You've seen the commercials. Happy, relatively good-looking people fawning all over each other while gushing about the online dating service that brought them together. White backgrounds and classic R&B tunes underscore the soundtrack to their happiness, setting the stage for your impending "relationship." Some online dating services claim to be so selective that they can decide whether you are "morally" fit to participate in their online matchmaking service. Others stress giving you a chance when those more "selective" services reject you because you happen to be "different." A few claim to match people of all ages and backgrounds, while others specialize in serving specific racial, ethnic and religious populations. With the aid of experts, new technology, varied approaches to matchmaking, and an open mind, anyone can find love online ... theoretically.
Online dating appears to be the new "it" thing. It has been around for years, but has gained new popularity as people have become more comfortable with Web technology and realize that pro-actively searching for "love" does not make you desperate or crazy. Some people think that it is "better" than traditional dating because of the "anonymity" of it all. For once, folks can put away their biases and pre-conceived notions of people and get to know the "real" person, without worrying about pesky little things like looks, class status and the awkwardness of traditional dating, theoretically. The reality of online dating is that it is very much like traditional dating.
Having recently moved, I found that I was not getting out much or meeting anyone, friend or otherwise. Officially tired of the club scene, mixers, and the guys whom I thought I was dating but were not dating me (or seriously interested in women like me for that matter), I joined the other two million people engaged in online dating and found it to be quite similar to dating offline. I found that men are obsessed with your looks and not their own and men who claim to be single often have girlfriends or "friends with benefits" -- or spouses.
Take for instance, the man who called to invite me over for dinner. We had chatted online for a couple of weeks and had gone out on two dates previously. Since I had not had a man cook dinner for me in about five years, I welcomed the invitation.
After I sent a text message to my sister with all of the essential data (name, address, phone number, occupational info, etc.), I went on my way. I barely got through the door before his "ex-girlfriend" showed up with her dog. As a dog lover I headed straight for the dog and began playing with him. I then looked up and read their body language and was like, "Oh shit, this is his woman." He later explained that it was his "ex-girlfriend" who had dropped by to say, "Hi." She came from Bowie to Baltimore in I-95 rush hour traffic to "drop by." He also stated that she was an "8" and he was looking for a "10," and "they weren't sexually compatible, even though they loved each other." I found this to be hilarious considering that he would probably rank as a "3" if he used his criteria for rating women to rate himself. His "jerk" personality helped to drop his overall rating as well. Telling my friends about it, we laughed hysterically, having experienced this way too often in traditional dating. This ranked right up there with my real-life experience of a man who invited me to church on New Years Eve and then invited his "friend" to attend as well. She ice-grilled and mean-mugged me the entire service and then he feigned ignorance over her behavior. Of course he eventually admitted that she was a "friend with benefits." Or the guy that invited me out to go dancing with his "friends," one of whom he was screwing, who let me in on their secret, and played on my phone for weeks after that.
Even in online dating land, I found the guy with the "significant other" or "off-and-on girlfriend," was pretending to be single, knowing that he really was not, just bored with what he has or biding his time until the one he really wants, wants him back. Like many guys who we meet in real life, this guy had an elevated sense of himself, which he was able to develop, unfortunately, based on disproportionate ratios of single, black women to single, black men as opposed to any real accomplishments, spiritual, familial, educational, occupational or otherwise.
Like traditional dating, I soon bowed out of the online dating experience. I was inundated with messages from men that did not match me at all. In three weeks, I had more than 1,000 hits, but none really sparked my interest. As is the case in real life, those who matched best, either did not date black women or audibly lost interest upon finding out that there is more to me than just my looks. I recognized that all too familiar, "Uh-oh, she might have a life outside of me, or outshine me, or actually have expectations of me," and their inevitable disinterest. Even in online land, some men believe that they are in competition with their women; when in love, there is never any competition.
Online dating is not as uncomplicated as people claim. It's sort of like being at a nightclub -- lots of people, most looking for one thing, a few finding love, but ultimately played out.