Street Smart Chicago

To Where You Are

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onlinedatingilloWhen I discussed the idea with my girlfriend Sarah, we agreed it would be an interesting exercise to both sign up on the site, compare our test results, inspect our matches together and, finally, see if we are actually matched up through the service.

Why we thought this was a good idea, I’ll never know.

I’m not as hard on online dating services as others; everyone knows it’s difficult in the singles sphere anyway, even if you do have the time to frequent events and bars. We’re all getting older, and the more time passes, the more difficult it feels to meet people. Plus, I have some friends who’ve had great success with sites just like Chemistry.com, and hey, they seem really happy and have met some great people, so whatever works.

Also, if I were single and not conducting some kind of unscientific experiment, I would guess I would indulge in one of these sites. Too afraid to ever approach a stranger pretty much ever my whole life, there’s something about the impersonal nature of at least meeting online that attracts me. It’s difficult to have an anxiety-ridden stuttering attack while filling out a personality quiz.

Though, I must say, I came close.

I answered honestly and I’ve been right all these years—I totally hate myself. Yeah, I drink my share. No, I’m not religious. Yes, I like the big city. At one point the system offers you a book cover and you have to choose one of four titles; I picked the sad-sack answer, something like “Things Left Unsaid.” I can’t be sure, but at that point I may have heard Dr. Helen Fisher laughing at me.

But the worst—the worst—was writing the essay paragraph to accompany your own profile, when you put in your own words who you are and what you need from a partner. You choose a headline; I thought I was being clever when I picked “This is a song for you, in case I never make it through to where you are,” a Mountain Goats lyric, until seconds after it went through I realized how pathetically emo I sound. Get the eyeliner, this guy’s gonna be alone for ages.

I can’t believe I did this, but I actually describe myself as laidback, which I’m not. I’m a self-hating neurotic who apparently wears eyeliner and wants to read this bestselling new novel “Things Left Unsaid.”

I chose three photos to put up on my profile: in one I’m on a stool at Rainbo (I’m so cool!), in one I’m looking disheveled in the office (I’m even cool at work!) and the last I’m smoking a cigarette at night on the street (I’m mysterious and cool!).

I’m an ass.

Sarah fared better. “I am looking for someone who loves to spend time with friends and who values family, but who is equally happy spending a weekend night in with pizza and a movie.” What’s wrong with that? Nothing. I’d date her. She even looks pretty in her photo.

I end up a Negotiator/Builder, as does Sarah. Whew, things are looking better.

And then the matches. Sarah has a dozen men immediately interested in her, which doesn’t surprise me. “They’re all hideous,” she dismissively says. One guy, Ted, a financial technologies analyst, boasts on his profile that he makes between $200,000-$250,000 a year. Thanks, Ted. Way to make me look good. You’re rich and you got the hots for my girlfriend.

I check my account. I have women interested in me! See dad! I told you it would happen!

Jasmine is from Itasca, wears leather, slicks her pitch-black hair back and looks like she wants to harm me. Sarah laughs. Yeah, yeah, laugh it up.

Once I’m through the no-way-in-hells, I’m matched with some better profiles, attractive girls with tattoos and indie-rock interests and cool jobs. Sarah’s pissed. “You’re gonna leave me for one of these girls and I’m gonna be stuck with Ted the financial technologies analyst.” She pauses. “I guess I could lend you money from time to time.”

“I think I’m sizzling over some of these ladies.”

“You better not be.”

“Look! This girl’s a copy editor and there’s an error in her profile! ‘Peaked your interest!’ Peaked! Haha!”

“I hate you.”

Ultimately, I don’t get past the Compare Relationship Essentials stage, because I indicate that it’s not important to me that my partner “loves to socialize regularly” and to everyone else it’s like super-duper important and when those results are compared I seem like a curmudgeon shut-in who only leaves the house to vote. Sorry girls, I don’t plan on attending the Air and Water Show this year. I also don’t want to waste anyone’s time—they all seem like nice people and in many ways, this has gone far enough.

And then a revelation. Sarah and I match up. She’s funneled to my account, me to hers. We’ve been dating a year, and things are pretty great. (I think I have to say that, she’s reading this.) I really can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, but if Sarah and I didn’t already know one another, Chemistry.com would’ve tried to introduce us. And that’s good-science enough for me.

“Look, we’ve been matched!” I’m pretty excited.

“Yes!”

I move my interest meter over the “sizzling.”

“Aww,” she says. “That’s sweet.”

And if in the end it doesn’t work out with Sarah, I’ll always have Jasmine in Itasca.

Get the whip. (Tom Lynch)

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