I’ve been on online dating sites for stretches of time in a few different periods of my life. I’ve never had much luck there. It’s easy enough to find a sexual partner in those venues, especially if you’re not picky – but actual romantic, enjoyable dating is harder to come by. I’m on a mailing list called the ListServe, and about a month ago, the creator of opendating.co.uk (opening soon, and ‘seems legit’, as they say, without the usual spam’n’scam that’s so often an integral part of the site’s workings) sent out a message asking for people’s experiences with online dating, to give him a sense of what users would want him to focus on in creating the site. My reply has a lot to do not just with autism, but with any type of ‘quirks’ that can make dating difficult – so I thought I’d post a blog-friendly version of it here.
My frustration over online dating sites is that a lot of the people on there are unusual/weird in some way, and that’s the reason why they haven’t just hooked up with someone before even contemplating online dating. (Not everybody is there for that reason, but that’s the group I’m focused on, because it’s the one I belong to.) Their dating hiatus could be because of mild autism, phobias, obsessive cleanliness, or some other form of quirks or mental afflictions that put people off if they’re not prepared for it or don’t swing with that kind of people.
But I don’t think that the real problem is these quirks – I think the problem is that there’s such a taboo on them that we don’t find out about them until we go on a date with that person. Nobody introduces themselves with, for instance, “hi, I’m Jill, and most of all I enjoy being alone at home and occasionally going to a mountaintop to scream obscenities to let out my pent-up anger from work. I’m looking for someone who enjoys my obsessive fanaticism for Star Wars memorabilia and can appreciate my traits of OCD”. I guess nobody sane assumes that anyone would be turned on by an introduction like that. But maybe we should?
Personally, I’m a weirdo, and I’m looking for another weirdo, because they would understand me in a way that ‘normal people’ never could. But I never acknowledge that on dating sites, opting instead for the usual type of “I’m an ordinary girl, and I enjoy hanging out and doing stuff” description. And that’s because
a) I figure I’m playing a statistics game, so I’m much more likely to find someone if I change myself to appear more ‘normal’ than if I start off by mentioning that I’ve been single for 9 years, and that this is probably due to me being pretty weird. And
b) I’m not compatible with just any type of weirdo. For instance, I’d love to date a man with mild OCD or traits of social anxiety. I probably wouldn’t be able to stand a man with mild schizophrenia. For others, it will be the other way around. But I can say universally that, for instance, if the guy has OCD and doesn’t let me know before our first date, the moment he has to touch the doorknob three times before entering a room, I will probably make a mental note to leave as fast as possible. Not because of the compulsion in itself, but because I’m completely unprepared for it, and seeing it makes me wonder what else he hasn’t thought to mention. Not having been able to choose the person on the basis of that fact *as well* as their fondness for going to the movies or playing football can wreck a first date that might otherwise go quite well.
I wonder if it would somehow be possible to create a dating site where the main focus was on the strangeness or the quirks that leave us feeling like we would be hard to date, and which honestly tell much, much more about who we’re compatible with than writing that we like to go for walks on the beach or enjoy traveling?
Would there be a market for that? There are certainly many undercover weirdos on dating sites. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we were encouraged to start with describing the parts of ourselves that deep down we think would make people deselect us? It seems counterintuitive, but if we’re looking for someone to appreciate who we really are, wouldn’t starting with all the ways in which we don’t fit in make our odds of finding the right one better instead of worse? I know I’m tired of looking for Mr. Right among all the Mr. Normals. I don’t really want to know which popular pastimes you’re the least averse to participating in. I’ll know much more about whether I want you when you tell me what about you it is that you think would be completely unlovable.