Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Etc. Etc. Etc.

I knew Bill wasn't going to be satisfied with a cryptic and über-crusty Guinness photo as the only description of my weekend:
Bill: What was up with the blog entry? Did that guy no show?

Karin: Nah. It’s a more involved story ... We hung out both Saturday and Sunday. Didn’t end well last night at 12:30 and I was pissed so I drove over to Foley’s to unwind with a Guinness. Surprisingly, just doing that rather than going home and going to bed being angry was a good approach. I e-mailed him today and apologized – he was a bit of a quirky guy in person and the fallout came because of my frustration with that, which is hardly his fault. He doesn’t seem aggrieved and said he’d write more later. Which is fine. It was good for us to hang out. We’re definitely not worth dating or even romantic involvement, but we do have a lot of shared interests and I’d like to stay in touch.

B: Sorry it didn’t work out so well. Sure this guy is really worth your time?

K: Well, yeah, enough so. Considering our level of interaction the last 3 months, I don’t want to make an enemy and don’t want it to end badly. Even if we just get square and then the relationship trails off because there’s nothing romantic going on….so be it. Better that. Interesting guy, smart guy, definitely eccentric – which, again, is something not entirely apparent until you hang out. Kind of like what happened with C-2, I’m glad to have erased ambiguity. Frustrated to have wasted time on a level, but it’s all a learning experience and this taught me something about me too.

B: Well, what’s wrong with cutting ties now? If you’re going through the motions just to “not make an enemy”, it just doesn’t sound right. Don’t waste more time if there is no potential, your time is too valuable.

K: We’ll see. I’d like to end it on a good note if nothing else. I’m a bad person when it comes to regrets.

B: Well, you probably regret too much in general. You’re a good person that way in that you care about how you treat others, sometime regardless of how they treat you.

K: I know. He didn’t treat me badly. He didn’t misrepresent himself. It just took meeting him to understand that him being quirky made for great e-mail exchanges but less chemistry in person. I didn’t have the patience for his real-life persona. So I don’t have to. I think we’ll just go back to swapping YouTube videos.
Actually, I did that last night, sending along this link of the great mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Handel. It closed the loop on our brunch at the Algiers Coffee House, where we sat for 2 hours on Sunday afternoon dissecting the text and origin of the Bach cantatas playing in the background. Which, again, seems like the kind of relationship he and I should and could have. Those 2 hours of Bach minutiae, in that (speaking of quirky) Harvard Square relic, were easily the best 2 hours of the weekend.

Lesson learned.

(The regret comment probably requires reflection and a separate entry at a later date.  As does my curiosity about whether or not he thought I was an eccentric, too ....)

Meanwhile, The New Yorker yesterday revealed this 10,000-word essay by Nick Paumgarten on online dating, with a heavy focus on OKCupid -- interviews with and discussions of the dating lives of its creators and all.

Well, it's about time .... 2 of my most regular reading habits in one handy location! (Highbrow and lowbrow meeting in the middle, perhaps?) Mr. Paumgarten is gifted and clever and did a mountain of research. I particularly enjoyed learning about the Technical Automated Compatibility Testing (TACT), the first known "computer-penpal" service that originated around the time of the 1964 World's Fair. Nonetheless, that everything (but TACT) sounds like something I've heard before, even in a piece of this length, is a testament to both my well-documented history and the over-ripeness of still writing about it.

Mr. Paumgarten is married. For research purposes, rather than creating an fake online profile, he made coffee dates with women who had OKC histories. His conclusion rings of accuracy .... particularly the highlighted line at the end...
"I talked to men, too, of course, but there is something simultaneously reductive and disingenuous in most men’s assessments of their requirements and conquests. Some research has suggested that it is men, more than women, who yearn for marriage, but this may be merely a case of stated preference. Men want someone who will take care of them, make them look good, and have sex with them—not necessarily in that order. It may be that this is all that women really want, too, but they are better at disguising or obscuring it. They deal in calculus, while men, for the most part, traffic in simple sums.
"A common observation, about both the Internet dating world and the world at large, is that there is an apparent surplus of available women, especially in their thirties and beyond, and a shortage of recommendable men. The explanation for this asymmetry, which isn’t exactly news, is that men can and usually do pursue younger women, and that often the men who are single are exactly the ones who prefer them. For women surveying a landscape of banished husbands or perpetual boys, the biological rationale offers little solace. Neither does the Internet. "
And here's a take on a gender issue:
"Good writing on Internet dating sites may be rare because males know that the best way to get laid is to send messages to as many females as possible. To be efficient, they put very little work into each message and therefore pay scant attention to each woman’s profile. The come-on becomes spam and gums up the works, or scares women away, which in turn can lead to a different kind of gender disparity: a room full of dudes. “There is a fundamental imbalance in the social dynamic,” Harj Taggar, the investor at Y Combinator, told me. “The most valuable asset is attractive females. As soon as you get them, you get loads of creepy guys.”
Finally, this story was my favorite: a woman in her 70s, with a PhD, married and divorced twice and who lives ... outside of Boston. She's in her 70s, I'm in my 30s, we're both internet dating, we're having similar experiences.
"She met a mathematician who lived in Amsterdam, and flew over to meet him but discovered within minutes that he suffered from full-blown O.C.D. She drove up to New Hampshire in the rain for lunch with a man with whom she’d been carrying on a promising e-mail and telephone correspondence for a few days, but he told her that he found her unattractive. She met a financier on Yahoo’s dating site. They got together for coffee at Café Pamplona, in Cambridge. (K: Just down the street from the Algiers, of course!) He was handsome, charming, and bright. He was also, as a friend’s follow-up Google search revealed, a felon, and had served time in prison in a RICO case. “I did see him again,” she said. “And then I realized how crazy he was. He wasn’t nice, either.” For two years, she has had an off-and-on affair with a forty-seven-year-old man she met on Yahoo, and she recently met a man on Match.com who showed up for their first date wearing a woman’s sun hat, slippers, and three purses. He invited her to accompany him to Norway to meet the Queen.

“You have to learn the rules,” she said. “But there are no rules.” More often than not, she initiates contact. “At my age, I have to.” She also feels that, in her profile, she has to shave a few years from her age and leave out the fact that she has a doctoral degree, having concluded that men are often scared off by it. She has gone online as a man, just to survey the terrain, and estimates that in her age range women outnumber men ten to one. “Men my age are grabbed up immediately by friends,” she said. “Or else they believe that younger women are more interested in sex.

“I’ve learned, forget about writing,” she said. “Meet a person as soon as you can. Anyway, the profiles you read, they’re like bathtubs. There’s no variation.”


Anonymous said...

That last section rings so true!

Karin said...

So I just followed along on the NYorker website in a live chat with the author and there were more pertinent comments. Here was the concluding conversation:

COMMENTER to NP: What drew you to this story? Was it the clear possibilities for humor or parody, or its more serious implications?

NICK PAUMGARTEN: Dating leads to mating, and there's not much we do that's more consequential than that. Also, I saw it as an opportunity to talk to people about what they wanted in life--in marriage, in the bedroom, whatever. That is, it was a voyeuristic opportunity. In fact, I, and for all I know my editors, probably expected there to be more humor or parody, but I found that wading around in people's lives in this manner got kind of...heavy. A lot of sad(ish) people out there.
The point is, happiness, however you define it, is elusive. It’s quicksilver, and as far as I can tell there’s no surefire recipe for it. If you’re the kind of person who loves meeting new people, who isn’t exhausted by that—this being the true definition of an extrovert, by the way—then dating is as much a source of happiness as a good marriage. But for a lot of people, the process is exhausting. So much emailing, so many halting nights out. It’s funny, it’s, like, the return of the ritual. Jane Austen for a new age.