Zero Tolerance

I’ve never been any good at dating. I can be a good boyfriend once I get to that point, but the dating thing is beyond me. The entire pretense just doesn’t work for me and I think it shows. Halfway through dinner I usually continue the conversation in my own head. You know, the sort of things that you would normally answer, but don’t because you’re on your absolute best behavior. For example, when she asks you what you like to do in your free time, it is usually not acceptable to answer, “download computer porn and masturbate.”

Maybe I just never put the time into the practice of it, I don’t know. I simply never learned how to “be” on a date. I’m just not a good actor and I’m full of self-loathing so I can’t really fake the smooth talker guy, or the confident and charming guy. All of my serious relationships (all both of them) have been the result of not quite dating but more like hanging out gone awry.

Ever since my very first date, ice-skating with Katie Winston, I’ve been both bored and frightened by the concept of dating. I just hate the idea of trying to pretend I’m something I’m not, trying to get someone to like me, to really like me, and of wasting a hundred bucks on dinner and stuff when I should be paying off a credit card and working to become rich and famous.

Then there’s the flipside of the whole dating conundrum. The loneliness. Like it or not, the things we enjoy tend to be much more enjoyable when there’s another party involved. It’s just the process of matching up seems so arbitrary these days that people seek out companionship for the sake of companionship without really being interested in the specifics.

This brings me to my problem. I live in a pretty big city. Second biggest in the country, by someone’s calculations. And dating in a big city, one in which you are not native, is a puzzling trick. A tricky puzzle. I abhor bars and clubs and I’m really not a big fan of parties so meeting a nice young maiden with whom I could spend time with is not an easy proposition. I have always fallen into the trap of dating someone I work with, but after three instances in a company of less than fifty people, I’ve pretty much exhausted the pool. I wouldn’t say I’ve achieved desperation, but when I filled out my profile at an online dating service it certainly felt like it.

I’m not opposed to internet dating. It certainly has less of a stigma attached to it than just five years ago. There’s just something about it that feels unnatural to me. Maybe I’m a na•ve romantic, but I still believe in the notion of soulmates, or meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right (you know, whomever you are looking for). I’ve heard some great stories about positive online dating happenings, but my experience with it has been less than amazing.

I was completely honest in my profile. I didn’t try to pass myself off as the confident charmer or smooth talker guy. I simply wrote about what I liked to do, what I didn’t like to do and said I was looking for someone to do the same. Sure, I tried to do it in a funny and clever way (whether I succeeded is anyone’s guess), but that wasn’t misrepresentation as I’m always striving to be funny and clever (usually failing on both counts).

Now, I haven’t met a lot of girls this way, but I would say enough to form an opinion. I’ve learned the difference between some of the bigger sites, which ones attract a smattering of intelligent and honest clients, and which ones are the millennium equivalent of the skankiest singles bar. All I know is when a girl opens a conversation by requesting the dimensions of my penis, she’s not the one for me. I’m not saying it’s not a fair inquiry, but isn’t the penis query something that usually comes after the “hey, how are you?” opening questions?

I’ve had dates that started off poorly, but ended well, and yet there was never a follow-up. I’ve had dates that were about as pleasurable as a tumor extraction that I had to actually be mean in order to avoid the follow-up. What happened to the good old days of not calling and the problem goes away? And if a date is miserable for one person, isn’t that usually evident that it’s not going to work out? When did saying “I’ll call you” or “I’ll e-mail you” start getting interpreted literally?

Online dating is a good way to at least attempt to weed through some of the candidates out there. If you like a certain activity, like parasailing, you can usually find someone else that enjoys parasailing. It helps. But nothing will ever take the place of that first meeting. And first impressions usually are easier to come by when you aren’t trying to make a first impression.

When you meet someone, you’re supposed to have that spark, that instant burst of chemistry that exists between two people. It’s that spark that is the driving force in getting two people together. And I’m not even saying the spark is a result of how a person looks. Sure, that’s part of it. But it’s about how they smile and laugh and touch your hand. It’s something physical and beautiful, but it’s not necessarily something you’d find on the cover of Vanity Fair. The whole online dating thing is geared to manufacturing the spark. Although I’ve seen that work, I don’t think it’s as common as I once believed.

What can I say? I’m just a hopeless romantic. I don’t mind the idea of online dating. I think people can find people that way. I just don’t know that I can. Despite my reservations though, I just updated my profile. We’ll see what happens.

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