From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com.
While the percentage of people who meet their spouse in college has been on the decline for a while now, it sure isn’t getting any easier to meet that special someone. Even Harry met Sally in college. And though it worked out for Ben Stone and Alison Scott, most 20-somethings no longer meet someone special at a bar — at least someone who is special for more than one night.
If you’re single and looking, it’s time to take a page from Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly: Go online.
I’m Not That Desperate Yet…
As I sit and listen to my friends complain about their love lives — the men who didn’t call back, the women who won’t give them the time of day, or that someone who just moved to 3,000 miles for law school — I always suggest they go ahead and make an online dating profile. Yet I am often met with surprising resistance. “It’s so awkward.” “I don’t have time for that.” “I’m not desperate enough to need an online boyfriend/girlfriend.”
People: you found your apartment on Craigslist. You do all your banking virtually. Your only form of communication with 90% of every friend you’ve ever had is on Facebook.
You are not better than online dating. It’s okay to admit that it is very hard to meet new people these days who have the potential to be your spouse.
Where Do I Start?
Find a site! There are so many to choose from.
- OKCupid is free and great for 20-somethings unwilling to dish out cash to supplement a not-yet-totally-desperate love life.
- Match.com is a little more serious, since you have to pay. As a result, the average age is slightly older. I recommend it for 30/40-somethings.
- Niche websites — whether it’s JDate or ChristianMingle, or perhaps more importantly in this town, RedStateDate or BlueStateDate — might help you find someone without as much screening for that trait you need in your #1.
- Start-up sites like DC’s own Hinge, “it’s all about the date itself” HowAboutWe, strength in numbers via Grouper, or let’s GPS this date using Tinder, can be really fun if nothing else.
It’s Not Working
Here’s a few things you could do to revamp, or as I like to say, optimize, your online dating profile:
- Have a friend read your bio. You didn’t send your college admissions essay off without at least one second opinion. This is being judged far more harshly.
- Headshot? Try full body. The sad truth is that people want to see the full package. You are who you are and they’re going to find out sooner or later.
- Go on one new date a week. People tend to go overboard and line up three to five dates in a single week (especially those who like to make their date pay — but that’s a different story). People fall into the online dating fallacy of thinking that there’s infinite fish in the digital sea. There’s not. Give each date some respect. Similarly, if you’re only doing one date a month, you could probably be a little more aggressive.
I was taught that independence is defining. “Be your own woman, Farrah. Never let a man make decisions for you.” Those are the words that my mother repeatedly emphasized for as long as I can remember.
When my parents divorced, my mother’s emphatic cries only became more frequent (and slightly more extreme), “All men are scum. You have to be able to take care of yourself.”
And I agree — I believe that it is important to be independent and that I shouldn’t have to get married to ensure safety and comfort for myself. Then again, I also believe that my dad should live forever so I can continue to depend on him (but that’s a story for another time).
I always thought that my parents would back me up on my decision to put off relationships (specifically commitment to another person) until I felt ready and settled in my professional life. But then, I turned 26.
At 26, I’m straddling the line between young and “torshideh” or pickled (if directly translated). In the Iranian culture, once you begin to “pickle” then you can forget about any and all marriage prospects. It’s every Persian mother’s nightmare for their daughter to be pickled.
By your late 20’s, if an Iranian man hasn’t claimed you yet then forget about it.
On the day of my birthday — my grandmother called me from Iran and said, “Farrah, I have found you a husband.”
Even my mother, the independence promoter, has essentially sent out a “husband request” to all of her friends who have eligible sons (meaning doctors, lawyers or engineers).
“Farrah, he bought his last girlfriend a Meeeer-ceh-des. He is very good. You should date him.”
I’ve never met this man you speak of.
I feel torn. I don’t feel pickled, or rotting, or past my prime as my grandmother would “gently” put it. But at the same time, all this talk of finding a man before it’s too late terrifies me. That little voice in my head is constantly nagging me that I better start my search before I’m too torshideh for my own good.
And I resent that. Screw this BS that a woman is somehow less worthy because she doesn’t have a man standing by her side. If I don’t have children or a husband, will that somehow define my value as a woman?
And if so, then why? Because it’s “normal” to have a husband and a family? How can we define “normal” these days anyway? Living in the 21st century, our images of a “happy family” have dramatically changed (if you’re educated at least…).
My point is — normal doesn’t exist. Everyone has their own image of what a normal life is like and, frankly, I don’t think that attaching myself to a man to define me is normal. It sounds like a prison sentence. I would much rather a man had to attach himself to me instead.
Every moment has the potential to be an opportunity. In DC, everyone means business. We’re hardwired with a competitive nature. Just attend a networking event.
I’ll admit, I’ve networked my a** off: in line at the bathroom, on the Red Line, walking home. Time is money — and my time was dedicated to establishing a lasting impression.
Of course, all of that changed when I got a job I enjoy. Now my time on the metro is spent blasting Persian rap through my headphones with a “don’t talk to me” look plastered on my face. While I ditched the network-and-metro gig, I always have my game face on for happy hour. You have to be down to network (and work hard… obviously) in this city if you want to excel.
And we carry that networking attitude with us in most of our interactions — remember, time is money — meeting new friends, coworkers, and potential dates.
Almost every interaction I have with a guy covers the following bases within the first few minutes:
I’m on a date interview before I’ve even decided if I’m interested in the position. The mystery goes down an entire notch by minute four. After one conversation, I know whether my parents will approve of him as my boyfriend. If the conversation is this generic, my parents will likely be bored with him, too.
The Best Kid
We ask because (1) we want to make sure the person is not a whack-job and (2) our competitive nature is coming out to play. We want to know how the person levels up to us. When we’re networking or making a pass at someone, we’re attempting to create a memorable image of ourselves within seconds.
I’ve been programmed to do this. In the Iranian community, our livelihood relies on our image. My mother constantly criticized me for having lower grades than the other kids and bragged about the success of my piano recital to parents. Since my report card didn’t earn bragging rights, she had to get creative. All of the kids were placed in a “Who’s The Best Kid” competition.
As I got older, my family in Iran began asking different questions – my cooking abilities, cleanliness, marriage prospects. My non-existent rice cooking expertise and the overdue laundry in the corner of my room forced my mom to be creative again.
“Farrah vas a virgin for a very long time. She vasn’t like her Ah-mer-ee-kan friends.”
The urge to create an image exists in every aspect of our lives and sometimes that never-ending competition gets exhausting. Sometimes the pressure to be the best just leads to insecurity and frustration — who wants to deal with that?
When it comes to networking, pick a time and place — walking out of the bathroom stall is not preferable. As for dating, we should probably stop judging people on their hometown. My mother is a whole different story.
From Willis Shawver. Follow him on Twitter at @WShawver or email him at Willis[AT]borderstan.com.
Hello, lads. Happy Valentine’s Day! Hopelessly single in DC without a Valentine’s Day date? Let not your lonely heart be troubled. A recent study from Nerd Wallet – published by InTheCapital – reports that DC has about 10 unmarried women for every nine unmarried men. (Sorry, ladies.)
With those odds, there is no excuse to find yourself without a date this Valentine’s Day. So let this former serial-dater give you some advice on where to find that special someone this week.
Let’s start with that DC institution where everyone eventually finds themselves: the Metro. Don’t let the fluorescent lights and odd smells fool you. The Metro is a perfect place to find a date.
You can really tell a lot about someone by how they ride the Metro. Is she sitting in an aisle seat with an open window seat? Too selfish. That girl who refuses to move to the middle of the car. Control issues. Frantically typing away on her Blackberry? Workaholic.
But that girl who gave up her seat to that nice old lady? Now that’s someone you can take home to meet mom and dad. Just take that advice from the voice over the Metro intercom: “If you see something, say something.” And I’m talking about women here, guys, not suspicious packages.
Do you consider yourself a foodie? Does your food blog have Instagrams of what you had for breakfast this morning? Perfect, ladies dig the food blog fellas. And if you happen to find women who know how to spell quinoa attractive, try the Dupont Farmer’s Market (every Sunday from 10 am until 1 pm) and impress her with your culinary knowledge of red kale and rutabaga.
And who doesn’t like music? Whether you’re catching the next up-and-coming band at the Black Cat, or you’ve scored some last minute tickets to a sold out show at the 9:30 Club, music venues are the perfect place to find that special someone.
Be prepared to defend your position on [insert name of hipster album] and discuss why its rating on Pitchfork.com was too harsh.
Well good luck, fellas. And hey, even if you didn’t find a date for Valentine’s Day, Chinese take-out and Breaking Bad on DVD isn’t a bad night either. Hell of a lot cheaper, that’s for sure.