I was in town for a two nights only and there to see my friend's band play and I was busy scrolling through my Sparkology app on my phone. Although admittedly, cell service in the underground bar is a little shoddy.
Sparkology? you may be mouthing as you read, a nonplussed expression on your face. Let me introduce you to one of my most recent ventures into the online dating world: Sparkology is a dating site specific to New York City, launched in October 2011. Since the launch, it has expanded to Washington D.C. and has plans to branch out to Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The site is for young professionals and caters to…a certain amount of snobbiness, honestly. The concept? It's invitation only. All applicants must have a college degree, and more distinctly, all male applicants must be verified graduates of top universities.
Before you point your judgmental finger in my direction, let me just explain my own thought process in joining this site. It's elitist and snobby, yes, but from where I'm coming from, why not be elitist? Why not give that a shot? How about I hold out for the organic produce in Whole Foods as opposed to the squash of questionable origin in my local supermarket?
Okay, maybe comparing the average guy to questionable squash is a little harsh, but what I really mean is I was looking for an excuse to be picky. If there's one thing I firmly believe in when it comes to dating, it's that you should never feel like you're settling. Find someone who is the right fit for you. And I decided that an intellectual guy from a good part of town might just be the right fit for me.
Meanwhile, Sparkology had other draws. While eHarmony overwhelmed me with a flood of e-mails and matches, Sparkology was structured to minimize spam. You see, men and women use different methods of paying for the site. Whereas I purchased a three month package for something like $25 a month, men use the site for free. Unless they want to e-mail you. To send me an e-mail, they have to purchase a "Spark" for $7—the online equivalent of buying me a cocktail in a bar. It's designed to limit the number of e-mails sent to you, and to make it more meaningful when you do receive one. Of course, as a woman, I could make the first move and either "smile at" a man or e-mail him myself, in which case he can respond for free.
Something else that sets Sparkology apart is its claimed method of matchmaking. Unlike eHarmony and most other dating sites, there was no personality profile to spend hours filling out. I simply created my profile and began viewing recommended profiles. Allegedly, the site uses an algorithm similar to that of Pandora. It tracks your activity and preferences and recommends music…er…matches to you based on your behavior. I.e. what kind of accounts do I spend more time viewing? Who did I take the initiative to contact first? And so on. I'm not sure how much I believe this actually works, but I decided it sounded different and was worth experimenting with.
I was quickly disillusioned. Although my page of suggested dates had a number of men on it whom I found intriguing—even a few I decided to "smile at," the closest I had so far come to initiating contact on a dating site. Sadly, though, I never heard from any of these men. I can only assume that I just wasn't their type. Which is fine, oh well. On the other hand, a received a handful of e-mails from various men who…well, I just wasn't attracted to. Knowing that they had intentionally spent money to send me an e-mail made me feel exceptionally guilty for not being interested. I gave it a shot with a couple but ultimately realized that even worse than not e-mailing someone back would be agreeing to a date with someone that I knew I couldn't be interested in. It's not shallow, it's just a fact that part of chemistry is physical attraction. It's not the only factor, but it's still important.
So ultimately, Sparkology's failure is to create "matches" that are mutual. It doesn't mean it won't work for anyone, I just didn't get lucky.
On the night in question, though, I had only been on the site for a couple of weeks. I had ordered myself a beer and had just received a notification on my phone that I received one such e-mail. Unlike the other, more well-thought out e-mails I had received from men on Sparkology, this was what I can only assume was a drunk message from someone who didn't care about wasting $7. Basically it was a tacky, suggestive one-liner.
And at the exact moment that I was reading this unfortunate ode to testosterone, in walked Mr. Real Life. He was…handsome. Dark brown eyes and a charming smile, and Lord help me if he wasn't looking right at me.
As it turned out, Mr. Real Life was friends with my friend Colin, the drummer in the band that was playing. They went to church together. Mr. Real Life plays the guitar in the praise team. And as Collin later informed me, is the leader in the praise team.
It wasn't long before I was sitting next to him, drinking the glass of whiskey he bought me, and laughing about I don't remember what. We just hit it off. He invited me back to his place for a cup of coffee or tea and I waited for the usual warning bells about going home with strange men to go off in my head. But to my immense surprise, it didn't happen. Although I often make the mistake of not listening to them, I pride myself on having pretty spot-on instincts. My instincts weren't shouting and waving red flags in the air, so I decided why not? Why not take a risk? Isn't that what love is all about? To fall in love you have to take risks. (Not that my mind had already jumped from "admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a matter of minutes" as Jane Austen once so aptly put it. Just that to me, dating is about finding a person you can fall in love with.)
So I accepted the invitation to his apartment. And you know what? He actually made me a cup of a tea. Don't worry, I was cautious regardless. I made sure to text Colin and let him know I was leaving with Mr. Real Life. And I told Real Life that I had done so. In other words, "If you're planning on murdering me, Colin knows I left with you and is expecting to hear from me within half an hour so good luck hiding my body in time."
Tea? Well, it was…really nice. It was a damn good cup of tea. We talked about books and music and what we studied in school and religion and so on. When Colin texted him letting him know the show was over and he was nearly home—I was crashing on Colin's sofa that night—Mr. Real Life walked me over no questions asked and no funny business attempted.
And that was that. Now, if you're screaming at me about why I didn't get his number, to be fair…I'm a coward. Truly? I was hoping he would ask for mine. And I think he almost did at one point but either chickened out or changed his mind. Still, he asked if there was a chance of seeing me again while I was still in town. But alas, good friends, I was only in Chi-Town for 2 1/2 days. I was booked solid. But I would be back. "I'll let you know," I promised, "the next time I'm going to be in town.
True to my word, a couple of weeks later I sent him an e-mail letting him know that I was going to be around for a couple of days in September. To my disappointment, he didn't respond.
"Well maybe he's just busy," my mother suggested after a few days had passed. I rolled my eyes. Right. When you're into a person, I don't care how busy you are, you find time to respond. I'm a fairly busy person, but somehow I found ten seconds to let not only Mr. Real Life but also my other Chicago friends know that I was going to be in town again.
So, although let down, I think I took the news that he wasn't interested fairly graciously. Two weeks later I was flipping back and forth between whether or not I would be able to make it to another of Colin's shows that night while I was in Chicago. There were a lot of factors going into the decision, but a couple of hours beforehand, my friend Beth (provider of the crash couch for this visit) had just convinced me to go without her when I received a message alert on facebook. It was none other than Mr. Real Life himself, responding to my e-mail.
Not sure what to think, I picked up my phone and read:
I looked at this [message] right when you sent it and forgot to come back around and reply.
Ah. Thanks for clearing that up, Real Life. Always good to have it more clearly confirmed that someone is clearly not interested in me. Although admittedly, I appreciated the e-mail because there is literally nothing worse than putting yourself out there and rather than simply getting rejected, getting ignored. It's awkward and embarrassing and I'm trying not to think about the number of times it's happened to me and how mortifying it was and oh God back to the story right okay—
Are you going to Colin's show tonight?Oh. Well…yes, apparently I was. Now I was confused, though. Was he hoping to see me? No, more likely this was a polite cop-out. A way to get around seeing me one-on-one but still be polite. The classic, "Oh, yeah, maybe I'll see you there."
My friend Megan and I are going and I'm pretty excited.OH! Oh. Awkward. I showed Beth the e-mail and she clucked her tongue. "So he's bringing a date?"
"Looks like it."
We shook our heads before going back to figuring out what I was going to wear that night. In the back of my head, though, I was still buzzing over this new information. It had brought back fresh disappointment, and now I was nervous about going to the show because I didn't want to run into them and feel uncomfortable and awkward for the rest of the night. But I had to admit, I appreciated what he had done in e-mailing me. At least I'd gotten a heads-up. If I had gone and run into him with another woman it would have been a lot more of a shock and I probably would have taken it a little worse. Mr. Real Life didn't owe me anything, of course. But I appreciated this little courtesy.
So it had come to this: the curse of the Far-Away-Girl. Perhaps Mr. Real Life had liked me and even considered seeing me again. But the truth was that I had to go back to NYC (where I recently transferred for a job.) and ultimately, isn't it really "out of sight out of mind" for most people. Who could blame him if he met someone who wasn't splitting her time between two cities?
I decided I was a grown woman and this wasn't middle school. I could handle seeing the man with another woman. I would be confident and mature and gracious and most importantly I would look down-right fabulous. The little black dress was slipped on and the stilettos were donned.
I went. I looked smolderingly hot. I even got stared at a little bit by various people in the room. The band was fantastic. The evening was great. And Mr. Real Life and His Date were nowhere to be seen. All in all, a successfully excellent evening.
The next morning I was on my phone when I suddenly realized that I had never replied to Mr. Real Life. Just like he owed me nothing, I certainly didn't owe him anything, but I realized that in not replying to him, I was doing the same thing to him that had been done to me so many times. No, he wasn't putting himself on the line by asking me out, but it was still rude to simply not respond to his message. So, taking a fortifying breath, I slowly tapped out a message, trying to think of something casual to say. Mr. Gibbs' voice echoed in my head, reminding me to Never Apologize. It's a sign of weakness.
Hey! I actually did end up making it last night. Shame I missed you two. Must've been ships in the night.Translation: Sorry not sorry.
And that, I thought, wiping my hands of the matter, was that. All done. All good. All—
>>New Facebook Message From Mr. Real Life
I rolled my eyes and smacked my forehead. Doesn't this crap ever go away?
We actually didn't end up going—she is a physician assistant and is never sure about how late she'll work on Friday nights yada yada yada blah blah I'm telling you things that you absolutely do not care about blah.Okay, those may not have been his exact words. But seriously? Make it stop, Mr. Real Life. That was all far more information than I needed and let me show you exactly how much I care about this woman's personal schedule:
At that point I stopped reading and didn't bother to respond. I had been polite. I was free now. Curse of the Far-Away-Girl broken, I headed out to brunch to meet my girlfriends.
1 Bros—a particular breed of man, native to Wrigleyville but found scattered across North America. He can be identified by his beer gut, college team T-shirt, and frat boy personality in spite of the fact that he is between 30 and 45 years old. The Bro is a pack animal and most often found in groups near their local watering hole. ↩