One drink in, it became clear that date number one didn’t think too much of my profile. I had not even attempted the first section, “My self-summary.” Answering, “What am I doing right now? We ate turkey jerky and olives, and in a mostly empty bar, the barman watched us talk. We talked about homemade vodka stills, music composition, motorcycles and Vermont. With the exception of my first long-term relationship, all the men I have loved would not register as a match for me. This is because I didn’t respond to those who just sent pictures of their bodies, or those who were more my enemy, percentage-wise, than my friend or my match. (Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t.) I think I was wrong to assume this.
” I had replied, “Suffering questions designed to provoke existential dread.” I had left “The most private thing I am willing to admit” blank. I did not know then that there is a distinct look to an internet date. He had indigestion, and fits of hiccups preoccupied him from time to time. But I also had the convenient excuse that I was not American.
I had also misspelled my moniker and couldn’t change it without paying money, so was stuck with Vivan Rutledge. He was currently working as a systems specialist for a lighting design company. ” I would finish teaching, glance at my phone, and find that in the past hour, I had received 20 new email messages. Growing up in New Zealand, I did not date, but roamed in packs. The thought that you could kiss a stranger on the basis of an hour-long coffee date was laughable.
“Saving the world’s lighting, one rich person at a time,” he said. We had agreed to meet at a Japanese cocktail bar that is known for its ceiling fresco of unhappy-looking Asiatic cherubs. From Ok Cupid alone, I was receiving more than a hundred a day. A “conversation” about whether to even hang out in the first place seemed bureaucratic.“A guy I work with says that.” I liked that he gave credit where it was due. We drank, and talked and smiled at each other, and the smiling and the talking were utterly separate, like sound and image in a silent film. This was my fault: I simply needed to reset the email notification settings on my account. Nonetheless, despite my smug dismay with American culture, I’d grown up with American TV.It may have been the whiskey, but at a certain point he hit the praise button. And they’re stuck on terms and phrases like “self-summary” and “love of his life”. As I cycled home afterwards, over the Manhattan Bridge, it was surprisingly cold. He was moving to Brooklyn from Hoboken, and looking at apartments in my neighborhood. I had the superstitious delicacy that comes with the things you either want or are afraid you will not get. In one of his profile photos, he had a full-face temporary . That this was the default, though, says something about how Ok Cupid works. I knew about dating’s symbolic capital: about collecting and trading and returning digits, Valentines cards, football jackets, or golden hearts (half-hearted or whole) hung on golden chains. Even if I had not experienced any of this for myself before I moved to New York, I had the guilelessness of a tourist; I expected that living in New York, I would be subject to these ideals’ effect, even if I didn’t subscribe to them.He thought me better looking than my profile photo. I told him it was my first online date, and he was attentive and aggressively flirty in all the ways I had been dimly afraid of — proposing he accompany me to my friend’s lingerie business in Hudson that weekend, suggesting I stop by his place after a masked ball that weekend — but he had also been willing to talk about almost everything. I keep on wanting to write that his eyes were kind, but that’s not it at all. Outside, he watched me unfold my folding bicycle, and asked for a kiss. A proviso: if you’ve dated online before, then you know this kind of thing forwards and backwards and three times over by now. If I begin here, at such a basic, beginner’s level, then how far can I really get? I was drunk, and very aware I was grinning into the darkness, and grinning at my grinning. While we were waiting for a table, we had sat on the bench outside. I paid so much attention to that that I couldn’t recognise him at the cafe in the East Village — nor did he recognise me. I knew about private lines, and orchids on wrists, and being picked up at your door and dropped off at it. And throughout six years of a long-term relationship in New York, part of me kept on waiting for the other shoe to drop; even if dating seemed ridiculous, I still wanted to be asked. That man across the bar never smiled, never sidled up too close to me. There were private declarations of affection, but not public ones.He thought that he shouldn’t help me improve my profile. We sat alone at separate tables for 10 minutes before he got up to go outside, presumably to call, and I tried to steal his far-superior corner table. It seemed that for him, each decade was as distinct as a country, and that this one lacked natural resources. Sure, he lived among soft, overly optimistic fools now, he said, but no, he wouldn’t go back to that sharpness, that negativity. I knew about crying and eating ice cream out of the tub (though we had only large square plastic tubs, not your dainty circular ones), and how friends might arrive to squeeze me into heels and a dress and plant me at a bar where a nice man could smile at me across the mahogany. I watched rom-coms with an incredulous, pleading eye.
He came back inside and caught me, hovering, an inch away from sitting down. He was living in the East Village, biding his time, knowing that he wasn’t biding it for a partner or child, a better novel (he’d written three), family, or any other teleology we measure our lives by. I recognised the guilt in thinking that home was not enough. This all seemed ridiculous, and yet it never happened to me.
He worked as a copywriter in advertising, was from Ireland, had lived here for decades, still had the accent. He had a wit on him; he was quick, quicker than I, quicker than nearly everyone he knew. A couple of weeks later, date number three and I went on a second date to .
He also had a flourishing, conspiracy-minded sense of the controlling elite in the United States, and spoke darkly of the Ivy Leaguers controlling things. In one scene, a body double for Cameron Diaz straddles the windshield of a sports car, her legs split open wide with the impossible right-angledness of a Barbie doll or an 8-year-old professional gymnast.
The only other time I had inspected photos like this — amateur close-ups, one by one, each face flashing by — was when I read news reports of a mass killing. Here I had been stumbling around in the dark, my hands stuck out in front of me like a zombie, tripping over furniture, and now I had these night-vision goggles. It was a comfort to me that the website was so vast; I told myself that even if I tried, I would never exhaustively know my options. Another way of saying this is that I was still rather passive. Answering, “I spend a lot of time thinking about…” I had written: “Raptor Jesus. I was not being selective enough, or honest that I would have a preference; I should’ve been culling 99.5%, rather than 95%.
” No one had talked to me about internet dating, but everyone was doing it. “Normally I’m sceptical of anyone who mixes up book, movie, food, and music preferences…”), but I did respond to those who indicated they had actually read my profile. I told myself I would go on 10 dates and then reassess the situation. To anyone who’s actually used Ok Cupid before, it will be immediately clear I was not playing ball, or that if I was, I was using the wrong technique, playing tennis as if it were badminton, misjudging the weight of each shot.
That the only place I can see a visible pulse in my body is a tiny dimple of skin just below my ankle bone. In other words, out of fear and reason, I reined in my romanticism.