downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 49 | April 20 - 26, 2007

Downtown Notebook

118 online dates, for those keeping score at home

By Angela Benfield

After jettisoning the perfect Mr. Wrong, I was ready, at the ripe young age of 39, to throw in the towel on finding even a slightly unperfect Mr. Right. Then, a good friend, one with a shiny new beau, encouraged me to get modern and try online dating. When I hesitated, she pointed out how easily the computer helps separate the dudes from the duds. OK, maybe I was up for just one more dive into the dating pool.

Turns out, that pool is Olympic-sized. The U.S. online dating industry is worth about $500 million and is expected to climb 9 percent a year. And according to revenuetoday.com, there are 33 million U.S. adult singles online and open to pursuing a relationship. Reasoning that more than a handful were in the Greater New York environs, I started to investigate.

It was clear from the get-go I was going to have to revamp my date-and-mate routine. My orientation was strictly bar scene pickups. The problem, of course, is that after four appletinis just about everyone starts to look like George Clooney — including the bouncer and the hat check girl. With online dating you get a good, sober preview before you ever get to that “shaken-not-stirred” stage. You read through the profiles, then float a few e-mails back and forth. If he hasn’t sunk to the bottom of the pool at this point you can move on to the telephone and, if he makes that cut, meet for a drink. The good news is you can eliminate at least two-thirds of men by the second or third step, saving valuable time and energy in the hunt…at least that’s the idea.

My first online date was with “Techno Guy.” TG was a computer technician and sweet as a double vanilla mocha latte. During the preview stage, he seemed to be just my type, but upon meeting him in person, the chemistry fizzled. Recalling that first impressions can be deceiving, I decided to go for the second date. Turns out that first impression was right on. Soon after the second date, TG called to discuss our “relationship.” I told him I didn’t think we were a match, but I’d be happy to be his friend. Final score: 22 emails, 5 phone calls, 2 dates.

Date #2 was with “Calm Storm.” CS was the total package — both looks and I.Q. My hopes soared. On our first date one drink turned into two, two into three, and careened into dinner. Did my mother once warn me about this? But it was a sad case of too much too soon. By the end of the evening, I knew all about the ex-wife’s affair, her anorexia, his adoption issues, his health problems…this guy had more baggage than Allied Van Lines. Let’s be friends, I told him. Final score: 12 emails, 3 phone calls, 1 date.

On I pressed for that third-time-lucky first date. This was with “City Man.” CM was tall, dark, handsome, and…exuded a certain air of mystery. Why was it, I wondered, that every time I asked him what he did for a living, he would change the subject? It took me four dates to finally get a direct answer. Which was: Nothing. After our next date, he wanted to know where the relationship was going. Well, we could be friends, I suggested. Final score: 35 emails, 14 phone calls, 5 dates.

Numerous first dates later, I seemed to have acquired a lot of “friends.” Not that I was minding the experience. All this dating was boosting my self-confidence and helping me gain a clearer picture of whom I was looking for. As soon as one guy would drown, another would come bobbing along. It would not have been as easy, fun or economical for me to meet this many people through the old-fashioned way.

Date #118 was with “Mischievous Guy.” He lived up to his nickname in his email exchanges, not always a bad thing but not necessarily comforting, either.

“Nice picture,” I wrote. “Who took it?”

“My pet seal,” he shot back. Huh? Well, since I had already dated half of Manhattan anyway, no harm in going for the other half. I agreed to meet MG for the proverbial drink. Good looking — check. Sense of humor — check. Intelligent — check. And he had a job. When he impulsively leaned over to kiss me, the deal for a second date was sealed. Ten or so dates later and no sign of the f-word yet (friend). The power of the pen — or keyboard — may be great, but there’s nothing quite like pressing the flesh.

Oh, yes, and the score is not yet final.





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