Monday, 12 May 2014

Zero Obligation

Holy moly folks, I'm back. For how long? Who knows. I had many different topics come up in my absence, but I never found myself with the time to just sit and write. Not coherently any way. Life kind of gets in the way of ranting and raving about my unpopular opinions. And there's certainly a hell of a lot of crap going on in the world to rant and rave about these days. Today's topic is comparatively tame.

Today we talk about the often difficult to navigate world of online dating. I know. Maybe it's trivial, but bear with me. I think I have some pretty good "thinky thoughts" on this one. If you can't stand another pro-feminism, child free by choice discussion this is probably not the blog post (or blog) you're looking for *jedi hand wave*.

I decided this spring that it was time to get back at the dating thing again. I have no regrets about my last relationship, it was what it was and now it's a great friendship that I plan to keep for as long as possible. I had two accounts, one on OK Cupid (OKC) and one on Plenty of Fish (POF). The OKC account had been dormant since early June of 2013 and I'd hidden the POF account around the same time when I decided that the fella I'd met was someone I wanted to keep around for a while.

This Spring I decided to just quietly "unhide" myself from POF. I'd had some limited success with it since this is where I met Dr. Robot Science (my quaint online nickname to respect his privacy). Even if that relationship didn't last romantically I'd still had more success with POF than OKC. And so it was the first one to have the cobwebs dusted off it.

Within a month I'd managed to arrange three dates and successfully go on two of them. The first one, I initiated, the second was initiated by the other person and the third I initiated again. Date number one was fun, but I didn't see us having much in common. I regret to say he failed a few of the geek litmus tests I'd set for him. Nice guy, just not what I was really looking for. I was honest and polite about declining a second date. It was all very civil.

Date number two seemed to have everything in common with me, it was almost as if we were separated at birth and if it weren't for some bizarre school zoning rules we probably would have gone to the same elementary school. He was extremely polite and very complimentary. Something I'm not used to and honestly felt a little uncomfortable with. Once is nice (haha, oh noes please don't stroke my ego!"), but there was more than one until it made me a little uncomfortable. At first I joked and laughed it off. We never managed to reconnect and we've since lost contact through neglect.

Date number three didn't show up. Date number three seemed engaged and interested and even messaged me the day before to say he was looking forward to it. He didn't show up. I finished my beverage at the cafe and went home after a half hour though it was readily apparent to me that he wasn't going to show up well before that half hour was up. I decided to just enjoy people watching and sipping my drink. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, maybe something happened? An accident? Other plans came up, maybe there was a message that I missed before I left the apartment. Either way I wasn't upset or worried about it. When I came home I found he had disappeared. Like he was never there, account deleted and no record that we'd ever exchanged messages. So I couldn't even send him a note to tell him what a fantastic date I'd had all by myself. This incident wasn't entirely what spurred me to obliterate my POF account (accidentally typed POS which would also be accurate), but it was the nail in the coffin. I've gone back to OKC just recently and I'm still pretty new and shiny there hence the need to re-evaluate how to deal with this sudden popularity.

This is not the worst of my experiences. I had an encounter with a fellow who warned me that posting photos of myself on a dating site was a bad idea and my photos could end up on some pornography website if I was not careful (assumption number one: I'm a naive woman who needs his advice about internet safety). He included a link to a picture of himself on Photobucket. Because having a photo of yourself anywhere else on the internet than a dating site is totally safe... I glanced at the photo and read the profile and decided just to ignore it. A month later I get almost the same message this time "asking/demanding" my email address for us to exchange photos. English was clearly not this person's first language. I responded this time saying I did not wish to provide my email address. I was civil and direct and did not elaborate (and this is a point I'm building to, I promise).

He responded to ask if my response was "code" for no thank you or I'm not interested. He then asked if I knew that I could get a "junk" email for which I didn't have to care about what went to it (assumption number two: I don't know how to use the internet). I realized I could have been more direct, apologized for not being clearer told him he was right about the "code" and wished him good luck. Again, very civil.

Well. Wasn't that just the angry zombie bee from outer space that got in his bonnet? I regret blocking him immediately afterwards only because I could have copied and pasted the response here for social media shaming purposes (user names removed, obviously) but alas, I did not. So here's a summary with counter arguments:

I make decisions too quickly, I didn't even look at his photo and that's not fair.
Assumption number three: Interest, no matter how vague must be equally reciprocated. How dare I use my brain to quickly and effectively eliminate options I'm not interested in pursuing? How dare I be smart enough to make decisions for myself. The nerve, right? Well no. Just because you sent me a message on an online dating site I am NOT obligated to give you a chance. Just like if you'd insisted on buying dinner on a date I'm NOT obligated to have sex with you. Take your entitlement and stuff it.

I was a nice smart girl, but now he sees that I'm only good at writing stories and I'm just another of the loser women on that site.
Assumption number four: All women are liars and only like assholes. Apparently honesty and civility mean nothing. Again, dude needs to check his entitlement issues at the fucking door. Just because I very politely and directly said no to you does not suddenly mean I'm mean and stupid and a loser. It simply means I'm capable of making my own decisions. See note above about my complete lack of obligation to give you a chance if I don't want to. He really did call the women on the site losers, and I can see now why he's probably not had much luck. Speaking of which...

I need more luck than he does.
I'm sorry, but if this is how you handle rejection, you need far more luck than I ever will.

My photos should end up on some sort of pornography site to teach me a lesson.
Assumption number five: women need to be taught a lesson about being comfortable with their public image and shamed about sexual activities. What? I'm too stupid to realize that men like to jerk off to pictures of pretty women? Because I don't know how the internet works? Because I should be punished somehow for rejecting him? I wouldn't be surprised if he copied a photo or two himself to upload to such a site. Okay, here's the thing, random guy: I've been familiar with the internet for a long time now. I know that it doesn't really matter where a photo is located, if a guy (or gal, I'm open minded here) finds my photo *anywhere* on the internet and is turned on by it, he or she might just rub one out. And I don't give a shit. The same thing could happen if the same person saw me on the damn street or a cafe and go home to do the same thing. I am not going to police people's desires, turn-ons and/or need to masturbate. None of my damn business. If I was worried about such a thing, there would be no photos of me on the internet and there's a photo of my bare ass on the internet. Hell, I probably wouldn't use the internet at all if I was really worried about it.

Here's the thing, the point I promised I'd get to. No other experience in my life has taught me as thoroughly as online dating has that I am not obligated to do or say anything I don't feel like doing or saying. Yes, there's a certain expectation that if you've put yourself on an online dating site that you are there to look for people to date or have sex with or maybe even marry if that's your thing. There's a certain expectation that you will also be exposing yourself to people who you do not want to date. But there is no obligation under any circumstances where you must reciprocate communication or go out with just anyone who visits your profile or sends you a message. Or even to respond to their inquiry. No matter how polite or thoughtful it may be. Obviously people who are rude and crude shouldn't expect a response at all. This works both ways and it's turned my whole attitude around on the subject. I send out messages that don't get responses all the time, because — and I can't stress this enough — NO ONE ELSE IS OBLIGATED TO RECIPROCATE EITHER. I have no expectation that the person I'm contacting should respond in kind and want to go on a date with me. And even if we do get that far and they do something to change my mind, I have the right to change my mind. And not feel bad about it and so do they.

One thing that sometimes trips me up is that I feel bad for not reciprocating when I receive a message. Like I've somehow hurt someone's feelings. I've been there. It sucks, but I also get over it pretty quick. And now I have the added perspective of realizing that not only am I not obligated to bend over backwards for strangers I'm not interested in meeting/dating/having sex with, but neither are they.

I still have no issue with being polite and civil and respectful of the people that contact me. I have recently responded eloquently to tell someone I am not interested and gently pointed out that we are not compatible, even though I was NOT OBLIGATED TO. He has two children and would like to have more. I can't think of any other reason why he thought I would be a good woman to contact. He was not rude or crude in his message, and even asked for permission to flirt with me for a while. This is better than some of the messages I get. On the other hand, I know he simply didn't bother to read the profile in any detail and I should probably make the "no baby zone" message clearer, but it almost felt like my choice to not have kids wasn't being taken seriously. When it says I don't want kids, I really don't want them. It's not because I haven't met the right man who will change my mind. I just really don't want kids. No really. Women stopped assuming I'd change my mind a while ago, I don't know about men. But it's simply not going to happen. Period. End of story.

Responding so that I don't hurt people's feelings is a habit I will probably have to break. Since I am consistently contacted by people who have not bothered to take even a second to look at the words in my profile and there are a lot of them. The most important ones describing my preferred age range and the fact that I don't have or want kids. I should be more specific with this, particular aspect since not only am I not interested in making babies, but I'm also not interested in becoming someone's step mom.

I know from a friend's experience that being specific and blunt will not stop anyone I wouldn't touch with at 10-foot pole from contacting me, but at least they couldn't say I didn't warn them. Which is far more than should ever feel obligated to do.

Old habits are hard to break.

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