When January 1st of this brand new year arrived, I did what I always do on that day each year: think about my accomplishments from the previous year. 2011 in particular was a big year for me. I got an amazing offer from my company to relocate to Silicon Valley in the south bay area of California, and I made the move last June. It has been a thrilling experience so far, with fun night life, great restaurants and a breathtaking view of the mountains on the horizon. I find the diversity here intriguing and love that I’m surrounded by like-minded creative and intelligent people. I moved into my dream apartment, a 1,250 sq. ft. 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit in a brand new apartment complex located just over a mile from my office. I even have a cool roommate to match, one who likes to play video games with me on nights when I have nothing better to do.
All in all, my year-end self evaluation was pretty solid. Everything seemed to be as it should be: great job, apartment, and lifestyle. For the first time in a long time, I felt complete. I managed to accomplish the things I wanted to have at this point in my life. I’ve been feeling secure, confident, and readier for the world than I’ve ever been. But on that quiet Sunday morning while home in Florida on vacation, something felt missing. Not missing in the sense that I needed something that I’d lost, but missing in the sense that I wanted something I never really had: a fulfilling, long-term relationship that would make me get warm inside like countless other women who dream of weddings and babies.
I have never been one to dream of the white dress or picket-fenced home. In fact, my 5- to 10-year plans haven’t even included a husband or children. I’ve been more entertained by the thought of owning my own condo or townhouse up on a hill somewhere, with my own decorations and version of a bachelorette’s pad. My mom cringes every time I tell her I’m not getting married. I can literally see the stars fall out of her eyes as I threaten her dream of planning an over-the-top wedding for her only daughter. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I haven’t accounted for love because I haven’t expected to find it. I’ve hoped for it, even met a couple people who I thought could deliver it, but everything has turned out to be a failure. So in my naive attempts to discover this magic that supposedly keeps the world turning, I’ve forgotten that it takes two to make something magical, and usually one has to actually meet other people to even have that chance.
I further analyzed my situation when I realized that living so close to work, although very convenient, limits my everyday living space to a radius of 2 miles. I rarely go out, and although I love my job and adore playing video games, these things seem to help me forget all too easily that there is a social life to be had outside of my office and apartment. I had to reintroduce myself to the world of bars and clubs and lounges just so I could see people who weren’t staring at a computer screen all day. And although I do enjoy seeing people in a more social setting, it still isn’t the best way to meet a potential match–at least not one who I’d consider doing the unthinkable with: getting married. I needed to find a different way to meet people, one that would allow me to speak with serious prospects but was still understanding of my demanding work schedule.
Enter online dating.
It started with a conversation I had with my best friend in New York at a diner one morning. She told me about a certain dating website that she recently joined and has had some success with. I was immediately interested. It’s funny: as many times as I’ve seen commercials for dating websites online or on TV, I never thought to try it. I thought it was corny. Or desperate. Or for people looking for a quick way to hook up. But knowing that someone I’m close to has tried it and liked it made me instantly want to give it a test run. After all, how bad could it be?
I’d mentioned the idea of signing up to a coworker while drinking honey and lavender flavored brandy at a bar in downtown Mountain View. While slightly inebriated, I pulled my iPad out of my purse and created an account on match.com, my coworker giggling her encouragement over my shoulder the entire time. Moments later, it was done: my picture, bio, and quick stats were available for any man to see. It was nerve-wrecking and invigorating at the same time. That night, after the brandy passed through my system and I was warm in the heated comfort of my apartment, the reality of what I’d done sank in. I was exposed! At first, I felt like what so many people consider to be a desperate, lonely female who was looking for attention in the saddest way. That’s the stereotypical assumption about online dating, right? That the women are desperate, and the men are horndogs? Whatever the case, I decided to stick to my guns. I know I’m an attractive, well-educated, phenomenal woman who simply needed a new way to meet people. Match.com was my answer.
I’d spent time picking out the perfect pictures of myself to put on display. I had revised my bio several times before feeling like it best captured my personality. I was checking my gmail for the countless messages that started to pour in from the vultures who knew how to identify fresh meat better than your local grocery store’s butcher. The deed was done…and there was no turning back. All I had to do was respond to the ones that interested me, right? …Easier said than done. After replying to a few ‘nice’ emails and discarding the shamelessly creepy ones (not many of them, and they were more entertaining than scary), I realized that I was simply getting too many emails to keep up. It quickly became overwhelming. I found myself skimming through the pile just to see which ones looked the most promising. I eventually read them all, but as much as I wanted to reply to every man who had the guts to email me in the first place, I simply didn’t have the time or patience. I ended up being selective with who I replied to (which I’m told is a good thing; I shouldn’t feel obligated to reply to every person who emails me). The more messages I received, the better I got at detecting who actually read my profile, who just skimmed it, or–even worse–who skipped my profile altogether and went straight to my pictures. I could tell who copied and pasted their introductory emails to me and several other women. If a guy asked me a question that I’d blatantly already addressed on my profile, I didn’t reply at all. Within a few days, I’d become a professional match.com user. Now all I had to do was find a few people worth meeting.
Even though I know that a long-term relationship is the eventual goal, I think my main focus right now is to do something I’ve never really done properly: date. I’m so used to just talking to one guy at a time, and usually I take long breaks in between seeing different people. Even though there’s nothing really wrong with this approach, I think that dating people–actually going on dates with several different people within the same time frame and seeing who stands out among the bunch and has the potential to become something more–is a better way for me to explore my options and get to know what I like. I tend to fall hard for guys when they are the only person I’m focusing my energy on, and the blunt truth is that men do not think this way. They can date (and even mess with) several women at the same time and not feel the slightest bit conflicted. Eventually they will realize the one they want to settle down with, but it usually doesn’t happen until after the fact. Women do it the other way around. We usually know what we want the relationship to become and try to see the potential for each guy to become a boyfriend or husband before moving forward with them. I am done with this approach. I want to date to see what’s out there, and if one seems like the real deal, then I’ll entertain the idea of it becoming something more. But I am 26 and want to see what this dating lifestyle is like.
In a nutshell…short-term goal: meet different people and experience the world of dating. Long-term goal: find one who has the greatest chance of being the “one” for me. So far, I’ve been on dates with three guys. I’ll tell you about them in the next diary entry. It is my goal to relate to you my experiences with dating in the bay area, from encounters with people on dating websites to encounters with people I may meet while out and about with my girls. I hope this will give you entertainment and that it will ideally end with me finding the person who gives me a good reason to close my match.com account. If I meet him, I’ve lucked out. If I don’t, at least I’ll have the experience to move forward. :)