Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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I am sitting in a bar called The Treehouse in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, drinking beers with a guy I met on OKCupid. This is where we had our first date, but now, a month later, we're on date I-lost-count, & we've taken a $13 Uber here so we can both have more than a few PBRs in a can while we watch the Cavs dominate (please, please, please) the Hawks in game three.

We talk through most of the game, distracted by the company, but in the last seven minutes of this battle for game three of the Eastern Conference Finals, we turn our attention back to LeBron & the boys. The bar filled up while we weren't paying attention, & it's now teeming with Clevelanders donning their wine & gold, all eyes turned toward the TV mounted in the corner. We were lucky to have arrived early enough to score prime seats at the bar in what has become a standing-room-only space.

Watching the TV intently, some girl has her arm draped over the back of my chair, & I accidentally knock it off when I swivel for a better view of the screen. "I'm so sorry!" we exclaim in unison, laughing & giving each other the go-ahead to claim the spot. It is a comedy of polite errors, each of us out-friendlying the other. "You & that girl are exactly the same person," my date laughs, "so you should probably be friends with her." I look around the bar & think of all the people here who are like me, like us - gritty, gregarious Midwesterners with nasally A's who say "pop" instead of "soda" & wear their love of their state on their sleeve, often literally. (Truly, I've never seen a city full of so many people wearing hometown swag on an everyday basis - not just on game days.)

The end of this game is getting tense, & there is shouting, the bad kind, after a missed basket. There is hand-wringing & mouth-covering & profanity-muttering as, for a moment or two, the game becomes close & it looks like the Cavs might not pull it off - you know, as is customary. Briefly, I wonder what it will be like to be in a bar full of hopeful Clevelanders during a big loss, to start to grumble, "Hey, maybe next year" before this year has even finished; that's what we do, after all. But then, in the very last seconds of the game, there is victory. There is yelling & cheering & clapping & toasting & high-fiving with strangers.

And it is in this moment, surrounded by strangers & drunk on possibilities & PBR, that I realize: To be at a bar in Cleveland for a major Cavs win is the best possible reminder that home is exactly where I'm supposed to be, where I'm supposed to go, where I always knew I would end up. We call this "witnessing," but I guess you probably just call it "winning." And whether the Cavs do it this time or not, I feel like I already have.
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Why My Online Dating Profile is Incredibly (& Perhaps Even Detrimentally) Honest

Monday, May 11, 2015

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I don't like dating. I mean, does anyone like dating? I guess some people do, people who are extreme extroverts or sex addicts or both. Actually, a friend was just telling me about someone she knows who, upon being asked what she does for fun, responded, "I date."

I am not one of those people. I really like spending time alone, for one thing, & I find it difficult to convince myself to sacrifice an evening of Netflix & blogging to go out with a total stranger with whom I may or not get along. I'm also a nervous talker, which means that I will fill any void with my own chatter, just so we don't have to do that thing where one of us trails off & everything gets quiet. Unfortunately, the things I say when I'm nervous-talking are often the conversational equivalent of blacking out while drunk & later wondering, "What did I even do last night?"

Dating just makes me anxious, & on the whole, it seems like a waste of time, if only because it's never worked for me. All of my past relationships have sprung from existing friendships, & now that's my dating comfort zone - but also, I've run out of friends to date, & eventually that makes fun awkward social circles, anyway. I'd like to avoid that, if possible.

So, like every single millennial with love to give & dreams of finding The One (eye roll), I have asked my best friend to set me up. My best friend, of course, is The Internet; maybe you're acquainted?

Specifically, I rejoined OKCupid, that free online Rolodex of single-&-ready-to-mingle dudes within a 50-mile radius. I first opened my account in 2007, while I was living in D.C., & though I spent a significant amount of time browsing potential matches & answering the site's myriad personality questions, I only ever set up one date through it. (It went well, but it obviously didn't go anywhere, because here I am.)

Recently, I was poking around my profile & discovered this section where OKCupid tallies all your quiz responses &, I guess, pits you against other OKCupid users to tell you how you differ from them. Here's what it told me about myself:

I know the words are tiny, but I had to zoom way out to get a screencap of all the many things OKCupid had to say about my personality. Let's recap: Based on my answers to its quiz questions, a free dating site has determined that I am "more aggressive," "more sloppy," "less friendly to strangers" & "worse mannered" than its average user. To add insult to injury, it has deemed it appropriate to put such information in my profile so that potential dating prospects can see exactly how terrible I probably am. Oh, heyyyyy, fellas.

Seriously, what is this? I have smoked exactly two cigarettes in my entire life, so I'm not sure how that qualifies me to be "more drug-friendly." And does it actually call me "sexperienced"? I take umbrage with that, OKCupid. I'm a 30-year-old woman, damn it, stop making me sound like a sorority girl on spring break. And "less kind"? I mean, if I'm "less friendly to strangers," I guess it follows that I'd be relatively unkind, but neither of these things is true, I swear. Hot damn, I would never ask me out on a date based on this.

Yes, I am pretty independent (except for living with my mom right now...), & yes, I am pretty bad at math - OK, like, really bad. I'll give you those, OKC. But pretty much everything else is questionable.

I think the crux of the issue, though, is actually this: I am probably not this much worse than the general population of ladies looking for love on OKCupid. I think the real difference is that I am probably way more honest than the general population of ladies looking for love on OKCupid.

I know, you're supposed to put your best face forward on your online dating profile, right? Sure. And I do! I mean, my profile doesn't admit that I eat crackers & Brie for dinner three times a week or that I'm probably the worst driver you've ever met. It doesn't reveal that I can probably only accurately identify half of the U.S. states on a map, or that I sleep in torn-up Guantanamo Bay sweatpants. (Again: Heyyyyy, fellas.) Like everyone else on the Internet, I've tried to highlight my best attributes & use photos in which I do not look like a hideous demon.

But here's the thing: I also don't want to waste valuable could-be-spent-alone time going on dates with guys who are a total mismatch, guys who are expecting some version of me that doesn't exist. That's why my profile includes at least one requisite full body photo, so that if you're looking for a Victoria's Secret Angels body type, you know I'm not your girl. And it's the same reason that I answered the site's questions honestly - because I want to find somebody who's interested in going out with actual me, not a whitewashed version of me that pretends to be flawless so that you think I'm your ideal match until you meet me & realize you've been duped.

Over drinks a couple weeks ago, my date (got one!) noted that I actually look like my profile photos, which is apparently a somewhat uncommon online dating experience. "I don't want to trick anyone into going out with me," I told him, & he responded, "Sadly, I don't think a lot of women on OKCupid share your perspective there."

And that is sort of sad, really, because those women are end up going out with men with whom they have nothing in common. If you lie on your profile, you're going to end up on dates with people who are interested in a false version of you. That's fine, I guess, if you're just in it for awkward small talk & maybe a free dinner or two - but I've got Netflix to watch & crackers & Brie to eat, so I don't play that.

Now that I think about it, maybe OKCupid got something else right in its analysis of my personality: Maybe I am "more honest" than its average users. I swear I'm not, like, that aggressive or anti-exercise, though. Quit trying to ruin my game, Internet. I never had any game to begin with, so the joke's on you.

But I have another date tonight. So there.
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