A Facebook comment-thread conversation with my friend Brett recently got me thinking about the online dating/friend-making site OkCupid. I've mentioned them on here in my post about the short-fiction writing group/workshop that I'm rejoining this week. For anyone not familiar with the tenor of the OkCupid connection-making scene, back when I created an account (sometime in 2010, at the suggestion of my boyfriend, who was in Baghdad at the time and kindly mentioned the site as being helpful for making local friends) it was known as a hang-out for slightly cooler, more irreverent folks than those you might find via a more mainstream site (Match.com etc. -- yep, I did their free month-long trial back when I was single). Also, at least back when I signed up, there was the honest-to-God possibility of meeting folks who truly only wanted to be friends -- who wanted to chat about writing, go see some arty little movie or go on a hiking outing with like-minded people. I have no idea whether it's still like that or if it's devolved or gotten diluted the more well-known it's become.
I guess it sounds snobby, but I signed on back in 2010 in part because I liked the idea of weeding out people who might not get my at-times-subversive sensibility, who might not be able to keep up their end of what I'd consider to be an intellectually stimulating conversation or e-mail correspondence. I also liked that something about the site (its playful bells and whistles, its dating-sociology quizzes and statistics) seemed to have magically eliminated some of the hook-up sleaze that is just a fact of life when you're dealing with most dating sites. It felt like a safe place, like some hip bar where the jukebox seems to be playing songs straight from your iPod, and you can tell by the conversations you overhear that the other patrons are as liberal and atheist as you are, and they serve nostalgic-chic comfort food (fancy grilled-cheese sandwiches, say). I guess what I'm saying is that it felt like the dating-site equivalent of the Galaxy Hut.
However, I only kept my account active for a couple of months. The thing is, I found it to be a friendly place -- so friendly that I couldn't politely keep up with the onslaught of private messages and IMs I got on there. Besides, a lot of the guys seemed to be perhaps hoping that I might yield on my "I am only looking for friends on here" status, and that some sort of indie love story might blossom between us. Like a hipster version of the romance novel in which the impetuous maiden is tamed by the persistent rogue or whatever. I already had a boyfriend, and I loved him, so at some point I logged off and forgot about the site for a couple of years.
Well, I must not have perma-deleted my account. Today, after viewing Brett's profile and wondering whether I still had an account and, if so, what the heck I'd put on there -- I typed in the username and password that I figured I would have used, and there was my account. I saw that I'd gone for the "loveable goofball" schtick; my profile photo was of me flexing my tiny bicep, a Dia-de-los-Muertos skull sticker on it as a sort of unconvincing fake tattoo. When filling out the little personal-stats section, under "Body Type" I'd chosen "Used Up" (that was an option they had on there), and under "Drinking" I'd selected "Desperately." I left a bunch of the other crap blank ("Race/Ethnicity," for example; for one thing, it's a social construct; and for another thing, it doesn't matter).
I felt a little pang upon seeing that, back in 2010, I'd said that I was "thinking of going back to school to get an MFA in Creative Writing." (Yeah right; maybe after I win the Mega Millions.)
The editor in me couldn't resist making a few tiny tweaks to my profile right away, even though I have no intention of hanging out on there again. (For example, a glaring omission from the "Reading" section was any mention of Joan Didion's essays, which are now my favorite thing to read but remained undiscovered to me the last time I'd logged in there.) I also fiddled with the "whom you're looking to meet" stuff, making it 100% platonic, open to "everybody" for "everything" (except relationships) and extending the age range to: "from 18 to 100" (only because that was the widest possible scope the site would allow me to select; I mean, I'm not exactly going to shoot down the possibility of friendship with a 101-year-old).
Then I noticed a little orange bubble icon at the top that said "55." I clicked on it. Holy shit, I had 55 messages in my inbox! Not just notifications, but adorably li'l hand-crafted and personalized messages (all from dudes except for one chick who was new to the area and looking for friends). So I scrolled through them. Here, for your amusement, and in an unapologetic departure from the otherwise theme and purpose of this blog, are but a handful of highlights from those messages:
-"Heyyy. You look like JK Rowling :)"
-"Yeah, you look like a writer." (Um... thanks?)
-"I learned something from Snapple the other day: The average woman consumes 8 lbs of lipstick in her lifetime. What do you think about that?" (That was his entire message.)
-"Congrats on your choice of a tattoo." (The "tattoo" in my profile picture was pretty obviously just a sticker... or so I'd thought.)
-"I look forward to reading more of your responses and seeing whether we remain 0% enemy." (OkCupid has these little compatibility quizzes you can take, and I guess this guy and I kept agreeing or getting the same scores on stuff.)
-"An interesting array of thought magic you have. You sound like someone I should know or get to know!?!? ... You can catch my acting chops in our 7-minute zombie commercial, in which I have the lead, or just go to [link] where I am in 3 films. 'The Korean' is the best of those characters. Lovin' those sexy red lips! Typical visual sort of a guy!"
Creepiest Message Award goes to...
-"I love finding 0% enemy people. But what fun is that? I mean, without conflict, what's left? Maybe I should go back to being a mysogynist pastor over a patriarchal fundamentalist church in Missouri (show me!) where I was the one to tell the women that they are to be silent. I'll bet THAT would get some conversation going between us!"
Christie Ego Stroke of the Day Award goes to...
-"I like the playful wit in your words. You have a great mischievous smile. ;) "
-Message title: "New word." Message, in its entirety: "Heh. I had to look up 'insouciant.' "
And maybe strangest of all -- I got a message back in 2010 from a guy I've seen at Spellbound/on my little goth-club circuit for years now, who declined my Facebook friend request because "...if you really want to get to know me, talk to me once in a while" (hmm, good point!). He apparently did not make the link between the OkCupid girl he was hitting on in 2010 ("Third picture down -- those are some deeply excellent shoes...") and the Spellbound/IRL girl he dissed at around the same time. Which is weird, because my username is the same in both places.
Here's a snippet from an early message I got from my aforementioned friend Joe, whose message I did respond to, believe it or not (due to other stuff he said that was witty albeit borderline batshit). He's the guy who later took me to a bunch of Oscar-nominated short foreign animated films, and then to the writing group I'm going back to this week:
"Not to be lewd, but was it intentional for others to be able to see your underwear with a 5000x digital image enhancer on that one pic? I'm the kind of guy who will tell you if there's something in your teeth btw."
Yes, he is absolutely the dude who will tell you there's something in your teeth. And yes, most women in their right minds would have said, "Ugh!" and deleted his message without reading the good stuff farther down in it.
And to be fair, lest you think I feel that I'm superior to these guys, here's the dorky beginning of a message from me to Joe:
"Howdy hey there.
I have no idea why I say that. It's sort of jaunty or whimsical or something. Oh man, I'm doing that thing where I try to be clever, then I over-analyze the trying to be clever... and I need to just stop and be all *real* and *sincere*, maybe. I don't know."
Ah, humanity. What a conflicted lot we are.