I was asked recently what I liked least about dating.
My immediate answer – and the one I gave – was the one that always sticks in the front of my brain, only because of my own insecurities: I don’t like meeting someone online and getting along, only to find out that despite their assurances that it’s not true they really are looking for a Barbie doll.
I’m not a Barbie doll. Never have been and, God willing, never will be.
But the more I thought about it the more I realized there are many things that I do and don’t like about dating again.
* Meeting people online. I’m a social person and have used social media for a number of things – reconnecting with old friends, posting stories, searching for sources for stories – but still can’t get used to the idea that this is the way people who are in “the dating pool” meet. What happened to catching someone’s eye, saying “hi” and starting a conversation? Going online throws it all into a backwards mess: you filter through hundreds (literally) of pictures or profiles and find one that might be appealing, make contact, start conversation and get to know each other and then, eventually, you meet.
The downside to that is that online the person on the other end of the conversation can be or say anything and you never know until you meet them whether they’re sincere. They can be socially awkward and just not what you’re looking for – and you don’t know until you’ve already invested some time.
I once met a man who seemed to be a good conversationalist both online and on the telephone. When it came times to meet, however, his true colors came out. He lived in a small town about 40 minutes from me – he had the day off and suggested I drive up to his community after I got off a long day of work. After trying unsuccessfully to convince him to meet somewhere in between I drove up – and learned he was 12 years older than he said he was. And when it came time to leave he wanted to kiss me goodnight – and tried to shove his tongue down my throat. Ick.
* Digital communication. I’m grateful for all of the options there are for “talking” to people – texting, instant messaging, Facebook – but eventually I really do like to really talk. With my voice. To another person. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same. I had one man actually leave a phone message that said, “I thought I’d surprise you with a phone call rather than a text.” True, it was a surprise – but to listen to his voice you’d think he was sending flowers.
As a very good friend also pointed out, one big problem with only texting/IM’ing is that it’s not only impersonal in nature, it lets the party on the other line forget that there’s an actual person chatting. It’s a lot easier to hurt someone, stand someone up, lie to someone if you don’t have to see a look in the eye or hear a catch in the voice.
* Smart phone photos. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? You’re out having a good time, you want to post a photo on your Facebook page to show it to all your friends. The trouble is, you’re not always in charge of which photos go online with your name tagged in them. Go to any bar/party/baseball game and you’ll see countless people taking casual photos of their friends, of the game, of the crowd. Having a bad hair day, or hoping no one sees you? These days it’s best to just stay inside – you don’t know when that morning-after shot of a bad hair color is going to show up on YouTube. Or in a potential date’s photo file.
* You want me to do what? OK, this one goes back to the digital communication and it’s likely not just connected to dating the second-time-around. What exactly is it with men (and maybe women, I’m just not on the receiving end of those) wanting to talk dirty, or worse, meet for a casual sexual encounter? I honestly can’t think of anything I say that would lead anyone who is just getting to know me to think I’d be willing to come over to their house in the middle of the night or want to pursue some kind of cyber-sex. Really? What are we, 15?
The truth is, dating is just as stressful now as it was 25 years ago, there are just different things to deal with. Best option? Be careful, be smart and have fun.