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Never Say Never
by Solomon Philbrick
The grad school life is a lonely and often boring one punctuated with moments of panic and anxiety. It is unlike the regular college scene, where young singles abound and beer kegs are around every corner. Rather, it is a grey area between student life and professional life and your peers are a bit older than they would have been in an earlier educational incarnation. They enter the environment with (seemingly) more ordered lives: they are often married, engaged or living with a significant other, and sometimes have children. This is a matter of extreme frustration to the straggling few of us who are unconnected and living in a new town and one in which I find myself now. On one hand, I’d rather not date anyone in the same department because that could cause major drama. On the other, I am too old to date anyone who is either not old enough to drink or not old enough to know when not to drink. This makes the college pretty much off-limits for anything other than academic pursuits. The solution, then, lies with the townies.
A few days before the new year I found myself doing something that I swore over and over again I would never do, not in a million freaking years, not if my life depended on it, not if it was the last option on earth of meeting anyone...Well, you get it. That something is online dating.
It wasn’t exactly a New Year’s Resolution. I don’t make those. It was really more of a coincidence than anything else. I decided to be less afraid of public embarrassment (and hell, I’m telling everyone that reads this column, some of whom know me in real life) and rejection, and the online thing seemed like an easy option. After all, let’s face it: the worst thing that can happen in a bar, coffee shop or other venue is not that the girl in question might say “no.” The worst thing that could happen is that she will throw a drink in your face or her boyfriend will come out of the bathroom as you’re trying to chat the young lady up and proceed to beat the living hell out of you. I know, I tend to think in worst-case scenarios. Neither of these things has ever actually happened, but you know it could.
Everyone who uses an online dating service is there for a purpose, and it is not to make friends. I have friends, they probably have friends, so why shell out cash to make more friends? Dating online boils everything down to its essence. At the bottom of it all, everyone is looking for some sort of exchange of the more-than-friendly variety, and therefore no one really looks stupid. If I ask someone signed up on one of these sites to come check out my profile, she sure as hell can’t laugh at me for being there in the first place, now can she?
Of course there are the worst case scenarios. She could be an axe murderess, her photograph may have gone through ten Photoshop filters before she posted it or she might be a hooker. This, of course, is no different than any other dating situation, though, and it’s why you always meet the person in public and in broad daylight a few times before even thinking about getting serious. Yes, I am a bit of a prude, but I still have both kidneys, thank you very much.
The problem with these little services, though, is that they put a person at the mercy of a computer. Computers are great tools but they are stupid. The computer that beat that one guy at chess is really no smarter than Forrest Gump. For example, Forrest Gump would not need to be told that there is more than one type of couch where he could sit his semi-retarded ass. By contrast, a computer only knows the difference between “couch” and “not couch.” A human being would have to program in variations on “couch” in order for the computer to recognize different couches as such. So it goes with online dating.
The computer could (you know, hypothetically) match me up statistically to a ninety-five percent compatibility rating with another person. The missing five percent is that this person would never date a smoker and I smoke a pack a day. Or that this person thinks “open relationships” are fine while I would never go for such a thing. Or that this person wants a guy who pulls in over one hundred grand a year while my broke ass is living on frozen pizza and student loans. The computer is simply too stupid to know just how important these kinds of differences really are. Besides, even if the computer matches us up to one hundred percent (which I find statistically impossible, but I’m no math whiz,) who is to say that I want another version of myself anyway? One of me is more than this world really needs, and good lord I would probably strangle my own twin.
So after weeding out the nonsmokers and money grubbers on the first page of my future potential blushing brides, I emailed each with a more or less bland message that incorporated our shared interests. Basically I yelled out, “Hey, you, notice me!” to very little avail. My one hundred percenter and I exchanged a few messages before quickly becoming bored with one another. Finally I became so irritated that I went through the six or seven pages of possible matches, found someone that the computer ranked me as an eighty-three percent compatible with, and wrote out a nasty and sarcastic message about how stupid the computerized dating system was. She replied in kind, and yesterday we exchanged phone numbers.
To find out if she’s an axe murderer, check the LA Times later next week.