(Or, Learn to Count Backwards Once You Hit 35)
By Mike Monopoli
Some of us still remember the “good old days,” when nightclubs were the venue of choice when it came to meeting new people. Eager singles would band together and make the plan to go out on a Friday or Saturday night, perhaps even both if we were really ambitious. These were the times before the internet, when the weekend was planned around these social excursions. After all appropriate grooming was complete, we’d choose an outfit which we considered (at the time) to be as flattering as possible, hiding any flaws and accentuating our finest features (Wow, he’s got a great ass in those 501s!). Although some of us went out to socialize, dance and hang with their friends, the underlying goal was to meet someone we found attractive and who was attracted to us. Fashion, hairstyle and finesse on the dance floor were key elements, but those graced with a handsome face and an athletic body were, of course, the most popular.
We called it “cruising,” a complicated mating ritual comprised of furtive glances, a smile, or (god forbid) a wink. An elbow to the ribs from one of your acquaintances would alert you to the fact that…“…that guy is checking you out!”…at which point you would quickly decide if you should display your feathers like a proud peacock or run for cover, recruiting one of your friends to “…pretend you’re my boyfriend!” After determining the attraction was mutual, you would have to decide if you were playing the role of the wallflower, waiting until your suitor approached, or grow a set and approach him with all the confidence you could muster. The next step would be a bit of awkward small talk, mostly to glean some information which may help you decide if he’s as attractive as he seemed from across the room.
And then the Internet happened.
The Internet, or World Wide Web, as it was called when it first appeared, an information and communication network designed to assist you in “hooking up,” finding more porn than you could possibly look at in a lifetime, or maybe even finding a date. Sure, I know that Al Gore didn’t really intend for his new invention to be used for such sordid activities, but let’s be real, OK? One of the most popular internet activities today involves the search for a partner or someone to spend just a little time with doing…whatever. One internet provider has enticed nearly all of America to check out its chat rooms, where you can create a profile describing yourself (or who you want to be) for others to see. Many of them provide a method to post a picture so that others can judge your appearance as well. This method of socializing has its drawbacks, but it also has its advantages. In the nightclub the lighting isn’t so good and that handsome face may be a gargoyle in the light of day, but in this situation what you see is what you get. Another challenge is that you are unable to make a compelling presentation of all your fabulous personality traits, showcase your grammatical skills, or display a photo of you in the best possible light (even if it’s one of you ten years ago).
Not only are there plenty of opportunities to connect with people on many of the internet provider’s home pages, but there are also a great deal of sites that cater to the many whims of the cyber-surfer. Sites with clever names and superior marketing tend to be the most successful. While there are the sleazy sites where you can find some quick and easy fun for an evening, the majority promise to help you find Mr. Right, the “husband” or soul mate who is sure to make your life complete. Take time to develop the skills to decipher the code used in cyber-space, and to determine which attributes might be real and which ones might be embellished just a tad.
This is a world where you must learn the “new math,” a method of addition and subtraction which has somehow made my fifth grade gym teacher younger than I am. I believe it involves counting backwards once you’ve reached age 35. There is also a height calculation similar to Pi, in which you multiply your actual height by 1.12 to determine your cyber-height. Working the drive-through at your local fast-food restaurant qualifies you as “professional,” everyone seems to love white water rafting, skydiving and rock climbing, and the gyms are all crowded with buff hotties who work out 4-5 times a week. Nearly all gay men are “masculine” and are looking for someone like themselves who are “low maintenance.”
I prefer to be realistic myself, and if I were to create a profile on one of these dating sites, I’d rather instill low expectations so as not to disappoint. I’d describe myself as a nerdy, overstressed, immature thirty-something geek who only goes to the gym if they’re giving out free chocolate, and I’d post a recent photo of myself reading the Sunday comics, complete with bathrobe and bed head.
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