• Dating sucks - On the joys and Perils of Online Dating in the Midwest



    This week was the big move back to California after spending the last two years in the snowy confines of Minnesota. It was challenging for a lot of different reasons most of which revolved around leaving a great community of people and the subject of my affection. As preparations were being made and the day was anxiously approaching I reflected over my time in Minneapolis. Of principal contemplation was my approximately 35 first dates over a 17-month period. Over those 17 months I even had a girlfriend for about 5, so that puts me at 1 year of actively dating. I had never really dated before, mostly finding myself naked with a friend or random one night stands so this was all new to me and mostly scary.

    Before leaving to Minneapolis I lived in Los Angeles for about three months. I signed up for a popular online dating site to no avail. I had probably sent something close to 100 messages and not 1 woman had ever responded. However, one former student of mine (undergrad when I was a teaching assistant) stumbled into my profile and we went on some dates. The constant sense of rejection starting gnawing at me and I vowed to never use it again. I did however date some women in Los Angeles that crossed into my life randomly. I want to be careful not to reveal too much in order to protect their privacy but also not inspire their scorn. I was fundamentally challenged by my lack of any real relationship experience and there suspicion of that. I also come from a fairly introverted family and the prospect of going up to a woman without a petition or a union card in hand is terrifying to me.

    The Los Angeles women were deeply suspicious of my lack of experience and long-term relationships. I learned to explain to women that over the last 10 years I had been caring for my ailing parents and to my detriment hadn’t really prioritized my needs and wants in general but in particular my intimacy. Over those 10 years my parents would eventually pass away. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and passed away a couple of years later, I write about her experience here. I lived with my father after that for another couple of years before he passed away three years ago. I haven’t written as much about my dad. When I was living with him it was hard to see the pain in his eyes after my mom, his second wife, died, compounded by the memories of the loss of his first wife from breast cancer. I did enjoy being with him and giving him my love and attention but it was like his heart was tired. In as much as he suffered it is undeniable that there was beauty in how we shared our grief and sadness together, comforted each other, and looked at the promise of a new day with a tall glass of orange juice that my dad would make for us every morning supplied from our tree.

    I came to Minneapolis still a bit broken hearted, grieving the loss of my parents. In Los Angeles I found myself struggling with the constant reminders of their lives; driving by their gravesite or County USC where my mom received horrible treatment. So, part of the appeal of the Twin Cities was a break from the triggers. So off to Minneapolis I went determined to make a life worth living and start a career as a non-profit hack bringing altruism and do-gooder liberal shenanigans to every corner of the globe. Even before I moved I changed my location to Minneapolis on the account. Not surprisingly there where a lot of white women. What was truly shocking was the inordinate amount of profile pictures prominently featuring their fresh kill, usually deer. A buddy of mine was also observant of the consistency of women petting or feeding a baby tiger. Immediately after my location change and with a confusingly LA oriented profile I was already receiving messages and views. I was dumbfounded and a tad bit excited about my new prospects.

    I moved in January in the middle of the cold dreariness of winter. To my surprise and with the accompaniment of the women I was dating I discovering the beauty of a coldness I had never encountered. Since the entire city is blanketed by white snow it is bright in the day and radiant in the moon light. The sound of ice crushing underneath my feet was a constant welcome companion. Since the city spends half its time in the tundra they have adopted with a laundry list of activities that I challenged myself to try at least once. Probably the hardest thing about all these interactions was that because of the nature of dating I have to share all this intimate stuff with essentially complete strangers since the status of my parents always comes up. It was hard to constantly recite the narrative of where my parents were or what had happened and also in many cases see the look of shock or discomfort as I described what had been happening in my life.

    As you may imagine the high volume of dates meant that not many of them stuck. Lots of women had limited familiarity with Latin American and Spanish, which proved to be a bigger challenge then I initially appreciated. Every so often woman would completely struggle with my name, assume that I wouldn’t be able to speak English even though we wrote each other, insist that I’m not really Mexican at all because I was born and raised in the United States. For the girlfriend that I did have, lets call her Susan, one of the major things I realized was that in not having my parents around I felt really subsumed by Susan’s family. I didn’t have a counterpoint to offer from their mostly suburban white middle class lifestyle. The first time we met her parents she mentioned that her dad’s buddy was hanging out and that he was racist. I knew I would never feel safe among her parents and their friends and they couldn’t be avoided since they played such a central role in her life in helping care for and raise her child. While I liked Susan a lot getting deeper into her life was pulling away from my heritage. It was clear to me that without my parents serving as that link to my heritage and comfort it is absolutely important for me to be involved with someone who has a deeper familiarity with my native Spanish and my families place of origin.

    The woman that would eventually become my querida swept into my life not having been found online but through a slow courtship unbeknownst to us. In retrospect we had taken the time to interact randomly and observe each other in our separate activist spaces. The evening we confirmed our affection for one another we spent all night together at a party. She walked in wearing a very attractive dress that hugged her features deliberately and exposed her gently slopping shoulders. I knew I wanted to spend all night talking to her and apparently she felt the same way since she refused to let me leave. We danced for hours to whatever music was being played holding each other with limited restraint. In a moment of perhaps delirium and some kind of crazy inspiration I picked her up and brought her over my head. Thankfully she is a dancer and wasn’t immediately uneasy with my physical gesture but rather found some comfort in it.

    There is something I find deeply romantic and ironic that this woman was always their but neither one of us was able to step into our affections until I was leaving. Although, we did compare our online profiles and discovered that their algorithms found us sufficiently compatible.

    Nevertheless, those of you that do intend on trying online dating here are some helpful tips:

    1) Read the whole profile and make reference to what you find interesting

    2) Keep in mind that women get an inordinate amount of messages so perhaps send a message to whoever draws your attention when you see that they are online

    3) I tend to cut to the chase after 2 or 3 messages are exchanged. Don’t be to eager but don’t miss the boat.

    4) If you are looking for something meaningful no bathroom topless selfies

    5) Put a descent photo up. A friend of mine apparently only takes photos with an older friend of his and posted those. The photos not only were unclear as to who was the focus but also subtly seemed like they were dating.

    6) Be a little vulnerable in your profile, don’t put a bunch of bull shit

    7) I tended to always suggest dinner but a friend mentioned that perhaps getting a drink is best. She argued that having dinner is a big time commitment especially if things go south whereas ordering successive rounds of drinks is an indication that things are going well

    8) Apparently women really pay attention to the age ranges that you post so for example, if you are in your 30s don’t mention that you are down to date someone in your early 20s. Comes off as creepy.

    Ultimately what I learned is that dating became a way for me to learn a new city and discover what sort of partner I want to have. I guess useful things but dating still sucks; its awkward, time consuming and expensive.

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