Dating: I Give Up (part deux)

Sometimes I like to do social experiments on the internet. So yesterday I reactivated my OkCupid account, added a cleavage selfie, and ticked the box for casual sex. Inevitably, a fresh photo leads to an influx of bizarre messages, so I thought I’d share a few I’ve received in the past 24 hours.

Bob, 52, West LA: “How are you today Pretty Woman?” (…not in a Julia Roberts film?)

beanie-wearer, 44, Renton: “Hi”

bald, broody, 36, Lynnwood: “Hi there” (I sense a theme)

self-proclaimed arrogant douche, 42, Bellevue: “I must admit I find your impish grin/lustful gaze intriguing. I think I would like to know more.” (believe me, I am not gazing at you lustfully)

Alex, 37, Iskenderun, Turkey: “you look beautiful” (okay, and?)

guy in backward baseball cap, 31, Seattle: “Hey there :)”

Alex, 26, Seattle: “HEY 🙂 you staying outta trouble so far this weekend? HEHEHE” (Well, I’m not getting into trouble with any 26-yr-old boys…)

another 26-yr-old, Seattle: “are you really 42?” (if I were going to lie about it, I’d go with 32)

man holding baby, 42, Maple Valley: “Good evening how are you” (ask again when you figure out punctuation)

bare torso, 33, Seattle: “Wow, stop being so hot! I have a public job so I am looking a discrete female who is open minded for fun. If that is you get back to me.. dont be shy!” (public job? what?)

another 26-yr-old, Everett: “There’s no better way to savor your 40s then with a 26yo ;)” (yes there is.)

Ty, 23, Lincoln, NE: “Are you into sending pics?” (hahahahaha. you’re 23! sure, send me some pics! ew.)

27-yr-old, Lynnwood: “Good morning good looking :)”  (mmmkay)

25-yr-old, India: “Hello sexy lady how r u” (oh, fine, thanks.)

Scott, 36, Bellingham: “How are you doing” (ask again when you figure out punctuation)

Drew, 22, Seattle: “Wanna cuddle? :)” (you’re 22! I could be your mom!)

Jordan, 37, Romeoville, IL: “Spread your ass hole wet” (Thanks for your suggestion.)

guy skiing, 51, Seattle: “can’t determine from your profile if you are open to the prospect of getting to know a man in an open relationship…” (your profile states that posting your photo on OKC could jeopardize your career… that doesn’t sound very “open”)

engineer, 37, Bellevue: “Coffee????” (in this case, more words and fewer question marks may be in order.)

These are just a sampling of the 50ish messages I’ve received since yesterday. There are also some perfectly reasonable notes, and some too dull to bother mentioning, like, “Have you been enjoying the beautiful weather?” I’m not particularly motivated to actually go on dates, but I might be up for some Coffee????

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Dating: I Give Up

Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to resign myself to a life of celibacy or deny the possibility of a future life partner. But I am going to set reasonable expectations regarding my relationships with men, especially when it comes to online dating.

I’ve started reading Dataclysm  — because I am fascinated by this stuff — and the first chapter illustrates clearly that online dating is a losing game for women over… 23. Yeah, I said 23.

Based on profile ratings alone, men of any age in the 20-50 year old set, only rate women highly up to the age of 23. Women, on the other hand, seem to prefer men in a similar age range to themselves. Women in their twenties like men a little older, while women in their forties like them a little younger, but only ever by a few years. The difference between the genders is striking in this behavior.

Men do tend to search in an age range closer to their own, but these women are not the ones getting their high ratings and clicks. This chart shows the delta between searching and “liking” for men at a given age, and the one below shows how women rate men.

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While I’ve met plenty of men who don’t seem particularly interested in dating women in their early twenties, I’ve also known enough men in their thirties or forties who have had cataclysmic (or simply stunted) relationships with very young women, that this data seems likely to hold some truth.

So, as a heterosexual woman of 42, I’m screwed (sadly not literally). I’ve met plenty of decent guys through online dating, and a few indecent ones. I’ve had some second or third dates, some booty calls, and made a couple of friends. But no real sparks. Over the course of a decade. Not that I date all the time — I have had a few months of online dating spurts over those years — I tend to get dating fatigue quickly.

Looking at this data makes me wonder if online dating works at all for a woman of my age. I am more likely to be attractive to a 20 year old boy looking for a cougar hookup than I am to a fifty year old man looking for a partner. Who wants a grumpy old cat when there are all of those frisky kittens available? The illusion of infinite choice may be undermining all of our chances to get serious with one person as we get older.

I’m not giving up, really. I know that I can still make real connections, and I know there are some men over thirty-five out there who are smart enough not to get their faces scratched off by kittens.

Demolition

house-goneOn Saturday, they tore down the house where I grew up. It was never “my house,” but rather always “grandma’s house,” until she died in 1983. I really only lived there full time for six years, and even during those years I stayed with my mom most weekends. Still, those years are the only years I remember as “childhood.” Even though I was only 12 years old when grandma died, nothing after that felt like childhood. And that was the house I always returned to. An anchor in my drift toward adulthood and away from Idaho, and the place I find myself in dreams.

424422571_d24c6fb11c_oThe house was small. It’s hard to believe a family of five lived there when my mom was growing up. It’s also frankly amazing how much stuff grandma managed to cram in that house. Frosted glass, wicker furniture, Avon perfumes, glass sea floats, millions of old tins, mid-century “oriental” knick knacks… Most of her stuff was cleared out years ago, when grandpa updated the house with some amazing modern technology like an electric stove.

The wood cookstove was a benevolent iron monster in the narrow kitchen. Even on 100 degree summer days, grandma had to fire it up to cook dinner. The house smelled like dry wood, presto-logs, and smoke. A second wood stove sat in the middle of the front room, protected by a glazed metal shell that I would perch on top of on cold days, until it was too hot to stand.

The house was dark inside. It never quite seemed to get enough sunlight, and the front room had dark wood paneling that absorbed the weak electric light. The room centered around the giant old console television commanding all eyes to the corner of the room. Next to the TV, the telephone table held the clunky black rotary phone well into the 80’s.

2014-08-25 11.47.15-1My bedroom was a tiny room off of the breakfast nook, with a steeply sloped ceiling and an unusually short doorway. I could hear the murmur of the TV on the other side of the wall as I fell asleep. I slept with the door open, and light from the kitchen streamed in until grandma went to bed around one or two a.m. She was up again at six to boil eggs for breakfast. When she got sick, she felt a bit guilty that she didn’t have the energy to even boil eggs for my breakfast. I started staying with my mom more often during the week so I wouldn’t be a burden. Not that this improved my breakfast scenario. My mom kept yogurt, graham crackers, and Hungry Man dinners around so I would have something to eat. She subsisted on tofu, alfalfa sprouts, and kefir.

Grandma kept a small garden just under the kitchen window, where she grew parsley and tulips. I’m sure there was more than that, but I remember it as a fairly unambitious project. I would snack on the parsley, wild rose petals, chamomile flowers, nasturtiums, and the wild catnip that grew all around the house. I was a forager.

424416073_69dadf90f7_oThe screened-in back porch had a trap door to the cellar. There’s something altogether creepy about trap doors, and I didn’t like to go down there. The unfinished half of the basement was crammed with boxes of great-grandparent’s musty stuff, and one wall lined with shelves of canned food from the 1950s, in case of an atomic bomb. There was one finished room down there, where my mom and her sister lived as teens. Another staircase inside the house led to that room, but by the time I was around the way down had been blocked by still more boxes of old things. Going down to the basement was a rare and treacherous adventure.

The house was the color of pea soup, with a green tin roof that snow avalanched from in the winter. Snow days were the best, because grandpa would plow the driveway area with his backhoe and make a small mountain for my cousin and I to sled down and tunnel through. The house was also positioned at the bottom of the best sledding hill in town.

On Christmas eve, family and friends crowded the overly hot front room. The smell of smoke and Christmas tree were comforting. After grandma died we did one or two more Christmases at that house, but it never felt the same. Grandma made a big deal of Christmas, so it was always kind of her deal. We ate out on Christmas day (usually somewhere “upscale” like the Holiday Inn), because grandma only signed up for one feast preparation per year, and that was Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving we hauled the big table into the front room, because it didn’t fit anywhere else with all the leaves in. There were mis-matched depression era glass goblets, and the old China plates that came out once per year. Grandma made the best stuffing and her signature butterscotch pie. She loved food, but didn’t particularly enjoy cooking.

424585933_f103340b40_oMy grandparents had an unusually tall bed with a worn, knobby, blue bedspread. My collection of stuffed animals and raggedy Ann dolls lived at the foot of that bed, and sometimes I clambered up there to sleep if I had a bad dream. Grandma and I played many hours of “pretend,” Clue, and card games on that bed. It was the most social bedroom I’ve ever known, where the women and children often hung out after supper to avoid the evening news. If I was sick, I would stay in that bed all day, with grandma coming in to rub Vick’s Vap-o-Rub on by chest every few hours. During the remodel, they found a mountain of used tissues under the bed. Above the bed there hung grandma’s collection of sailing ship prints, and on the headboard there was always a tin cup of metallic-tasting water we all shared.

424414418_64dfc8e057_oNext to the foot of the bed was grandma’s art table, where she worked on her meticulous old-timey watercolors. She never had aspirations for her art beyond giving them away to family and friends on various holidays. When she was young, she dreamed of being a fashion illustrator in San Francisco (perhaps married to her first love, Zip, who ended up in the bay area after the war), but three unplanned pregnancies rooted her in North Idaho for good.

The large, gravel “parking lot” in front of the house was the home for grandpa’s machinery. He ran an excavating business for over forty years, so my childhood playground was heavy equipment: a backhoe, tractor, dump truck, and crane. He kept the antique cars he collected in the two garages, and parked his light blue Ford F150 next to the back porch. Machinery has a distinct metal and diesel smell that I strongly associate with childhood.

It wasn’t worth trying to save the house. The foundation wasn’t sound, and it was full of asbestos. It was the family home for over sixty years, but it was time to say goodbye. My cousin will build vacation rentals where the house stood and eventually live on the property next door, so I will still get to go back… just not to that rickety old shack where my childhood happened.

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The Internet is a Hostile Environment for Women (and it’s not getting better)

Surprise! Sexism and misogyny are still huge problems on the internet, even though women have a stronger voice and presence online than ever.

Case in point 1: stolen nude photos. Let’s just get this straight. Every adult is allowed to take nude photos of themselves and do whatever they like with them. There’s nothing illegal or immoral about nude self portraiture. Ok, sure, you might run into obscenity laws if staple them to phone poles or something. What’s illegal and immoral is stealing someone’s private photos and making them public. That’s not okay no matter how famous they are.

But of course half the internet wagged its fingers at these young women for having naked photos of themselves in the first place. As if it were their fault they were violated. Yeah, we all know that our stuff stored in the cloud may vulnerable, so be careful what you put there. But that’s true of any internet connected device. How much should we allow privacy risk to dictate how we behave?

Case in point 2: Death threats for talking about video games. Seriously. I’m not a gamer, but I love watching Feminist Frequency’s tropes versus women series. There is some serious sexist bullshit in some games, and some people get very very angry when this is pointed out. C’mon! Are we not a bit more evolved than that?

Anita Sarkeesian has tried to report the offenders when they started making death threats against her and her family, but law enforcement has no idea how to deal with anonymous online abuse. And she’s not nearly the first or only case of a vocal woman being threatened and terrorized online. There are a dozen or so that I know of… and I don’t know the whole internet.

Case in point 3: Zelda Williams. Shortly after her father died some Twitter trolls said some incredibly nasty things to her. Who would do that to a grieving person? Why? She quit Twitter, despite the love and support of so many others.

Case in point 4: Cee Lo Green getting defensive about his rape charge. The guy admitted to drugging her and taking her to bed. Regardless of what else occurred or didn’t occur, that is plenty bad. He should be apologetic. Or quiet.

Trolls of this type are hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to abuse people. It’s getting harder to be truly anonymous, and hopefully we’ll be able to kick some of these people off the internet. Hate speech and death threats are never ok. But even milder, insidious sexism is entrenched everywhere. It exists in real life, of course, but it’s so much easier to see on the internet where the misogynists think they are safe from reproach. The decent people of the internet should do everything in our power to get the trolls blocked.