Monday, June 27, 2011

OKCupid-- the friend I love to hate

I love OKCupid.  I love the whole matching algorithm thingy, and how you get suggestions, can sort people by match percentage, and can play with search parameters until you find someone interesting.  I love reading through someone's answers to the questions I've answered (particularly when they've written an explanation) and having that fun "get to know you" feeling.  I love meeting new people.  I love the creative challenge of writing a profile that says enough about who you are to let someone know if they're interested in knowing more.  I love reading a well-crafted profile, and I really love meeting new people (did I mention that already?).  Most importantly, I love the idea of meeting someone who might, potentially down the line, turn out to be someone I can call a blessing in my life, and for whom I can likewise be a blessing.

I also hate OKCupid.  I hate the way it sets up this weird "meeting people in a bar" feel to it, which is something I've never enjoyed, not even when I was single.  I don't enjoy casual dating. Sure, I might end up doing something ridiculously unexpected and temporarily convince myself that I'm cool with the whole casual dating thing-- because, ultimately, I have no issue against the casual dating thing, except that it doesn't work very well for me, my past, my personality, and such.  But really, what I want is friends, because I honestly cannot imagine that a dating relationship entered into before friendship was well-established would turn out well for me.

I think of the best relationship I've ever had-- my sweet husband-- and how we were friends for 5 months before getting to that "best friends" sort of intimate vibe of sharing all our deepest, darkest thoughts and secrets, and how we stayed comfortably in the closest-of-my-friends place for almost 4 months before even talking about the idea of dating, and how because we weren't even thinking about dating or loving or lover-ing, it was so safe and sweet and protected. He saw me cry, saw me without makeup, wearing bummy clothes, heard me belch, and saw my most unflattering sides (emotional and otherwise) before ever dating, and that was so freeing, because there was never a time when I wondered if he'd be afraid once he knew the "real" me, flaws and all, because he had known the real me for months before attraction was ever really on the table. And although I didn't actively pursue that as a model for relationship-making the first time around, and rather happened into it accidentally in spite of myself, and after doing it in a way that didn't work for me many, many times before, I kind of like the model. But it goes against the grain of our culture today, in which quick, surface connections (however intense they might feel in the short-term) are the norm, and it certainly goes against the grain of "online dating," whatever that means. If I was uninterested in quick, short bursts of love the first time around, I'm so much more uninterested in that now that I have 12 years of marriage and a beautiful family on my mind... Not that those quick bursts of connection aren't beautiful and exciting and valid for me to think about in the hypothetical, but I have done enough soul-searching to know that's not how my soul/spirit/being operates, especially not at this point in my life.

So here I am, in this weird place of WANTING to open myself up for the potential of having multiple loves, knowing that I have that potential so easily in my heart, thinking it would be incredibly fulfilling, believing it to be an ideal, and trusting the idea of polyamory as a natural expression of the spiritual interconnectedness of which we're all a part; and balancing all of that with my inherent aversion to "dating," fear of rejection (exacerbated by not having had to experience it in well over a decade until recently), lack of desire to even begin a dating relationship with someone who doesn't already *feel* like a close, loving, trusted friend. How do you even get to the place (or start moving toward the place) of "close, loving, trusted friend" in an online forum, with someone you don't know? It's hard enough sometimes in real life, with a warm body in front of you.

These are the kinds of thoughts that make me think, "I'm not logging on to OKCupid tonight." I haven't yet decided if being on OKC is a wonderful opportunity to meet someone new, or an exercise in the futility of looking for friendship (that could potentially turn into more, but without adding the pressure of expecting it to) on an online *dating* site.

It's hard for those of us slow-movers, somewhat old-fashioned in our love of courtship, friendship, closeness before Closeness, to throw ourselves out here online. It's awkward. It's weird. It seems to put this artificial vibe of "dating" onto an interaction before "dating" is something I'd want anyway. Online "dating," right? Whoever heard people drooling over the thought of online friendship-making sites, lusting after the thought of genuinely becoming best friends before anything else were to come of it? I've met a couple of people on OKC so far, but none where the conversations went very far, with few exceptions.

For starters, there are a small handful of people on OKCupid that I either already know from or later met at our local polyamory meetup.  (Hello out there, if you happen to be reading.  Enjoying this warm weather we're having?  Glad the cicadas are gone now, right?  Sorry I've missed the last few meetups; June and July are crazy busy for me this year.)  They feel real and safe in a "known factor" sort of way, even if they aren't yet safe for me in the way I regularly use the phrase "safe people"-- people I know I can trust with my heart in a close friendship.  And while I might have first joined the poly discussion list YEARS ago as a quiet lurker, and only started attending events 7 months ago as a timid observer, I am now in a place where I'd like to get to know them more, become friends, and hangout.

There has also been a steady stream of unicorn-hunters, all of which I have politely responded to that it ain't my thing, and pointed them to a link about what it means when poly people talk about "unicorn hunters."  There's been a couple of people I've chatted with but don't expect it to go anywhere.  And a steady stream of guys with usernames like "dirtydaddy4u," "cheatinonmywife," and "hugeschlong54" (I just made those up, apologies to anyone who thinks I just insulted you), all of whom have 50% or lower match percentages with me, who just send an instant message out of the blue.  You know what that says to me?  It says, "Me Tarzan.  You Jane.  I want a warm body and you happen to be alive and female."  <sarcasm> *Swoon!*  How can I resist such a charming approach from someone who clearly has so much in common with me?  </sarcasm>

And then there's this one person who seems to understand and respect my view of friendship and love, who seems comfortable honoring my need for friendship first, even as she realizes that my version of "friendship" is much more intense, intimate, and loving than the common societal definition.  Communication is open and free, words flow, intimacy develops, slowly in some ways, with ease in others.  Even as we both realize that this is the beginning of a process that could take any number of turns (this becoming friends thing), we both seem fairly curious about sticking around to see which path it will take.  Her words, like verse at a poetry slam, pick me up and shake me, leaving me wide-eyed and wanting more.  A heart is revealing itself, received in return by an opening heart.

She is becoming real to me.

And I think that is my hangup with meeting people on OKCupid-- most of them do not feel real to me.  Yes, I know they are real, live people behind the computer, creating their profile, surfing for matches.  They breathe.  They have all sorts of stuff wrapped up in skin, like me, like you.  My problem isn't seeing them as people; my problem is with seeing them as honest, loving, caring people who respect boundaries, and are okay with being and loving someone who is REAL in the sense of fully human, fully in touch with their humanity, and genuinely living with an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life.

You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.

I know that what I'm looking for in an approach to a relationship is not the norm of our culture.  I don't want to meet someone and start dating.  I don't even want to hang out with someone and then start dating.  I want to get to know someone well, see how I can trust them with my heart as a friend, be close, share secrets, feel love, and all of this before we call it a Relationship.  I want the move from friendship to dating to be so natural, so perfect, that it is the only next step that possibly makes sense.  I want to know I can trust someone, already having had experiences with trust and intimacy as part of our friendship, before I entrust them with my body, soul, and heart.  This is what OKCupid is missing for me-- some sense of trust that the other person, in some small way, gets that, respects it, and honors it.  Finding my husband, becoming his friend, and getting to love him, be his partner, and share our lives-- this has been one of the greatest surprises and blessings of my life.  The thought of finding another such surprise blessing, unique in its own special expression, while it warms my heart, also feels like a Big Challenge.  I'd like to think it's a challenge I'm up for.


  1. Oh, my heart.

    Which is what I first thought, when reading this
    & curiously, also the REM song that's reverberating thru my head. (From their new album, Collapse Into New; a brilliant creation that both takes from the best of their 30 years of music & makes something gleaming-new.)

    "It's sad & it's sweet & it's true
    how it doesn't look bitter
    on you.
    Oh my heart, oh my heart
    Oh my heart."

    This album (this song) seems very much a political & personal statement, about the last 3 decades, captured in chords. Broken heart songs & love songs & anthems. And as with the best of REM songs, the layers of ache & thrum beneath the songs fly up & allow you to find so (m)any things of your own heart, in them. I find ache, hope, struggle, faith, determination in this one. So then, doesn't it make sense that those samewords came to mind, when reading this? Which is to say: your heartbeat found its' way into the chords &: I found you?

    Am finding,

  2. *Edit to Add*: Album title = Collapse Into Now.
    Not New.

    Sigh— the editrix in me failed! But, fixed. And the goofy-singing-music-lover in me sings on!