I told him it was my first online date, and he was attentive and you know this kind of thing forwards and backwards and three times over by now. . but I did respond to those who indicated they had actually read my profile. The deadline for filing personal self-assessment tax returns online is with both time and date reading the same both backwards and forwards. Want to know if the digits in a date are sequential, repetitive, or can be read the same way forwards and backwards? Use the Date Pattern Calculator to find out.
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The second stage of contact asked you to select a list of values from a longer shopping list that are important to you. It felt largely meaningless, as if there was a structural redundancy built into the site, a belief in the safety of delay, in swapping abstractions with each other.
People might take months to pluck up the courage to actually write or talk to one another, reading and rereading their profiles in the hope that the value of an encounter could be ascertained prior to contact.
These men frequently had the distinct look of being burned. They had alimony to pay. They were mostly businessmen from Manhattan and Long Island, and though they were often the same age as I was, they seemed a generation older. They wore collar-shirts every day.
On EHarmony, there was less a sense of a shared subcultural field, with its attendant micro-distinctions, and as a result it was very hard to joke. The men on OkCupid, with their flannel shirts and quirky glasses and good facial hair, seemed to be playing in some way, caught up in meaning but not crushed by it, living the dream, but not the nightmare. Or, at least, that was what they hoped. In response, they went all coy and cute, but you could sense something else there: I met date number four for a mid-morning coffee at an East Village cafe.
He was a recently divorced father of two young children who lived in New Jersey. He was in his early fifties and visibly blue with fatigue and pain; the past year had been, he said, by far the worst time of his life.
I suspected I was his first online date post-marriage. When I took his blazer to hang on the hook behind me, I caught a whiff of the lining.
He smelled like my grandfather. I told him about a database I was working on at my university, and he diagrammed on a napkin what I would need in terms of filters and data storage. He was very nervous. He emailed me later that day, asking for a second date. This had happened after every date so far, but this was the first time where I had to say no, quite clearly, even though he was obviously fragile.
He wrote back almost immediately, and was frank, open and generous. I felt a huge rush of exaltation. We had managed to behave decently to each other. Favourite books, movies, shows, music and food So far, my thoughts on online dating, as expressed to my nearest and dearest, were expressions of wild enthusiasm: The rituals of dating — of asking, of being asked — had always felt impossibly heavy to me. I had been conditioned far too well by romantic comedies; at the whiff of a meet-cute, I emotionally salivated; from small talk, potential futures reeled out like bolts of cloth.
And now I got to do just that. The sheer number of dates and possibilities lightened the load. It was like a magic trick. What had felt so heavy was now so easy, even graceful. I felt speedy, strong, juggling pound weights like they were teaspoons.
Talking, rather intensely, one-on-one? This was my wheelhouse. I was also a little blithe. From my reaction he could tell I was new to the site. But it took weeks for us to meet up. My social life had spiralled out of control since I had started all of this. I had, in these weeks, also seen date number two for lunch, a movie, and dinner. Sitting in a bar one night, quite drunk, talking and laughing, we had kissed mid-sentence, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
What I had found, quickly, and with the greediness of someone who already thrives on it far too much, was the promise of intimacy. That these men would be willing to sit down and give me some potted history of their life, which was so much more honest than they would ever offer in any other social context, seemed remarkable. I had the fascination that a crowbar has for a doorjamb. Supercharged with adrenaline, I was doing the emotional equivalent of prying open mangled car doors, or sprinting to catch a falling child: I wanted to think everyone else was doing the same thing.
I was almost an hour late to meet date number five. He was not impressed. Nor would I be. But we talked easily enough, sitting in the back yard of a bar on the cutting edge of gentrification in Brooklyn.
He sipped at his whiskey, talking, his eyes moving over my face as if he were measuring a piece of cloth from edge to edge. Quite instinctively, we were friends. But he seemed tired — not just tired, but weary. He was a film-maker and actor, and he hated hustling for work. OkCupid attracts people who are willing to exist with the frustrations of substitution, to live more than one life — by day, X, by night, Y.
It wears you down, but it is perversely nourishing, too, to see how much you can cram inside one life. New York, in general, attracts the same kind of people. This choice encourages a certain pattern of behaviour, a similar substitutive approach to questions of love.
Women love to accuse men of a systemic capriciousness here, to mutter things about a man-child a term that seems strangely religious to me. It may not have been marriage or kids, but they wanted to love, and be loved. They were similarly lonely. An American friend tells me that in high school and college, she never dated the way I imagined all Americans did. She thinks that Americans have become more socially conservative as a result.
His sense of a middle was of an entirely different order. The six things I could never do without Date number two and I slept together.
I told him about my decision to go on 10 different dates; I already knew that I wanted to write about the experience. I was worried about his resistance to dating other people. I was worried he had nothing to compare me to, and I wanted to be compared.
I found myself idly speculating that if you were a tourist, OkCupid was a really great way to get to know New York City. Real life New Yorkers! Date number six was a dog-walker by day and composer of jazz and avant-garde music by night. The restaurant was too loud for him. When the waiters brushed past, he flinched. We talked about sense memory. He remembered very clearly an apartment he lived in when he was 10 years old, with his mother in Nashville, Tennessee. She barely remembered the layout, the relationship of one room to another.
The point seemed to be that there was no logical explanation — no particular event, no primacy — to his attachment. And we were meant to leave it at that. He wanted to talk about Jane and Paul Bowles. Then we talked about Abstract Expressionism, and he told me that he used to be a painter. I asked him why he stopped. He said he went on photo-safaris, and I was confused because it sounded as if he was signing up for some kind of product.
He reminded me of the self-taught Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, living in Tamil Nadu, reinventing the wheel in contemporary mathematics: But the man sitting opposite me was living — and had done so for the past 25 years — in a city that had arguably done more to redefine painting and music in the past century than any other.
The connections between each conversational offering grew increasingly tenuous. He jumped from topic to topic, desperate. I could not follow the logic of their association. When the cheque came, and I put my card down for half, he seemed to relax — but once we stood up to leave, he tightened again, seemed diffident, disappointed, as if I had let him down, missed some cue. He wandered off into the night. He did not suggest meeting again.
The next week, though, he messaged, and told me he was always looking for photogenic people to photograph. Would I be interested? He sent me a link to his portfolio, which I clicked on to, only to find that in addition to images of poetic urban decay, there was also shot after shot of smiling, brunette women, in their mids, sitting at cafe tables or lying on window seats.
These women may have been pretty or beautiful, but there was something about the occasion of these photos that flattened any flare of grace. They smiled at me, relaxed, instinctively good-humoured. They looked like teachers and librarians. These were headshots of wives, I thought. Then my stomach dropped. These women were his other OkCupid dates. Set in the s, the novel follows the lives of two women, Miss Goering and Mrs Copperfield, over the period of a year or so.
Even when we know their first names, the narrator persists in keeping things formal. On a trip to Panama, Mrs Copperfield leaves her husband, settling into a run-down hotel in the city slums with a prostitute called Pacifica. Miss Goering sells her large estate presumably in upstate New York and moves to a cramped house on Staten Island.
She is explicitly drawn to both men because they are sinister and angry. They, in turn, misidentify her. Both Mrs Copperfield and Miss Goering come from money — quite a lot of it — but they are drawn to people who live economically precarious existences. The implications of this connection are barely spelled out; it remains one of the blind, or rather, silent, spots of the novel.
We had been emailing back and forth for a couple of weeks, and agreed to meet at a bar in the West Village. Our first date went very well. We talked almost exclusively about yoga. He was sharp, knowledgeable, easy to smile. But the second date was harder. He seemed a little morose. We talked at length about art, but there was a sharpness that rose in him, occasionally — as abruptly as a plastic fork pushing out of its plastic sachet.
At one point, he made a crack about how little money I must make. I smiled, but later boiled. He was used to thinking that women were after his wealth. I was the economically precarious circumstance. Of course, he was a catch: So was date number eight, who fell into exactly the same demographic and locale, and who was so handsome finely formed, a little like a Basenji that I was slightly shocked to be eating across from him.
He ordered like a pro for the two of us, and over dinner we talked about his ex-wife, his daughter, about Israel. Dates seven and eight each wore their loneliness well. Sitting in front of them, I felt interchangeable. I was starting to feel for myself the tyranny of being neither at the beginning nor the end of an experience; how hard it was to rise up, out of that plateau.
It was like a mathematical equation: Things might well have turned out differently if I had changed the order in which I met these men. I know that I should talk more about dates seven and eight, that I should differentiate them more.
They may be horrified to see me writing about them, and they also deserve more specificity. But at this point, Jane Bowles has begun to pull my focus — partly because, rereading her, I realise how easy it is to forget the values you thought you would never forget.
Everyone contradicts themselves about what they like — and they are mostly unaware of or unbothered by the contradiction.
When characters get what they want, they are almost immediately dissatisfied. There is the sense you are being toyed with in the way a cat will paw at a mouse or an insect: Bowles is suggesting we are much more changeable than we believe ourselves to be. I take it as a generosity. And I realise that I had not allowed date number six, with all his strange little silences, non sequiturs and sudden declarations, to be as significant as the others. But this does not mean that they lack value.
We change instinctively, barely consciously, twitching away like cardiac muscle. And when we try to interrupt ourselves, try to correct our path, our mind overcorrects, spins us off —on to a new path, yes, maybe even a better one, but all the while our heart keeps going.
This is how Bowles describes the moment just before Mrs Copperfield decides to leave her husband: Mrs Copperfield started to tremble after the girl had closed the door behind her. She trembled so violently that she shook the bed. She was suffering as much as she had ever suffered before, because she was going to do what she wanted to do. But it would not make her happy. She did not have the courage to stop from doing what she wanted to do. She knew that it would not make her happy, because only the dreams of crazy people come true.
She thought that she was only interested in duplicating a dream, but in doing so she necessarily became the complete victim of a nightmare.
Imagine that for a moment: To interrupt oneself is really, really hard. It is not driving off together down the highway, or climbing up a fire escape from a waiting limousine, or meeting on top of the Empire State Building. Mrs Copperfield knows she is picking the idea of Pacifica and that the reality will be different. She knows — faces — what we would prefer to hide from. This is why she is trembling. And she also knows that she cannot do it any other way.
The dream is the only way this choice can be phrased to her; she cannot pick the reality. Maybe this is why online dating invites so much grief, too. We cannot pick the reality either, at first. And we know it. It feels clumsy to excerpt a revelation from the book like this one, because it can easily give the wrong impression of the novel, which is mostly composed of dialogue, much of it deliberately inane. These moments do not last.
Mrs Copperfield leaves Mr Copperfield, but directly afterwards finds herself, bored, in an extremely hot and tiny store, watching Pacifica bargain relentlessly for new stockings.
But the myth of wholeness is strong. These are the dreams. The markers of success, it seems, are relationships longer than a few years; pregnancy; or marriage. Of course, this choice reflects a much broader notion of what love means, of how the story always ends and never begins with the couple declaring their permanent attachment to each other. Our understanding is that when we fall in love, time stands still — which suddenly strikes me as a pretty terrible thing.
On a typical Friday night I am Date number two. A few months later, he told me he loved me. Then I told him I loved him, too. The oddity of this step, or maybe our collective expectation that this step would occur, struck me only later. It is a moment much lingered upon in the movies. Maybe part of the problem with liking is that it is implicitly contrasted with loving, constrained by its expansive absoluteness.
You discontinue your account, and have the satisfaction of actually finishing something. Nothing ever really finishes. Bowles published her book in , which is hardly millennial territory.
My inclusion of the book on my profile could be read as just a cultural marker. But the more I think about her, the more Bowles, mist-like, starts to creep in through the window frame and under the door of this essay.
So how could I not talk about Bowles here? Miss Goering and Mrs Copperfield are inundated by people who want to be with them. From this, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the nature of our attachments.
- I couldn't get my head around dating
- My dating experiment
8-1-18 the first of 11 palindrome dates this month :
He had a wit on him; he was quick, quicker than I, quicker than nearly everyone he knew. I know that I should talk more about dates seven and eight, that I should differentiate them more.