Online Dating Story

I've never been much of a dater. Sometimes this has been by choice; other times it's due to a lack of interested prospects. Every so often, I'll get it in my head that my lack of dating is something that I need to change (Hint: It isn't). I'll see most of the people around me cozily settling into their long-term relationships, marriages, and families and think, "Hey, I might be happier if I had that, too." It turns out that I'm usually better off sticking with my dog and my otherwise very happy life.

This reasoning usually leads to modest disaster, often ending with me shaking my head at myself, the people I try and take an interest in, or both. Take for instance my latest attempt at online dating.

It all started about a month ago. I excitedly put together an online profile on a dating website. I'm not ashamed to say that I worked fairly hard on it. I put thought into ways to present myself, and did so in ways that I thought legitimately expressed the person I am, giving me an opportunity to show my substance-over-surface characteristics. It gave me a confidence that I've rarely had in the non-digital dating landscape. That was problem number one.

Problem number two was that my efforts were rarely duplicated. Whether through fake accounts, or lazy users, I came across profile after profile of "About Me" sections consisting of "If you want to know anything, just ask!" This choice told me one thing about that person (presuming they were even real): This was someone who wanted me to make the decision to message them on the sole criterion of how they looked in their profile pictures. I'm no genius, but is that not directly encouraging messages from exactly the kind of men most women specifically say they don't want? Move along, Brian.

Online dating seems to be this way for most people, so to this point my story is hardly unique. Unfortunately for me, where it gets unique is when I decided to actually message a few women I found genuinely interesting.

I didn't count, but I sent messages to about ten women over a month, hearing back from one. The one gave me two short answers which immediately told me she was responding out of politeness and not out of interest. I backed off. But there was one who especially stood out and actually kindled something close to excitement in me about the whole endeavor. Sure, she hadn't responded, but the website also informed me she hadn't been online in "more than 30 days," which might mean five years. So, I put on my Facebook detective hat and started looking.

The extent of my "Facebook detective hat" involved typing the person's first name and city into the search bar, which I've chosen to believe keeps me from entering creep status. I found her at the very top of the search! Perhaps that makes Facebook far creepier than I. So, I sent a message hoping to come across as honest and endearing, and not a serial murderer.

Silence.

I'm used to this. Slight disappointment, perhaps, but nothing resembling a problem. My message was kind and non-threatening, making mention of my understanding of her situation of a stranger randomly messaging her and also understanding if this alone made her prone to ignore it. In short, I wasn't surprised. It always was a long shot.

About a week after, I messaged a second woman that had also interested me. I sent virtually the same message with some minor alterations. Before I sent the message, I noticed that these two women were friends on Facebook (Facebook recognized I had messaged the first woman, and thus placed her in the nine friends that appear on the left side of profiles). I should have just stopped there, but of course I didn't. I thought it an unlikely coincidence, but given their residence of the same small town, it didn't strike me as implausible. And since I didn't feel I was doing anything seedy, I didn't pay much attention to it and sent the second message.

In a moment that more or less defines my dating fortunes throughout my life, they did know each other. In fact, they knew each other well enough to have a laugh at my expense that I had sent them very similar messages claiming how I "didn't do this sort of thing very often," and other various sentiments. It was a moment straight out of a sitcom.

Of course, my words were true. It is the only two times I have ever Facebook messaged strangers in my entire life. The sentiments of the messages were also true, as they were meant to serve, not as evidence that I serial message women, but rather as introductory pieces of writing. So, I used a template, big deal. The only wrench in the operation was that it looked like I serial messaged women. Oh well, I guess. Welcome to the minefield of online dating.

"How did you find out they knew each other?" I can hear you asking. See, there's the interesting part. I got a message back from the second woman a few days after. I was initially intrigued (if you remember, I did have a legitimate interest, at least as far as an online profile can give). She feigned interest briefly, pretending to be flattered that I chose her out of "all the girls on there." When I said I did because of A and B in her profile, she pounced as if she had caught me in some terrific lie: "My friend showed me the same message you sent her. So, no thanks. I was being facetious." When I responded that I had noticed they were friends, she again lightly chastised me: "Then why did you use the same lines?" which again presumes nefarious scheming on my part. I guess she would have preferred a deep, personal, psychological profile of why I thought we were perfect for each other. I would have thought that the more creepy than an inoffensive template message, but welcome, again, to the minefield.

The unfortunate thing is (apart from me looking the fool, which I admit is a travesty) that I actually understand exactly how that looks from their perspective. I know plenty of men who do that exact thing, and are conniving and predatory about it. If there's one persona that I've clung to over the years, it's that of being the "good guy." You know the type: the type no one actually wants to date, but is welcomed into the oft-described "friend zone" deeply and without hesitation. So when you get accused of not being the "good guy" by a stranger who you approached with respect and legitimate interest, that's what gnaws at you and leads to short stories on websites.

In a minefield, sometimes you step on a mine. And sometimes, it's in a place you're too naive to even think of looking.

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