The Preaching and the Practice

(Or Our Friend the Golden Rule)

The online dating thing was, at first, a lark. Having poked about in the Men for Women ads on Craigslist for a while (and having been largely, though not singularly, underimpressed), I decided I would post my own ad and see what happened.

The answer: a lot. I got a heap of replies, many of them legitimate and kind, some of them baffling, a few downright annoying (such as the fellow who wrote to tell me that my photos made me look 42 rather than 32--um, thanks--or the guy who ripped into me for being negative, for allowing my "New York and kickboxing" side to dominate, and for having "a worldview that excludes children" because I said I didn't want kids right away and wasn't looking to date single dads). Without giving up work, eating, exercise, and every other activity in my life that requires time and attention, I couldn't reply to all of the messages I received, and I didn't try.

But I did reply to several and, in the end, wound up meeting up with five of the guys with whom I'd corresponded. They were, to a man, interesting, kind, engaging, fun, and pleasant to spend time with. With the exception of one, though (interestingly, the least likely candidate), I didn't feel the spark/friction/flare/other inadequate term I need to feel in order to feel like there's real dating potential with someone.

Herein, for me, lies one of the difficult (and crappy) things about online dating. That spark thingy is of supreme importance to me; without it, even the kindest, most attractive, most fascinating person won't feel like a good match for me romantically. That's why, I think, I've generally dated or had relationships with only guys I've met in person first--at a party, through friends, randomly in some venue or other: I can tell whether I feel that sort of indefinable ping straightaway. Somewhat illogically, I'm happy to let the deeper getting-to-know-you process come after that ping detection. Online, of course, all of that happens in reverse.

And that, as I've discovered, can mean that sometimes I just don't really connect to people, even though they sound great in words (and, often, *are* great in person). The reverse is entirely possible, too: I may well not induce sparks in the guys I meet.

Here's where it gets muddy. Over lunch the other day, I asked Josh his opinion: what do I do about the guys I don't click with romantically but who might make great friends? He laid out the options. "Well, you know what a guy would do--just never e-mail again. But you could be classier than that, and just write back and gently tell the truth."

I like to think of myself as being one who generally aims for "classy" (though some might debate that point), so I figured I'd go for choice #2. But it took an honest e-mail from S, the guy I went out with on Tuesday, to actually get me to sit down and write.

S sent me a message yesterday afternoon thanking me for meeting him for dinner and asking for my honest assessment of the date; he mentioned that he wasn't sure if either of us had felt a spark, but said perhaps he'd missed something. I replied and said, essentially, I'm with you--we're not destined for romance, but sign me up for the friend thing if you're game.

And then I planted myself in front of Entourage this morning and wrote similar messages to the other guys I'd gone out with in the past few weeks, because I'd rather be forthright, tell the truth, and float the possibility of friendship (which I don't really see as a second place prize, though I know that's often how it comes across) than just disappear into the ether. Further, it feels a bit like adhering to some odd combination of the golden rule and the whole concept of "If you don't vote, you can't complain": I can't rightly be a jerk to others and then complain about others being jerks to me.

So here's to that elusive spark, and to C, J, G, S, and me all finding it somewhere, with someone. In the meantime, here's to truth, openness, and the willingness to take the harder path.

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