As part of my decision to be a bit more proactive about my return to the dating world, I’ve enlisted the help of a couple of friends who’ve assisted with (gulp!) online dating profiles as well as a few “old fashioned” introductions.
Having attempted online dating before, I knew I would be in for a bit of frustration and heartbreak, so I did a lot of soul-searching and a bit of research before the decision to try it again was made. Part of the research was reading a book that a friend mentioned to me (thanks, L.A.!) about online dating and the algorithms of data. OK, I didn’t fully use the author’s tactics, but it did make me realise that I need to be a little more fact-based in my search.
For me, fact-based means that I need to be honest about what I really want, really need, and really don’t want anything to do with. So I set out to list down my must-haves and must-avoids.
It will probably not come as (too much of) a surprise to some of my friends that I’ve decided to implement an Excel spreadsheet for this adventure. Yes, I know that may sound rather crass and a bit ridiculous, but I think it’s the best way for me to help analyse what’s real and what’s silly fears that are getting in my way, along with my must-haves and must-avoids.
[Note: If you are a potential suitor who has managed to find me on a Google search, please know that you get bonus points for your search ability as well as for your ability to have a sense of humour about this process. You also get points for not running after reading through all of the rubbish I share here! If you’re put off by all of this, I suppose we just weren’t meant to be; sorry about that.]
The workbook has three spreadsheets. The first is where I enter people I might be interested in – before I ever contact them. This is where I can rank things that are important to me, and works as a quick-and-easy way to determine who hits (or misses) most of my must-haves or must-avoids. The spreadsheet is based on self-disclosed cultural beliefs and understandings, as well as hobbies and other likes and dislikes – not on physical appearance or income. (An example would be that someone open to the idea of having children ranks above someone who states they absolutely don’t want children. Someone who is “separated” is an automatic “no” because they’re still married and I don’t date married men.)
The second sheet is used once I start communicating with someone. This is where I can enter initial thoughts (anything that seems a bit weird or creepy would go here, as well as positive things!) as well as communication styles. Someone who goes quiet for several days and then gets in touch wanting a last-minute date is going to be lower on the ranking than someone who sends a few well-considered messages (and is prompt with replies) and wants to plan for a coffee meet-up with plenty of notice. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation might be rated, but only if it’s horrendous – a couple of errors here-and-there are OK (or so I keep telling myself).
The third and (so far) final sheet is noting how actual dates go. Points are given for politeness and the ability to have a two-way conversation. But points are also given for electricity. (Though a lack of electricity isn’t necessarily a point subtraction.) There are points given and removed for various things that strike me throughout the date – including any political or social commentary that bothers me, as I can’t abide racist or homophobic people, or anyone with outlandish fringe political views. Of course, by this point, I’m really just looking to see if I enjoy myself in someone’s company because that is the key to dating!
This process isn’t meant to be a crass and heartless judgement on others, but rather it’s a way for me to be able to sit back and think about things with a bit more consideration. Part of that is because I am honestly afraid that I will unfairly compare someone to how I felt with Paul, where there was an instant spark that would have thrown any negative points right out the window in the first place. (Any instant sparks I feel now could potentially do that again, too!)
You see, for as much as I am ready to date again, there is a part of me that is so frightened of feeling pain again that I have found myself discounting people for the silliest little things. So instead of striking someone off straight away, I am taking the time to think about everything and having the data in front of me helps me to see where my hang-ups are.
As for me being judged by the men out there, I’m sure that’s happening, too! There will be those who opt not to get in touch in the first place because they don’t find me attractive or because my profile says I’m a student, a Catholic, or a widow. And there will be those who don’t like the way I’ve described myself or they can’t tolerate my hobbies. Then there will be those who decide not to meet me after an email or two – because they’re not interested in me or maybe because they’ve decided someone else is a better match. And if I’ve met someone, they might not want a second date because I don’t wear makeup or there wasn’t a spark or they’re uncomfortable with me wearing my wedding rings (on the other hand).
And all of that is OK (even if it stings) because we all (should) have the same goal: To find someone we actively want to spend our time with. If I’m not that person for someone, then they’re clearly not the right person for me. (And vice versa.)
Since the start of the year (and the start of my readiness for dating) I have added about 30 names to the first spreadsheet. Twenty or so have made it onto the second spreadsheet (if I declined the invitation to communicate from the start, they don’t make the dataset). And there have (so far) been seven first meetings (coffees, mostly). Of those seven, there are three that I’m considering a second meeting with. (I really did feel bad telling the other four I wasn’t interested, but I can’t date someone just so that I don’t feel bad.)
I admit that I’m not experiencing any heart-skipping, head-swooning moments right now, but I’m excited about the possibility. Maybe that’s the fear and confusion of dating someone who isn’t Paul. Or maybe that person is an outlier in my datasets and I haven’t found them yet. Or maybe that person isn’t doing online dating and I’ll run into him somewhere when we’re both least expecting it.
But for now, it’s back to my data. After all, I’ve had three first dates in as many days so I now need to use my holiday Monday to enter thoughts into my spreadsheet. (And I should probably do my taxes at some point, too, as they’re due tomorrow!)