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It's a Jungle Out There

By Alison Henry

Posted: Monday, Jul. 27, 2009

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Photo by LGray Photography

In "Miles From the Aisle," former CB editor Alison Henry takes you on an irreverent trip down the often rocky road of relationships. She can be reached at alisonghenry@gmail.com.

Read more "Miles From the Aisle."

Become a fan

While I’ve always considered dating sites to be a cesspool of creepiness, I’ve also read many a success story working on Carolina Bride, so I set out to prove myself wrong.

The goal: 24 hours of posting, profile-building and general perusing of some of the nation’s top dating sites to see just who, exactly, is out there looking for love.

The result: After a fierce bout of IM-blocking, “wink” deferring and suppressing my gag reflex, I realized that these success stories are the exception – not the rule. Barely lasting 24 minutes, let alone 24 hours, I deleted my accounts and marched into the shower to scrub off the shame. Call me biased – after all, I wasn’t really looking – but if you’re a decent, semi-attractive person with a steady income and a full set of working appendages, the odds aren’t exactly stacked in your favor.

Match.com

Match.com seemed like the obvious place to start. I like their commercials – particularly the one with the attractive, smiling hipster tap dancing across the screen. “It’s OK to look!” they assured me, and before you know it, I was answering questions about hobbies I didn’t even know I had, hoping to get paired with our modern-day Fred Astaire.

But Fred, was nowhere to be found. What I did find was five daily matches, chosen specifically for me based on criteria I’m certain I never selected. “Loverboy_08764 likes to read about personal finance and enjoys backgammon.” Really? Maybe if I hadn’t just overdrawn my bank account, I could buy it and learn how to play before our first date. “Lonely_007 likes cheese too!” Ah, the building blocks to a lasting relationship.

eHarmony.com

Unimpressed by the matching criteria of Match.com, I headed over to eHarmony. It’s been rumored, however, that eHarmony only accepts applicants who are of the Christian faith. Given my unabashed agnosticism, I began to wonder if fire and brimstone would reach across all 29 dimensions of compatibility.

For what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights, I began to fill out their epic questionnaire. “How would your friends describe you?” “Do you always read the side effect warnings before taking a medication?” (Yes, dare I say, religiously.) “How many times in the last month have you felt plotted against?” JESUS CHRIST! Just take me to my matches!

I clicked “Save and Exit” and planned to resume my crusade later, when an error message appeared on the screen: “We’re sorry. We seem to have lost your personality profile. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

“Number of times in the last month you have felt plotted against?” One.

OkCupid.com

At the recommendation of a friend, my next stop was OkCupid.com. “I’ve known lots of friends who have had great success on this one!” she said. Except the site she meant to say was Cupid.com – no "Ok." It was not OK.

When the home page popped up on my screen, I was greeted by a friendly cartoon woman who just wanted to know the simple things. No lengthy questionnaires, just my gender, location, sexual orientation and whether I was single, seeing someone or married. Wait a minute – seeing someone? Married? That should have been my first clue that something was amiss, but in the name of research, I clicked “Next.”

Now in the site, I noticed a section called “Tests” in lieu of creating an actual personality profile. What is this, Facebook? If I really wanted to be matched up with someone based on the result of “Which ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Character Are You?” I could do that in the semi-privacy of my own news feed.

I continued to look around for a way to update some kind of profile, but all I found was a place to update preferences like how often I wanted to be notified about one of my “Stalkers.” That’s right. Not only does the site acknowledge stalkers, it logs their activity and encourages you to make reciprocal contact with these people. Next, I read: “If you choose ‘seeing someone’ or ‘married,’ but you still want dates or sex, you will still show up as ‘available.’” No, no, NO!! (No!!!!)

As I frantically searched for some way to delete my account, an overweight, middle-aged bald man instant-messaged me, “Hey sweetie!” and I narrowly escaped while fighting back the vomit.

HermitDate.com

After my encounter with OkCupid.com, a.k.a. “do-me.com," I found myself generally disgusted with the human race. Fortunately, I stumbled across HermitDate.com, because “even hermits need love… sometimes.”

“Do you hate people, but still find yourself pining for true love?” Why yes, I do. “If so, you have come to the right place!” Great! “HermitDate.com is for those special people who hate people, but still want some human contact. Not much, mind you. But a little bit.”

Thoroughly amused, I clicked around and read profiles of “members” with names like “Best Feature: Full Head of Hair” – a man with Sasquatch-like grooming habits who reminded me of my last boyfriend.

As I passed along this morsel of comic relief to my friends, I realized that my dating site search wasn’t a total loss: I ended up in the company of other light-hearted cynics like myself, which are exactly the kinds of people I actually would date. If I was really looking.

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