When I cut Dean loose and got serious about finding someone I could love and marry, I decided to quit banging my head against the wall with FastCupid (a.k.a. Nerve) and join eHarmony, even though I feel it’s tacky. I got a ton of remarkably unattractive matches, many of them in NJ. But I got one kind of cute guy, and here is our correspondence (edited for spelling, and general writerly incompetence, except for one really appalling instance):
You just found the topic of your upcoming New York Times best selling biography -me! We can go 90/10 on the sales profits. Ninety % for me--I am a fair crook. I like your pictures but the red dress is very aggressive. Can you guarantee me you are not one of those online stalkers, or even worse, some guy pretending to be a woman?
I thought this was rather bombastic. Also, he described himself as a “surgeon” and I didn’t believe he was, if only because most of the doctors I’ve met online (not that there have been many) have referred to themselves MDs, or Physicians. I think if he was going to be specific, he would have been more specific, as in neurosurgeon, or, (my preferred career for a mate) pediatric oncologist (shows both serious clinical knowledge and care of children).
And we won’t get into the part where he suggested I might be a stalker, or insulted my shirt. I mean, I assume this wasn’t meant seriously, but why start a conversation with insults? I’m immediately put on the defensive. I’m not prepared to be on the defensive with a complete stranger. I reserve that behavior for someone I’m already fucked up over.
I thought I’d better ignore him.
Two days later I got another email:
What's up? Do you have writer's block? I think the way it works is I send you a message then you send one to me. Unless of course you already know everything about me and therefore have no need to ask me anything. But how, other than stalking me, could you get this info. I knew it, you are a stalker! Well, I'll give you some help with the biography. Reserve chapters 1 - 6 for my life up until now. Chapter 7: The Humphry [sic] Bogart/James Bond hybrid (that's me) began noticing the Lady in Red (that's you) everywhere. In his rear view mirror. Behind him in line. Outside his apartment in the bushes... (LOL).
The tone here was slightly more amiable, so I felt moved to respond:
Well, gee, I didn't know quite how to respond to your email. Do you always come on so strong? Most of my boyfriends have been shy, self-deprecating geeks. You're not like that, are you?
Next I received:
I feel for you. Most guys JUST DON'T GET IT! But that's their problem (and yours if you end up with one of them).
Went to a nice little shindig with some friends last night on the Jersey Shore. Do you ever come out this way?
So... After all that time I gave you to think about me your big question for me is, "Am I a geek ?" Hmmm... Can I have more time to think that one over (LOL), please ?
My questions for you are: Where in NYC do you live? Where do you hang out? When women at a club excuse themselves from the group and go to the ladies room, what the heck do they talk about? It doesn't take 30 minutes to take a leak. (You seem like the type that would pull this one).
Now do you think you can try to come up with some cool questions like that for me. Before I double click on the close match tab.
You seem like the type that would pull this one? Threatening to close the match on me if I don’t respond ASAP? Jackass.
Two days later:
Are you playing hard to get? If you are I understand. I use that move all the time myself. So here I go again. How many more e-mails do I have to send until you are done playing - just give me a number so I can mark the day on my calendar. Or are you intimidated by me? All joking aside, many women are. But you don't have to be. It will be OK. I give you my word. Or do you have too many other e-mails to deal with? Delete them. Most will be dead ends anyway. Email me or send me your phone number and I'll call you some time. You seem like a daddy's little rich girl, but I think I might like you.
This pissed me off, as I suppose was the intention. I wrote back the following day:
I'm not playing hard to get, I'm busy. Also bewildered as to your flirting technique- threatening to close the match unless I respond quickly, accusing me of being a daddy's little rich girl (don't I wish!). Let me spell this out for you: I don't respond well to provocation, even if that's your preferred method of courtship. Finally, your photo — is it recent? You don't look 41. That's a compliment — you look very youthful.
Ha ha! Note both the puzzled primness and the back-handed compliment — that last part hoisting him with his own petard, I felt. I bet it was an old photo.
He slunk off, and I never heard from him again. I thought he was just a hostile lunatic, but then it occurred to me that he was a Game-r — a practitioner of seduction by boorishness (called devaluation, I believe. See also this article). I hope Mark went back to his guidebook or consulted his pickup artist mentor and they scratched their heads over how to deal with women who are too old to mistake obnoxiousness for romantic banter. Also, “daddy’s little rich girl”— Do many men secretly dream of mastering a daddy’s girl, as all women are supposed to want to tame a bad boy (a.k.a. hoodlum/lead guitarist/tortured vampire)?
Mark’s emails were calculated to make me feel a) as if he’s doing me a favor by bothering with someone he clearly thinks so little of and b) flattered that he’s spending his time telling me how I might impress him a little more. From his first email (“Can you guarantee me you are not one of those online stalkers?”), my instinct is to defend myself against his accusations, and prove him wrong. I’m inclined to go to great lengths to show him what a down-to-earth, domestic beer-drinking type of girl I am, and in the process of proving myself I end up believing that defending my character against the insults of a total stranger is a worthwhile enterprise. And I might have believed it, if I were, say, mean, popular, and 16 years old. (I think it’s assumed that the subject of any such attempts is indeed mean and popular, though hopefully not 16). These methods might also be effective with a romantic, articulate teenager who hasn’t had much experience with guys; someone primed to mistake attention for interest — that is, someone who’s seen a lot of the Hepburn-Tracy movies in which this scenario plays out. Needless to say, you can imagine what kind of teenager I was (that kind).
But now I’m torn between amusement and real irritation: This is a calculated, mean-spirited way to get a date. I’m also insulted, since he thought I would fall for this. Does anyone have any firsthand experience with this? Readers?
I've had other dating issues with eHarmony men (besides the fact that they’re invariably stocky general contractors from central Jersey. One guy, Tom, sent me this message:
Where do we go from here?
Well, nowhere, if you expect me to start the exchange you apparently wanted to initiate. This was shortly after the Mark episode and, once again, I was a little annoyed:
Well, usually you tell me you like my profile/photo/great wit, and I respond in
kind. Some awkward banter follows, and then possibly a date. But you contacted me, so it's up to you to start.
I probably won’t be hearing from him again either. But really, if you want to have a conversation with me, don’t ask me to start it for you.
Finally, last night I went out with Ted, also from eHarmony. A decent guy, and very bright (U. Chicago, Berkeley, U. VA) but he asked me to dinner, suggested the restaurant, and then, when the check came, asked if I minded splitting it. This was after I had explained that I was on a budget, which was why I couldn’t eat out as much as I liked and hadn’t traveled in years. I hadn’t been planning to see him again, anyway, but Jesus! You ask someone out, you offer to pay. (This is my dating guide, and it is correct). If you balk at the thought of spending $60 (the cost of our dinner, including tax and tip) on someone you may never see again (or, if you’re an angry man, “on a spoiled princess who treats you like an ATM”), you ask her for coffee. If someone asks me out, he doesn’t have to shell out much, but Jesus! “Do you mind if we split this?” Yeah, I mind— I wouldn’t have chosen a vegan Korean restaurant if I knew I was going to be paying $30 for the tofu clay pot and a cup of date paste tea. “No, not at all,” I lied.
I don’t want to become bitter, or jaded, or pessimistic about my prospects for the whole bourgeois marriage dream — me and an employed, kind, smart, loyal and tall adult male with only minor issues to work out in therapy, and our two kids, two jobs, and three bedrooms, maybe in the East Twenties — but sometimes I hate dating. And dating websites. Grrr, arrgh.