By David Israel
problem with Internet dating is not meeting people; it's knowing
when to stop meeting people. I should know, because for all
intents and purposes, I met my fiancé online. And while sure,
some part of finding your other half is simply perseverance and
ultimate good fortune, another, perhaps larger part, is knowing
the best game plan. Just like in hockey, the way a coach has to
know when to pull his goalie, so must those who subscribe to online
dating services know when to pull their profiles.
scene is your average corporate office floor in midtown Manhattan,
a little over a year ago: Fluorescent light fixtures recess into
drop ceilings. Prefab squares of textured, split-pea green, glued-down
carpet cover concrete floors. Cubicle walls cut the vast interior
space creating a maze of semi-private cubbies. Each enclave is outfitted
with the exact same desk, filing cabinet, computer monitor, ergonomically
correct high back chair, phone and stapler. Vice-presidents can
be heard rifling off emails on their keyboards. Assistants can be
overheard on the phone setting up meetings for their bosses, arranging
lunches, booking hotels overseas, or discussing the difficulties
of finding quality reconstructive hair conditioners at affordable
Meanwhile, I'm busy answering an email from a new girl I've made
contact with through my online dating service. Her name is Jamie.
She's a Columbia grad with subscriptions to both US Weekly
and The Economist. She likes "titanium surfaces,"
has "small wrists and ankles," and "a thing for browsing
ethnic grocery stores." From the photos she's posted and the
previous emails I've received, she represents herself to be a savvy,
good-looking, talented architect who's had her fill of players,
who's grown weary of the tall, dark, and hand-somebody-else-your-commitment-issue
I like her style. I like it a lot. But I don't want to come on too
strong too soon. Twenty-seven new profiles of gals between the ages
of 26 and 36, over five foot three inches tall, and within a 10
mile radius of my zip code have already signed up for the service
since I logged on yesterday. And one of them is an exceedingly attractive
book agent (this appeals to the novelist-wannabe in me, big time).
Plus, two other girls have sent me winks, smiles, or teases over
the last hour and I haven't even had time to check out their profiles
yet. So I play it cool.
I agree, we should move this thing to the phone, and I thank you
for trusting me with your digits. But may I suggest holding off
another few days? Maybe get to know each other a little more here,
on email, before hearing each other's voices?
It's not that I don't want to speak to her. On the contrary: Past
experience has definitely taught me the importance of making vox-contact
early on. (This, after I fell madly in love with NYLAWYER75 over
email only to discover on our first date that her voice was the
missing link between Miss Piggy's and a Black & Decker power
drill.) But I've also learned that once the ten-minute phone conversation
is initiated (most online daters know proper first-phone-call etiquette:
keep it to ten minutes), precipitating actual human contact, it's
pretty hard to wiggle your way out of a real, live, date. Email,
on the other hand, while being a solid avenue for revealing one's
dislike of the present administration's environmental policies,
is still a cold and sterile enough environment to abruptly disengage
-- to put an end to it all without reason, to drop off the face
of the Net, to disappear into the ether. This has happened at one
time or another to everyone who's ever tried online dating. And
while it's a definitive and immediate blow to the ego when it happens
to you, once you've done it to someone else, it seems almost acceptable.
"Eh, whatever," you justify. "It wouldn't have worked
out anyway. I could never get serious with someone who doesn't know
the difference between your and you're."
the afternoon, when Jamie hasn't responded to my above email, I
begin to get a little worried. Like maybe I shouldn't have balked
at the phone offer. Like maybe she's now moved on to the next guy
on her list, the one who doesn't have trouble switching from email
to phone so quickly.
I bring it up on my therapist's couch later that day.
"The problem is that there's always going to be new profiles
on there," I say as I stare out her office window at the lower
With a tone of voice that suggests she already knows the answer
to her question, she asks, "And why is that a problem?"
"Supposing I settle for Girl A," I explain, "and
begin to fall for her. I could be missing out on a new girl, say
Girl E, who has A's beauty, B's IQ, C's sense of humor and D's summer
house in the Berkshires."
"True, but what if Girl E has bad breath? Or several Yanni
CDs?" (My therapist is a hoot.) "What then? Girl F?"
"See that's the thing: I'm sure there is a Girl F out
there, and sometimes I feel that if I hold out long enough, she'll
show up on my results page."
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