Couples of all sizes shapes and sexual orientations strive to have their relationships recognized by the state for reasons that go beyond the dream of romantic love. If you are single, you have to suffer the shame of being sat at the “singles” table at weddings (rather than with your coupled up friends), you get the crappy single bed (or worse, the couch) when going home for family events, you find yourself drifting further and further from friends who have coupled up and prefer to have dinner parties that sit even numbers. Add on to this the fact that if you die single before you retire, your well-earned pension gets reabsorbed into the general pool and if you remain childless, you still have to pay into the benefit pools to support the parental leaves of your co-workers, and the message is clear: in our society, coupledom is the goal.
In the old days, this was a well-supported cultural more, with young women sent off to college to “find themselves a good husband” and very few culturally ‘acceptable’ variations from the nuclear, heterosexual family. In these modern times, however, people are increasingly putting off matrimonial bliss until they have slogged through the financial stress of educating themselves to work in a job market that does not provide adequate means to pay off the educational debt. It is taking was longer and longer to recover from the financial backlash of our educations, and it involves working back breaking hours, often at more than one job. Who has the time, let alone the money to woo someone?
Our fast-paced lifestyles have led to an entire industry of match-making services that promise to take the guess work and the leg work out of finding that perfect someone that we are firmly told exists for all of us. These services are usually simple online questionnaires that we can fill with cute one-liners that we feel cleverly sum us up in our “profile” to be accompanied with a photo that is invariably casually self-conscious and rarely looks like us in person.
We toss in images of us having “fun” with friends that are less good looking than us so as not compete, but good looking enough to pass as an aging “in-crowd.” If we can manage a few images, we throw in a collage of how we would like to be perceived: with a niece, to appear “family-oriented”; with a group to show that we have a lot of friends to fill our time, and don’t need a relationship; the character from the Simpsons we think we are most like to show our sense of social irony, etc.
When you are flipping through profiles, you can quickly weed out the ones with obvious aesthetic defects, the ones who cannot spell and have no grasp on punctuation, the ones who can think of nothing clever or world-weary to describe their outlook on life. If you find a couple that interest you, you can often check their references: glowing personal reviews that their friends post (reviews that they can choose to either block or post—very honest).
On the other end of the spectrum, you can hook yourself up with a more specialized matchmaker. These services are much more thorough and many guarantee you a minimum number of dates within the first year. How these work is basically the same: you are interviewed, fill out profiles of who you are and who your Mr. or Ms. Right is and then they search through their databases to come up with a suitable match of who you think you should be with. In theory, this all seems great. But let’s have a reality check: when was the last time you dated someone who seemed “right” and any sparks flew?
I have clicked through the profiles and this is what I look for: guys, like me, who read, eat, drink, can spell, are socially conscious, and like a little rock and roll now and again. My friend, a photographer, went on no less than 30 dates with artists and photographers, and came back with the same question every time: I should like them, they share all of the same interests as I do, what’s wrong with me?
So I got to thinking about picking people to date based on matching resumés. Of the last 3 guys I dated seriously, only one read books without pictures (sorry, but graphic novels still have pictures); the closest to socially conscious I ever got was I dated a guy who was in the Armed Forces and did a Peacekeeping tour in Yugoslavia; one worshipped Prince, another worshipped the Misfits, the other loved early 90s dance music; and two of the three of them played D & D very seriously at one point in their lives. Not very impressive on paper, less so if any of them had to write since only one of them could spell. But, wow, when I met them, each one of them blew my socks off for one reason or another.
I had a friend who met his wife through a matchmaking agency. He had been on about 10 dates with his “type” (younger, blond, “athletic”—the usual) and due to some clerical error, ended up on a date with his future wife, a very smart, very non-athletic Jamaican Dame with the cutest dimples you’ve ever seen. So while so many singles are slogging it out in the trenches of matchmaking hell, it is time to face the fact that unless we want one of those perfect-on-the-surface soul withering partnerships (you know the kind where everyone says, “they seemed so happy” when he runs off to a dude ranch and she shacks up with the lesbian dog trainer in 15 years), you are going to have to do the leg work yourself.
There is something about meeting someone who really moves you, who you are drawn to for reasons clear only to you (that often have your friends going, “huh?”). What is that magic? It is the way they get really excited about dominos or the way they dance like an ass when only you are around, or maybe it’s the way they smell or they way you lock eyes and burst out laughing for the same reason at the most inopportune moments. Those are things you only find out when you meet someone. It won’t be on their resumé. So, as easy as it seems, if you want that spark, you are going to have to get out there and rub up against more people in person. Trust me, that’s the only way to really catch the fire.