Love Is in the Ether
A Manhattanite plays the electronic field.
Oct 25, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 06 • By NATALIE AXTON
After 16 years of New York City apartment living, I bought a house in Westchester County. I am very happy with this decision. The house, a 1935 Cape, is charming; it will be more charming once I renovate it. Currently the house needs a new kitchen, two new baths, some ceiling, some floor, a little paint, a lot of plaster, and a new septic tank. But I love it.
‘You seem like a quality woman . . . ’
Few of my friends are interested in what the broker listed as my “diamond in the rough.” Most are alarmed I’m moving in: It’s not the house, it’s the solitude, they say. I am in my middle thirties and single. The girls’ reproach is: You’ll never meet anyone in the suburbs. To which I respond: Nonsense. These days everyone meets online.
The Internet dating site eHarmony is known for its compatibility questionnaire, an online form designed to deter those looking for casual relationships. The procedure is long and boring. If you lose concentration you can screw up. Drinking gavi di gavi with girlfriends while you fill it out is a guarantee you’ll lose concentration. The next day I went online and learned that I was a religious Muslim who drinks frequently, sometimes in my favorite bathtub. Interestingly, I was very popular.
Men began contacting me through the site, and in return I investigated their profiles. The men who “Matched” with me lived throughout the New York metro area, came in every skin color, and ranged in age between 32 and 45. They had one thing in common: According to eHarmony, I am compatible with men who hold technical jobs. This is not what I expected. If you believe the science behind the compatibility questionnaire (I don’t), this means that all the time I’ve spent with editors, novelists, playwrights, and historians was truly nonproductive. I should have been looking for a guy like Tom, who posted a picture of himself opening the Nasdaq. Or Chris, who archives anime when he isn’t building information networks.
I’m happy to try new things. There is, however, a trade-off: None of my literary pals would ever approach me in writing with “I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities with you.” Not what I had in mind when I checked “verbal intimacy” as a must in my relationships. The same goes for “You seem like a quality woman.” I don’t know what that means. Perhaps it’s what one Match meant when he described his ideal partner as “STD-free and she MUST HAVE SEXY FEET.” You have to admire a man who knows what he wants.
As a woman with less exacting criteria, I confront a tremendous volume of the possibilities. Every day a new batch of “Matches” appears in my inbox, many ready to “communicate.” There must be a lot of single tech guys in New York, and they produce a lot of bad copy. It’s hard to keep up. On the bright side, I could start a consulting firm with all the engineering contacts I now have. Ditto financial services. Overwhelmed, I called my brother, who also uses the site. His advice: “You just have to turn it off.” Still, he thinks meeting online is better than meeting in a bar, where it’s difficult to start a conversation. With online dating, he said, “When you meet up you can always talk about eHarmony.” Again, not my idea of appropriate “verbal intimacy,” but if a girl in San Francisco can meet a nice guy like my brother through the site, why not give it a try?
I changed my religion from Muslim to “neither religious, nor spiritual,” toned down the floozy factor on my profile, and settled in. I picked three men to contact, the first three Matches who didn’t list the iPod as a cherished item.
Guy Number One was good looking, but in conversation he stuck to three topics: his fitness level, his family’s fertility, and his desire to have children. His interest in me was limited to my fitness level, my family’s fertility, and my willingness to have children. I’d like to go out; I don’t want to be a breeding experiment. That ruled out Number One. Guy Number Two was less awkward, and funny on the phone. We arranged to meet in person—three times. Number Two always canceled, the last time because he got tickets to an adult puppet show. A man who prefers puppets to women? Strike Number Two. Guy Number Three seemed normal, if a little Type A. He asked me to meet him at 9 A.M. on a Saturday. I reluctantly agreed. Then I overslept. Sorry, Number Three—and best of luck.
It’s been fun to point and click, but meeting all these virtual dates takes real time. And it’s not cheap. I have a house to renovate, so I suspended my account. Besides, my contractor is single and pretty cute. More important, he thinks I bought a really great house.
Natalie Axton writes about dance in New York and blogs at www.howdotheymove.com.