Virtual Love

For the few of those who I know actually read my blog, you may have noticed that I’ve sort of…disappeared. Well, my friends, that is because I’ve been preoccupied in a virtual world of online dating. Yes, that’s right… I’ve been dating!! Dating people I don’t even know! Why would I do this to myself?! Number one, I’ve always hated dating (for a number of reasons). Number two, what if I don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? Rejection sucks and I’m afraid I’ve had my fill. But putting the breaks on something that someone else sees as a potentially ideal relationship sucks, too. And I suppose I’ve done my fair share of that, as well. Yet here I am, trying my luck. And I must say, four weeks into it and I’m exhausted!

Online dating, I’m realizing, requires some finesse, a lot of self-awareness, and a ton of patience. But knowing how to read between the lines is incredibly helpful in saving yourself some time. My inbox is full of messages I will never respond to. And that’s okay. That’s how you play the game. If I expended all my energy on every person who tried to holla I’d be drained by the time someone worth my energy came along. In fact, if you’re strategic enough in virtual dating, you can review profiles and know in a matter of minutes whether that person is even worth a ‘hello’. On the dating site I belong to they ask a series of questions dealing with a variety of topics like sex, drugs, politics, religion, race and gender. I have found this to be extremely useful in sifting through the overwhelming number of possible matches. Anyone who is super conservative and religious, seems to prioritize sex, spends much of their time getting wasted, or holds racist/sexist beliefs is immediately eschewed. And so, I’ve actually been out with a couple of suitors and I’m enjoying my time immensely!

And yet… I wonder. How legitimate could any bond be that was sort of forced into being? Traditionally, a relationship begins after meeting someone in person first, feeling their energy, sensing an attraction, and going from there. Finding out the things you have in common are shared over time. When you meet someone virtually, however, you’re basically submitting a resume to be reviewed and scrutinized by an unknown party who will then make assumptions about you based on the few things you’ve shared which may or may not be an accurate reflection of who you are as a person. And yet that is what people expect to know in the brief description you provide. You can see that a person is interested in some of the same pastimes or has similar tastes in movies, music, television, books. But how much does all of that really matter? You can’t know how they’re going to make you feel just by the way they look at you. You can’t know whether they’re going to get your sense of humor or whether they have the ability to see past your defenses.

So far, I’ve met two really good candidates. But is that what it comes down to? In this sense, our dates really are like interviews in which I’m contrasting and comparing both applicants to figure out who should win out. Because I’m only looking for one person to fill the job. The “job” being a partnership with someone who I could not only consider a lover, but a best friend.. someone to cherish and grow old with.. someone willing to sweat it out when the going gets tough.. someone who longs to feel a part of something bigger, something special, like a family. And I think, besides those just looking for sex, anyone on a dating website wants the same thing more or less. But it’s difficult to come out and say that because you don’t want to appear desperate for love and companionship. You don’t want to scare anyone off or place too many expectations on a relationship that hasn’t yet begun.

In fact, I think what I struggle the most with in terms of discovering my “perfect” match online is, how natural is it to find real love and happiness with someone when meeting them for the first time is with the expectation or hope of partnering with them eventually? Under no other circumstances do people place that much pressure on a relationship to be what it isn’t (unless you’re into arranged marriages and such). As a single person, under normal provisions, when meeting someone else for the first time, one doesn’t automatically assume that person might be their soulmate. The possibility of asking a person out doesn’t normally occur until there’s been an opportunity to get to know them, in person, in a real world, real life setting. So even while getting to know someone who you’ve met online there is this presumption that looms over the budding relationship, pushing people in a direction of being together even if it doesn’t feel quite right.

And while dating online means that I am now in a constant state of tug-of-war with people suddenly interested in spending time with me, in some ways I feel lonelier than ever. But that’s because I’m terrified of the unknown. I’m terrified that I will invest all this time getting to know someone and eventually find out that, oh yeah, by the way, they murder puppies in their spare time. Or they have a collection of doll hair in a shoebox they keep discretely tucked away under their bed. Or, more realistically, they aren’t as committed to the relationship as they had led me to believe. They’re liars. Cheaters. Porn addicts. They appear to be family oriented but as it turns out they’re more invested in their careers. And moreover, dating and getting to know strangers is a lonely process because I know there is still so much of me they have yet to uncover. And I wonder if they ever could, if they would ever want to, if I would ever let them. And I just want this stage to be over. I just want to be in that place where everything comes naturally and I feel at liberty to be myself with someone.

And yet I’m willing to see where all of this goes. Because do I really know what finding true love is supposed to feel like? If I did, I’m not sure I would be here. I’m not sure I would keep falling over and over for people who make empty promises, people clearly not willing or able to put in a good fight. So how will I know? I’m still waiting for the answer because it’s one of the few things you can’t find on the internet.

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