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August 30, 2011

Stuff I have learned about dating in Los Angeles while still being a normal-sized human and not a skinny beanpole with a rack.

Thought we should just get right to it with the title. Today I will present to you my scientific findings thus far on the complicated and fascinating wildlife study known as, "Dating men in Los Angeles using an online pair-bonding technology." I hope that what I have learned from my collection and analysis of data will help you if you decide to embark upon your own independent research study.

I am also drinking wine as I type this*. I have learned that scientists like to drink wine and develop studies about the heart-health benefits of the lowly grape. The scientific method is rigorous.

(* at 10 p.m., not 10 a.m. when it is published. The fact that I need to point that out to some people is what makes me drink to begin with.)

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Scientific-Sounding Findings On Preliminary Mating Interaction Commonly Referred To As "Dating"

1) Observe, analyze, decide if you are ready to date
I wasn't ready for a long time and then I was. Signs you may be ready include: You want to make out with someone. You have time to actually go on dates. You feel pretty good about your life. You think dating will be fun and not a soul-sucking foray into sadomasochism. You're willing to sit through some awkward coffee dates and have a laugh. You're prepared to actually leave your house.

2) Approach dating like an amusing art project, not a Quest For Total Spiritual And Life Salvation
Seriously, people. Dating does not have to be a dire, earnest, all-encompassing life-altering MEET THE ONE experience every single time. Lighten up! Have some fun. My goal in dating was to have a good time and go to the movies with some interesting people and have happy conversation and a good meal and perhaps a story to tell. I have completely rocked all my goals. Even my date with Bachelor Number 2, the one who proposed 30 minutes into the date and was maybe a serial killer, was fun in its own And I lived to tell about it! kind of way. Don't put so much pressure on all of this. There are 6.78 billion people on planet earth. At least four of them will take you to the movies and laugh at your jokes.

3) Have a cute date outfit, get your hair done, explore mascaras.
Or do whatever it is that makes you feel good and confident. It's different for every woman. I feel good when I'm wearing something I think looks pretty, when my hair isn't scary root city, when my nails are painted, when I've been exercising, when I have a bikini wax so thorough that it exposes my pancreas. Whatever it is that makes you feel confident and happy, then just do that thing. The point isn't to honeytrap a man, it isn't even about the man. If you need therapy, get therapy. If you need to get healthy, go do that. If your roots have roots and you feel ugly, go get a touch up. The point is to be a decent and centered human being on your own so you'll have a good time in the world. And when you are confident you'll be able to tell the serial killers from the nice guys a lot easier. TRUST ME.

4) If that heifer yelling at her kids on the Maury show can have a great man, so can you.
That was not a nice thing to say, but tell me you haven't thought it once in your life. Maybe while watching Hoarders you said to yourself, "Self! I am not hoarding goats and growing toxic mold in my bathtub! So why does she have a man and my last date was in 1997?" And if you think it is because you are fat and not pretty, THINK AGAIN. The Number One Most Important Worry I had before getting into dating again was the simple, obvious fact that I am not tall and freakishly skinny, strutting around Victoria's Secret-style in matching bra and panty sets all day like a Skinimax movie. Would any man in this superficial, ridiculous city look through a catalog online dating site and pick me out of the (surely) all tall and skinny women available for his earthly pleasures? The short answer is yes. There are plenty of nice, interesting, cute and funny men out there who do not expect to date only supermodels. In fact they never dated a supermodel. They never will. They know this. They are just like you, wondering how that doofus, ugly guy on that one sitcom had such a hot wife.

5) Specific Scientific Methods for online dating, with special circumstances for your fear of not being skinny

How did this go from sounding fake-scientific to fake-judicial? SO. My best friend Jennifer gave me the most sound advice I ever got about dating in the technological age and I am now going to pass it on to you. I confided that I wanted to try online dating now that it seemed less creepy and horrible, but I was scared that my lack of skinniness would lead to rejection and me drinking wine alone under my bed while drunk-dialing college boyfriends. She waved all this fear away with a single, perfectly-manicured hand.

"Post LOTS of very accurate full-body pictures," Jen said. "The men who are interested will like what they see and those are the ones who will contact you."

And friends, she was SO RIGHT. Post plenty of clear, full-body pictures of you looking shiny and happy. Sure, use your cute face picture, and that one shot of you looking sexy at last year's Christmas party (read: 2003) but then post at least two but preferably four realistic, full-body pictures. Think about it. If someone sees your profile and he's not attracted then he won't email you. But the ones who do contact you have already seen you and already like what they see and want to see more. This way there's no awkward first-date guessing. Jen was so right about this and I love her for it. I have been on several dates and not one guy was at all disappointed that I wasn't tall or skin and bones. Because I look like my pictures. Now men need to start taking this advice, too, because if your profile picture is from 1992 I will probably figure that out at our awkward coffee date. (That has only happened to me once by the way.)

6) Addendum to research, site-specific

I used the service that starts with an "e" and rhymes with "Shmarmony." I like it because it's much harder for random people to browse profiles (in fact, it would be very hard for your boss or co-workers or whoever to stumble across your profile, first they have to take a mind-numbingly boring quiz that sucks up 85 minutes of their life) and there is no random search engine feature. At all. Secondly, since it's one of the more expensive sites it has almost no Craigslist-style, "Please let me pee on you/videotape you licking my feet" personal ads. You jump through a lot of hoops before you even email someone, and I kind of like that. I am not endorsing this site but I will tell you my personal experience has been totally positive. Well. There was BN2 who probably went home after our first meeting and went to his fridge to get a beer and had to move the human head out of the way first, but still he was a gentleman on our date and I lived to tell the funny story. I'm sure a lot of folks in the comments will have their own sites they like. You can try different things, too, you're not in a lifetime contract here. It's not like a cell phone. Thank God.

7) Observe all rules of safety, common sense, etc.
Meet in a public place. Tell a girlfriend or trusted advisor who is not a cat or dog where/when you'll be gone, that sort of thing. Honestly, people.

8) Mating behavior of humans not really changed after thousands of years.
I discovered about two minutes into my online dating experience that dudes prefer to contact the ladies online instead of ladies contacting men. Meaning: I have only been on real-life dates with guys who picked me from the lineup, not the other way around. In fact, in all cases where I initiated contact, the male did not reply or closed the match. This information will come as a surprise and perhaps annoyance to those of you who thought it would be like shopping from a catalog or Zappos.com but it appears that technology has not surpassed evolution. I have no further analysis here. Your experience may be different but I wanted to put it out there. Plus my test audience was small.

9) Social construct of 2011 first date similar to your actual first date from back in the dark ages.

For those of us in my age range (that means if you were a teenager in the 1980s and below) dating today is quite similar to dating in high school except the jocks got fat and the geeks became successful. In fact, dating now at age 40 is SO MUCH better than dating at any other time in my life. The men in my age range are interesting and diverse, they've had all kinds of life experience, they don't live with their mom. First dates will always be a little awkward, but now that we're all alleged grown-ups the rules are pretty simple: Don't talk obsessively about your ex, do ask about his life, do laugh, do be honest. Check in with yourself, ask yourself if you're being real, staying in the moment, learning about the person. OR are you just trying to be pleasing to get asked on a second date? Ladies. You know what I am saying here. Enjoy the date as a standalone event, don't put every single first date through a rigorous testing process for viable matehood. Just relax. After the date if you enjoyed yourself, send a very brief text saying, "Thanks for lunch/coffee! That was fun!" If he wants a second date this is the perfect time for him to text back and say so and if not you were polite and all is well in the world.

10) Life is short but it is wide.

Ok, I know I spout this Southernism quite often and it's a platitude to end all times. But life is short. Tomorrow anything could happen. Your life is the way you spend your day, your attitude about living. For a very long time I didn't want to meet anyone, I was just too closed-up. And I needed all that time alone, I needed to know me and pay my own bills and live my own life and make my own way. I wanted to be alone, I loved being alone. I wrote alone (I still do), I learned to make my ownself happy. I will never regret one second of that. For a long time I wasn't ready to be anything to anyone. Then one day I was ready to go out and be in the world again.

You don't have to live your life on anyone's timeline. These people who tell you what you "should" be doing, who try to shame you into a date, who push you to pair up, who say marriage is the end-all, be-all of the human world? They haven't had sex in twenty-eight months. Don't listen to them. Pairing up won't make you better if you're unhappy. Work on your life, your happiness, your insides. You are already in your one and only long-term relationship -- with yourself! Make that work before you start dating.

You do your own thing and then when you're ready come back and read all this. It will still be here. Life is short, people, but it is wide.

Posted by laurie at August 30, 2011 10:18 AM