Sometimes I think I was born a century too late. Not that I would have enjoyed living through World War I or II, but there is something I find comfortable in the whole well-mannered, polite, corseted existence where one knows the rules and what is expected. One doesn’t dare speak of such awkward things as dating and disappointment; one's papa and mama simply have it all arranged.
Perhaps I have watched too much Downton Abbey, or have read too much Edith Wharton. The problem being with this type of existence--where time seems only to be measured by society balls, meals and whether it is time to change for dinner--is that I like making my own choices and loathe being limited. I am not sure I could ever surrender Self to the whims of elder matchmaking, being paired off, discussed like an item at auction, my stats being compared with others to find the most fitting match. Yet, I realize, it's alive and kicking, maybe not dressed up in a hoop and crinoline, but it is there, and it is huge, it's a multi-million dollar industry! It's...ONLINE DATING. Maybe it's necessary. After all, we've done such stellar job of coupling ourselves--what's the divorce rate now? 50%?--that is it any wonder we want to entrust this job to a third party?
"In the U.S. alone, the target demographic for these services is 90 million singles that are between 19 and 45. Then there are the forty percent of frequent users that are already married." (Marty Zwilling, Start Up Professionals, Inc.) I get it, I do. Young professionals working all hours... who has the time to trawl restaurants and charity doodahs to meet nice folks? Specimen loitering at bars are easier to approach, but really are they the chosen one you can take home to mother? Instead, Generation X and Y are putting their fate and faith in the hands, not of The Dowager Duchess, but the "29 dimensions of compatibility" of eHarmony, Match.com, Ok-Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Christian Mingle, J Date... Oh lord, shoot me.
I don’t mean to poo-poo it. (I like doughnuts, once in a while.) I like to think I am liberated, and gung ho, and huzzah carpe diem! But this morning I found myself reading of this new app for the I-phone called “Let’s Date.” My eyes widened with alarm, my pulse quickened. I needed a good rousing waft of the smelling salts, so I reached for my coffee instead and inhaled deeply.
Let’s Date came out of the Apple Closet at the end of 2012, so I am probably WAYYYY behind the app - ball here. I bet you Krazee Kids have been using this wangle-dangle technology to lure and hook and gaff a mate for months, but, ever a tech-tard, there is a little lag for Ennie. It’s not that I’m incapable—I tweet, I Facebook, I instagram, I reluctantly Link In—but the thought of sifting through dating profiles of potential snaggle-toothed offerings who probably aren’t telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, just leaves me cold. “Granny,” as Lady Mary Crawley would call her, would do a far better job!
Don’t get me wrong, am not being a snotty little bovine, but, well, I guess the thought of a) openly serving my heart on a page, trying to explain me without jazz hands, and putting Self out there for the perusal of weirdos, psychos and inmates... erm... not tempting; b) I never imagined explaining the story of how I met the love of my life would begin, “Well, William, I saw your father’s picture on a dating website..." Fuck the doughnuts, I'd rather eat a lizard, shave my head and join the foreign legion.
Many of my friends use online dating sites however, and I am vicariously enthralled! And is it any wonder, thus far the friends' online trail has unearthed many Disappointments, one Illiterate who "doesn't read... because (he) doesn't have any books, one Ego-Maniac, a Stalker and a Midget. (Sorry, I know midgets have feelings too, but if you plan on dating a 6ft tall lady, I believe there should be some pre-date disclosure, right?)
But this Dating App has me truly befuddled, because now Daters, you can eliminate people on-the-go, and I am stinkin’ fascinated! Like watching-plastic-surgery riveted! I know I don’t want it, but I want to watch it! I want to know exactly how it works!
The concept is to have as many daters pass before your eyes, like a human buffet, each offering shown on a card (a profile) with five adjectives, or ingredients, that make them appealing to you… or not. It’s a speed dating of sorts, a microwave meal, a rapidly-served amuse bouche to give you a little flavour. It rather reminds me of Top Trumps, or baseball cards with players stats, and you compare the adjectives and photograph to see which win a “Let’s Date” touch of the screen, or a “No, thanks.” (I do like that rejection is polite, even when micro-waving away this poor untried Human Entrée.)
You can also highlight with the handy dandy touch of your screen the characteristics or preferences you dislike. This information, combined with the Daters you decline, gives the programme more detailed info about your likes and dislikes, and will present the cards of potentials who similarly do or don’t like that trait or activity. The more cards you decline, the more traits you highlight and dislike, the more accurate a vision of what your ideal would be. It is basically a computer model that uses the power of elimination to whittle the field of potential suitors and propose a specimen you might enjoy.
When you select your dish of the day, your own profile goes to near the top of their virtual stack of cards. If they like the sound of your menu, and similarly click, “Let’s Date,” well, colour be happy, no diggety, the Let’s Date app suggests a public meeting place based your joint interests. A conversation window pops up and apparently—how traditional!—it suggests that the chap treats the lady!
From the stats and science point of view, I think this a really interesting concept. Certainly, for quick, easy breezy cavalier, thumbs up, thumbs down, ruthless dispassionate rejection, it surely can’t be beat! But crumble my macaroons, should there be stats and science when it comes to dating?
Here’s my problem, one can’t cover the complexity of human attraction in an i-phone photo and 5 adjectives. Sure, the model of preferences and dislikes might be a science, but it fails to include chemistry or biology. What about pheromones? You can’t add that on an app. And I know some of the chaps I have dated and enjoyed fabulous, all-consuming relationships with, I would have never picked in a squillion years; yet, there was something irresistible: a fire in his eyes, a contagious laugh, an enquiring mind, a generous heart, a bon vivre—things you just can’t relay on a five adjective long MENu.
So it worries me that the science stats, or ill-chosen five adjectives might potentially knock out that computer geek who doesn’t own a suit, or the hunter who makes you laugh and smells so delicious to your senses, or the older man who just makes you weak-kneed with one look.
Am I saying don’t give it a go? No! Go for it, my fine Dating Friend! Enjoy, meet publicly and act kindly. But the hopeless romantic in me just quakes at the sterility, the lack of adjectives! Give me more adjectives! And maybe this will be a gateway to a longer conversation, I hope so, but the adjectives that don’t conform to your ideal, the ones that would have surprised you if you'd given them a chance, are lost in a click, consigned to cyber purgatory.
If you are traditional, confident and out-going, it’s not apps or online sites you need, it’s good people. Surround yourself with positive friends, friends with gumption, friends to have a coffee with, lunch or dinner with, friends to adventure places with, and it's whilst enjoying life, just as you are, that you'll catch a glimpse of those intriguing eyes which stop your smile, suck the breath from your lungs and make you feel like you are the corseted heroine in an Edith Wharton novel,
“Hello there. Dreadfully cold, isn’t it?”
“Rather. I’ve lost complete feeling in my fingers.”
“Lord, you are looking blue. Perhaps… can I get you a coffee…?”