Today’s “Ask a Widow” column comes from a comment I hear from a lot of people, most of whom are not online dating. It goes something like this: “you’re lucky to be dating in the digital age. Think of how many people you can meet online!”I know it’s meant to be encouraging. But I usually respond with some sort of comment about how dating is never easy, and that online dating is even more challenging than regular dating. This usually surprises people and often leads to the next question, the one I’m going to answer today:
What’s so hard with online dating?
If you are a widow who is trying to date online after a long hiatus from dating, or really if you are anyone who is trying out dating for the first time in the internet age, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean when I say this: online dating is the WORST.
I mean, sure, there are potentially more options online than there would be at your neighborhood bar. And as long as the men you meet are telling the truth, you know exactly who is single, who is well-educated, and who prefers street tacos over fancy dining experiences. (Or whatever other qualifications are important to you.)
But there are so many negatives.
First of all, there are the offensive profiles. (I’m just looking at male profiles, so I can only speak about them, but really, I’m sure female profiles can be terrible too.) There are the men who take selfies in the bathroom, cutting off their heads in the photos to just focus on their abdominal muscles. There are the men who pose driving cars or boats or ATVs, presumably to show that they have this skill or that they are very manly. And then there are the men who pose with their guns (sometimes even shooting a gun!) and don’t even get me started about how that is not my kind of guy.
But these profiles can actually be somewhat entertaining, if you don’t take it too seriously. I don’t feel the need to answer everyone who writes me, and many of the men I write don’t write back. That’s dating, and I’ve become much more resilient to these mini-rejections. Furthermore, I get a kick out of a lot of these conversations, even the ones that lead nowhere.
No….these crazy profiles and the slights from attractive men don’t really dissuade me. I can deal with all that. What is actually difficult for me is that it takes So. Much. Time.
Many people do not believe me when I tell them this. I get a lot of encouragement to just “keep trying!” because they believe that’s how I can be successful. And I agree. But do you know what that actually means?
It means I have to spend a LOT of time on it. Much, much more than you’d think.
Here’s an example. I was at a party the other day and I started talking to a friend about these funny online videos in which a comedian takes over another person’s Tinder account. I laughed and said I’d love for that to happen to me. “I’ll do it!” my friend said, gleefully. “But I’m obviously doing this just for the comedy!”
I don’t have a Tinder account, so we created one, posted a few pictures, and then I left her with my phone. An hour later, I came back. “I got you some likes!” she beamed. “I had to write a few things about you, so I said that you liked knitting and sex.”
We both laughed, and then I saw the banter she had going with a couple of men. It was actually pretty witty, but I said that there was no way I was going out with these guys. “Knitting and sex! What were you thinking? This is not how I want to attract men!”
She noted that it wasn’t her goal to get me a real date, which I knew. She also admitted maybe she’d gone over the top, and I laughed and told her I was done with this experiment. As I was deleting my account, she said, “wow, that was interesting. Going from complete stranger to dating material via a text chat is a lot! I’m not sure I would have fully appreciated that without the Tinder takeover. It takes a lot of time.”
“And you weren’t even trying to actually connect with someone!” I said.
That’s not even the half of it. Even if I do put in a couple of solid hours (which I don’t have on a daily basis, so that time would have to be spread out over a week), then I have to spend more time to actually meet these men. Because I worry about my own safety and that of my children, I refuse to meet up near my house, so that means I have to travel (usually downtown.) When my dad is around, he can watch the kids, but when he’s not, I have to find and hire a babysitter. To say nothing of the cost of the actual date.
And then there’s the possibility – a strong one – that I won’t even like the guy! Apart from the cost, that means I’ve spent probably an hour online finding this guy, upwards of another hour chatting online with this guy and another 2-3 hours getting to and from the date and actually going on the date.
Have I mentioned that I write, teach high school and am raising three kids? To say nothing of the other things I have to do to keep our lives going. I’m not complaining (okay, I am a little.) I’m just pointing out that my free time is extremely limited.
So what’s so hard with online dating? It’s not the things you might think: the conversation or the rejections or the fear of meeting someone who is totally annoying. That stuff can happen in real life too, and I’m able to weather it.
No, for me, the hard thing about online dating is that in order to do it well, you have to put in serious time. And that’s not something I have a lot of right now.
Yes, I could stop running in the mornings, and online date instead, but I know that would be bad for my mental health. Yes, I could miss some sleep or the late night chats I have with my daughter, but I just don’t want to do that. Yes, I could give up my book club or wine nights with my friends. Yes, I could stop writing this blog.
But really? Is that what it would take to really devote myself to finding a new man? Seriously, I’m so ready for someone to tell me that they know the guy for me, he’s going to be at this party next weekend and I need to find a great outfit because I’m invited too.
But no one does this. Or at least, they don’t do it for me. So I’m stuck with online dating. I do what I can, and make dates when I have a bit of free time. But it’s a very, very long and slow and (so far) fruitless process.
What’s so hard about online dating?
Well, it’s this: I really want to meet someone. But I don’t want to give up all the good things in my life to do it.
**This column is merely my point of view and is for informational purposes only. I am not a therapist or medical professional, and thus my thoughts should not be a substitute for advice from these professionals. Please get immediate help if you feel like harming yourself. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.