Side Eyes

Internet dating takes a lot of patience. It takes a lot of patience, a sense of humor, a filter, a hard candy coating, and a take no prisoners attitude.

I have had many forays into internet dating, though the concept is a lot more organized than when I first dipped my big toe into it. See, kids, first there was instant messaging on AOL. Then MSN messenger became popular. Then Yahoo messenger joined the fray. Any other programs after those big three were copycats and fleeting.

The internet used to be very difficult to navigate and very boring. I remember poking around on it circa 1991 and thinking it wasn’t at all interesting – it moved painfully slowly, and it was like reading a 102-page term paper. But only a few years later, when these messenger programs were becoming popular, pop-up ads and porn were running amok like children who only ate sugar for all of their meals. So it didn’t take long for sex and porn to work their way into conversations happening on messenger windows.

By 1996, the internet was evolving quickly. I remember how exciting it was to join chat rooms to talk about a topic and actually connect with other people in real time. From my profile, other users could tell that I was a single woman in my 20s, and within a few minutes, I would be trying to juggle upwards of 25 windows of private chats – specifically, men who were trying to hit on me. Sometimes there would be bots in the room who would automatically start a chat when someone new would join, and they would include a link for you to click; but being the savvy users that we were, the other members of the chat would send out a general warning to ignore “STACIA69” or some similar screen name because it was a bot that would send your machine a virus. Decades before textspeak, we all had to learn cute codes and acronyms. There was no DTF (down to fuck), but I’m pretty sure the original was BRB, which, depending on who you ask, either stands for “be right back” or “bathroom break.” The chat rooms I chose to enter would be based on my location; at that time, I lived in Albuquerque, so I would enter a chat for that city or state. I hadn’t dated much before moving to New Mexico, so I wasn’t exactly confident in my ability to catch anyone’s attention. Suddenly, hoards of men wanted me! They all thought I sounded cute – blonde hair, green eyes, not too tall or short. If I felt like we could have conversations lasting more than two minutes before a guy started talking about banging, I’d go out with him. BAM! Internet dating.

Fast forward to 2003, after two live-in boyfriends: I relocated to a city where I didn’t know one single person. By this time, there were a few very popular sites set up specifically for dating, including eHarmony (which was heavily running ads on TV) and LavaLife. I tried to take the free eHarmony quiz, and at the very end of it, I wasn’t completely turned down, but I did get a message saying “Only 3% of the male population would be interested in dating you. Bear with us, it may take a few weeks to find someone who would be a match.” I joined LavaLife instead. I think they had categories available for people to choose broken down into “Dating,” “Long-Term Relationship” and “Just Sex” or something like that. I quickly found out that it didn’t matter which category you designated – the men would hunt you down for just sex. I remember that I went on a few dates with a guy who was a chauffeur, and I wasn’t feeling especially connected or attracted to him, but we were having an okay time – or so I thought. At the end of our third date, he turned to me, exasperated, and said, “So are we going to fuck or what?” I chose the “or what” and that was the end of that. Another guy that I started talking to through the site was in Italy (Yay! Very exciting!), and we started talking on Yahoo messenger. I think it was only five minutes into the conversation when he started sending me buzzes to try to get my attention because I wasn’t answering fast enough, then he told me he didn’t want me talking to any other men. To clarify, I wasn’t allowed to smile at or even look at other men, even if it was a guy ringing up my groceries. BAM! Internet stalker.

Around 2005, and entered the picture. At that time, both were very rudimentary; Match considered you a “match” if your height/weight/age/eye color fell within the other person’s parameters, and Plenty of Fish allowed users to send emails, but that was it. It was around this time that I started singing to myself, “Shopping for men! Shopping for men!” every time I’d log on. I had become a lot more specific about what I was looking for in men, starting with their grammar – if they couldn’t formulate a complete sentence, I’d write them off and move on. I also noticed that the messages from the men on Plenty of Fish were getting more and more outrageous, so I didn’t really take anything on that site seriously, because I think all of the guys were DTF and crazy to boot.

OKCupid entered the scene around 2008 or 2009. Their contribution to the now-crowded internet dating scene was the questions. The questions ranged from “Are you looking to settle down and have children?” to “If you caught your husband looking at animal porn, what would you do?” You could answer as few as five questions or as many as a thousand, but the more questions you answer, the better the picture prospective dates could compile from your answers. (Of course, everyone is expected to be on the honor system and answer truthfully. You should always answer “No” if you are asked if you would do something immoral and/or hurtful, even if your instincts say that you should answer “Yes” to screwing that turtle if no one would ever find out.)

In 2011, after many starts and stops with internet dating, I was giving it another go, but sticking to the free sites – OKCupid and PlentyofFish. Surprisingly, on PlentyofFish, I had a decent conversation with a guy. We were talking about traveling and road trips and seemed to like some of the same things, but had enough diverse interests from each other that I would be able to look forward to new adventures. We talked about where to meet up in the next week. So upon waking up the next morning, imagine my surprise when I opened a message from him that was sent at 3 a.m. and it was a folder of dick and cum pictures. I replied back asking what in the hell he was thinking, because we hadn’t been talking about sex at all. He gave some lame excuse about not meaning to send them to me. I told him that shit would not fly with me, and he apologized. The next morning I woke up, and there were more dick and cum pictures, sent around 2 a.m.! I replied and asked what the fuck was going on, and he said he was a recovering alcoholic and had impulse control problems. I didn’t feel the need to stay in touch with him. (Also, just as a side note, if your dick is smaller than a thumb when it’s hard, I don’t advise sending unsolicited pictures. Warn a girl first.)

A lot of the messages I was receiving on OKCupid weren’t going anywhere either. I think I went on a handful of random dates, but nothing made it past the initial meeting. The way that I was being approached was pretty trite – almost every guy said, “What’s up?” or the bad grammar version thereof. At least when I approached men, I would find something in their profiles to talk about. One guy immediately asked me out for dinner, so I looked at his profile, which didn’t contain any information, so I next looked at the questions he answered. One theme that kept coming up was his dabbling with hard drugs, including meth, coke and heroin. I replied that I wasn’t interested and I wouldn’t date a user. His reply was, “C’mon, it’s not like I’m going to do blow off your tits. Big deal if we go out to dinner.” Yeah, buddy, still not interested in wasting an evening with you.

I swore off internet dating forever after having some bad experiences. However, now that I have relocated and reconnected with my uncle, I discovered that HE is doing internet dating. (He is also texting on a regular basis, which I blame on him having a 16-year-old son.) He found an age-appropriate girlfriend for the first time in his life – he’s in his early 60s. So of course I irrationally think, “Well, if he can do it, maybe I can try again.” Never mind the fact that I walk with a cane and have a droopy face, and most days I can’t be bothered to wear my wigs because they’re uncomfortable to lay down in…someone has to be okay with dating Quasimodo, right???

On second thought, no. I don’t want to be someone else’s internet dating story.

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