This afternoon I was at a street-crossing on my way to the metro to go meet some friends. I was kind of staring off into space, waiting for the light to turn green, when suddenly a woman standing next to me turned to me and said:
“OK, random tidbit from a total stranger …”
I looked around to see if there was anyone else she could possibly be talking to besides me, but there was no one else. She was maybe in her late forties or early fifties, with short frumpy hair and glasses and shorts and was probably wearing Birkenstock sandals – not a glamorous or particularly attractive figure. Basically, she could have been somebody’s mom on the way to pick them up from soccer practice.
She continued: “With internet dating, why is it that it’s the men without the pictures who turn out to be either totally super hot, or extremely talented and interesting?”
Me: Stunned silence. “Ummmmmm …”
Her: “While on the other hand, it’s the guys with the pictures who seem like they’d be handsome and cool who turn out to be jerks and not very pleasant in person. I mean, you’d think this would be a relationship prerequisite, you know, to be pleasant to the person you hope to be in a relationship with. But they don’t seem to get it, and they always ask to see my picture before meeting me.”
Me: Trying wildly to process the information that this random woman who looks like she’s on her way to pick up the kids from soccer practice is suddenly talking to me about internet dating. I grope for a response. “Ummm, maybe you’re just idealizing them too much on the basis of their picture, and so you’re inevitably let down?”
Her: “Oh, interesting. There could be something to that. But you know, I work with facial recognition software on a daily basis, so of course there’s no way I’m going to send my picture out to random people on the internet. And then I’ve had some guys that were into me based on my picture, and then were let down when I turned out to have a head on my shoulders as well. I can only play the bimbo for so long. It’s better if they like me based on my intellect and then see the picture.”
This woman looked about as bimbo-like as Janet Reno.
Then she said she was wondering if she shouldn’t just try to date the rich guys, as there had been several times when she’d had to break up with guys because she lost her job and had to move to another town because the guy she was with couldn’t support her on his salary.
By way of humoring her and making conversation I said: “Well, the rich ones aren’t usually very nice.”
“Oh, really? Do you think that? Hm, maybe you’re right,” she said.
“Well, because often the things you have to do in order to get rich aren’t the things a nice person would do. Like being a lawyer for example – you know the ones in the private firms, you have to work all the time and basically make work your whole life, and yell at people …”
“And the training is all about how to win in every argument.”
“Yeah, exactly, and you have to be super aggressive, and law school – it’s all about being super competitive and being better than other people – you basically have to feel like you’re better than other people to be a good lawyer. And of course DC has the highest percentage of lawyers, basically, in the world,” I continued, warming to my theme.
(In fairness to rich people and to lawyers, I’m sure there are a lot of you who are actually quite nice. But the truth is, in my internet dating experiences I learned to be wary of rich guys and lawyers, because they really did seem to be the biggest jerks most of the time.)
Then she asked me, “So … how do you succeed in this whole crazy business. What’s your advice?”
Of course, my first piece of advice should have been “Don’t take advice from random people on the street,” but that would have been a little self-negating. So I said I thought the key thing was not to get hung up on stupid superficial things (e.g. money or cars or supermodel looks and so on), and to be flexible and patient and forgiving – the main thing was to get your priorities straight and then be patient until you found someone who also had their priorities straight and shared your values.
“Hm,” she said, mulling this over. “Huh. That’s not what a lot of dating advice books say, is it?”
“No,” I laughed. “They mostly say things like: Realize that no one will ever be good enough for you and remind the person you’re dating of this constantly.”
“Hah,” she said. “That’s great. I get the best stuff from random people on the street. I’ll have to remember that … how’d you put it? ‘Realize that no one will ever be good enough for you and remind the person of that constantly.’ Hah.”
Just then we got to the metro station. “Well, good luck,” I said, and we parted ways. I walked on thinking: “I so have to blog about this.”