After the success of the embarrassing feature that I did on colonics (I regret nothing?), I Do It So You Don’t Have To became a fun brainstorming session throughout the office. Never wanting to back down from a challenge, I asked my colleagues what I should do next. Acupuncture? Hypnosis to quit smoking? EMT supervised bath salts tripping? Overwhelmingly, the answer was online dating. Honestly, to quit smoking is probably easier.
I have dabbled in the OKCupid world before, like every other single 20something living in New York (I don’t know about other cities, but I would assume). I was really proud of my profile—I thought it was hilarious—but despite having a few back-and-forth messages with some guys, nothing ever came out of it. I was partially too nervous to meet strangers from the internet, partially not brave enough to take the initiative to ask them out. Or maybe I was just lazy. Either way, none of the gents really jumped out at me (nothing against y’all), so the profile ended up collecting some digital tumbleweeds.
I started a new profile purely for this work experiment, more nervous than the first time around. Now, it's purpose was that of internet journalism. What would happen if no one was interested? I would have to sheepishly tell everyone in the office that the piece was off because nobody wants me, which would surely turn into a full-blown pity party complete with crying in the bathroom.
And this profile was a little more reserved—I hesitate to say professional because that sounds weird—and not as pop-culturally intimidating than my first. I filled out all the questions, Quick Matched (a feature on OKCupid where you can instantly rate someone and if you rated them high they would receive an email from the site saying you like-like them), and went through my Quiver Matches (the site chooses people it thinks you might like).
I started getting messages. A lot of them were from guys completely out of state or people who had no grasp on reading or writing. Even though I explicitly put in my profile my hatred for emoticons, many messages contained them. These guys were out of the running, not because they use a smiley face but because they clearly didn’t even read my profile.
I also got a lot of messages with weird statements about narwhals and inappropriate or obscure movie quotes ("A" for effort, the latter people got a little more cred). Then some people would take the other approach and go all-out with mean messages (“You have awful pictures”), which was always really nice to get first thing in the morning.
I was excited about two guys in particular and spared no time tentatively planning drinks after a short correspondence. One was a guy very different from me, some kind of business job, but was charming and seemed into the same things I was. The other definitely clicked more, our messages back and forth were much more quippy and charming. Frankly, the latter was promising—I was excited about him and everyone joked that this could turn into some rom-com a la How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days.
I set up a date with the business man. Rather, we were trying to plan a time to get together. Our last message was from me, giving the times and days I was available. I haven’t heard from him in several weeks. Then there was the promising guy. We actually exchanged numbers (that’s safe, right?) and texted a bit, planning to meet up on Saturday. I’m not going to say that he completely stood me up (I wasn’t waiting at a restaurant or anything... that’s depressing). I will say that I went shopping, blow dried my hair to perfection and did a really good job on my makeup, only to sit in front of my TV, drink a bottle of wine and wait for him to let me know when and where dinner/drinks were happening. It was only well past the first bottle that I eventually received an apology text claiming he was really busy, accompanied with “Feel Good; you’re sexy, funny and intriguing.” I texted him a charming reply, something about how I understood but now he has to make it up to me. I haven’t heard back from him since.
I fully acknowledge that I was kind of setting these guys up to fail. After all, the majority of this was fueled by my insatiable desire to prove my own bravery in writing. What would I say to a guy if I actually liked him? “Uh, this was kind of a dare put on me by work.” Yeah, real smooth, Emily. Plus, since I had been on a dating site before it wasn’t like I was exploring some territory in the hope I would find out something new about myself. I already knew online dating just wasn’t for me. It works for a lot of people but maybe just not for yours truly.
So now I had a stillborn article conceived out of really intense excitement and discussion in the office. Everyone knew I was doing this. Everyone knew about my dating life because I’m incredibly unprofessional in the office. With my tail between my legs and swallowing immense pride, I stopped being “serious” about my dating (like I was ever serious to begin with). But I still had to write this article. The more I thought about it, the more I became curious about the reason why this piece was interesting, at least to a few people out there. It’s not like this was something that needed to be written about because no one else had dared. Pretty much everyone has written about this. At least every women’s publication.
And that’s why I have to write this.
Why, as a female journalist/blogger/editor (whatever you want to call me) do I feel like my dating life is completely up for grabs to anonymous readers? Why, in a time where women are becoming more prolific in the writing world, do we always end up with at least a few pieces relating to the trials or successes of romance? I have a friend who has been featured in the f*cking New York Times. What was the article about? Her love life.
Even recently, after picking up several magazines in the airport, I found that even an article written by a female journalist that was supposed to be about getting her vision checked turned into a story about how she eventually went out with the much younger man who worked at the eyeglass shop.
And yes, I’m aware that this is, in fact, loosely related to the romantic comedy How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days. But you know, that had a happy ending because instead of going to DC to become a serious journalist she stayed in New York and made out with Matthew McConaughey on a bridge, which is actually quite dangerous.
The real question is: do we write about dating because we’re expected to or do we write about our dating lives because we want to? Of course, it is extremely cathartic. It’s nice to put it out there, with the hopes of gaining some empathy from an anonymous girlfriend across the country who has a similar story. It’s the same when we get together with our friends at dinner and give each other the rundown of a great date or a bad date.
The worst part about the stigma of female writers talking about adventures with the opposite sex is that somehow we got sucked into the Carrie Bradshaw comparison. Sure, part of me wanted to be like her back in high school. The shoes, the apartment, the various outrageous shenanigans all appealed to me, hoping that my future would be as remotely exciting as that. Well, I ended up in New York. I ended up making money as a writer. I even ended up with a pair of Louboutins (that I will protect like my firstborn). And yeah, I ended up dating and having sex, all while being in this city. But looking back on SATC, it disgusts me. Instead of feeling like it was a feminist manifesto, I felt that it was resting on the stigmas of being a female. Carrie talked a lot about how she wanted to be taken seriously, but there she was, pondering over stupid little shit. Not to mention the fact that as a freelancer, she would have never made enough money for her apartment/shoes/constant parties.
Plus, why don’t guys feel like they have to do this? I don’t think I’ve ever read a piece about a guy trudging through the dating wilderness. Perhaps it might be the constant argument that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and the latter group just likes to talk about feelings. Or whatever. Listen, that whole thing is getting dumber and dumber. Men like to talk about their feelings too, and that’s not just the gay ones (a whole different set of inappropriate stereotypes can be found there).
As I’m writing this, I got another message from someone on OKCupid. Is he cute? Would we have chemistry? Am I going to reply? Honestly, it’s none of your f*cking business. Sure, I’ve shoved a tube up my butt for the pleasure of your reading, which may or may not have crossed some kind of private/ethical line. My refusal to write a piece about dating isn’t just about privacy, or some kind of feminist statement, it’s purely because I am taking the stance that I shouldn’t HAVE to write about this to feel validated as a journalist/blogger/editor. There will be many more chances to make good on other dares, but for me, the most daring thing to attempt is not telling the world about my romantic life.