Online dating sucks….but so does dying alone

16 May

16178079I first tried online dating in the summer after my college graduation, and have returned to it occasionally in the intervening years, never for longer than it takes to remember that the universe is populated by a lot of strange and disconcerting people.

Though my experiences have been generally benign, I started experimenting with e-love a solid five years before it became acceptable among 20-somethings, and so at least in the beginning found myself interacting with a cast of truly special characters. There was the 6’8 guy who said approximately eight words during our entire dinner, the 32-year-old who still lived with his mom, the aspiring actor whose idea of a date was watching an episode of Law & Order he’d appeared in, and, perhaps most memorably, the baby-faced graphic designer who cooked me dinner and then tried to discretely do cocaine for the remainder of the evening. Even now, as the hipsterfication of OkCupid has popularized it as a source of potential romance, I find myself exhausted by the prospect of reading through 100 profiles of bearded guys whose interests include whiskey, bicycles and afternoons spent artistically fraying their jorts.

But despite having such a limited tolerance for, well, anything that requires emotional fortitude, I do have immense respect for people who tough it out, and pursue the online dating thing for years on end. John P. Gavin, author of the rather directly titled Online Dating Sucks….but it’s how I fell in love, is one such person.

ODS is by and large a compendium of online-dating advice columns Gavin wrote for a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper, interspersed with introductory explanations of what was going on in his life at the time. The book begins with Gavin’s wife leaving him — a darkly comic scene you might expect to open a quirky romantic comedy starring Steve Carell — and ends with (spoiler alert?) love.

So what are Gavin’s great insights into finding “the one” (or at least “a one”) online? Predictable, if still poignant. ODS treads on well-worn territory — dudes lie in their profiles, dudes date many girls at once, dudes are sometimes/often only interested in sex — and for the most part simply encourages women to work with and around these occupational hazards of the Internet slash men. Instead of agonizing over a guy’s words (or emails), pay attention to his actions. Instead of over-expending energy on weeding out potential “players,” focus on the connection and take things as slow as you want to. And for the love of God, don’t quit your job and buy a condo in his neighborhood until you’ve met face to face.

ODS has some nice moments, and a few crucial no-nonsense observations. (I’m sorry ladies, there is just no real way to know ahead of time whether a guy will call you after sex.) Perhaps most impactful are Gavin’s frequent reminders that everything up to an actual sit-down with a dude is potentially (and probably) bullshit—not just his claims to be 30 years old, gainfully employed and “an avid windsurfer,” but maybe his entire personality and character, the pre-date blanks of which women tend to fill in with sunshine and rainbows.

Where ODS struggles is in its format. The decision to package and introduce the columns feels clunky and unnecessary, and the intros’ nostalgic tone seems premature; half the columns were written in 2012. Most importantly, without the benefit of separation, the columns’ central themes are oft-repeated, although Gavin’s ability to express those themes improves over the course of the book. Overall, he would have been better served splitting ODS up in a different way, and perhaps breaking out of the column format altogether. (Personally I think Gavin should have run with a glossary approach; the portion of one column he spends deconstructing dating profile phrases like “Let’s just see what happens” is easily the best part of the whole book.)

Of course, the real lesson of ODS is its finale, which is also the reason for the book’s heavy-handed title. After years of questing for love on the Internet, Gavin finds it, and so we’re to conclude that all the perils of online dating — the weirdos, the assholes and the countless sit-downs at Starbucks — are worth it, because in the end you just might find the one. Which is essentially the standing argument for regular dating. Indeed, for all the convenience and opportunity of e-romance, it’s ultimately just as complicated and frustrating and tiresome as meeting people in bars, or at bookstores, or while fighting over Whole Foods’ last carton of organic soy milk. Dating isn’t intimidating  because you’re meeting people online or at a party; it’s intimidating because you’re meeting people, and the vast majority of those encounters won’t come to anything. So I suppose in the end Gavin’s ellipses are necessary, though the “Online” may not be. Dating does Suck….but you can’t drag your male friends to weddings forever.

2papercutsTITLE: Online Dating Sucks…but it’s how I fell in love
AUTHOR: John P. Gavin
PAGES: Kindled
SORTA LIKE: He’s Just Not That Into You meets You’ve Got Mail
FIRST LINE: “It’s May 2001, and I’m sitting out back.”

4 Responses to “Online dating sucks….but so does dying alone”

  1. shobha May 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    I know lots of couples who got married after meeting on ODS and not just limited to 30’s. Thank goodness I met my hubby the old fashioned way before ODS took off (in the Age of the Dinosaurs) as I’m not sure I could cope!

  2. be2beme May 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    Did they decode “playing games”? Just about every other guy writes it yet I don’t know what they mean to place it so prominently in their profiles. What games are these?

  3. site de rencontre gratuit July 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused .. Any ideas? Many thanks!

  4. RealBestAnswer January 18, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    It is really Horrible to die of a lonely death.

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