By Farah Haidari
Volume XXXVI, Issue 3, December 13, 2013
Lucky/unlucky for you, Amherst, I am still using The Indicator as a personal crutch while studying abroad.
I accepted (created) an important journalistic mission to try OKCupid, the online dating website. The challenge, “Five Days of Blindness,” required that I find a blind date every night for five nights in a row. It was a very bad idea.
After I dodged the crop of awful first messages, ranging from, “You’d be cute if you weren’t so unpoetic,” to “will you sleep with me on first date lol,” the dates were surprisingly easy to plan. Each began at a pub with a pint of beer.
DAY ONE: THE ROBOT
First up: a bio-genetics-molecule-something grad student. Via pre-date messages, I found out he was from my home state of Georgia. I also found out he was an emoticon abuser. It reached a horrible rate of two-to-three per instant message.
Upon meeting, something very strange became instantly clear. He saw and recognized me outside of the bar, but…his face didn’t do anything. He didn’t naturally produce facial expressions.
I felt more violated than ever at his emoticon exploitation. All the smileys I’d felt obligated to return weren’t even real—just overcompensation. He had put me through an unnecessary hell.
He continued to forget to do facial expressions throughout the date. I tried relating about Georgia; he tried relating about how we “got out” because we’re better. He did some sickeningly elitist South-bashing, ending with, “Since I left, I really don’t see any point in it existing.” Turns out that disdain for where you come from is really unattractive.
Worst was the walk back. He used phone pics of his Yorkie (which I politely pretended to consider a real dog) as a lure for RUBBING MY BACK. I stiffened and nudged away, but he was clearly not looking for how I was responding.
It was just an artificial signal he’d decided to send.
I gave him a severance package make-out session (a mistake that resulted in a triple-emoticon email within the hour—including, I shit you not, a wink AND a nose).
DAY TWO: THE BALLERINA
An INFJ—that’s my personality type! So naturally, I assumed he was going to be completely fucking crazy.
He was so not.
He was sweet and intensely interpersonally aware. (You’d get it if you were an INFJ.) We bonded over performing as kids and how “The Nutcracker Suite” is still a requisite for our Christ- mas seasons. The conversation was in many ways the opposite subtextual experience of Robot’s. Still scary and hypersensitive in its own right, but with a complete layer of warmth that felt totally absent the night before. Ballerina didn’t touch me at all—probably because he (1) was able to sense and (2) wanted to respect whether or not it would be natural or welcomed.
(Also, I’m pretty sure he’s not allowed to touch people unless they jeté towards him.)
Maybe this was the appeal of OKCupid— vastly different potential conversations to choose from.
DAY THREE: THE ITALIAN BEAUTY
This guy was so gorgeous it was even funny. He was hysterically gorgeous—an over-the-top satire of beauty.
He was from Italy. He had an accent but was blonde. He couldn’t even understand the concept of pumpkin spice lattes and, best of all, he’d never heard of Fiona Apple. Which meant we could probably do it to Fiona Apple.
He came home with me.
We got interrupted at the last minute, but I at least got a chance to tolerate a one-on-one interaction with a naked person. I was left completely satisfied because of my intimacy-bravery (and because I’d finished earlier in the date when he was talking about Italian food).
DAY FOUR: THE PHILOSOPHER
This was the one I was nervous about. A 28-year-old philosophy grad student.
I regretted scheduling it. I’d dated older guys before, but this was a philosophy fellow. On the walk there, I mentally berated myself:
“The 29-year-old you dated in San Francisco had a toddler and lived on a boat. The 32-year-old had an afro, and the 33-year-old had a perpetual drum circle in his apartment. That’s why they wanted to date an 18-year-old.
“…Also you were way more fun then.”
When I got there, the first thing out of his mouth was that a tropical storm was coming.
From that moment on, it was like a nightmare version of office hours. I hit the ground scrambling, and in a matter of seconds he had dismantled my entire senior thesis proposal—just disappeared it into thin air. (Why I brought up my thesis, I DON’T FUCKING KNOW.)
By the time I got home, I was so intellectually exhausted that I took refuge in Pete Skurman’s Twitter feed. It was a low.
DAY FIVE: THE BISEXUAL HARMONICA PLAYER
BHP canceled due to tropical storm train cancellations. This was a huge relief. Four days of blindness had been exhausting enough, and I was happy to settle back into my usual cozy mental isolation.
That is, until I called my mom.
She…sort of asked me to specify how far the dates had gone. Surprised, I asked her, “Do you really want to hear about my sex life?” (An important question considering her three-week depression following my “hilarious” butt sex story.)
She answered unflinchingly, “To be honest…I was sort of hoping it would happen again SOMETIME.” Then she chuckled uneasily for a few minutes.
My Baptist mother had been waiting for my sex life to start up again. I was mortified.
So, when Italian Beauty asked for a second date, I accepted. And this time we didn’t get interrupted.
In fact, he asked to spend the night. As my brain shrieked and my mouth said “of course,” I realized my experiment had begun to go wrong. It seemed that he hadn’t realized: he was only lying in my bed as a placeholder.
Lying still while he exhausted the few cuddling attempts that can be made on a twin-sized mattress, I caught a glimpse of what it’s like to use someone. It felt powerful. And empty.
In that sort of dynamic, both people are alone with his or her own self. The one being used is alone with the one compassionate and warm enough to care too much. The user, on the other hand, is alone with herself…the cold person. And being alone with a cold person is scary.
But I guess warm people don’t plan pseudo-journalistic ruses for intimacy.