I'm sure there are many, many reasons why online dating is weird, of which I'm bound to discover more in the weeks and months (and oh god, please not years) ahead. So far I have come across two reasons why online dating is weird.
Reason #1: You never know who you'll run into (aka please stay inside the computer until I ask you to come out, ok, thanks!)
Michael* is a 32-year-old real estate developer. And he's 6'7". In my head I dubbed him Tall Guy, because I'm creative** like that. Jackpot! I thought. I love me a tall guy, and it doesn't get much taller than 6'7" (and if it does, I want nothing to do with it. Freak!) We had exchanged a couple e-mails but hadn't yet gotten to the point of arranging to meet in person.
In an unrelated event, last night I went to a party with my roommate. (It really is unrelated! I swear!) It was plein du monde, as the French would say, or packed like sardines in a can, as the Americans would say. (Why must the French always be so much more poetic, why? Their parties are full of the world while ours are crowded with smelly fish? It doesn't seem fair). Suddenly, into this melee walks...Tall Guy! (Gotcha! You totally didn't see that coming, did you?) We made eye contact as he walked by and got lost in the crowd, but I couldn't tell if he recognized me. The conversation I was in became mostly one-sided as I lapsed into reverie, gazing off into the mid-distance and smiling wryly. Oh, the irony! (although perhaps more in the Alanis Morisette sense of the word). I mean, what are the odds! Surely, in the history of the world, I am the only person something like this has happened to. After a few minutes, "Excuse me!" I blurted out. "I'll be right back." (You didn't think I would just let it go, did you?) After fighting my way through the masses, I tracked him down in the dining room. I stood right in front of him, looking up at him until he noticed me. "Um, excuse me," I said. "This is really awkward but...are you Mike?" (Of course he was, or this story would make no sense at all). We chatted for a few minutes while I strained my neck looking up at him. Seriously, this guy was tall! Perhaps...too tall. Which I kind of want to punch myself in the face for saying, because really. If you had insinuated to me before that there was such a thing as too tall I would have called you a liar. But now I'm thinking that perhaps there is such a thing as too tall, and perhaps 6'7" is it, if only for comfort's sake. Which makes things so much more difficult, because it was one thing when I limited my dating criteria to guys 6'0" and up, but it's totally another thing to realize that I really only want to date guys between 6'2" and 6'4". That's what, 6% of the population? Sigh.
So at first glance Tall Guy seemed not all that cute or all that sparkling of a conversationalist. Which I figured was actually a good thing to know and get out of the way without all the complications and awkwardness of an actual, planned date. I mean, if he asked me, I might go out with him once, just to give it a fair shot, but at least now I know what I would be getting into. (And I'd know to stock up on Advil for the neck strain. Because seriously).
So, to recap, Reason #1 Why online dating is weird: the world is small and Mike is tall (or something to that effect). Now, moving on to...
Reason #2 Why online dating is weird: Sometimes you meet weird people (aka put down the tin foil and walk away!)
Joe* is a 25-year-old manager of operations in a technical firm. (And he's 6'1", but that's unrelated. For real this time). Sounds pretty normal so far, right? However, he provided me with one of my most funny/weird/totally nonsequitur date moments so far, which I do appreciate in terms of blog fodder alone. But let me back up a moment. One of the first things I learned about Joe was that he has birds. As pets. I mean, what 25-year-old urban guy has birds as pets? I was actually hoping to god that he lived with his parents, because that was the only thing I could think of to explain the birds (a parakeet and a cockatiel). I mean, maybe the birds were his parents' and he didn't want to admit to me yet that he lived with his mom and dad. No such luck. He lives with roommates. Ok, so I let that one go, because to each his own, and if he loves his birds maybe that shows that he has a sweet and tender side.
But then, out comes weird thing two. He asked me if I had the opportunity to see any band, any band at all, alive or dead, on one night only, who would I choose? So I thought it through and decided that given the opportunity, I really should take advantage of the ability to choose a band that's no longer in existence, because why would I waste this wish on a band I could see anytime with just a credit card and a night to kill? So I said the Beatles. Do you want to know what he said? Do you want to know? I know you do.
Huey Lewis and the News. "Huey Lewis...and the News?" I said. "Ok...?" He just really likes Huey Lewis and the News. And birds. So now you have a vague idea of who this kid is. Well, maybe, because I sure as hell still have no idea. Which brings us to our date.
We met in the Common and sat on the grass and talked for a bit, and I knew right away that the date wasn't going to go anywhere. There was nothing overtly terrible about him, but there was absolutely no chemistry and he just seemed a bit odd at times. Nothing I could put my finger on, really, just a tendency to say slightly bizarre things, like, well, for example...
We had lunch in McCormick&Schmick's. After discussing how long we'd lived in Boston, where else we had lived before that, and other various first date minutiae, there was a silence. He gazed off into the distance, obviously thinking of something. Then, dreamily, he said, "Cats don't like tin foil."
"No. If you put a cat in a room covered in tin foil, it'll freak out."
There are so many, many possible questions and responses to this statement of fact, that I didn't even know where to begin, and instead changed the subject. Quickly. But what I wanted to say, all at the same time and with no logical order at all, was something along these lines: "Why?!!" and "No, but why?!?!?!?!?!" and "Bwagghh?" Seriously, Internet, what are you supposed to say in a situation like that?
Needless to say, I didn't plan to see him again. After a couple of phone calls that I didn't return, I wrote him a very honest e-mail, telling him that he's a very nice guy, but I just don't think I'm ready to date yet. I was trying to take my mind off a break-up and it just wasn't working, and I'm not really in a good place now, etc etc. All of which is totally true. He wrote back and said that he understood, no hard feelings, and to look him up later this summer if I wanted to. Which is all fine. Except when I just fact-checked his height and his age online right now, I see that he closed the match. Which is fine too. However, what I'm confused about is the reason he selected. Let me just preface this by saying that this particular online dating website, which sounds like "Fee Harm on Me," requires you to select from a list of excuses, I mean reasons, to explain why you don't want to pursue a particular match. Some of the possibilities are: I have too much happening in my life at the moment, I don't feel that the chemistry is there, I want to pursue other matches at (Fee Harm on Me), I would rather not say, or even the vague and all-encompassing Other. Do you want to know what reason he chose? Of all the possible eighteen reasons? He decided to close the match because I think our family backgrounds are too different. Bwagghh?
Moral of the story of Reason #2 Why online dating is weird: I'm not really sure, but I am very much loving the fact that the number one search result for googling "tin foil room cat" is a dooce post.
So, readers and online daters. 'Fess up. Why else is online dating weird? I have a feeling we've just barely begun to skim the surface here. Share!
*Names have not been changed, because I just don't have that kind of time or creative energy.
**Seriously, this is about as creative as it gets.