First dates, blind dates and secret setups by mothers are all landmines for singles on the dating circuit. When all other attempts seem to fail, the World Wide Web offers a new-age alternative to old-school dating.
I decided to try my luck at downtoearth.com, a free dating site launched by match.com in January. The site promotes itself as the most “honest and respectful free dating community on the Internet,” and it uses an accuracy rating system to weed out dishonest daters.
First I had to eliminate singles who didn’t meet my requirements. Then I eliminated users with distorted photos, lengthy descriptions of kinky bedside preferences, poor grammar and questionable sexual orientation. I then needed to find someone who was looking for preferences that I fulfilled.
The lucky bachelor made his first dating faux pas during our initial phone conversation. After playing phone tag, we finally got an opportunity to speak, and he proceeded to thank me for a wonderful evening — but we had never met.
Further conversation revealed that he had mixed me up with another girl! After I explained that it was the first time we’d talked, he struggled to recover the conversation by explaining that he had accidentally mistaken my number for that of friend with whom he’d recently had dinner.
I tried to give the poor guy the benefit of the doubt and accepted his dinner invitation. I was cautious about meeting a stranger and insisted on meeting him at a restaurant I frequent often.
I was relieved when I met him and saw that his pictures and profile information seemed to be completely accurate. He didn’t try to kidnap me and did not appear to be lewd or psychotic, so he had already earned points over some of my past first dates.
As I was new to the online dating scene, I expected our meeting to be awkward. I soon realized it was no different than any other first date I had been on. We exchanged typical banter about ourselves, our hometowns and our hobbies. As expected, there were the lulls in conversation and moments of awkward silence typical of first-time meetings. We found common ground by discussing our experiences with the Web site we had used to meet each other. It was the first time either of us had experimented with online dating.
My date was seven years older than me, much older than anyone else I have dated, but he didn’t seem concerned about the age difference and had said in his online profile that he was interested in younger women. One time he did point out how young I was with a sarcastic joke, but otherwise it didn’t seem to matter.
I was pleasantly surprised that he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He was very polite — a gentleman, in fact — and was enjoyable company. He completely exceeded my expectations of online prospects. The date went better than most of my past first date experiences have: He treated me well, opened doors, bought dinner and drinks, and never tried to put a move on me. Before we parted ways he told me not to expect an immediate phone call the next day because he didn’t want to overwhelm me right up front with too much contact. I took that as a brush-off and figured I wouldn’t hear from him again, but he ended up texting me.
Though we got along well, I wondered how much we would have in common after the novelty of getting to know each other wore off. Would we have anything to talk about? Neither of us expected anything serious to come out of using the site. He was new to the area with no nearby friends or family and was using the site to meet people. I was upfront about using the site as a social experiment and admitted that I would be writing an article about my experience. The evening ended with a hug and I sensed that we both knew it wasn’t going to work.
Online dating offers a great chance to meet a huge pool of prospective singles. To my pleasure, I didn’t encounter any creeps or forum trolls that online dating stereotypes play into. Though it was an all-around rewarding experience, I’m not sure I would try it again. Call me an old-fashioned girl, but I still enjoy the novelty of chance first meetings and love at first sight.