As I venture into this murky territory one more time I am attempting to ascertain how to avoid many of the pit-falls that I sank into in the last round. Accordingly, I have removed the adjective “open-minded” from the list of things that I am and that I am looking for in a partner. My intent with this word was to warn off right-wingers, homophobes, and racists, and hopefully find someone with a bit of an artistic temperament. Instead, I received offers of love and commitment from every form of fetish lover that one could think of – including an offer of adoration from a one time Olympic athlete, ten years my junior, that wanted to worship my feet. Not worship AT my feet, which would have been totally fine, but to worship my feet themselves. You must understand that I am not judging these people, I am simply voicing my disappointment at being misunderstood.
I’m sure that there are a myriad of reasons why one might not be successful in the online dating scene, but I’ve narrowed that list down to one overarching reason why I believe I have not been successful. A plague of choice. Or rather, a plague of what I wrongly perceive to be my choices, along with a plague of what the gentlemen on the other side of the online dating scene also wrongly perceive to be their choices in possible mates. Personally I believe it to be our delusion that is keeping us lonely. That and Jane Austen and that damn Mr. Darcy. Although to quote her in Chapter 24 of “Pride and Prejudice” – not that I have read it 55 times or anything: “It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us.” Alas, Ms. Austen must have known of what I speak.
In his book, “The Paradox of Choice”, psychologist Barry Schwartz discusses the fallacy of the modern reasoning that freedom of choice is what makes people happy, and one can therefore maximize happiness by maximizing choice. Countless studies have been done that indicate that more choice does not in fact make people happier. Most of the book has nothing to do with dating, but he cites one example that is connected to my present dating situation. At one time the goal of everyone was to get married as early as possible and have children as early as possible. The only choice involved was to whom. You essentially got that decision out of the way early on and moved on to other things. I looked up the average age of marriage in Canada and people are generally getting married a bit later in life – in 2003 in Canada the average age that people were getting married was 30.6 for males, 28.5 for females. Considering that the divorce rate is at about 40% in Canada for 2012 (only 12% in Italy – perhaps good food is the answer to happiness) all that extra decision making time doesn’t seem to be making anyone happier with their choice. I am hoping to be a bit of a dark horse in finding love that lasts, and in order to achieve this I will have to, according to Schwartz, avoid the following pitfalls of too much choice: analysis paralysis, and escalation of expectation due to vast amount of choice. Simply put, if you have too many choices, it is hard to choose at all, and even if we overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we are less satisfied because of all the choice that is out there and having a vast number of options escalates our expectations. Even if we have made a good choice, ie: have a great man/woman in front of us, we are more likely to regret our choice. Schwartz’s motto is: “The secret to happiness is low expectations”. Sob.
For me this is all tangled up with what I would call the plague of wrongly perceived choice in online dating, because unlike in a grocery store where all 40 salad dressings are actually available for you to buy, that doesn’t also necessarily hold true for dating profiles. Just because you have looked at someone’s profile, doesn’t necessarily mean that they would ever be available to you. I think it is difficult for people to accept this. A friend told me about a site that she found helpful (the free part of the site, not the bit where you pay this guy $3000.00 for him to be your personal dating coach – kudos for him for having the cojones to convince people that they should do so though). In any event – his name is Evan Marc Katz. He is smart and he used to work in customer service on an online dating site called JDate. I suppose he was in a unique position to see dating foibles up close because he decided that we needed help, and for a price he was going to give it to us! In the free blog section of his website there is a blog post that outlines helpful pointers for love hopefuls. He points out that many of us overestimate our appeal. Ouch. If on a scale from 1-10 I am a 5, I will want to be at least a 7. I’ve always thought of myself as a 7 by the way, so as I am still single I must be overestimating this and I’m really a 5. Double sob. But I wonder if I start to think about myself as a 9 then will I actually become a 7? This thought makes me happy.
Men are apparently even more prone to doing this then women – and it’s all tied to a survival instinct of “yes, I am wonderful, you must mate with me and possibly carry on my genetic material” kind of thing. Katz then goes on to say that most people who are 10’s want to be with other 10’s and so on. So, successful online dating is about being realistic about your number and then pursuing or allowing yourself to be pursued and hopefully loved by that same number. All that with the caveat that online dating isn’t really ever going to be realistic because you are being compared to all sorts of other people – smarter, taller, etc all at once, which wouldn’t happen in real life.
So, in order to do battle with the plague of perceived choice I am going to do the following: lower my expectations, and leave myself open to being pleasantly surprised rather than being disappointed if I find what, or who, is right for me. (To be read sotto voce: And, I’m going to try to thinking of myself as a 9 for a month and see if that helps too). Baby steps my friends, baby steps.