My name is Angela and I’m 29 years old. Like everyone else, I’m looking for love.
Well, I’m looking for what OKCupid.com calls a short term relationship. Plentyoffish.com calls it dating, and my friends call it “kind-of-sort-of seeing-someone-I-think.” It falls somewhere in between u-hauls and one night stands. I’m looking for non-committal answers. I’m hoping to keep “love” out of the equation.
At first, I didn’t think of myself as looking for anything at all. When I started browsing personal ads on craigslist six months ago, I told myself I wasn’t actually trying to find a date. I just liked reading the ads. They were funny in a sad sort of way, like reality television shows or gossip magazines.
Sexy Italian, 23, loves football, baseball, and his little dog, Ruffles.
Hot chocolate for experienced cougar, 34, likes movies and traveling.
Nice college man, 19, has a girlfriend who’s boring and bad in bed.
Who writes these things? And how could anyone take them seriously?
Every once and a while, I would read a personal ad that was neither sad nor funny, that sounded less like sociological studies of frat boys and dungeon and dragons players, and more like excerpts from my own conversations. Some of the ads had a sense of humor: a little self-deprecating, a little quirky. They came from people sitting at their computers while their friends were out of town for the summer, or from people getting started in a new city. They weren’t looking for love but just for friendly company. I thought I might enjoy having extra company. I started answering ads.
Mike was the first person to reply. We wrote back and forth a few times. He couldn’t call because he didn’t have any long distance. He couldn’t meet me at most of the places I suggested because he didn’t have a working car. Those were warning signs. I ignored them. I wanted to give him a chance, and so I ended up spending an evening watching TV in a trailer that smelled like cat pee. And even though this guy was a stranger that I never intended to see or talk to again, I still felt obligated to stay a few hours and pretend that everything was fine. I sat on the edge of the couch and tried to get as much distance as I could between my nose and the furniture. I leaned in towards the television, as if it were the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen.
The next day, he asked when I wanted to come by again. I never wrote him back. I did, however, keep answering ads.
Soon, I was answering ads that weren’t just looking for friends. I didn’t really take it seriously; I didn’t think anything would come of it. But I liked to think about dating. And the more I thought about dating, the more I liked the idea of it.
I joined a dating site. I wrote my personal description like a resume, appraising my strengths and finding ways to highlight them. My skills include typing 50 words per minute with a cat on my lap, and 75 words per minute without help. I can dance the Charleston, and make ordinary things beautiful. I am short, fat, and half-Asian. I don’t smoke, drink often, and don’t plan on bearing anyone’s offspring. I’m a Libra. I like cats.
I started sending out messages on a regular basis, sometimes as many as four or five in a day, form letters applying for any open position. After a few dozen of them they all started to sound the same. I made small adjustments from one message to another, in order to give the appearance of personalization. I might refer briefly to a movie they talk about on their profile to prove that I read it. I might mention my profile in the hopes that they would read it. But only those details changed. My goal remained the same. I wanted to schedule an interview. I tried to present myself in an honest, but flattering manner, self-promoting but not arrogant, and communicate a sense of my personality. Due to standard internet attention spans I tried to keep it to 200 words or less.
Sent to Alfonse, August 17th, 3:33am: I like that you’re online at 3:22am, even though I shouldn't be online, or even awake. These messages, sent sort of in the dark, are strange to write, and must be strange to read. I can never decide if I should try to lessen the weirdness, or go all-out. Ideally, I will convince you that I'm interesting enough to warrant a message back. I'd like that.
Sent to tubamyst, August 17th 11:17pm: Your profile amuses me. Hopefully, you will be entertained enough, either by this awkward note, or my profile, to be interested in further communication. Messages back are good. So is meeting for coffee.
Sent to pdot1973, August 29th, 4:40 pm: I'm intrigued by your air of mystery. Or at least your self-conscious, thwarted attempt at creating an air of mystery. So the next step seems to be sending you a message so you will visit my profile, screen me for whatever it is you're looking to find, and write back. Hopefully, you are not looking for mystery. I'm not so good at that. Long-winded, I am very good at. Taking things seriously? Not so good at that, either.
Step three then, is waiting for a reply. Please do, that would be fun.
Sent yesterday to mnench, 7:18pm: I am 7 years, 12 inches, and one Y chromosome away from you. I like watching people paint. I also think that most things are not as obvious as people assume they are. Will you write back?
I still haven't actually had any dates. So far, out of several dozen messages sent, four people have replied. This might mean that my letters are successfully filtering out the frat boys, dungeon and dragons players, and people with aversions to short, fat, half-asian, Libras. Or it might mean that I come across as having schizophrenic tendencies, and have scared off anyone with sense or intelligence. But this letter writing campaign has become an end in itself. I have developed a sly fondness for these messages. I have begun saving them, electronic mementos of imaginary love affairs.
Dan the Satanist is one of the four who wrote back. When he’s not performing dark rituals in Boba Fett costume, he runs a creamery outside of town.
I can’t wait to meet him.