By Jessica Riedmueller
Likes: Rainy days and Shakespeare
Wants Kids: Hey, we just met.
Hello Fayetteville. There I am. Or at least there I am to hundreds of men online. Yes, I am one of the thousands giving love a try through an online dating site. I’ve chosen my best pictures, used my best grammar, and put together a profile that, hopefully, represents at least 75 percent of me. In the past 10 months, I’ve been on good dates and horrible, I’ve talked to creeps and sweethearts, and I’ve even been to Alaska. I’m still single. But that concerns me far less than it used to. And if you’re single, I think you should give it a try. Why? Read on.
As the story typically goes, I wasn’t having much luck out there on my own, so one day I thought, “Well, why not try online?” No, that’s not true. The truth is I never really cared to date. I don’t know if I could get dates or not because I hadn’t tried. Dating was not fun; it was a chore.
I thought about online dating for a year before I actually tried it. Not only was it dating, but admittedly, even to me, a young, technologically savvy, iPhone-toting, laptop-owning woman, online dating carried something of a stigma, an “I’m not good enough to get a normal date” feeling. Finally, after a year of coaxing from a friend, I jumped in. It couldn’t hurt much but my bank account, and maybe I would get a few dates.
First step, picking the site I felt comfortable with. I did my research, checking out all of the major sites (the ones with the great commercials), a few of the Catholic sites (I am Catholic after all), and I even glanced at the free sites (just no). After much consideration, I chose eHarmony. I preferred that someone else do the matching for me, and I like the idea of a guided communication.
A note about the eHarmony process: Be prepared to invest a large amount of time into setting up an account. From typing in the Web site name to looking at my first match, I lost about three hours of my life. But, oh, the thrill of that first login.
No matter what site you use, there is something deliciously voyeuristic about viewing people’s profiles. If you don’t believe me, check out Yahoo personals sometime. It’s free. You are actually encouraged to make snap judgments about others based on what they have written. For the first time in dating, I felt a sense of power. I had the ability to choose based on a couple of pictures and a few paragraphs whether or not I wanted to accept a man’s advances. Granted, at this point in my online dating career, I accepted them all. Maximizing potential.
After a few rounds of matches, even more rounds of communication, and finally a phone call, I had my first date. I blew it within the first five minutes. Or maybe my nerves blew it.
Meeting for the first time is a surreal experience. Here before you stands a person who you think you know something about. Through the eHarmony questions, e-mails, or phone conversations, you found out that his favorite color is blue, he likes playing the guitar, his most influential person is his Uncle Joe, and the last book he read was about jet propulsion. Sounds interesting, right? But then you see him. And you quickly realize that all of those little things that you know about him mean nothing. You are faced with a stranger. This never changes. I’ve spoken to men on the phone for hours and months before meeting them. We’ve exchanged secrets about each other, we’ve talked about our families, we’ve memorized every inflection in the other’s voice. But the first meeting butterflies remain.
So I blew the first date. I got flustered and ended up paying for my own meal. In my defense, we met at a sandwich shop where you pay for your meal before you eat it. He was behind me, and I just didn’t know what to do. He didn’t call back. My first rejection. Another few rounds of matches, some more rounds of communication, and more than one text and phone call later, I had my second date. It went about as well as my first date. Although this time I was the one rejecting.
In these ways online dating is much like traditional dating. You meet, you do something together, you call, or you don’t. But one of the best benefits of online dating is the ability to expand your net, so to speak. Online dating is not confined to one city or even one state. If you choose, you can look for that one special someone across the entire United States. Again, I’ll use the word surreal to describe this experience. As with all online dates, this one starts with e-mail eventually progressing to phone calls. But you may be separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. It’s not just a weekend whim to meet. You essentially begin a relationship by phone. After a while and after a look into your finances you may decide to meet.
I offer a weary word: long-distance relationships are hard; long distance relationships that start off long-distance are near impossible. That said, I believe that this part of the online dating experience is what changed me the most and for the best. I found someone whom I liked very much and who lived miles and miles and miles away. After months of phone conversations, I had a simple decision to make, either meet him or let him go. I made a bold move and decided to fly away, by myself, to meet him. It was something completely out of character, and it was mildly terrifying.
In the end it wasn’t the relationship I thought it would be. As I said long-distance relationships that start off and stay long distance are near impossible. Possibly I gained a friend out of it. Honestly, I’m not sure at this point. What I did gain was a fundamental change to my life. I had done something bold, taken a risk. And I had lived through it. Not only had I lived through it, I had enjoyed it. I enjoyed dating.
Three months later, I still enjoy dating. In fact it’s even more fun than I thought. Online dating has bolstered my confidence. I no longer over-analyze every move I make, and every comment he says. I no longer dread spending a few hours alone with strangers-this applies to more than just my dating life.
I’m not saying you need to fly across the country. Although, it was an amazing experience. But e-mail and phone conversations aren’t going to cut it. Dating is all about human connection and learning from past experiences. Online dating is a great way to meet humans. But any way you date, to truly find someone, you’ll have to do the work yourself.