Not the Photo on My Dating Profile

A Romantic’s Plunge into Online Dating

I have always aschwed online dating. For every “I met my husband online” daydream, I’ve heard a dozen, “He sent a dickpic and got hostile when I rejected him,” nightmares.

Despite my general bad-assery persona, I’m a romantic at heart. My dream is to meet someone while trekking the Himalayas or to draw his eye at the gym with my impressive snatch (yes, I wrote that on purpose) only for him to discover I’m also an intelligent, warm-hearted person, who also happens to be strong AF. Real life is elegant and messy; like writing with a fountain pen on hand-cut paper.

My grandparents didn’t have online dating. My grandpa was simply fixing a television in the boarding house where my grandma happened to be staying. She and a friend were chatting about “boys,” and that was it. He fixed the TV, left and later called. Grandma said that when they met, there was a “spark.” She told me this story recently, and though this event happened over five decades ago, and despite Grandpa having passed away, you can still see that spark in her eyes when she tells the story.

In many ways, my Grandpa and Grandma were opposites. He was (according to grandma) bad with money, and she was the bookkeeper. He was quiet and reserved, and she was social and talkative. He was a divorced man with two small kids; she was on her way to college. An algorithm might not have put them together at all. However, they had a spark that became the pilot light for the life they created together.

But how do we allow love into our lives when Covid-19 keeps us apart? Gyms, restaurants, live-music venues are all closed, and who knows when they’ll reopen? Social contact, if you can even find it, is limited to checking out a guy’s facemask from six feet away. And damn, I love a good smile. I can’t even see that up close.

Coronavirus impaired my romantic dreams of catching a soul mate in the wild, and I have thus turned to online shopping for dates.

If you are like me and have ZERO experience with online dating (and are socially awkward anyway) my first tip is to choose your platform WISELY. Everyone says this, but seriously: take time to do research!

Figure out where you are on the scale ranging from pure sex to a serious relationship and go from there. If you are looking for more meaningful connections, splurge for a platform you have to pay a little extra for.

I knew this when I perused the dating Apps, and I should’ve spent more time researching and reading reviews. But, I was in a whimsical mood and threw caution to the wind. Thus, I found myself on a cheap site that didn’t do much besides categorize people according to age. Even then, I had messages from guys in their 20s. As much as my friends and I joke over Pinot Grigio about being “cougars,” I’m not really the type to stalk into that particular jungle.

The Skeevy App

The Skeevy App was interesting, to say the least. It showed me pictures of the men who were checking me out. At first it was kind of exciting: I thought, “Wow! All these guys are looking at me.” Then, with horror, I thought: “OMG! All these guys are looking at me!”

Here are a few examples of men I’ve encountered:

The Scammer

This guy had a nice smile and a picture of a cake he allegedly baked himself. Soon into the conversation, he started asking me questions you get from lawyers representing foreign royalty who want to wire 10 million euros to your bank account. This exchange was great exercise for my creative writing skills: I now have a dog named “Buddy” and my favorite Aunt “Carly” lives in Ubud. My first car was a 1969 Z28 Camero. And because I’m a classic American girl, it was red with white stripes on the hood.

Lesson: you are not obligated to divulge sensitive information because you like a guy’s cake.

The Daddy

Another guy was inquisitive about my relationship with my father. The funny thing was he thought I had no idea WHY he was inquiring. Seriously man, just be upfront and ask if I have Daddy issues. He seemed slightly disappointed when I boasted about how amazing my dad is.

Lesson: some guys are looking to exploit your weaknesses.

The Businessman

Another man appeared to be your average professional. Then on the third message, he asked if I liked sex. Who doesn’t? But how do you answer that? I’m a good writer and could give him an answer to blow his socks off, but lord, it made me feel dirty (in the bad way not the good way). In retrospect, I should’ve answered that because of my work in the adult film industry, I don’t have sex in my private life, or that I’ve taken a vow of chastity and am just looking for someone to support me and my four kids.

Lesson: upstanding-looking guys can just be out for sex.

It’s totally fine if you ARE looking for nothing more than a hookup, but when the opportunity was presented, I realized I wanted more than to do the horizontal tango with random strangers, despite my amazing booty.

The Officer

I admit, I got kind of excited when a police officer messaged me. The cops I’ve met at Crossfit are in great shape and are really cool people. They exude strength and confidence without arrogance. The romantic in me associates a police officer with someone who is assertive and knows what they want and isn’t afraid to go after it — qualities I really like in a person. After a couple messages, this particular officer told me he didn’t think it would work because he’s not into extreme sports. Then he vanished.

A cop thinks I’m too intense?! It was a sort of compliment. It was also a learning experince: I had rushed to judgement about this guy.

I know there are all types of people who go into law enforcement, and it was unfair of me to assume everyone is into functional fitness. (Honestly, I never thought of Crossfit or marathon running as ‘extreme’ sports). I would hate if someone saw “English teacher” on my profile and immediately thought I was boring. While I can be nerdy and bookish, I also like to whip off my face-mask and have a good time.

The lesson: don’t romanticize people! (As a creative writer, this is one of my biggest flaws!)

Additional lesson: people are looking for different things. Some guys want someone more demure than I am — and I don’t see it as a rejection, I see it as a misalignment. I don’t have to feel badly about myself if I don’t fit someone’s mold.

The Almost-Scammer

The guy from Portugal was probably a scammer, but somewhere in my cheerful responses, he realized how nice I was, and his tone changed from predator to brother. He said I was probably too big-hearted for online dating, which I found surprisingly sweet. He warned me to be careful. He also had some interesting conspiracy theories about how coronavirus is just a big plot by some powerful, unknown entity. He stopped messaging when I inquired about his theories.

The lesson: talk to strangers, just keep your guard up a little.

I started getting so many messages on the Skeevy website, I ended up suspending my account within a day. It could be I drew attention from these particular guys because I listed my best physical attribute as my booty, which made me realize I need to be more accurate when presenting myself online. Yes, I have a high sex drive, but I don’t share the ride with just anyone. Plus, if I was going to invest time composing messages in German (which takes me three times as long as in English), I should at least be chatting with guys who don’t leave me feeling like a picture-widow prostitute.

The Looking for Love App (not its real name)

I found another platform for my experiment, one in which people are looking for more than hookups and bank account numbers. I like this ‘Looking For Love’ Site because the person’s photos are blurry unless they release them to you. This gives you a chance to read through their biography and look at the results to the intensive personality quiz.

The only thing I don’t like is that instead of the person’s name, it titles them by their job and how old they are. For someone resisting stereotypes, I am literally clicking on profiles based upon a guy’s profession, which, as we learned, is a dangerous jumping-off point for conclusions.

My name on the Looking for Love site isn’t Keri, it’s Dozentin 47. Sexy, right? There are doctors and engineers and carpenters and IT guys. I admit, I feel a little sorry for the guys who have the “unemplyed” moniker. I tend to click on them and the “self-employed” guys, just to read their stories. I’ve also started clicking on photos that show something unique through the opacity. Bright colors, obvious trekking gear, a runner’s bib, a dog. These things catch my eye.

Once you click on the blurry photo, you can read through the guy’s profile. If you’ve done that, he can see that you’ve been reading up on him. Aside from the unemployed and self-employed men, I’ve been avoiding perusing guys based purely on their job title (especially after the Police Officer Incident).

So far, I’ve corresponded with an extremely tall banker with a dark sense of humor, an overly-assertive rock climber, and a computer engineer looking for a step-mom for his 7 year-old (to name a few). I’ve had to learn to be absolutely clear about what I want and also to listen to my instinct: two things I’ve been terrible at in the past. I had to hit the rock-climber with blunt-force honesty and gently let down the single-dad without bread-crumbing him (my kids are practically raised, and I am not in the child-rearing stage anymore).

While I try to avoid looking at profiles based on occupation, one doctor’s photo made me curious. I could see through the fuzziness, what could possibly be a great smile. I read his profile and found that not only has he hiked the Himalayas (several times), but he also has four kids (like me). As a rule, I don’t message first. I am still old-fashioned, and I want a guy who has courage to pursue me. He must’ve seen I’d been checking him out, because he messaged me, and an exchange ensued. He asked for my number, and I felt good about giving it to him — not because he’s a doctor, but because his messages seemed geniune. A lot of guys on this site have canned messages, ready to hook you. I get that, because online dating is TIME CONSUMING. But I appreciate someone who takes that time to get to know me and ask questions based on what I wrote in my profile.

I don’t know if anything will develop when I meet the Doctor for the first time this week, but I’m good with that. I am walking into our first take-away coffee together with no expectations of him and no romance-novel ideas. I just want to get to know him better. I want to see if there is a spark, and I’m keeping a close watch over the romantic in me, who might conjure a flame that doesn’t actually exist.

This whole process of online dating is fine-tuning of my own wants and needs to see if they mesh with the wants and needs of another person. It gives me the opportunity to not be the placating “nice girl” and set healthy boundaries. When or if a misalignment occurs, I don’t have to beat myself up about it or think that I somehow failed as a woman. I am a rare unicorn, looking for another of my kind. I have the time and patience to be selective.

While I think of myself as the rare unicorn (smart and fit and sweet and tough), I do have my flaws. I’m messy. I get depressed. I have love handles and big dreams. I am not perfect, nor is anyone. Real love, after all, doesn’t equate perfection.

While an algorithm can present you with a person who scores exactly the same on the psychological quiz, you also need a little friction to light a match.

Online dating has challenged me to drop preconceived notions about people. People you might think arrogant (doctors, lawyers, etc) can turn out to be pretty down-to-earth gents. Your average business man might be a sex fiend. The cop might not be as strong as you — you just don’t know.

Contrary to how it sounds, I didn’t go into this looking for love. I simply feel I’ve gotten my shit together, and for the first time in years, I’m open to love, should the universe (or a dating app) provide it.

Love is one of the greatest things we experience as humans, and who doesn’t want more of that?

American expat in Germany, formerly conservative homeschool mom now navigating widowhood; runner, writer, Crossfitter, trying to figure **it out

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