People tend to do strange things in times of desperation. Some people freak out and remodel their homes; others do crazier things, like attempting suicide or getting a nipple pierced. In a moment of weakness, I chose to leap into another world by creating an account on the website Plenty of Fish. It seemed like a good idea – I figured that every time I logged onto the Internet, it would be like stepping into a singles bar. I spent a solid half hour writing my profile, and then I sat back and waited for the ladies to come a messaging. This was a good place to start, I thought. People had told me that Plenty of Fish was the dating website to go to. A lot of people use it, they said, and, more importantly, it’s free.
My first message – and last message as it would turn out – came only minutes after I completed my profile. “Wow!” I said to myself. “This is great!” This girl must’ve really prescribed to the ‘early bird gets the worm’ philosophy, although I don’t like thinking of myself as a worm, and am slightly uncomfortable with the sexual innuendo that could be read into that. Putting that thought aside, I anxiously clicked on my new acquaintance. Although I am constantly skeptical, I opened her message with hope. Perhaps thirty-five minutes on a dating website was all I needed to find a good, decent girl.
The woman’s name was “twilite09.” I assumed this was a reference to the lovely vampire books that all the girls were going bananas for. My eyes went straight to her message. “Don’t let age scare you away.” Hmm. Not really what I expected. Next, I looked at twilite09’s age. She was 56. The next logical step was to look at her picture.
Her old, wrinkled body was stretched out on a bed, wearing a low-cut shirt, her hair long, red and tangled. “Oh, how nice,” I thought. “She got someone from her hospice to take a picture of her.”
It was hard to feel anything but sad. Sad for twilite09, sad for myself for signing up on this website. There was no way on earth I was going to reply to this person. I imagined that it was completely possible that some girl out there would feel the same way looking at my profile if I messaged. That I could be someone else’s twilite09. I had only been a member of Plenty of Fish for forty minutes and I wanted out. I disabled my account and withdrew my fish from the competition.
I’m sure there are plenty of great things about dating websites. In a way, it’s great that a 56 year old woman can find a place where she has the confidence to “approach” whoever she feels like approaching. I would never be approached like that in an actual bar or out on the street. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe in face-to-face encounters we tend to follow through with what feels natural. It’s instinct over logic, and the unwritten rules that dictate a lot of our social behavior are much more apparent. A 56 year old woman doesn’t go around hitting on everyone, and a 32 year old guy doesn’t send messages to women based on a paragraph about their movie tastes.
Or maybe it’s just what you can get used to. Some people can get used to online chatting and messaging and improving their profile and sending ‘winks’ or ‘interests.’ On the other hand, some people feel better getting used to loneliness. There are plenty of us – we just don’t have a website.