A bumper crop of engagements and weddings appeared this year, providing a rather steady stream of pokes from the stick of singlehood. Gentle reminders that many friends are buying houses, taking engagement photos, going on long romantic vacations, and settling down with a loved one or well providing manservant. Not saying that I want any of that, but it is definitely a continual reminder that relationships do exist and I have been roaming this vast and quiet desert for a while.
Since I have resolved to stay in one place this year and eliminate a significant portion of the financial drain provided by my student loans, I have found myself in a position where pursuing a relationship is actually feasible. The usual vectors have been investigated: socializing in new situations, jumping into the world of online dating, and when leaving the house actually engaging with people and not shuttering myself in my own thoughts behind a book or computer screen.
In the end, I think the only conclusion one can rightly draw is that Dating Sucks. Perhaps it is my analytical approach to life, but if this was a scientific experiment one would definitely question if this is the correct approach. No significant results! And yet, other people seem to pull it off. I mean, how do they do it? I do not understand! I have read their abstracts, skimmed the methods section for hints; but no, my research keeps on outputting negative results!
"Maybe the lab equipment is faulty," he mutters to himself.
Online dating seemed rather promising at first. Set out criteria, answer questions and rate them on importance, and then find matches in your area. You have conveniently eliminated the most difficult hiccups of in-person interactions–knowing if they are single and interested–while also helping to eliminate those whose characteristics you believe would not bode well for a relationship with you. And yet, wow, can you not rely on their algorithms at all when it comes to in-person chemistry. Five minutes in the real world is worth more that a week of talking online. And then there is the feeling of being on a marketplace and being forced to prioritize who you interact with first in order to prevent messy complications. The site developers have made the entire process fascinating and addictive, but in the end it seems woefully inadequate and fraught with opportunities for abuse.
In-person interactions are far more rewarding, at least initially. Eye contact, flirting, and casual conversational chemistry are genuinely fun. Ah, but then you hit the roadblocks. Oh, not single (::sigh::). Oh, not actually from Portland. Oh, does drugs. Oh, she's 22 (no, nope, not even). Oh, she's moving in two months to the other side of the country. My forehead is developing a callous from all the facepalms. To continue the science metaphor, it is like receiving amazing initial results and then finding out it was all a computer glitch. It is quite maddening. You start getting tired of going into the lab at all.
And that is just the first step. That, my friends, is just trying to get to the coveted First Date.
Maybe it is a combination of my stubborn inner child and slight bias against typical American adulthood, but when did people get so serious about their immediate futures? Is it just because we are now in our 30s? Without an ounce of exaggeration or sarcasm, I tell you I have been on a first date where I would have been greatly served by bringing a full DNA and psychological profile so my paternal potential could be efficiently evaluated. Never have I felt less a person and more a potential sperm donor. Why have a conversation to determine if you even like me as a person before evaluating the potential of our future offspring?
And, good lord, would I not mind talking about my thru-hike and my longing for additional adventures without the question of my continued residence in the Portland area being immediately brought up. My long term plans are unknown and I will offer no guarantees on a first, second, or third date that I will absolutely be around in three months. I simply do not know. It is even more ludicrous than employers not wanting to hire me when I admit I might want to move on in a year. I can easily fathom a half dozen realistic scenarios where I head off to another continent next year. I have been informed this has been interpreted as a fear of commitment, fear of being hurt, or a wish to play the field. A friend has even gone so far as to tell me I should lie more often about what is going on in my head. Something about how sharing all the thoughts flying through my head scares women off...or something like that, I got bored midway through the conversation. In the end, I refuse to be dishonest or misleading. While it may serve me poorly in the dating realm, it keeps my brain from throwing yet another synaptic tantrum.
All in all, the entire process is ridiculously unrelaxing. At this point I am befuddled as to how I was ever in a relationship before. It does not seem too much to ask to find a single Portland woman in her early 30s with high intelligence, a proclivity towards outdoor adventures, a working knowledge of absurd humor or science-fiction, and a willingness to enjoy the first 3-4 weeks of a relationship without requiring assurances about the future and with mutual attraction.