Reeling in the Big Fish

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Once I embraced online dating, there was no stopping me. I tried to be creative with my postings, you know, going outside the run of the mill lists of why I was great and what my favorable personal attributes were. Oh and of course a long list of what a suitable boyfriend should be. I figured that my writing savvy would attract the kind of guy who would find me witty, intelligent and fun.

Some of my posts were more effective than others. The below is a sampling from a few month period:
  • Redhead Special. Get it while its hot. This was early in my online foray and clearly before I understood what words not to use, including ‘redhead’ and ‘hot’. I think it goes without saying what sort of responses this title generated.
  • Sushi Sunday - looking for a dinner date tonight. Super successful, I actually went on several sushi dates from this post.
  • Wednesday Afternoon Haiku Challenge. Referring to a series of failed dates/relationship haikus I had written (which I‘ll post for your enjoyment). Sadly the ones I got back weren’t anything special, and some were kind of weird. None of them were particularly funny, like mine.
  • Date for the Roller Derby. I thought drinking beer while watching tough chicks roller skate around in a semi-violent race would be a great way to get to know someone. Most of the responders really wanted to see derby, but most were also socially awkward (both over email and in person on their screening dates).
  • The Male Hotness Equation. In which I asked responders to rate themselves across ten weighted attributes factor list of characteristics my friends and I had made up way back when in a bar. Unfortunately the ratings were suggestive so I wasn’t actually able to plug the numbers into an equation and all of them wanted their grades. And extra credit, yikes!
  • The “Ideal” Post. I listed 5 things I thought would be ideal for my new boyfriend including his zip code, height, hair color, interest in running and a last name that started with a “K”. Not everyone got the sarcasm.
  • Save me from another hundred pages of 12th century England? I was reading Pillars of the Earth and it was taking FOREVER to finish. Seemed like a good idea, but I got mostly responses I couldn’t comprehend back, citing authors I didn’t know and rhetoric I was unable to respond to.
  • The Pick Up Artist. I was making fun of the VH1 reality show but instead tapped into the world of PUA, previously unknown to me. I even chatted with a guy that knew the host of the show, Mystery. I did learn more than I needed to about the PUA way of life, but none of those guys even wanted to date me.
  • Is it lame that I’m having a Star Wars marathon today? This garnered exactly the kind of responses you’d expect. First, the Star Wars obsessed thinking they had finally found their Leia, and second, a very serious discussion of early versus the recent films: plotline, special effects, etc.
When you’re fishing you need to be where the fish are, but once you’re there its all about the bait. It didn’t really matter what I wrote in the posting, most responses are driven by the photo, and I always included one.

I’d like to think I attracted a somewhat more respectable suitor than your average CL post but then again I’m not your average worm.

Modern Day Courting: Dater Beware

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
In reading through postings from both men and women on Craiglist recently I noticed a substantial number of posts contained "what you should know about me in advance" lists containing a string of bad habits and unflattering self-admissions of impatience, laziness and obsessions with reality television. Where were the “smart, sassy, fun” and “loves movies, music and dancing” lists? The lists of positive and absolutely date-able characteristics? Seems like modern day online courting been reduced to the “why you shouldn’t date me” list instead of the “why you should”.

Miriam Webster defines courtship as the act, process or period of courting, and goes on to define "courting" as follows:
1 a: to seek to gain or achieve b (1): allure, tempt (2): to act so as to invite or provoke
2 a: to seek the affections of; especially: to seek to win a pledge of marriage from b of an animal : to perform actions in order to attract for mating
3 a: to seek to attract (as by solicitous attention or offers of advantages) b: to seek an alliance with

I’ll take my courting heavy on the “allure”, “tempt” and “attract” attributes and light on the “provoke”, thank you very much. Who’s to say, though, what one person finds attractive versus obnoxious?

Often bad habits are just too much of a perfectly normal trait. With the right partner, a self-defined bad habit could actually be a plus on your list of attributes, and not a minus at all. And let’s not forget that openly listing your faults does demonstrate the all-impressive qualities of self-awareness and humility, assuming of course you actually listed your faults.

You have to list something in your online profile, though. Perhaps the key is to highlight your outward personality while exposing a little bit of underside. You want to strike the balance between “awesome boy/girlfriend” attributes with something more sincere, that will show your true self and attract suitors that find your particular blend of self intoxicating.

As definition 3b states, courting is seek[ing] an alliance, you’re looking for someone to be on your side. I guess you just have to decide which side that is.

The Worst Date Ever: in which I lose to a basketball game

Thursday, June 11, 2009
One of the first dates I went on after I started actively dating was with someone I had met through Yahoo Personals. We had a lot of things in common, we were both Illini alumni and runners, and we even lived in the same Chicago neighborhood. After exchanging a few emails we decided to meet up mid-week to watch an Illini basketball game.

It seemed like the perfect premise, the date had both a defined end time and a mitigating (and enjoyable) activity in case the conversation stalled or his true appearance was hideous.

When my date arrived we picked out a table with a clear view of the big TV and the waitress stopped by for our drink order. I ordered a beer; my date ordered water and said he was planning to go for a run after our date. Flag #1: this guy hasn’t even left room to extend the date should it go well. Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence!

We perused the menu, which had standard bar fare, and he remarked that there was little that he could eat from the menu. I wasn’t sure how to point out that HE had chosen the bar and should have checked the menu beforehand if he had special dietary needs so I just nodded and kept my mouth shut. Flag #2: this guy obviously didn’t put any thought into our date. And he’s a fussy eater.

The game started and our focus naturally turned to it. He was a crazy fan, commenting on every shot, foul, good calls, bad calls, etc. I asked him if he had played basketball - he seemed so into it - and he said no. In fact he pretty much answered all the questions I asked him during the first half with one-word answers and or responded with the counter question, for example I ask, “Are you training for any particular race?” He answers, “No, not really. Are you?” I was beginning to regret not having ordered a hard liquor drink instead of beer. Flag #3: this guy is more interested in watching a non-conference game where the Illini are up by 20 pts in the first half instead of getting to know me. I can watch basketball and talk, why couldn’t he?

When our food came, I waited until he had started eating, and asked how it was before actually starting my meal. He replied it was decent, and then asked me, without looking up, how mine was. I answered, “I don’t know, I haven’t started it yet”.

And then I decided to see how long it would take him to initiate conversation with me. Approximately twenty minutes later, with about 10 minutes of game time, he still hadn’t spoken. Final Flag: this guy isn’t even aware that you’re still at the table with him, on a date that he invited you to.

I did what any self-respecting gal would do… I stood up and said I was going to get going. He looked at me, for probably the first time in over an hour, with a quizzical look on his face. I put my share of the tab on the table, said it was nice to have met him, and walked out of the bar.

Was he one of those painfully shy guys who is great over email but terrible in person? Was he just that serious of a basketball fan that he couldn’t pull his attention from it? Perhaps, but neither of those reasons excuse his ignoring me after asking me out.

It was the first, and still the only time, I’ve walked out on a date. If I had the chance to do it over, I’d leave at halftime.

Look What the Tide Dragged In

Monday, June 8, 2009
Once I got on board with the idea of actively dating, I had to figure out where to meet my new potential suitors. I didn’t think it would be that hard, in such a big city there had to be tons of single, available guys.

First stop, friends. I have lots of friends and have had several relationships develop with previous friends. Unfortunately this wasn’t going to be a good option anymore, practically all of my friends were married, and most of their friends were married, too.

Next up, work. Although I’ve been burned by work relationship before, I think I’ve learned the right way to meet someone through work and date them without jeopardizing their career. Mostly my theory involves not dating someone I work directly with, though, and my current company is pretty small. Too small for dating.

Ooh, what about the bars? I used to meet people all the time when I used to hang out on weeknights and weekends for hours and hours… wait a minute, I don’t really do that anymore. Partly my activities have changed and partly I don’t have anyone to really go with (see aforementioned married crew). I do spend time in bars during NCAA football and basketball, so that’s a definite possibility, but what about the summer? I needed something more immediate.

There was one obvious option left. Online dating, thousands of single folk ready and waiting with nothing but an internet connection between us. It seemed fairly straightforward, I would simply cast my net and see what the tide brought in.

I dabbled on a number of member websites, Match and eHarmony, but I really hit my stride when I found out that Craigslist had a personal section. No subscription, no formal profile required, seemed like a great way to flex my creative skills and see what was out there.

The first post I put out onto Craigslist under Personals -> Women Seeking Men -> Dating, Romance, Long Term Relationships returned the below:
  • If you’re height/weight proportionate (not “Chicago”-height/weight proportionate – really) and actually a runner, we might have something to talk about
  • I liked your post because you sound fun, well-balanced, and your writing simply gives off, and I don't mean to be new agey-- a good vibe
  • You’re exhibiting the Chicago Factor. The Chicago Factor is the innate ability of women in Chicago to be boorish, negative, jerks. They assume that all men are axe murderers and as such they make wild, crazy assumptions.
  • Hey hun, As your inbox gets flooded with one liner emails, let me say something that catches your eye..I look like Brad Pitt..well, not really..but hopefully it did the trick.
  • I'm pretty tired of being single, but I'm also picky beyond belief. You've made it past the gates, now I'd like to invite you up to the house for some lemonade and conversation to see if we fit.
  • my wife left me over christmas :)
Looks like this is going to be tougher than I thought.

Uncharted Waters Ahead

Thursday, June 4, 2009
Awhile back I was chatting with an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in years and after we exchanged the usual catch-up pleasantries: jobs, relationships, etc., he mentioned that I sounded really happy, at peace. I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but when he said that I realized I was those things. After a few years of struggling to figure out how to balance my personal life with my professional one, I had learned to prioritize what was important and purge what wasn’t.

It was a very satisfying revelation, that I had figured out what I wanted from life and was basically living it. I had a great set of friends, good relationships with my family and a thriving social life. My career was going well and I still had time for hobbies and travel. Thing was, I hadn’t really found a significant other along the way and that was something, is something, that I do want.

I’d had relationships, sure, some of them quite serious in nature, but none that ever crossed over into the long-term, committed relationship I was looking for. I could blame it on special circumstances and bad timing, I’ve had plenty of both, but I also don’t think I ever really gave dating the focus it needs. Being in a relationship takes time and energy and putting yourself “out there”; I don’t think I gave my relationships those things.

I realized that like most things worth having, a great relationship wasn’t going to drop into my lap, I had to put in the effort if I wanted to find an honest to goodness boyfriend. I decided I would go after a relationship like I had gone after everything I’d worked for, with determination, confidence and a good sense of humor. Hopefully I’d also run into a little bit of luck.

Righting the Courtship chronicles my adventures into the uncharted waters of modern dating. Hope you don't get seasick... its going to be a bumpy ride!