I don’t think you should sign up for OkCupid. Wait no—I think you should. You should and shouldn’t. Do both. Yes, that’s it. That’s what I mean. Do it, and then if it’s not working, stop doing it.
During my pubescence—or as I like to call it, my first and longest sustained dry spell—I dove headfirst into a deep, all encompassing pool of romantic movies and books. For six long years, I mainly lived vicariously through fictional characters. I watched Anne and Wentworth, Beatrice and Benedick, and Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox fall in love. They convinced me that serendipity and synchronicity were real. They convinced to believe in love, wholeheartedly.
I’m lucky, though. I feel like a braggart to say I grew up in a home where my parents were and are happily married. Wonderfully imperfect, but deeply in love, they provided me with a template and proof that love was, in fact, real and attainable. They gave me something to believe in.
But, dry spells erode belief in love. Dry spells make you lonely, or desperate, or both. When your friends tell you that love happens when you least expect it, you want to punch them in the fucking face. I know. Another side effect of my movie watching and book reading was that I wasn’t really looking for sex. I was a prude. I wanted love. I wanted to be wooed. So I was picky, and prone to dry spells.
Love did happen in college. It also ended in college. When I moved to Chicago, I decided to let myself have the chance to meet someone serendipitously. A year later, I was still single. The loneliness and desperation hit hard. I didn’t want to wait around anymore for love to find me when I least expected it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, let alone be in a place where I could least expect it. So, I went looking for it. I went online.
Why not join the 20% of our generation that does it online, right?1 It seems like a good idea for the simple reason that I have friends in loving, committed relationships who met there. If it’s possible for them, it’s possible for anyone. Why not try it? Worst case scenario is nothing happens.
I took some cute photos of myself, and created an OkCupid account because, you know, free. Beyond a single one-month relationship that fizzled out royally, my first go at online dating was a lot of first dates and a lot of disappointment. I deleted my profile convinced that I would never embark on online dating again. I fooled around with friends and seemed to have shaken off some of the loneliness. Then, right before I left Chicago, I found the comfort of monogamy again.
That short, accidental relationship before I moved didn’t end the day I left. We texted that day and the next, and he finally told me that he missed me. We dated for another two months. He even paid for me to visit him. A week or so before the visit, I could sense that his feelings were lessening. When I arrived in Chicago, it was clear to me that he no longer wanted to date, but he didn’t say anything. So I spent the four days of that trip trying to determine if our relationship was still somehow miraculously viable. It was not.
My last night in Chicago, I silently cried myself to sleep laying next to him in bed. But I didn’t say a word. I kissed him goodbye the next morning at the airport. Back in Portland, I sent him a short email. I told him that my feelings remained the same, but his plainly did not, and I had no intention of dating someone who didn’t want to date me. His response, also short, validated my hunch.
Two months later, lonely again, I created a new OkCupid account. It was another four months of bad first dates and one month-long relationship. And then it just sort of clicked in my head.
I needed to stop looking.
I had been right from the start when I first arrived in Chicago and wanted to find someone serendipitously. I saw my online dating for what it was: forced and inorganic, and for me, a depiction of my most lonely, desperate self. So I deleted my account and just stopped.
The thing is: it didn’t really have anything to do with the website. It was about me. The website is fine. It connects people. But I was using it for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time. I was only thinking about guys and how they could make me happy, when what I should have been thinking about was myself and how I could make myself happy. The sayings about love are incomplete. It’s not just that you’re not expecting or not looking. Love happens when you can’t look because you’re too busy to notice.
So I did a little voodoo. I wrote down all of the attributes of my ideal man in my journal: physical, intellectual, social, romantic, everything. And then I wrote the following:
I’m done. Anything that isn’t this man is not the man, so why think about him? This man is the one that will find me.
I cast a spell to calm myself. By writing it all down, the loneliness and yearning somehow eased, not completely, but enough. I found solace in its surety. He was coming, it said, so stop looking so hard and stop worrying about it.
I started thinking about myself and what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to spend my time. It was spring. I was approaching my one-year anniversary with Portland. I took myself out to eat. I went to the movies alone. And then I did something I really wanted to do: I signed up for a rec softball league. Having missed the deadline for signups the year before, I registered to play with a friend as soon as I could. All I knew was that I loved softball and wanted to play because it made me happy. What I didn’t realize was something infinitely more significant. By doing something that I loved and was good at, I was projecting the best, most attractive, confident, and authentic me.
And, he was there to see it. He was looking.
This is why I think you should and shouldn’t try OkCupid or something like it. The fact that I do have friends who have been lucky using it is enough reason for me to tell you to try it. Maybe the person of your dreams is there for you. So do it. You could be that lucky person.
But either way, stop looking so hard. Don’t force it. Love is an organic thing. It will flow from you if you let it. Find something to do instead, something that you like to do, something that you’re good at, or want to be good at. Let is be a social something. Enjoy yourself. Make new friends. Project your best, most attractive, confident you. That’s the you someone will see and think, I want that in my life.
Or don’t. It’s your life. Do what you fucking want to do. Make your own decisions.
1. Smith, Aaron. “5 Facts About Online Dating.” Pew Research Center. 2/13/2014