Confessions of an online dating addict
It started innocently enough. Several years ago I left California, grad school, and a boyfriend to come to this fine new city, seat of Empire that Washington is. Not knowing anybody, and acutely feeling my singledom, I started browsing a few online ads. Washington City Paper, Nerve, Match…I even checked out Craiglist but at that time, it was just starting up in DC and no-one posted.
One night, after stumbling home from some bar where I had gone with a colleague, I logged onto Nerve, and signed up so I could answer an ad that had intrigued me. Little did I know it then, but that was the beginning of the end.
Soon, I was answering ads and dating on a regular basis. Of course, I told myself, it was just “social dating”—just something to help me relax a bit. Totally under control.
After a week of so-so dates, I took the next step. I posted my profile on Match.com. Within days, I was inundated by e-mails. I spent hours at home (when I was not on a date) crafting witty repartee, establishing just the right mixture of flirtation and seriousness. I had a date every night, and when I’d get home, I’d log on to see who else e-mailed me. Soon, I started cutting and pasting my responses—after all, much of the initial chat(where do you live/what do you do/how many freaks have you met on this site) was the same. No one noticed. I had great dates. Walks along the mall at night, theater tickets, jazz concerts, drinks, art exhibitions. It all seemed so healthy, so normal.
But as I continued to rack up dates, my life began to change in subtle ways. I no longer went to the gym after work, I stopped grocery shopping—when was I going to cook?-- and rarely saw my girlfriends anymore. My alcohol tolerance shot up. I had more ‘date outfits’ than I did work outfits. I kissed a lot of men. Sometimes I slept with them. Usually I split the check, so I wouldn’t feel bad about not following up for a second date. But still, I told myself, it’s all under control.
Soon, Match.com wasn’t enough. I branched out to Nerve and Yahoo, even Jdate (not that I’m Jewish). As a result, I started having more dates than free evenings. I became an expert stacker. The bartenders (now I call them enablers) at several establishments gave me knowing looks whenever I came in. But my secret was safe with them. Once, I was at a bar with a date and saw my date from the night before there, with his date. At least, I thought, I’m not alone in my habits.
My performance at work started to suffer. Between arranging dates and answering e-mails, I rarely finished my projects on time. Plus I started coming in late, hung over from the prior evenings activities. And I started taking long date lunches, because my evenings were already chock full.
At that point, my dating itself started to suffer. I started losing track of which one was the human rights lawyer and which one hiked Mt Everest, which one grew up on a farm in the Midwest, which one liked to make curry, which was was divorced and which one had been in the marines. My ability to combine witty banter with piercing intellectual observations and shy but come hither glances (the ingredients, I knew, of a successful date) was plummeting. Slack jawed, bleary eyed, I could only listen with faux enthusiasm and nod at appropriate intervals to their monologues. Most did not seem to mind, or even notice.
Soon, I had exhausted the possibilities of match, nerve, and yahoo. It was then that I returned to Craiglist. First it was just m4w, and w4m. Then it was Missed Connections, Casual Encounters, Miscellaneous Romance (really just Casual Encounters under a different heading), and Strictly Platonic(yeah, right). I even met guys through Rant and Raves and once, I went out on a date with someone I bought a desk from. The possibilities were seemingly endless—and that was poison to a girl like me.
My entire life was now spent dating, or on the computer, arranging the next date. There were times I woke up and I couldn’t remember whom I had gone out with the previous night, nor whom I was supposed to meet that night. And I could no longer rely on just first names—there were scores of Robs, and Daves, and Mikes, and Johns, and Steves and Jeffs. I had to make up nicknames for all of them, and designed a spreadsheet with relevant details of each to keep track of it all.
Throughout all of this, I was still in denial. Friends and family expressed concern. “Where have you been?” they asked? I began to lie—told work I had been sick, told my family and friends I was swamped with work. I even stopped going on second and third dates, except in rare cases. The thrill of the new was more addictive than the comfort of continuity.
And meanwhile, the dating continued, worse than ever. My once-high standards had all but disappeared. I’d meet guys who never posted pictures, who were in the country for a week, who didn’t know the difference between their, there, and they’re, who voted for Bush. I stopped trying to be witty in my ads. I discovered that on CL I just had to be thin to get responses.
At times I tried to stop the madness. I’d take down my ads, I’d tell people I was taking a ‘break’ from dating, I’d arrange to see the same guy several times just to keep me from going on new dates. But always, inevitably, I’d log in just to see who was out there, what new ads were posted in my absence..and I’d get reeled back in.
One evening, I was running late to a coffee date at Cosi with someone who responded to my MC (I really didn’t miss anyone, actually), because my “strictly platonic” language exchange date (evidently the guy wanted to know how to lick pussy in English) ran late, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make the 9 pm date with the endangered species eating Adams Morgan muscle man. Just as I was going to call him, I got a call confirming a date that evening from the self-made brilliant millionaire who wanted 3-6 kids with a tall, IQ over 140 musical instrument woman and I realized I had also scheduled, for that very same evening, a threesome at the Hotel Washington ---that’s when it hit me: online dating had literally destroyed my life. Right then and there, I made a commitment to stop the madness.
I took down all my ads, asked a friend to change the passwords on my e-mail accounts and (sob) cancelled DSL. And slowly, with each day that passed, I regained some semblance of normalcy. It hasn’t been easy. There are times I click on M4W and then I think—do I want to date, or do I want to live?
The answer is, I want to live.
So, now, when I really, REALLY need to post, I turn to RnR. Not a lot mind you. Just to blow off some steam, on occasion, just socially you know.
Okay, maybe daily, but that’s it. And just DC RnR.
Well, sometimes San Fran. And New York. And Chicago. But that’s it. Its not like I’m checking out Cleveland or Barcelona RnR. Much.
And its not like I flag or anything. Except when something really annoys me. And its not like I’m posting pictures of my ass all over the place (just my tits) or making racist or fat people comments. Except, you know, when they deserve it, the fat fucks….TROLL!!. Flagging fascist! Hey Fucktard! Rate me 1-10? Where can I get laid/a haircut/decent sushi? I hate liberals!!! I hate Republicans!!!! Cheating asshole! Weekend Sex Poll! Has anyone seen StarWars yet? IM RICK JAMES BITCH.!! Is CoHi gay?
Its under control, really. I swear.