The Malleable Trajectory of Desire in Online Dating
Online dating is a weird phenomenon that has changed many of the rules we once knew to hold true for relationships. And one of the amazing aspects is the real estate like show of women and their profiles, likes, desires, must haves, and in the case of OK Cupid, maybe even their kinky fantasies. Outside of online pornography, never before have so many women been displayed online in photos and bullet points.
And in several discussions with friends about “dating” the superficial elements came up in two very different ways.
First Conversation: I was discussing this process with a woman who has never tried online dating, “and never will.” Okay. “I just think it’s so wrong to judge someone on their looks alone. You might be missing the perfect woman for you, because she doesn’t meet some criteria that’s just about her looks.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “That’s true.”
“I think it’s wrong, and superficial, and I can’t believe you buy into it.”
“Okay, so let’s say you did, buy into it. And you had to weed down say 2,000 potential matches. What criteria would you use? How would you go about picking from that list?”
She was quiet.
“Because, you have to admit there’s got to be some physical attraction.”
“Of course,” she said. “But that’s so little of what goes into an actual relationship.”
I agreed. “You are right, but, without that spark of desire, there’s not much chance of moving on to the relationship part.”
“I know,” she agreed. “But it seems wrong to be judging these women from pictures. Like cattle, or things. It’s demeaning.”
“How would you go about solving the issue? How would you make choices and actually pick someone to approach?”
She was almost angry, at this point, “I wouldn’t. I would never do it.”
Okay, we were obviously not going to reach agreement on this one. Let’s move on.
Second Conversation: “I’ve got this great person for you. She’s amazing. But she didn’t want someone with young kids.”
“Sure, what’s her user name?”
“Well, don’t you want to hear about her? Call me on the phone.”
“Just give me her user name.”
“I mean, she was amazing, and she does the same thing you do. She was really hot, and sexy. And I gave her your website address and she said to send you her information.”
“She’s a bit older than my tastes.”
Initially I laughed, but then I was kind of sad for this friend. Women of our own age are VERY attractive. And in my spectrum of desire, even more desirable than younger or fitter models. But the next revelation was more insightful for me. She didn’t want to date me, even though the chemistry between us was good, she even admitted that. But she didn’t want someone with younger kids. Her’s were out of the house. Mine were 11 and 13. Okay, same bias.
He didn’t want someone who was that old. She didn’t want someone who was younger, but had younger kids. Two misses in one transaction. Both a bit misguided and superficial, but ultimately we have to build some criteria for picking and choosing what it is we want next in a relationship, or date.
In the online dating world I maintain profiles on two different sites. And now, after a few weeks back online, I have culled the list on one site to about 3 profiles, and this was from about 150 women. And on the second, more popular and paid site, I have gone from 1,234 matches to about 10.
And as the process goes, you wander through various permutations of physical courting, either “Hey let’s grab coffee” or “Hey, I’m into Game of Thrones too.” And the dance proceeds from there.
Some are quick to accept the meeting idea and the plans are easily set. Some are allusive and won’t respond directly to an offer for a meeting. They’d rather chit chat for awhile. It is possible that their dance cards are full and they are spacing you out a bit on their calendar, or they might not be that interested, but interested enough not to blow you off. It’s a hard thing to determine.
Either way, what you do in the dance, is try to get a meeting so you can both lay eyes on one another. Photos lie. And they sometimes lie big.
And as a romantic, I can get drawn into a photograph and begin to imagine connections that simply are not there when we meet. So for me, it’s best to set the date and chill the fk out. And from what I’ve found, most women like this approach as well. If you get too chatty, or too friendly, the throw up a red flag and either time you out, or drop you from their potentials list.
So you set the date and you meet. Then things go from fantasy based on photographs to fantasy based on a physical meeting. Still fantasy. And here’s the amazing thing, your ideas of desire change dramatically based on the photos or profile highlights. And this too is pure fantasy, and yet these fantasies give us insight into turn-ons and turn-offs in our own hopeful quest.
For example, there is a woman in my small pond of desirable women who is an avid soccer player. She’s uber-fit, has a magnetic smile in her photos, and is sporting an interesting tattoo on her tan and strong arm. She is the meander type. We’ve been chatting and emailing for weeks. For awhile she was sick. For another week she was just starting a new job and wasn’t available. Now it’s the World Cup, and she’s just busy. When I ask her about availability, she says she’s gone on some dates, but hasn’t kissed the right frog yet.
But there’s nothing I have been able to do (chatting about soccer, world cup, which coffee shops she likes) to tip her over the edge of meeting me face-to-face. Even so, my fantastic mind has wrapped several times around this type of woman. Self-described tomboy, athletic, young, vigorous, likes to hang and drink with the boys. And in my malleable mind, I begin forming a life with her: short-form fantasy only, I’m not trying to write our history, just imagining dating, kissing, making love, not really planning our lives together. And for me, this woman still scores a very high number in my desirable book.
Another example is a women who seems a bit bookish in her photos. But a smile to knock you out. She was quick to accept an offer to meet and we agreed on a music club/coffee bar nearby. And for the few days before we met, we exchanged emails and eventually texts about things. She was funny, witty, and had a great sense of humor. And in her photos I was able to stretch out my imagination into something resembling desire, but… And here’s the but… I could see in her photos that there was the possibility of my fantasy being less grounded in reality. Nothing major, but some subtle hints that the top profile photo was an extraordinary moment, and not a view into the day-to-day woman I was going to meet.
And while she was attractive and funny when we met, there were plenty of things that didn’t work out for me. I’m not sure how she felt, but it was a quick read for me. Something about that gut instinct. It really wasn’t anything in particular. She was cute, funny, talkative. She had two kids and seemed to have her relationship to her ex-husband sorted out. But, sadly, it was a no for me.
Even when we think we know what we want, until we see her and hear her and begin to understand her, we’re projecting a fantasy of what we want her to be. And neither of these women were what I expected. And I’m still waiting to get an acceptance from the soccer-babe. I’m guessing I’m just outside of her desirable scale and she’s postponing out of courtesy, and not wanting to piss me off.
What I’ve learned: If a girl is interested she will take the date offer. If she’s mildly interested she might string you on a bit. If she’s not interested she won’t respond to anything you say or do.
Either way, my imagination is strong and while my list is fairly short on both sites, there are a few new women per week that show up. And the expectation is that they too are looking for some level of a relationship. And thus we go on projecting, hoping, and molding our concepts of what we want to match up the profiles that appear attractive to us on little more than a pretty photo and a few touch points of interest.
The Off Parent
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image: the spice girls, wikipedia, creative commons usage