet dating is a wondrous curmudgeon. We hate it but are still intrigued by it. We loathe the process but obsess over how to floss up our profile. We say we don’t care, but we check our alerts like they are a burgeoning wildfire. When we say we hate it, we are bullshitting ourselves.
We only hate it because it’s not working. We are outraged that the world wide web can’t deliver the perfect mate in thirty minutes or less or your money back. We are flummoxed when our e-crush shows up thirty pounds heavier. Or four inches shorter. Or balder. Or six to eleven years older.
We are shocked to learn that these companies create fake profiles to entice us to sign up. We are flabbergasted when our perfect match doesn’t respond to our delightful one-line message. We just don’t get it. We don’t understand why it’s not working for us.
I really shouldn’t be talking about you. Because this is about me. And why I quit internet dating, again.
I’ve been divorced for fourteen years now. I’ve tried them all. At times, very successfully. At times, epic disaster would be an understatement. I’ve said before I will never go back. So I won’t say never this time. But I hope it’s never. Because internet dating doesn’t suit me.
What Made Me Quit
It’s not the usual story about why someone quits internet dating. It’s not that I met someone and it didn’t work out. It’s not that someone lied about literally everything in their profile. It’s not even that no one ever sends me messages.
It’s also not because I met someone and it’s going well. That is most certainly not happening. Since being back in the game, I went on exactly one date in the couple months since I asked you to stop me.
What made me quit was a random encounter in the real world. And nothing will come of it, but it showed me something. It showed me that I am much better in the real world than I am online. If I just engage with the world.
I was making my daily Starbucks run for my daughter and had ordered ahead. My drinks weren’t ready. There was someone next to me at the mobile pickup ledge that was also waiting. Although her back was to me, I could tell she was miffed at the delay. I know, first world problems.
When I said something to one of the baristas I know, the woman waiting turned around and looked right at me. And I was quickly caught. Caught in a moment that could never occur on the internet.
Her stylish haircut framed out her face perfectly. Her dark hair only made her piercing blue eyes more beautiful. She didn’t smile, yet. But I already knew what it was going to look like when she did.
I asked her how long she had been waiting. I give myself a 3 on the bullshit small talk scale, but an 8 on the segue in life scale. We talked for the next forty seconds, maybe. About Starbucks nonsense.
But in those forty seconds I far surpassed anything I had done online in the past two months. Because I was looking at a real person while I was chatting. It wasn’t a text box. It was a beautiful woman.
My drinks started to come. I had about a minute left before the last one would be delivered and my real-life interaction would end. So I opened my mouth again. Which is a miracle in and of itself. Because I don’t do this.
The blur ended with my last drink being completed. I have no idea what I said. But when I wished her good luck in getting her drink sometime this century, she smiled. And I knew.
I knew I was done with internet dating.
Why I Don’t Think I Will Go Back
I don’t think I will go back this time because reality hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. As much as I like to consider myself a wordsmith with my profiles, no one likes that shit. Well, maybe a couple of you do, but most people just look at the photos.
And as much as I like to think I am an online catch, I am a million times better in person, in all ways. My problem is that I don’t leave my house that often. And I use everything as an excuse to avoid meeting new people in the real world. When that is where I am at my best.
It’s an odd sentiment for an introvert. To know that I am at my best out there. In the vastness of the mainstream. But it’s true. But only if I just let it all hang out when I‘m out there. If I stop hiding behind fear. Or general malaise.
All I have to do is go places. And do things that I enjoy. And be present. And open my mouth. This isn’t that hard. But internet dating is. At least for me, at this age. It’s boring. It’s convoluted. It’s passive aggressive. It’s a farce.
I have no doubt it can work, but not for me. Not now. What I want can only happen in real life. And it can only happen without the precursor of a text box on the internet. What I want is what I saw in that Starbucks.
And it certainly exists through the breadth of internet dating sites. I mean that’s why everyone is there. Because they are hopeful. That they will find love. Or sex. Or a threesome. They have hope. And now I do. Without it.
Because internet dating isn’t hopeful for me anymore. Because I can’t catch that e-spark. The dialogue is boring and tired. There is no locking eyes. There is no random joke that causes a smirk.
I don’t want a smiley face emoji. I want a smile.
And I’m going to find one in the real world.