Seven years ago I decided I needed to get over my ex. It had been five months since we broke up, and he managed to meet someone the following week. So I did something I swore I would never do. I tried internet dating.
Back then, internet dating felt like a realm reserved for the desperate. Mail-order brides, ex-nuns with facial hair, obese IT nerds who live alternate lives online as robo-cut Japanese animé heroes.
But today we do so much over the internet: banking, shopping, heck these days I prefer email to talking on the phone. So, I caved. Why not just try internet dating? At least I’ll be able to see who’s out there.
I started by taking the eHarmony personality profile which matches you to, as they put it: a highly select group with whom you share things like character, intellect, passion … and up to 24 other dimensions. Dimensions being a new way to market the human character. And eHarmony has discovered 24 of ’em!
So I took the test. There were hundreds of questions. Some were hard to answer. Like, I had to choose between:
A. I like spending week nights alone OR
B. I’m attracted to black men.
What if I’d like to spend a week night alone with a black man?
So, 45 minutes and 100s of questions later, identified my 24-dimensional personality. And they rejected me. eHarmony REJECTED ME! Come on, I didn’t get even ONE of the 24 dimensions right?
That’s because you’re unique, a friend comforted me. As if being 41 and still single didn’t tell me that already?
My roommate said eHarmony rejected a percentage to weed out “crazy people.” I wondered how she knew this.
Alright, so maybe it was the way I answered some of the questions:
Like, do you go through mood swings?
I’m a woman. We do that every month.
Or, Does life sometimes seem meaningless?
Yeah, I’m over thirty.
Even if you’re not going through a heart-wrenching breakup … which I was … If you’re honest, you’d be a liar NOT to answer yes. A liar or incredibly shallow. Now, whenever I see those perky couples on eHarmony ads? I think to myself, they’re shallow. Shallow liars.
Then I tried this internet dating site another friend told me about, called Christian Café. Who emailed me? Men in drag, magician outfits, a guy who looked like Santa Claus on a bender. Then a woman instant-messaged me because she was going through a crisis and needed a “Christian sister” to talk to. She begged to talk to me on the phone. I gave her my work number. My office gave her my cell number. I still get calls from Iowa. I just don’t answer them.
I tried Match.com. Lots of interesting, successful, men with mojo. But none of them shared my religious faith. I already tried dating men outside my faith. At best, the guy says, “that’s great for you.” And doing the spiritual life alone got really lonely. So, I knew I needed a man with my faith. But all the church boys had NO mojo WHATSOEVER. I was screwed. Finally I got matched with this Christian man who owned a vending machine company. Five seconds into our first phone call, puts his 8-year-old son on the line. “Hi I’m Skippy, do you like iguanas?” I had to hold a conversation with the kid for seven minutes.
Then I got an email from some church boy who worked in film. He seemed fun, but in our first phone call, he talked about his friends like I already knew them.
Film: Charlie’s having a hard time because Thelma just died.
Me: Who’s Thelma?
Film: Charlie’s Mom.
Me: Who’s Charlie?
Film: My college roommate. He worked at the White Castle on I-85? Hey, can I read you my screenplay?
I let my membership to match.com expire.
Several month later, Christian Café sent me ten free days to try to get me to come back. In those ten free days I saw the same guys on line. Not only the men from months before, I recognized men I’d seen them at every singles group in Southern California for the last 15 years. Men with handles like ShiningArmor, Heart4JesusNYou, MisterRight. I know Mister Right. He went to my church in the 1980s. I never got more than four words out of him. And there he is, Mister Right. He’s been on Christian Café for 2 years. How sad is that, to flip back every few months and see that no one wants Mister Right?
I took the eHarmony profile again. And, I got rejected, again. This time I asked my roommate how she knew they rejected people they thought were “crazy.”
Roommate: They rejected me. They said some of my answers were contradictory.
Susan: That’s not because you’re crazy, that’s because you’re an artist.
Roommate: Well, to eHarmony, crazy and artist are the same thing.
Susan: Fine. I’d rather be crazy and interesting, than sane and dull.
Roommate: I’d rather be crazy and interesting. And married.
Several months later, I tried match.com again. I saw this one guy’s profile, said he was 43, a Christian and worked in the arts. We emailed. He was hot to meet me, but kept having to go out of the country on business. He seemed cool, but some of his pictures looked a little narcissistic. I saw him at a distance at this wealthy church on Mulholland Drive. A friend dragged me there, I swear. But there he was, the guy from the profile. He kept flipping his hair and checking out the high school aged ‘babes.’ He never emailed me back. Maybe he’d seen me at a distance too, and decided I was too old, since I was out of high school.
Christian Café kept stalking me, luring me in with ten free days, then five. Then four. Every time, I saw the same men. Two years later, Mister Right was still up for grabs.
Third time I took the eHarmony profile, I passed. But had just had an endoscopy and was drugged on Percoset. I got matched with Percoset addicts. I let that expire.
Christian Café sent me three free days. While online some “Christian brother” in Arkansas instant messaged me, “if you were a hot dog, would you eat yourself?”
I tried eHarmony again. This time I lied, and said I always thought life was full of meaning. I got matched with nice Christian mojo-free men who worked in the Air Force or computer sales. Men who were never brave enough to admit that, sometimes life sucks and doesn’t make sense.
A 45-year old Indian physics professor named Sanjee wanted to fast track me. That means, skip the multiple choice questions and go right to the dowry requirements. I said no, I wanted to go through the multiple choice first. He didn’t have his picture posted, but all his must haves/can’t stands were about beauty: must have a woman who is considered very attractive. Must have a woman who is in excellent physical shape. Can’t stand a woman who is overweight. Can’t stand a woman who is not extremely attractive. Finally we got to the open questions, but before he could ask me about the size of my dowry, I asked him why it was so important that his partner be so attractive but he didn’t have his picture posted. So, he posted his picture. It was a long shot of a man sitting on top of a Coleman cooler in a weedy back yard. He looked about 60. He stared off in a strange direction, like a Civil War daguerreotype. Maybe he was legally blind.
The others I got matched with looked into the camera but had creepy vacant eyes, like the church had stolen their spontaneity. So, that was it for me and eHarmony. I figured this kind of matching works for people in the fly-over states who chose their jobs because a college counselor told them they’d like it. People whose answers will always be the same at any given moment. Not us crazy artist types who see life as full of contradictions. And anyway, I couldn’t look for a mate like I was shopping for a car: at the end of the day you’re supposed to pick one. No thanks, I’d rather walk than drive the wrong car.
Right before Christmas, Christian Café offered me two free days. Nothing like making the holidays even more depressing than trying to find a guy on a Christian website that guarantees men with no ‘nads. It found a profile of a guy who was a writer. On a lark I emailed him, gave him my real email address. In the two days I was online for free, never heard from him. But I did get an email from this other cute guy. But he was 26. My last boyfriend taught me never to date someone so young I could have been his babysitter.
About a week or so later, Writer Guy emailed me at my real email address. Over the next four days we emailed each other back and forth a lot. He was my kind of spiritual, he was smart, and mature. He’d even worked as a journalist for Christian magazines.
Susan: How was it working for Christians?
Writer Guy: Think “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I’d like to have most of it erased.
Ooh, he was funny too.
Susan: So are you not into church at all?
Writer Guy: I don’t often recognize God there. But I do find Him in simple things, with people who get what love and grace are all about.
I’d never heard my own thoughts articulated so well. When he said it, I was sure I was hearing an echo of something I hadn’t yet said.
Writer: Susan. I’d like to meet you.
Wow. A guy who actually asks you out.
Susan: I’m free after Friday.
Writer Guy: Shit, I leave for Seattle on Thursday, for two weeks.
He said “shit.” I was smitten.
In those two weeks, my lizard brain emerged from its sleep and spoke: Susan, this is The One. He’s The One. And I knew it was true.
But then I met him. He was SO NOT The One. He was smaller and skinner and nervous. He wore clogs and had longish wild hair, which he kept running his fingers through. He slouched down into the café sofa as he talked. I admit I liked what he was talking about. He my attention for two hours.
The next time he asked me out, he was less guarded, more fun. He seemed taller, sexier. The third date, I noticed the earring in his ear looked good against his “not so wild hair.” It turned out he liked Monty Python and Emma Thompson. He had watched the Dylan documentary five times. And he let it slip out that he owned a vinyl copy of the Beatles Bootleg Christmas album. I started to recognize the smart, funny, mature guy I’d met in emails. It was like watching someone’s face emerge in a Polaroid. I started to feel all squishy inside. Butterflies under my belt buckle. If he continued to “show up” he might end up being, you know, The One. But I once thought that about my last two boyfriends. And BOY was I wrong on both counts.
I saw Writer Guy for several months, and he got smarter, funnier, sexier, and more like Jesus every day. He was also full of contradictions. But they passed him on eHarmony the first go. They have way more women on eHarmony than men. Maybe they lower the bar for the guys.
Eight months later, Writer Guy and I got married. My lizard brain was right. He was “The One!” When my friends ask how we met, I tell them: on a website I wouldn’t recommend to any crazy, creative woman I cared about. Except that she might just meet Mister Right.
In early 2009, I was asked to speak on a TV morning show about my experiences on eHarmony. The official eHarmony psychologist was also a guest on the show. When I told him I’d been rejected three times, he asked if I was a complex thinker. He asked if I saw gray areas, contradictions and nuances in life.
Of course I did. Creative artists probably see too much nuance and complexity.
He told me that was why I got rejected. eHarmony’s core belief is that people get along if they think alike. They match people based on statistical probability that they’ll think or act alike in any given situation. If you see contradictions in life, you’re not going to get matched.
So people, if eHarmony rejects you, chances are you are complex, artistic, flexible and interesting. Or schizophrenic.
Talk amongst yourself.