Highly eligible bachelor I may be, but still I find it pays to keep one's options open. For this reason I have occasionally had recourse to online dating sites. I first tried online dating in the last days of my Dublin existence, when I joined a moribund local site with about six other people on it, all of whom had tried and failed to date each other several times before in every feasible permutation. As a new boy I was quickly propositioned by one of the regulars, a tempestuous redhead to whom I will refer simply as "Gertrude" (her real name was even uglier). "Gertrude" was a workaholic who had had a total nervous breakdown a few years earlier, aged 23, and was still recovering from the hospitalisation. She sent me a photograph that appeared to have been taken during a hurricane on top of Slieve Bloom, all wild Irish hair and, I must admit, not unattractive. But sadly, our relationship stalled, due to my lack of a scanner or digital camera, and my lifelong aversion to hurricanes. And besides: "Gertrude". A few weeks later she sent me another email asking "Have I done you before?", but by then I had moved on to pastures new.
I returned to online dating a couple of years ago, but all the sites I saw -- leftontheshelf.net, hornygrandmothers.com and worldofgoth.org -- were rather depressing. Then I found out about OKCupid, which compared to the others seemed to have a reasonably healthy user base. I joined up and quickly got "wooed" by some women under 40 (and several more over 40), none of whom seemed to understand such concepts as age and distance, but still -- flattering, eh? I sent off a few messages to potential paramours myself, but got no reply. As the days went on, I began to realise OKCupid was rivalling Civ as a spectacular time-waster. I found myself answering lots of stupid questions, filling in lots of stupid tests, browsing lots of cute photos, and all the time staying indoors and resolutely not getting any smoochies. Soon afterwards, I deleted my account in irritation.
Recently, however, I've been hit again by OKCupid's arrow. Browsing people's profiles once again, I'm struck by the hastiness of my own reactions. I'm unaccountably choosy at the best of times, but especially so when reading the profiles on my match list; I just immediately find some excuse not to like each one of them. Comparing interests is usually a bad idea -- I wouldn't expect anyone to have the same interests as me, or like many of the things I do -- but still I'm surprised at what a turn-off some things can be. Often I'll happen across a cute photo, and a charming introduction, but then get to a line that reads "Favourite movies: Titanic, Bruce Almighty..." or "Kevin Smith = GOD", and think "Okay, next!"
The strange thing is, I seem to confine this reaction to people's textual representations of themselves. There are people who are good friends of mine, including several hot chyks among their number, who like movies I hate, who have tastes rather far removed from mine, who occasionally even write "lol" in emails. Maybe I'd have been quick to dismiss them too if I had first encountered them in print form. But I didn't; I met them in real life, and somehow, I found the real-life person so much sexier.
I suspect it mostly comes down to an excess of choice. When I meet a person in real life, I have different expectations; I know I will have to spend some time with them, I am prepared to get to know them, and with any luck I'll even like them before they reveal the shocking truth about their Disney collection. With dating sites, on the other hand, I'm met with a vast, bewildering choice of people, 200 at a time, all trying to condense themselves into a screendump. When presented with such a mass of information, my instinct is to filter it down to something manageable; to become a fastidious nitpicker, to throw each profile on the slushpile at the slightest provocation.
Another reason why dating profiles tend to repulse me is the instinctive antipathy I feel towards advertisers and street hawkers. People in real life are much less likely to introduce themselves with a sales pitch; there's a mercantile, everyone's-on-sale quality to dating sites (and nightclubs, for that matter) that I find off-putting. Sales pitches by their nature tend to be distortions. I wonder if I would recognise friends of mine just by their dating profiles? Often, what people feel to be important about themselves, some key aspect of their personality, is in fact an ephemeral interest, or maybe something their friends would consider unimportant. I suspect a lot of OKCupid hopefuls are just emphasising the wrong parts.
Which brings me to my last problem: OKCupid profiles are just two-dimensional. And real women are, well, y'know, in full 3D.