I didn’t think I wanted to write about or around Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t sure how a post might be perceived: bitter? annoying? bitchy? At the moment, I feel pleasantly glad for my friends in relationships. Yet it’s a hard day to ignore. It’s Black History Month too, but 90% of what I see online is about creative ways to seduce your partner, links to buy heart-shaped candy, and deals on last-minute romantic getaways. Maybe in an alternate universe, there are pop-up ads with airfare deals to DC to see the MLK memorial. But I’m stuck in this one, where no one’s selling black history, so I’ll keep my focus narrowed for this particular post.
I’m single at the moment. I’m OK with this now; I wasn’t always. I think relationships are wonderful, vital, meaningful, and I hope to be in one again. Thankfully, though, I’ve moved past the stage where every day of single life is another rumbling bell toll toward a solitary death. That stage—experienced mostly in my 20s—was awful. Lots of tears, self-critiquing, jealousy of other women and couples in general, and moaning, “Whyyyyyyy?” to a pitiless God. I’m not sure when and how I moved past it; all I can say is like anything else, it got easier with time. I’m an only child, which probably helped; I’m already accustomed to and comfortable in the quietness of my own company. Without a boyfriend, what was there to do? Simply, everything I would do with one. Some may find me quirky (fine, substitute your own word here, but be gentle) but if my friends or family aren’t free, I dine, see movies, travel alone—things aren’t put on pause because no one’s responding to me on Match.
This leads me into the fantastic, gruesome, awesome world of Internet dating. Wowza!
I think we can all agree, New York, like most major cities, is a hard place to really connect with people. Everyone’s moving fast, drinking fast, dancing fast. We’re big on lounges, which are lousy for singles. I imagine it’s hard for a man to approach a woman trying to get on her two-step in the club, let alone one spread out on a low couch, flanked by five friends and surrounded by dancers, hostesses, and other possible competition. Enter Nerve.com, my first online dating experience a good decade ago. I found it heady and interesting, but as the site pre-dated Match and most Web dating, friends and family worried every time I left to meet someone. “Tell us where you’re going.” “What’s this guy’s name?” “How late are you going to be out?” Not one date worked out, but it was good practice. The highlight for me was having my picture and profile printed on the back of TimeOut magazine. Look at me! I’m INCREDIBLY single!
Over the years I signed up for almost every major site online at least once: eHarmony, which tortured me with a two-hour profile only to send me the polar opposite of prospective dates (50-something white men vs. 30-something black or Hispanic men; were they harmonizing with vodka back at the office?); OKCupid, where I chatted up some cool people and took some very funny quizzes; Plentyoffish, which I considered the anarchist Thunderdome of dating; and ChristianMingle, where everyone was so busy trying to sound pious that no one legitimately talked relationships. I would also occasionally browse BlackPeopleMeet, where there existed some unspoken men-in-wife-beater clause. I was intimidated just looking at pictures.
There were lots of memorable Web experiences over the years: the cop I chatted with on AIM during a blizzard who, within 10 minutes, turned our conversation to guns and kept it there; the guy who, upon meeting me for a movie, called me “Nyra” and continued to do so despite my constant, increasingly belligerent corrections; and the ex-Marine who was adorable, sweet, generous…and 2 ½ inches shorter than me. (You don’t know how much I tried to make that work. I feel guilty mentioning it even now, a good eight years later.)