Friday, September 3, 2010

Mysteries of the universe

In mystery novels, there is always a point where the amateur sleuth thinks something like, "Hmm. I notice that Mr. Smith always seems to walk out of room carrying a bloody knife immediately before we find a dead body in the room. Huh. That's odd. Oh, well, probably doesn't mean anything. Oooh, look! Something shiny!" Then our sleuth is distracted for approximately 200 pages until Mr. Smith follows her into a room while holding a clean knife and a grudge, allowing her to say, "Mr. Smith! It was you all along! But one thing I don't understand: why?"

Mr. Smith, not having learned anything from watching Batman in the 70s, then tells her all of the details of his evil plans and his tragic childhood, including the family recipe for award-winning barbeque sauce and the location of the secret passageway into the local bouillon reserves , thus giving our heroine enough time to defend herself using a Chinese box, a candlestick, three pieces of low-quality chocolate, and a talking parrot. Mystery solved!

Thank goodness for low-quality chocolate and talking parrots; they come in handy so often.

I've always found mystery novels appealing, probably because the sleuth always figures it out. It's comforting to know that, in fiction at least, problems can be solved and the good guys usually win. Sometimes this even happens in my real life. Like how after I rewrote my profile and got a friend to take some decent pictures of me, I finally got some response to my online dating profile.

Looking at that last sentence, I fear that I am minimizing the lengths I went to in order to appear like a nice, non-crazy person on the Internet. As you have probably heard, there are a lot of weirdoes out there, and if I was ever going to date again I was going to have to pull ahead of the pack.

After writing a few drafts of my profile, I subjected them to a rigorous peer review process where my friends and neighbors evaluated each draft based on how a) accurate and b) flattering it was. The result got a thumbs-up from everyone. Then, I drafted my photographer friend Photo Joe to take some portraits of me that didn't make me look like a dork, which is a considerable task.

Joe has a lot of practice, huge lenses, and inexhaustible patience. This is fortunate because in order to get three or four flattering photos for my profile, we had to take several hundred shots. That included four locations, six outfits, three lighting setups, an encouraging assistant, and my constant commentary about how awkward I felt.

"I feel so awkward," I said as Photo Joe continued to take pictures. (Click, click.)
"You look great!" said the encouraging assistant. (Click, click.)
"How do models do this? It feels so artificial." (Click, click.)
"Move around more," said Joe, furrowing his brow at me. (Click, click.) I hate when he furrows his brow. Although I tell myself that he is probably calculating exposures and f-stops, I interpret it as him not liking what he's seeing through his lens, and what he's seeing through his lens is me.
"Is this better?" I ask.
"Yeah." (Click, click. Click.)
"That feels even more artificial. In real life I never sit around smiling into space, moving a fraction of an inch every time I hear a click." (Click, click.)
"You look great! You're a natural!" said the encouraging assistant.
"If I were a natural, I wouldn't feel like such an uber dork. Models don't feel like uber dorks."
"Not true," said Joe. (Click, click.) "They worry constantly about how fat they look." (Click, click.)
"Oh, that's a good point," I said, then wondered if I looked fat.
"You stopped smiling."
"Smile!" said the assistant.
"Sorry." (Click, click.)
"And keep moving," said Joe.
"Sorry. It's just…"
"So artificial. I know," he said from behind his camera. "Smile anyway." (Click, click.)

Which is actually good advice for online dating as a whole: it's artificial, but smile anyway.

It isn't that I really want to do online dating, but more that I think it is my best option. If I don't get strategic and attract some attention from the single men in the world, I will continue to be the loser watching talking-to-ghosts shows on Friday nights.

I'm so sick of that damn show.

"Yeah?" (Click.)
"Make sure you get the cleavage in the shot."
"Already on it." (Click, click, click.)

400 shots later, we had a few options. After eliminating the truly hideous options, I had friends vote. The winners went into my profile, and fifteen minutes later my online dating site sent me a message:

*CHIME* "Congratulations! There is love waiting in your inbox!"

Oh, hideous.
And strangely appealing.

I wish I could tell you that I saw the first profile and immediately knew I had to marry the guy, but it's not the case. The guys that the site matched me with seemed mostly nice, but not really my type. Now what? My head is full of questions I don't have the answers to and mysteries I don't know how to solve.

Why date guys I'm not interested in?
If I don't give it a try then why am I bothering to do this at all?
Maybe I'm being too picky. Maybe that is why I'm watching ghost shows in the first place.
If my Guy were on this site, would I be able to tell?
Surely I should be able to tell if I'm at least attracted to someone right?
What if he just has a lousy profile picture? If I didn't have Photo Joe, I would.
Am I even sure of what I'm looking for? I mean, I've got criteria, but I've certainly given guys some slack in the past. It isn't a shopping list for a home improvement project and if I forget the blue painter's tape then horrible things will happen to my crown molding.
It's just coffee, for god's sake.
But what if I have coffee with a psycho?
Maybe I should think about this a little more.

*CHIME* "Don't give up on love! Contact your matches now!"

Well, that is well-timed.
And vaguely creepy.

But fine, you nagging mother of a dating site. I'll pick one.

The one who can't spell?
The one who requires that I pretend to like football?
The one who titled his profile, "I'm not wearing a shirt in any of my pictures, but that's okay! Relax! LOL!"?
The one who asked me if I'm a woman who knows the love of Jesus?

*CHIME* "Trust in the process! Don't throw away your love destiny."

Love destiny? Oh, goodness gracious. Fine. Fine. Fine. THIS ONE. I pick THIS ONE, the guy who seems interesting but vaguely weird and I'm not sure why. His comment that he likes "To have deep and meaningful conversations about philosophy" as a hobby is a little odd, but I'm sure that's nothing. Oh, look, something shiny: he seems to be employed. Surely a match made in heaven! NOW LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE.

Three days later I'm standing in line at a coffee shop simultaneously having one conversation with the barista and one with the voice inside my head.

Barista: Beautiful day, isn't it?
Jen: Yes. (I hope this guy isn't a psycho. But the coffee shop is well-lit and busy. I should be fine.)
Barista: What can I get you?
Jen: Venti, half-caff, skim milk, double whip. (I'm being brave! I'm not just waiting at home to be saved by Prince Charming!)
Barista: Anything else?
Jen: What kind of muffins do you have today? (It will be fine. I'm just nervous.)
Barista: Marionberry, Carrot, and Brantastic Blast.
Jen: Marionberry, please. (I hope this date isn't a brantastic blast.)
Barista: That will be $8.

As I'm fishing in my purse for the money, I hear a voice behind me: "Are you Jen?"
I turn to the voice. He looks just like his picture. "Yes," I say, "are you Guy?"

But as I say that out loud, the voice in my head has something to say, too. And it's saying, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. NO. NO. NO. NO."

Now there is a mystery if ever there was one. How is it that I took one look at him and was instantly able to tell that he isn't my Guy? It isn't like he's standing here with a bloody knife. He's clean and polite. He looks happy to see me. But I can tell you without any doubt that I am absolutely, positively not interested in this guy and never will be.

I can either leave or I can talk to him while I drink my coffee. I remind myself: It's either a good date or a good story.

I hand the barista her money and grab my coffee. "So, Guy, tell me more about yourself."

(To be continued.)

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