By Alfie Kohn January 07, It was when the first woman with whom I had exchanged messages invited me to give her a call that I suddenly realized just how screwy and contrived online dating really is. As I was dialing this particular woman, who lives in Cambridge, I realized that I knew an awful lot about her preferences in bed. I had a whopping pile of information about this complete stranger, in fact, including details about her romantic history, religious convictions, and political beliefs, as well as a photo of uncertain vintage.
I knew the sorts of things that in a previous century — say, the 20th — would have been revealed gradually, naturally, in the context of conversations that took place as two people spent time together and a relationship took hold and deepened.
In those days, you met someone in the real world, perhaps at an activity that both of you enjoy. Once someone caught your fancy, the first order of business was to figure out whether he or she was unattached.
Back then, I went on plenty of blind dates during which my thoughts kept turning to the well-meaning mutual friend who had set us up: And seaweed and sandals and beer cans. Get Today's Headlines in your inbox: The day's top stories delivered every morning. Sign Up Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here I have learned a lot, though.
One of the rewards of connecting with women online is hearing them complain about men who are not me. Apparently a disproportionate number of male photos are selfies — sometimes shirtless — taken in bathrooms. Or wearing sunglasses or posed next to their cars or brandishing large dead fish. First, it would appear that, upon reaching a certain age, women in the Boston area are required to sign up for yoga.
By a remarkable coincidence, what people notice first about each and every one is her distinctive smile and eyes. Accompanying photos occasionally include kids and pets and sometimes are taken in and of exotic lands, the point apparently being to make the rest of us depressed about the repetitive, prosaic, embarrassingly local lives we — and apparently only we — are leading. Most of all, it seems that every woman, regardless of age, despises the indoors.
I say this because, according to their profiles, every spare moment is devoted to running, skiing, hiking, climbing, rafting, unicycling, spelunking, parachuting into triathlons, and engaging in a variety of other calorie-burning gerunds. How they simultaneously manage to keep up with all those Netflix shows they admit to loving presents a real puzzle.
In theory, though, it should at least be less uncomfortably urgent for those of us of a certain age: We can treat the process itself — the search, the exchange of messages, the one-off dinners — as intellectually intriguing, diverting, amusing, and perhaps even a path toward self-knowledge. Or so we keep telling ourselves. Send comments to magazine globe.