Seriously, what's with all the fucking skiing?

My wife and I recently split after a couple decades, for all the usual reasons.  The last few years had been quite unhappy and fraught with complications, although thankfully we'd managed to resolve our problems enough to stay on good terms.  After the worst of it was settled, I finally decided I was sufficiently bored, lonely, horny and/or desperate enough to dip a toe into the world of dating. 

To say it's changed a lot since I've dated is to say that the ocean is wet.  And it is fascinating.  And mind boggling.  And also somewhat terrifying.  Everything I knew is wrong, and frankly I wasn't great at dating before the new century.

In the mid-90s I'd actually joined, for a time, what was called a "computer dating service"; I have a feeling, however, that all matchmaking was done in a basement office somewhere, by a bitter, middle-aged chain-smoker named Tammy with a dart board and serious issues with her life choices.  Certainly, it did not produce much in the way of satisfactory results; none of the matches seemed to be particularly suitable.  It also seemed odd that literally every match reported that they'd won their membership as part of a door prize at a bar or bachelorette party.  I assume that this was either (a) a tactic suggested by the service to divert attention from the then-stigma of joining a dating service, or (b) a sign that they weren't having much luck as a company and were literally giving memberships away.

Not long after, I tried that old mainstay of online dating Match.com, 'way back in its initial days; I wasn't measurably successful with that either.  Again, joining a service was paramount to admitting that you were too socially inept to meet people in real life.   Unfortunately, back then, that was still more often true than not, at least in my case.  I met quite a few bland, ambitionless, administrative assistants who could have easily listed their actual hobbies as "going out to dinner, watching movies and television."  At least by this point, I had a cell phone, so I could keep Evie, my Date Rescue Friend on speed dial.  If I needed to bail, I'd go to the bathroom and call Evie, whisper "five minutes," and she'd call me with a made-up minor emergency that would allow me to wrap up the conversation in as polite a manner as possible, then make a graceful, respectful exit.  It happened, and I returned the favor, more than once.  In retrospect, it might have just saved time if Evie and I had dated.

Eventually I realized that I stood a better chance of meeting people in bars or at work, which is where I met my ex-spouse.  Workplace harassment issues notwithstanding, I suppose I could just start going back to bars, but this is the age of the internet presence.  Not even hookers meet people in bars anymore.

I decided that I was still prejudiced against Match.com, so first I joined Tinder.  You've probably heard all about it, but some background:  the gist is that a picture comes up, and you can either swipe it to the left to decline, or to the right to show interest; if two people both swipe right on each other, it's a match, and messaging between them becomes enabled.  There's an option to read their profile before making a decision.

It was obviously designed with millennials in mind, and like so many things of that ilk has been ruined by GenXers, who treat it like an actual matchmaking app.  You can tell the people who understand the purpose of the app when they have pictures but almost no profile, as well as those who are into poly/open relationships or the BDSM scene looking for playmates.  You can tell those who don't get it at all when the first thing in their profile is "no hookups" and "looking for partner-in-crime" (a typically banal, oft-used phrase) then go on to use up the measly 500 character limit to tell a predictable story about how much they hate "game players cheaters," and love to eat, travel, etc.  And yes, long walks on the beach are still popular.

The app is free, but only gives a limited amount of swipes per day unless you pay, which I did.  However, I've not yet actually met anyone from Tinder.  I've exchanged messages with a few women, but the only one that expressed interest in meeting for a drink stopped responding before any follow-thru.  It's also location-based, and New York is so densely populated that there's a smaller chance of people finding each other mutually unless I limit the range to a mile or two.  Once I tried it in northeastern Pennsyltucky, and after maybe twenty pics it said there weren't any more matches in the area, even after I extended it to a fifty mile radius.

Basically, it's replaced Solitaire as my phone-enabled time-waster, and I take it even less seriously.  At least I occasionally win at Solitaire.

I then tried Zoosk, but I found it ridiculous.  The interface isn't at all friendly, and the free membership doesn't allow you to actually contact people.  I deleted the app after less than a day.

Lastly, I joined OkCupid, which is frankly a lot more interesting.  It's hella detailed; you have a profile where you put your specifics, who you are and what you're looking for, and then has you answer literally hundreds of questions, not a few of which are "fuck/marry/kill" scenarios.  The matches are then displayed as a percentage of compatibility, although it doesn't take into account how much weight some answers have (e.g. it doesn't exclude matches from women who want children even though I don't, which is usually a deal-breaker).  You can opt to "like" a profile, and if someone does the same for you, you're both notified, but it still allows you to message anyone you see.  The free profile offers a lot; if you pay, though, you can see who's visited your profile and "likes" you, and you can opt to visit profiles invisibly.  I've learned this is the smart move.

And man, I have found all kinds there.  Gender fluid artistic types.  Ultra Christian girls who want to be tied up.  Women in open marriages.  Kinda hot but kinda racist grandmothers.  Normal, boring women who live on the upper east side and think giving up anal on your birthday means they're "up for anything."  Also normal, not as boring women who are actually up for anything.  I messaged a few that I thought had some potential and have had a few promising conversations, although obviously none of it really anticipates whether you'll have chemistry upon meeting.

The one thing I've found in common is the photos.  They include the usual mirror/duckface selfies, but more often than not, there are so many pictures of skiing.  Hence the title, but seriously, does everyone fucking ski but me?  Machu Picchu seems very popular, as well; I guess they go there when it's not snowing.  Most inexplicable for me is how many have pictures of them petting big African cats, because I have no idea where so many people seem to go to acquire them.  Is there a place somewhere that people can pose with big cats, who must be tripping balls on tranquilizers to let you get this close without ripping out your weave through your ass?

So far, I've had one date.  She was about ten years older, married with two grown kids, in a totally sexless marriage with an understanding of non-monogamy.  Photos in her profile didn't show her face, because she works at a high profile government job and doesn't want her employer or family to know about her lifestyle, but she emailed me pics before we met.  We had dinner and drinks, and I learned a whole lot about what's in store for me, regarding dating etc.  She was a psychiatrist in her pre-motherhood life, and I think after hearing my sad story felt a bit maternal towards me, which was not the most conducive to dating.  I think she was digging me physically, and may have been a bit disappointed that there wasn't more chemistry.  I certainly thought she was attractive; really a fascinating woman, very smart and accomplished, but I'm still in a weird fucking place right now anyway.  I had a lovely time though, and as a first real date in over a decade, I could have done much worse.

Kathryn Allyn

Jazz singer, political junkie, cautionary tale and nights'n'weekends Stig, on the Island of Misfit Toys.