By Nina Elias
There's nothing wrong with finding a date online
It’s not exactly easy to meet men in Manhattan. OK, maybe it’s easy for the Rachels of the world, but I’m more of a Monica. So when I spent my summer walking among 9 million people, working eight hours a day in an office comprised mostly of women for a homemaking/scrapbooking/decorating icon, the pool of available straight men around me wasn’t exactly promising.
Knowing I would spend the next eight weeks of my summer in Broadway student rush ticket lines, I decided I wanted to go on a date. Just one. My solution: After much leg-pulling from a friend, I joined an online dating site.
Cue the reactions. “You’re too young for that,” I got from a fellow intern. “Is it really that hard for you?” asked another. And don’t forget about the classic, “Let me set you up with my friend…”
I realize the idea of online dating tips the scale a bit toward lonely, but resorting to online dating doesn’t condemn me to a life of house cats and daytime television. We associate meeting people online with deception, cybersex, and sketchy meetups. Online dating sites don’t always consist of men in mustaches posing as 12-year-olds. This is dating, not AIM chat rooms. It’s the type of socializing we all judge, but my short yet sweet experience with online dating taught me a lot about men, and a whole lot more about myself.
Not all dating sites are created equal. The obvious players, eHarmony and Match.com, pat themselves on the back for their supreme compatibility tests and high marriage rates. But those expert endorsements and time-sensitive guarantees come at a price. In the online dating world, the more money you pay, the higher the stakes. Don’t forget the difference between engaging in a completely virtual relationship and finding people online with the intention to meet in person.
That’s why I joined OkCupid, a free, no-pressure dating site that appeals to young singles with emphasis on actually meeting each other. Once I wiped away the stereotypes, OkCupid opened up a world of available men in and around New York City.
I perused potential matches for hours, looking at pixelated Facebook profile pictures and reading poorly-worded profiles (my ideal suitors get points for grammar). Here’s the best part: If I see an attractive guy at a bar or a party, I will almost never, ever, under any circumstances, approach him. But when I came across a profile that intrigued me, I confidently sent him a message. His profile served as fair game for conversation material, and I had the chance to prove myself on a level beyond “So, what are you drinking?”
While conventional dating seemed scary and pointless, online dating was fun, invigorating, and confidence-building. For the first time, I felt like I was doing what real 21-year-olds do: date. I actually went on a few dates with nice guys. Yes, they were who they said they were.
They weren’t sleazy or sketchy and they didn’t try to take me back to their apartments. We had dinner, we had conversation. I actually learned what made a date good (taking me to the bar that inspired How I Met Your Mother) and what made a date bad (putting our conversation on hold while he caught up with one of the homeless men in Washington Square Park, who he knew by name).
I haven’t checked my profile since I left NYC because I realized that the same kind of unabashed confidence and “who cares what happens” disposition that works for online dating works for conventional dating, too. Online dating served as my halfway house for putting myself out there, and I’m not ashamed of it. Besides, I’d rather tell my future children I experimented with online dating instead of heroin any day.
Illustrations by Jackie Evangelisti