After 4 and 1/2 years of sporadic online dating, punctuated by several lovely relationships, I shared my experiences with online dating as a single mom. Before the piece was published, however, I closed my 3 virtual dating accounts.
Why you may ask, would one follow a piece about online dating with the decision to step back from that same activity?
Please let me explain…
I spent some part of the past 4 1/2 years on one or more of the following sites:
- Tinder– I opened an account here out of sheer curiosity and closed it when I realized the site was not for me because I am not interested in superficial relationships. I am a profoundly deep, deeply deep person, obviously. And old. SO, so old. 41 years old, which in online dating years is equivalent to being a dinosaur. Tinder is the site where you swipe “yes” or “no” based on a carefully curated selection of photos which, if you are a man, must necessarily include a photo of you holding a fish, or a cat, or if you’re a woman, a photo of you with your hair curled over your lip like a fake mustache. I never met anyone from Tinder, because I was too busy playing “Hot or Not” and swiping my way through Vermont’s entire Tinder population. Given the age range I’m interested in, this process took about 2 hours.
- OKCupid– is my preferred online dating site because it is free, and because it allows me to connect with both men and women who are interested in me, or, based on my experience, almost no one. I can’t say much about the compatibility algorithms the site developed, but they’re as good a starting place for a conversation as any.
- Match– lured me into subscribing by making me think that people who pay between $20 and $40/month would be more interested in starting a relationship than people on free sites because they’re essentially being fined by Match until they partner up. It may be that most people on Match (in the U.S.?) are fundamentally less frugal than I am, but I balk at paying to be on a dating site and then having my carefully crafted introductory messages met with resounding virtual silence. Match also doesn’t believe bisexuals exist and makes it impossible to search for men and women simultaneously. All told, I dated 2 men from Match. Assuming I subscribed for 2 years and paid $20/month (because you can bet I found a coupon) the 2 relationships cost $480 in Match subscription fees. Can I please get a refund?
Now let me share my reasons for closing (but not deleting my accounts):
- The magic was gone. Online dating used to feel like a world of infinite possibilities, where love could be hiding behind any well-written, thoughtful profile. One day, profiles started to blend together; everybody wrote the same corny jokes and enjoyed the same tired hobbies until individual profiles became a monolithic entity that no longer intrigued me. Then I started to feel rage towards people who wrote such gems as “I like having fun” and “I enjoy hanging out with friends and laughing.” Don’t misunderstand me, please: I am not a secret fan of misery, and I don’t particularly want to spend time with my enemies, weeping. I do, however, hope to meet someone who appreciates creativity and language enough to never write something so asinine.
- Hobbies. Going back to the issue of hobbies, I found myself wanting to know what all these international travelers, mountain climbers, beach lovers, and trail runners do for fun on a daily basis in Vermont. I love to hike, travel, and go to the beach (nope, not touching trail running even though I am so inspired by my friend, Mirna) but my single mom life requires sacrifices. So, instead of planning international treks, I’ve learned how to ferment vegetables. Instead of visiting fancy restaurants, I challenge myself to cook new foods. I make joy a priority, and do things every day that make me happy. Small activities, to be sure, but every meaningful moment counts. I want to meet someone who makes happiness an everyday goal, and who doesn’t just live for the weekends and the big trips.
- I was seeing the same people on every site. I looked at them all, not just the ones I joined. Seven Days Personals– check: same people. Match- check: same people. OKCupid… Tinder… You get the point. This is Vermont. Population 626,042. To show how small and shallow the dating pool here is, let’s do some math. Of the 626,042 VT residents, assume half are too old or too young for me. We’re left with 313,021 men and women who are within my age range. Probably less, but 50% lends itself well to easy math. Let’s divide that number in two again, to account for all the straight women who aren’t interested in dating me. 156,510. Gay men and lesbians cancel each other out. Then assume that 50% of the population is married. I’ve never been a cheater, so I’m left with 78,255 people to date. Wahoo! I should be able to get a date any night, right? Nope! Yeah… there has to be something wrong with my math because 1 person out of 78,255 must want to date me, yet here I am, single as ever.
- Online dating can make me feel like people are a never-ending resource in the cosmic vending machine of authentic connections. Instead of investing in one person at a time, it is alarmingly easy for me to casually chat with many people at once online, not like there is anything inherently wrong with that, and then move on at the slightest sign of strife or minor difficulty. I’m not advocating for strife, or for taking on burdensome people unless you enjoy those things, but sometimes writing isn’t the best way to get to know someone, and perhaps I need to do a better job of investigating the cause of the strife or difficulty before cutting ties. From my perspective, I’ve noticed that more than half of the people I communicate with online lose interest in me when they discover just how not-spontaneous my single mom life is. Dating me isn’t always easy or convenient. I’m not able to meet for lunch tomorrow without negotiating with my babysitters, and there’s no way I’m going to invite a stranger to the home I share with my 5-year-old daughter. The supposed convenience of online dating is alluring, but there’s nothing actually convenient about commodifying connections and being treated (and treating others) like we are all not unique and special people, worthy of at least a small investment of time to get to know.
- Time. Like most adults, my time is precious. I didn’t want to waste another minute carefully composing a message to someone who couldn’t be bothered to respond, even to let me know they weren’t interested. Forget that! My time is too valuable for constant rejection. In the time I gained from not participating in online dating I have: learned to make kefir, invented 700 new dishes using my new kefir, helped a friend with a major editing project, joined an online feminist community, resumed twice weekly barre classes, played pub trivia, and watched some quality television. I’ve even slept a little more. Clearly I haven’t been home crying into my oatmeal about the romantic matches I’m not making online.
- I’m tired of having my feelings hurt and being disappointed. I know that relationships, including friendships, require risk, and I’m not afraid of being vulnerable. But after sending hundreds of thoughtful and funny messages, and hearing back from 3% of the people I write online, I am feeling sensitive. I’m also feeling bitter. I don’t want these feelings in my life anymore. It’s time to focus on appreciating the wonderful people and experiences in my life, and on helping myself in ways that have nothing to do with dating.
- ME. I want to learn to prioritize myself, without complicating my life with strangers from the virtual dating world. Furthermore, there are a lot of people I spend time with who I would love to get to know better. I want to focus on the genuine relationships I already have, even if they’re not romantic relationships. I often wonder if my wonderful friends are the true loves of my life; they bring me so much joy and I really love and appreciate every one of them. I may not have a partner, but I do have friends who love me, and that is something to be grateful for every single day.
With these reasons in mind, I am trying to formulate what I need to change in myself if I am going to rejoin the world of online dating again.
I am not opposed to dating because I really would love to have a romantic connection resulting in a new friend, a few fun dates, or even a life partner. I still believe that I am worth loving and that I deserve to share my life and happiness with a romantic partner. But until I fully understand what changes in behavior or expectations that I need to make in order to not feel used, embittered, and sad because of virtual interactions, then I’m not getting back into online dating. No online dating for this single mama!