Sunday, July 26, 2009

My two cents on the topic of online dating

There's something really "special" about putting yourself out there for scrutiny in a public way. I do it in my job, I do it in this blog, I do it on Facebook, I do it as a performer - and in all those formats I am completely comfortable. Online dating, on the other hand, is different. You present yourself - not a character, not the "you" of your job, but your very own real self - and implicitly ask "Do you like me?" It is appallingly direct. When you pursue dates in more traditional ways, like hanging out in bars or clubs, you can always pretend you're not there for that reason, if you need to. "I'm just here with my friends, and I am not interested in dancing with you, thanks" - that's plausible in a bar. But once you show your face on a dating website, you're undeniably in the game, and you are undeniably seeking approval. I hate it. But crap, how the hell do you meet people otherwise? It seems like the thing to do these days.

So as with all subjects, once I have become involved with something new it only takes a few weeks for me to be an expert on it, and begin to bloviate and pontificate and just generally be an ass about it, because that's how I roll. Now at the risk of alienating every woman who might otherwise respond to me in the online dating world (those who have not already been alienated, of which there is a large and growing number), there are just a few small observations I feel compelled to make from a man's perspective.

1. If I send you a fricking email, have the common courtesy to reply in some way. Any way. Acceptable replies include "I like you, let's meet up" or "You seem like a delightful individual but I don't want to meet up, even though I fear this bad decision will haunt me the rest of my life" or "Blow it out your ass, your pontificating douchebag." No reply of any kind? Weak at best. You lack typing skills? You lack reliable internet connectivity? You lack manners? Weak.

2. If you want a guy to ask you out, I'm not sure if best to start out your online profile by saying you're looking for your "life partner" or "the last relationship of your life" or "soulmate." I mean, if you want to smother me, just grab a sheet of plastic and get to it. Otherwise lighten up just a bit and let's have coffee or something to start - the "soulmate" action can wait until the second date at least, can't it? How many guys do you think are logging on to look for the "last relationship of their lives"? They mostly just want to get laid.

3. If you're posting a bunch of pictures of yourself in groups of other people, figure out a way to identify which one of them is you, for crying out loud! You may have said you're a 37 year old blond with blue eyes, but if you post a picture with five blue eyed blondes, which one are you? Like, I see there are several people standing a hundred yards from the camera, and you're all wearing ski goggles and stuff, so all I know from this is that you ski. And then there are 10 people posing at some party - which one are you, the one with the 20 year-old hairstyle or the one who looks really drunk? Never mind, I don't care anymore.

4. Speaking of pictures, you might want to evaluate how many shots of your dog or cat that you are posting. I know, I know, you love your cat. I'm sure your cat is just swell. But 4 or 5 photos of your cat tells me you have too much time to take pictures of your cat, ok? It tells me you've already found your "life partner" but you just don't realize it.

5. Ditto the extreme travel photos. I see you on top of a mountain, skydiving, scuba diving, heli-skiiing, running a marathon, swinging on a vine in the jungle, dancing with Masai warriors, carrying exhausted Sherpas AND their packs - let's face it, I am intimidated, ok? And more exhausted than those Sherpas. Do you ever just have a pizza and some beer?

6. Be brutally honest in the selection of your "body type." This one is tricky. I described myself as "about average" because I could afford to lose a few pounds and I think this describes the average American guy. I'd be better if I lost 15-20 pounds. Maybe "a few extra pounds" would be my better description. I would never call myself "athletic" even though I go to the gym and play some sports sometime, and I wouldn't even consider going for "toned." So if you describe yourself as "a few extra pounds" but your pictures say you're traveling about a buck eighty-five, and you'd be better off 50 lbs lighter, we're off on a bad foot on the honesty scale.

I think the "body type" description has some inevitable truth in it. At least for women, that is. Guys may be describing themselves with utter frankness. I don't know, I'm not reading their profiles. But body image issues are mostly women issues anyway, because most guys think they look great no matter how many lbs they're packing. (Maybe women are just not good enough at self-delusion.) But anyway, here's what I think the labels really mean - this is the actual truth:

If you say you are
"About Average" then that probably means, that you, like me, need to lose a few pounds, which is just a way of saying you're kind of fat. So "About Average" = kind of fat

If you say you have
"A few extra pounds" then you see that you are fatter than the average fat American, so in reality you are really fat. Therefore, "A few extra pounds = really fat.

If you say you are
"Curvy" you are probably really fat. The male equivalent choice here is "stocky" which also means you are really fat.

The reality is that there are probably people who describe themselves as "athletic and toned" or "slender" who also are really fat or at least kind of fat. These may be the same people I've heard about who post pictures of themselves from 20 years ago - as if that ruse won't become apparent in the first 20 seconds of the first date. No doubt, a great way to start a new relationship - demonstrate that you are either delusional or a liar. Go get 'em, tiger.

Allow me to weinie out enough here to say there's nothing wrong with being a little fat or a lot fat. God knows I have been in both those categories most of my life. The point is, why do you want to lie to people who you are asking to like you?

So there - some of my verbose tips on online dating. I mean after all, if your relationships were all working out great you wouldn't be there in the first place, right? So why not make a fresh start and picture yourself as a person in touch with reality. Who knows, maybe it will work?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Our appalling progeny

Taking note lately of how mortified young parents are of their children's behavior, and feeling compelled to say "it's ok, young parents."

We've all had the opportunity to witness the fits thats little kids throw. In the line at Target, at a restaurant, parking lot, nursery school, or just in the living room when friends are visiting - there is no physical place that is off limits to the toddler. It's one of the blessings - and curses - of being that age. There are no limits, no dissembling, no "acceptable behaviors" - you might say the only time in our lives when we are truly, completely real and honest and expressive of our true self? The id in charge? "Looks like a good place and time for a tantrum!" they say to themselves, and the next thing you know it's a full-blown case of the crazies. I guess there are some people who continue to get all id as adults, but hell, you're supposed to have some self control when you're all grown up. Unless you want to end up on "Cops."

But when it comes to the kid throwing a fit, is it a little like "Rashomon"? Each person's experience of the same event would be described very differently? Lord knows we've all had that thought "Would somebody please just shut that kid up!" While someone else might be thinking "Oh, that poor kid, she's just exhausted." And another person might say "Why is it that some parents just don't know how to control their children?"

I have been on several sides of this equation - I've been the parent of the spazzy child, I've been the grandparent of the spazzy child, I've been the uninvolved observer - a long time ago, I was the spazzy child myself - weren't you? And wasn't that painfully judgemental person who's shooting daggers at the young parents, wasn't he/she the spazzy child once too? Fascinating how your perspective changes as you fill each of these roles.

My latest conclusion is that we are all way, way, WAY too bothered by the kid throwing the fit, especially those young, inexperienced parents. Those young parents get that embarrassed face on, that "just shoot me now" look - as if this kid that's all red in the face and shrieking is from some other planet or possessed by the devil and can't possibly be the fruit of MY loins. And you know they're thinking sometimes that they must be the worst parent in the world, and "where did I go wrong?" and "this kid is in for a long life full of detention and juvenile hall" and "for God's sake, this CAN'T be MY kid!"

The truth is, that IS your kid, and you were just like that once, and just about every other upright citizen around us was just like that kid once, and whatever judgmental person around you who makes you feel bad about was just like that kid once, and you should just smile and say "I love that child."

As the saying goes, "we'll all laugh about this someday."