Inside the Mind of an Online Dater on a First Date, Part 2: The Countdown

The following post was written by the exceedingly funny and insightful Brooklyn-based guy behind the blog “Datestable” (apparently, there are some good things happening in Brooklyn.) You can read about his dating experiences by clicking HERE or following him on Twitter: @datestable.



T-Minus 1 hour... better make sure to get that out spinach of there

In the sometimes too-predictable world of online dating, there are those pleasant surprises when the script gets thrown out the window, and two people enjoy a totally spontaneous, organic connection full of laughs, meaningful glances, and prolonged silences pregnant with ineffable feeling…Unfortunately, most online dates are nothing like that. Instead, they go something like this, at least for me:

  • T minus 3 days: Date/location set.
  • T minus 2 days: Phone numbers/other means of contact exchanged.
  • T minus 1 day: A text confirmation is dispatched. Hopefully the other party confirms.
  • T minus 12 hours: I make sure my teeth and hair are brushed, hygienic products and olfactory enhancements are applied, presentable clothes are worn.
  • T minus 6 hours: I remind myself to resist that pile of onions in my Halal cart order lest I risk social suicide.
  • T minus 1 hour: I look in the mirror to make sure there’s not a giant booger hanging out of my nose, or a big splotch of toothpaste on my chin. If there’s toothpaste, I remind myself to check that at T-12 hours and curse all the people who have seen me throughout the date who chose not to point this out.
  • T minus 5-10 minutes: I arrive on location comfortably but not pointlessly early. If I’m at a bar that fills up quickly after work or on a weekend, I have time to grab some seats, which she is sure to appreciate (or, at least it solves a minor but unnecessary first-date problem of awkwardly waiting for comfort).
  • T minus 2 minutes: I peruse the beer/wine list, preparing myself to wow her with my vast knowledge of spirits. At this point I may also start to wonder if those weird angles in her photos were intentional.
  • T plus 2 minutes: I glance at my watch and a few at the door, curious about how she will make her entrance and how I will look to her. This might also be a good time to check on a few near-certainties (is my fly zipped, etc.).
  • T plus 5 minutes (pre-smart phone era): I start to get annoyed, checking my watch and phone more frequently.
  • T plus 5 minutes (post-smart phone era): I feel slightly more relaxed, launch Words with Friends or Draw Something.

Date Late

  • T plus 15 minutes (pre-smart phone era): I am now fully annoyed at not getting a heads-up, wonder if this will finally be the time I get completely stood up, start to get annoyed when I’m asked if I want to order a drink for the 3rd time, contemplate passive-aggressive text, decide against it and end up calling or texting to voice my concern.
  • T plus 15 minutes (post-smart phone era): Getting frustrated with a bad board in WWF or not being able to guess what my friend’s squiggly lines are supposed to be. Forget all about date, fail to register vibrating/ringing of phone as she sends an SOS after being mugged in the adjacent alley.

Date On Time
Showtime: You size each other up nervously, hug or awkwardly shake hands, and proceed to judge one another physically for a few seconds while ignoring what the other person is saying. If you’re both satisfied, a lovely evening may commence. If one of you is much happier than the other, one of you will be really frustrated very soon and the other will have some grievances to air with the friend who thought this was a good idea. If both of you are equally dissatisfied, you might be on to a beautiful friendship.

Friendly Persuasion, or an Ephinany about Online Dating

“You know, I’d totally forgotten we’d met on OkCupid.”

So had I. The relationship we had forged over a handful of pleasant outings and months of texts and emails was so unlike anything that had come out of my foray into online dating, that I was convinced we had been introduced by old friends. Or better yet, that we were old friends.

My love life is more like a Woody Allen film than "The Notebook."

He confessed: “The truth is, I’m ambivalent about dating right now. I just want to find someone whose company I enjoy.”

We were standing chest to chest in the atrium of our favorite Museum. The lights were dim and for the most part, we were on our own. Had it been another couple and another night, the scene would have ended differently.

But my life is more like a Woody Allen film than a Nicholas Sparks-inspired Ryan Gosling flick — all the ambiance is there, but in the end, so are all the neuroses.

And all the greater life insights.

It's hard to find someone who will willingly spend an afternoon looking at Cindy Sherman portraits with you -- male or female.

Someone whose company I enjoy was all I was after too, and in the museum I was in the very enjoyable company of a new friend.

Up until this point, OkCupid had been a general disappointment. I shut down my profile. It’s not that I hadn’t met good-looking or smart or affable men. The problem, I came to understand, was the context in which we met.

Every online date had more or less followed the same course: hello hug, beverage consumption, laughter, good-night, kiss, let’s do this again soon. In between those mile markers the terrain varied, but generally I could expect to meet the same conversational obstacles — why did you sign up for OkCupid, what kind of relationship are you looking for, have you ever been in love.

“I don’t know what I’m looking for,” I remember saying once when I was on a date and, thanks to a drink, was feeling particularly candid.

“I believe in playing a relationship as it lays. Some begin and end as friendships. Some, as disasters. Maybe one as happily ever after. We’ll figure ‘us’ out as we go.”

The guy didn’t like my response very much. He was looking for a mother to his children. I couldn’t promise I was ready or willing to go minivan shopping with him. But we had met on an online dating site — a place people go with the expressed purpose of finding a romantic connection.

How could I say that we might only ever amount to friends?!?!

How could I say that we might never have sex!?!!?

how often does a match light on a first strike?

The problem with online dating is that it forces you to evaluate a person along a specific set of parameters — namely, do I want to get romantically involved with this person. Physical attraction and adherence to an idealized wish-list dominate. We sit across a table from someone waiting for a spark to fly. If there’s no spark, then we’re quick to dismiss the candidate.

But how often does a match light on a first strike?

Online dating hasn’t brought me a boyfriend. Someone might argue it’s been a failed experiment. But looking back, I’d say I beg to differ. Just don’t expect to find me transferring my account to anytime soon.

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix: Or, a Road Map to Choosing Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Online dating is a challenge. As websites bombard you with supposedly viable matches and your inbox fills with messages and winks from men who think you’re “a cutie” or “reeeeeally cool,”  you think: it would be nice if there was a road map to help me weed out the guys I could walk arm in arm with from the ones I may need a restraining order against.

After months of scanning, surveying, replying, blocking, and first-dating, here it is, to your rescue:

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix.

(in the style of New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix)

The Online Dating Approval Matrix -- Your Guide to Finding Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Unexpected Ironies of Online Dating

Sure there are some risks (you never know if he’s an axe murder), sure there are some stigmas (don’t only desperate people go on, but I confess, there are many things I find appealing about online dating.

In hiding behind our usernames, online dating grants us a certain amount of anonymity... or so I thought

I can curate my photos, highlight my humor, hide my flaws, and change my story to target my preferred flavor du jour: sugar daddy or kindred spirit, caretaker or one night stand, lover or soulmate. Besides the fact that I get  to handpick potential matches from an already narrowed pool of viable candidates, I broaden my search beyond my favorite haunts, my best friends, and my friends’ friends, all while keeping a certain degree of anonymity. After all, online daters hide behind usernames that in most cases, rarely reference any part of our real names.

I quickly learned, so much for anonymity… and so much for widening my dating horizons.

My profile had only been up for a few hours when an IM popped up in the corner of my screen: “I won’t tell if you won’t tell.”

It was an old friend who once , but who I had since lost touch with. We both agreed the 92% Match prediction was ridiculous — remember that one time we sorta went on a date? — and bid each other good luck. A week later, he was “in a relationship” with a girl he’d met on the site. I thought this boded well for my future in online dating. If he could find someone, surely, I could.

And then my stand partner in All-County orchestra, 3 guys I went to high school with, a former college floormate, a former college teammate, my best friend’s ex-boyfriend, and best of all, a former college TA had all appeared as high-rated matches and subsequently, all either checked in on my profile or messaged me.

In some cases, we recognized each other and lived to laugh about it, but then there’s my poor TA. We had been through more than a class together and one-on-one discussion sessions over coffee were probably more frequent than they should have been. It had been 2 years since I’d last seen him — we’d both had haircuts — and he didn’t realize it was me when he sent his “hey there.” When I replied with an “is this [insert name] here? How’s the dissertation going?” I could see him blush across the wi-fi.

I recently had my first internet-matched date with someone I’ve never previously met (a rare find, it seems, for me). On the screen, he read and looked good, though he used far too many exclamation points for a 30-something male. I had no proof he wasn’t an axe-murder besides his claim to be Canadian, but I was willing to take my chances. I survived, I’m still here and he wants a second date. Great! Now, if only I knew his real name.