It has been so long since I have been on the kind of date arranged by friends or a guy simply asking me out after meeting me at work, a bar, a bookstore, an event – anything which included physical presence of two beings – that I honestly can’t recall the last time I was asked out face to face.  If I had to guess, it was probably 20 years ago at least.

Back then, I had the internet but the only electronic communication I had with guys was via email after we had already met and shared email addresses – which was rare.  My “cell” phone was a car phone so no text messages.  The one time my boyfriend was super late, my landline was dead because I hadn’t paid the bill so I had to go down to the car, turn it on and plug in the car phone to call and check up on him.  No GPS telling me where he was en route.

I had a landline and an answering machine.  Before caller ID, I had no idea if a guy had tried to call me if he hadn’t left a message.  With the advent of caller ID, I got clued in to early male insecurity by being able to see the same guy calling several times without leaving a message.  I tended to walk away from those guys.  I guess by not returning the calls or hiding when they came knocking at the door, I was participating in an early form of “ghosting.”

Google had very little information on actual people I knew so if someone had a “problem,” I was doomed to find out in person just by getting to know him and having to trust what I was being told.  I learned how to extricate myself from potential relationships the awkward way – face to face – or, again, hiding out of window site.

Now, everyone I meet is someone I can screen via dating profile.  I can tell right away, from photos, which guys don’t interest me at all:

  • Smokers – they have sallow skin and a little darker contour under the eyes
  • Guys in tank tops of any kind for any reason
  • Shirtless dudes
  • Guys standing next to their cars, holding their fish, holding their gun, sitting on a tractor
  • Usually wearing any camouflage
  • Overly beefy, gym photos
  • Long beards in the shape of poop or that look like pubes
  • Guys who are wearing sunglasses in every photo
  • High school glory day throwback photos and comments
  • The typical Alpha dude.  I can tell by what they write.
  • Group photos where you can’t tell which guy it is and you are sure the cute ones must not be him.  You almost want to message and ask if the friends are available…or worse, their sons.

Swipe left…

Then, the ones who haven’t been immediately disqualified due to overtly apparent mismatch, I read their profiles and look for sentiments like “no drama” which hints of overall emotional immaturity.  Or recently single, divorced or separated which means they want to “get out” but aren’t really ready yet.  I am not a rebound girl so they don’t interest me.

I look for a little originality in profile write-ups which shouldn’t be hard but it really is because every profile sounds the same “love hiking, camping, fishing, laughing, country music, my friends and my kids.”  Everyone does.  Boring.

I could go on as to how I filter through but feel I can at least get precise enough to have a pleasant first date even if there only is a first date.  I have never been in a situation where I felt I had to sneak out of a restaurant.

But is this a good thing or a bad thing?  Have we over orchestrated our lives in the electronic world?

This weekend I met a guy at a local bar.  Turns out he was a smoker which wasn’t ideal but he was nice enough.  I figured we’d have a couple beers, share a pizza and call it a night.  But the bartender put on “Flock of Seagulls” Pandora and the 80s hits came left and right.  We both knew them all and found out we had been to a ton of the same concerts over the past 30 years.  And then he pulled out a picture of his Pug.  I have a pug too!

We were having so much fun he suggested we walk down the street to his house, light up the fire pit and listen to great music.  I agreed.  Perfect thing to do at the Cape on a Saturday night.  I met his pug and fell in love with her immediately.  We talked about getting them together for a dog date.  We lit the fire up and played a bunch of obscure Cure b-sides, more obscure than the actual B-Sides they put out with “Standing on a Beach.”  We just couldn’t believe how much we had in common and how much fun we were having together.  I called it a night early so I wouldn’t make bad decisions which I have the tendency to do around midnight.

He texted me that night to tell me how much he enjoyed the night and that we should do it again to which I agreed.  He said we should meet up next Friday which was perfect for me.  I’d head out as soon as I dropped Fergus off at the house.  About an hour later, he texted and said “screw that, why not skip going home tonight and let’s meet at 7:30 for dinner?”  Problem was, I was already home after my 2 hour drive, which I told him.  He then responded and told me our dating site has GPS and said I was still in Brewster so I shouldn’t lie about not wanting to see him again.  WTF?  I don’t know why my profile hadn’t updated but I was seriously at home running the dishwasher and reading US magazine in my sweatpants in Tyngsboro.

So, that’s over.  I get that we all look at that stuff.  I have.  But you don’t admit it!!!!  Even, “scorched earth” me knows not to do that.  Creepy!  And, he used that to accuse me of lying which I wasn’t doing.  If I don’t want to see someone again, I am perfectly capable of expressing that like a mature adult.

Believe it or not, I have created some rules for myself about leveraging technology with dating.  I actually do not try to find them on Facebook while we are talking and seeing each other.  I want to find things out the old fashioned way – conversation and questions.  It’s really fun when you randomly find out what you have in common.  I love the “high five” and “fist pump” dating moments.  Conversely, it’s just daunting to know something you may have learned ahead of time the “creepy” way because if you drop it in topic, he’ll know where it came from.  I have a hard enough time keeping their names straight.  I cannot handle the responsibility of trying to “unknow” things.  I am a terrible liar.  And deceit is just not a great starting point for a relationship.

If things don’t work out, then I have at it online because I get curious.  After all, that’s how I found out my world traveler has a wife, my weak spine guy has a greater desire for attention than me and if I am better or worse looking than the ex.  I also keep any mention of “live” dating off social media altogether.  They only get mentioned when they are “dead” and turn to blog fodder.  I won’t do that to someone I actually know and am trying to cultivate trust and privacy with.  Ah…you see, I am not all exhibitionist all the time.  I am deeply protective of privacy in certain cases.

Had I not been accused of lying about my whereabouts on Sunday, I’d have a date lined up for Friday night with a guy I would eventually be letting down easy face to face – that we would probably be better as friends but mean it and stay in touch.  It’s unfortunate to lose the potential friendship because together, we were a total blast and had the whole bar involved.  I miss having friends like that.  All my friends live at least an hour away so I don’t get to do that very often.

Overall, HUGE fan of the electronic world and the doors it has opened for me socially and creatively.  But where is the line when we do too much harm to ourselves when we “stalk” each other to skip past the awkward conversations, the challenging conversations or miss out on the fun conversations – the possibility conversations?  Are we so afraid of one another’s lives and past lives, we won’t venture outside the electronic realm and risk real connection, messy connection?  Are we so afraid to be seen with someone we fear won’t measure up to what our friends expect of us?  Are we so terrified they have one secret we could never accept?  By having the proverbial “everything” at our fingertips, are we risking the loss of everything real?  Are we better or worse?