Why Online Dating Sucks for Men
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I tell all my single girlfriends to give online dating a try. Why not? I say, what’s the worst that could happen? You set up a profile, pick some cute photos, write something witty about the things that you love (Beyonce, Hillary Clinton, Battlestar Galactica), list some books you like, and then sit back, kick your feet up, and wait for the messages to roll in. Your inbox will fill with notes from 19-year-olds in the ‘burbs, 40-somethings who find your taste in music “refreshing,” addled idiots writing “id fck u,” and a handful of age-appropriate, nice-looking guys who can string some sentences together and like to cook. With those, you will send a few messages back and forth before he invites you for a drink. You will put on some mascara, plunge out into the snow, meet a stranger, and after an hour of slightly stilted conversation, he will grab the check. You will try to split it, but he will pay, and you will stand to re-wrap yourself against the frigid wind. You will part ways, and you will probably, almost certainly, begin again the next day with another “Hey there…” message from the next contender.
I tell all my single guy friends to watch out for online dating. It is a sad, soul-crushing place where good guys go to die a slow death by way of ignored messages and empty inboxes. You will peruse profiles and find a few women who aren’t posing in a bathroom with their stomachs exposed. You will look for things in common in their profile (they like Scrabble too!). You will send them a note, carefully crafted to show interest and attention to detail. The first seven will not respond. The next one will, but she spells “you” as “u” and you will let the conversation stall. Finally, one of the cool girls writes back, and you will banter a bit, swapping favorite restaurants or concert venues. You will ask her to meet up “in real life.” At the bar, you will chat nervously for an hour (she is not as pretty or as funny as you had hoped she’d be), and then you will be saddled with the $27 check even though she ate most of the sweet potato fries. She will offer to split, but you think she doesn’t mean it and you don’t want to be a jerk. You will march home to an empty inbox and the desire to spend another hour browsing and writing will start to fade.
You might think online dating would create some much-needed “fairness” between the sexes. In the realm of hetero courtship, tradition still reigns supreme. The Internet could be the great democratizer, the great playing field-leveler. After all, we each have only the 500-word text boxes and crappy jpegs and clever (not so clever) user names to show for ourselves. Anyone can message anyone about anything. Maybe in this environment where we are safely sequestered behind screens, we can get past some of the lingering gender-based “rules” that dominate the “How to Catch a Man” playbooks of yore. Maybe instead we can learn to treat each other as equal players of a very silly game that we all secretly take quite seriously. Wouldn’t that be nice?
But it seems quite clear to me that we’re not there yet. I’m partly to blame, and you probably are too. I’m a feminist, sex-positive 21st century lady whose photos include me posing in a Rosie the Riveter Halloween costume. I write about gender on the Internet for crying out loud! But every day, when I log into the dating site of my choice, I play the passive role, the receiver of attention, the awaiter of messages. I go to my inbox and see who wants to talk to me and then I choose to whom I’ll respond. Sometimes I send a “thanks but no thanks” to particularly sweet messages, but usually I’m so overwhelmed by the new things to read and the new choices in front of me that I ignore those nice guys too. Basically, I act like an entitled jerk who can pull puppet strings and make OkCupid dance for me however I please.