The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: Eternally Confused

July 2, 2011

Eternally Confused

I recently expanded my match parameters in eHarmony from a 60 mile radius around Los Angeles, to the entire state of California.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with eHarmony (or online dating sites in general), eHarmony allows users to decide what is important to them in a match, and adjust their settings accordingly. Settings that users can adjust include geographic location of the match, whether the person smokes, drinks, and wants or has children. Settings even include factors such as age range, faith background, ethnicities, income, and educational level. eHarmony encourages users to keep their settings broad to increase their number of matches, but in reality, you can make your match criteria as narrow as you like. It is, after all, your membership, and ultimately, what you want from your love life.

In general, I'm not a proponent of long distance relationships. For one thing, I've been a part of one, and it was lonely and exhausting. Practically speaking, I believe it's a huge challenge to have an emotionally honest relationship when you don't see someone regularly in their day-to-day life. It's much easier to be on your A game when you are only in the same location for a few days or weeks at a time. I personally would have a very hard time trusting that the "wonderful" man I spend a weekend with every two months is equally wonderful when he sees me every day. But that's just me and my baggage.

That being said, I opened up my geographic parameters in eHarmony out of sheer practicality. Having a 60 mile search parameter was giving me a certain type of man - the LA man who wanted an LA girl, or the San Diego man who also wanted an LA girl. And if there is anything I am not, it is an LA girl. I wanted to see what kind of men resided in other parts of California and whether or not they might be a better fit for an atypical Asian girl who was formed in the Midwest. I figured if there was someone who was really a good fit, I wouldn't be opposed to driving a few hours to be with them. After all, in Los Angeles, sometimes going from work to home takes a few hours.

The number of matches didn't quite increase as I hoped, but the variety of guys marginally did. The eHarmony malaise, however, did not dissipate. For some reason, my personal eHarmony experience is not unlike a junior high party - boys and girls stare at each other across the virtual room, but no one is making contact. Two nights ago I decided that I wasn't going to waste my paid subscription by sitting around, looking at people's profiles without ever initiating contact. So I went through all the matches I'd received in the last three months and made a decision - either file them away because I wasn't interested, or get in touch if they could even marginally be of any interest.

One of those matches responded back today. He lived in a town I wasn't familiar with, but I knew was some distance from Los Angeles. Apparently he was fully aware of how far Los Angeles was from where he lived. He was so aware that in this very first communication, where eHarmony makes you answer pre-formulated, multiple choice questions, he took the time to type in the free-form field, "We are several hours drive apart. If we really click, how often would we really see another?"

Out of curiosity, I looked it up - we were, at most, a two hour drive away from each other. Not quite the "several hours" he said.

Nonetheless the question bothered me, not so much in its content, but in its intent. The problem I had with this man's question was that he was asking me to guarantee him something (that I would be able to make this distance thing work) before there was anything between us. Honestly, my first thought was - I think there's a lot of opportunity for us not to click, so let's focus on getting to know each other before we worry about distance, shall we?

I think a lot of times, in an attempt to be "wise" about not getting into the wrong relationship, or not going too far down the road of an impossible relationship, we want to set arbitrary parameters on who we even consider that we might date. Everything has to be in place before we will even consider getting to know someone. I suspect the underlying fear is this - I could fall easily, and what if I fall for the wrong person and get my heart broken?

But the reality of dating is that to find someone you hit it off with, are attracted to, who shares your same faith, and who is reasonably emotionally healthy is quite a rarity. The odds that I'm going to "really click" with someone are actually pretty low. And honestly, if my experience in the last two years is anything to go by, men certainly don't fall easily for me either.

This is why I cast the net wide. This is why, in the early stage of meeting people, I purposefully choose to put aside things such as income level, educational background, some physical attributes, and most recently, geography.

Not falling for the wrong person doesn't mean making sure they are "right" before you get to know them, but really to not fall so easily for those you are trying to know.

In truth, there's really no written profile, picture, or set of multiple choice questions that can determine if a person is right for you. All those things can do is help you decide if the person is definitely wrong. People are complicated; who is "right" for you is incredibly grey. That's why it's important to take time to get to know someone - who knows, they might surprise you. Or horrify you. Whatever the result, it's going to be far less complicated, and far less painful if you didn't "fall in love" with them before you got to know them better.

The wisest thing I've done in these two years is learning not to be so eager to fall for someone right off the bat, put all my hopes and dreams of a relationship on him, and then find myself stuck with a man who isn't right for me, but who I now feel emotionally attached to. It certainly takes the pressure of getting to know someone. I don't have to know if they are "right" before I go on a first date, second date, or even a third date. Today, coffee is just coffee, dinner is just dinner. There's no "danger" that it could inevitably, uncontrollably, and uncomfortably lead to disastrous heartache.

The other thing that gave me the heebie-geebies was this man framed his question in a way where there would only be one acceptable answer - he wanted reassurance from me that we would see each other often. Say anything else, such as - well, no, realistically we wouldn't be able to see each other all the time - and I would sound like a cold-hearted bitch. It's like asking, "Are you still beating your spouse?" What's a good answer to that? Personally, these kinds of questions don't sit well with me. Don't ask a question if you're not prepared for an answer you don't want to hear.

In the end, I said something to the effect that we were only two hours apart, and that I preferred seeing if we would hit it off first. It sounded really bitchy, of course, so to temper it, I added a smiley face. As expected, he closed me out and ended all communication. It was fine by me, except here's where I'm confused:

Seeing that eHarmony lets you set your geographic match radius to as close as 30 miles from where you live, and you can tell them not to match you with anyone outside that radius, the fact that I, a person who lived 80 miles away, got matched with this man means that he asked to be matched with folks that weren't within a 40 minute drive from him. And that makes me wonder - if geography was THIS important to him, why didn't he just change his geographic match settings?

On top of that, once he got a match that was too far away, why did he bother to respond at all and ask a rhetorical question that had no good answer? It's perfectly acceptable, actually preferable, to just say no right off the bat. There's really no need to "test" for the right answer.

If you haven't gathered by now, online dating is an odd cyber-version of real life dating. Having great algorithms that bring around people you may not have otherwise met doesn't compensate for the fact that the people you meet, who are confusing online, are probably the same ones who are confusing in real life. The only difference is that they know how to use the Internet, and sometimes, even barely.

As they say, "Peoples is peoples." (who said that, by the way?). And peoples are confusing.

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