I am usually not big on telling all my business. Hence, my blog is typically rife with humorous anecdotes or general opinions about life, but I rarely dispel my innermost thoughts and feelings. Back when the “25 Random Things” bit was making the rounds on Facebook, I did my part for the fad and contributed my list, wherein I confessed the following:
18. I filled out the free eHarmony personality profile to see what it would say about me, only to realize later that the only thing it really said was: You are alone.
Jessica, Kelli, and perhaps a few others knew that I did that (prior to me posting it on Facebook, obviously), and Kelli even helped me fill the thing out. Everybody had been prodding me to sign up for eHarmony – you know, since I’m single and approaching ancient – but I resisted the peer pressure. So, to quell the protests, I filled out the profile, had an emotional breakdown, and then forgot all about it a few days later.
Then, just before Valentine’s Day weekend, eHarmony started emailing me like crazy to advertise their “Free Communication” weekend. On those few days, people who are not members (i.e. have not shelled out their life savings to eHarmony) can talk to their “matches” for free. You still can’t see pictures unless you pay, but you can at least talk to other people.
For those who are unaware, let me give a little rundown on how eHarmony basically works:
· You fill out your Personality Profile (which is free, as I mentioned) and answer about a million questions about yourself. It’s mostly “on a scale of 1 to 10” kind of stuff, and some sections ask you to select from a list of adjectives or qualities that describe yourself or how you think others see you. You also answer questions like, “how often do you drink/smoke/etc.?” followed by how often you would accept those things in a prospective match. You can even select which religions you’d be OK getting matched with, and you can narrow that down to particular denominations if you choose. You choose an age range, and how far you’re willing to go for love (100 miles, a particular state or group of states, or even which countries, up to the whole world). These answers go into some kind of compatibility algorithm, and you start to get “matched.” Since I wasn’t really seriously considering it, I set my parameters to the whole world, and I had to turn matching off because I was getting so many emails.
· Once you decide to peruse your matches, you immediately see names, ages, and locations. Then, you can click on a link to go and view that person’s profile and any pictures they have uploaded (providing you are a paying member, of course). Some of the answers from the personality profile are automatically loaded in, like “The Four Things Your Friends Say About You” or “What are three of your best life-skills?” Others are sections that you actually have to fill in, like a questionnaire (i.e. “What are you most passionate about?”, “What are the three things for which you are most thankful?” “What is the first thing people notice about you?”, “Describe the last book that you read and enjoyed?” and so on.)
· If you decide this person strikes your fancy, then you can communicate. (If not, you close the match and choose a reason why from the list. Just don’t put “Other” as your reason, because I’m pretty sure that means, “I think you’re butt-ugly.”) If you do communicate, you have your choice of “Guided Communication” or a “Fast Track.” With “Fast Track,” you basically just jump right into sending emails back and forth (on the eHarmony server). Most users have their preference listed as “Guided Communication,” which means that you begin by choosing 5 multiple choice questions from a list to send to your match. If they respond, you can read their responses and then answer their 5 questions in return. After that, you go into essay-type questions, and then on to email. There are options for a secure phone call, too, where you can talk to your matches without divulging your personal contact information. At any point during the communication, if you decide this isn’t the one for you, you can close the match and give your multiple-choice reason. The other person then has an opportunity to send one final communication, and that’s the end of it. Nice and tidy.
Now, during the free communication weekend, I was just tinkering around, so I sent out the 5 questions to everybody on my match list (unless their profile was particularly heinous). I got some responses, but there’s not a lot you can do in two days unless you happen to be communicating with someone who lives on their computer. I was at my apartment on Sunday night (and the free communication cut off at midnight), so I checked eHarmony via my cell phone. Someone was trying to communicate with me, so I played along and realized that you can really fly through the guided communication in an hour or so if you’re both online, but given the nature of the questions, you really don’t know anything more about the person than you did when you read the profile. In the emailing stage, it was about 5 minutes till midnight, so I told the guy that I was not a member and had no intention of becoming one. He asked how he could contact me, and I gave him my IM screen name.
WELL. By Monday morning when he IMed me (and bear in mind that we’d only just “met” at about 10pm on Sunday), he was ready to ride off into the sunset. More particularly, he was ready to drive up to Virginia (from about 3 hours away in NC) to spend time with me. Oh! And he wondered if it would be OK if he stayed with me. Naturally, I said “yes, by all means” and we were married on Tuesday and have been living secretly happily ever after for these last few months.
Either that, or I turned to Kelli and said, “Holy crap. This dude is freakin’ insane. What am I supposed to do now?” She suggested I tell him that he’s a psycho and this is why he couldn’t get a girl, and while she is usually the more tender-hearted one in our office, I felt bad about the prospect of hurting his feelings. So, I tried to back him off gently by saying I wasn’t in any hurry and that, in all my previous relationships, things had developed very slowly from friendship to something more, and I felt that was the best way. He did not see the point of that at all, but it still took me a few days to shake him off completely. (It was like “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” – I kept acting crazier and crazier, and yet he would not be moved.) I think I finally convinced him I was a hopeless commitment-phobic and he wished me good luck in the future and moved on to the next unsuspecting soul.
That was the end of my eHarmony experience for a while. Kelli and Jessica did not want me to be deterred. They both said I just so happened to get one of the few crazy people, and I should not let that discourage me. Nevertheless, I remained skeptical and disinterested. Then, I got another of those eHarmony “You know you’re lonely and hopeless, so please sign up” emails. This one offered a very steep discount for a month-long membership. (Ordinarily, you could probably purchase a spouse from overseas for less than the cost of a membership to eHarmony.)
Without telling anyone, I decided to check out eHarmony for a month at the discounted rate. Partly, I was curious about how it worked. And partly, I was afraid that everybody was right and I was destined to find the love of my life on this stupid website, and that if I didn’t try it, I would indeed become the old maid my mother has always insisted I would be. I didn’t tell anyone because, for one, I didn’t really want to have to explain that I failed miserably, and for two, if I did happen to meet someone, I would not have told a soul about that until three weeks after the wedding. And then I would have concocted some grandiose story about how we met that had absolutely nothing to do with the internet.
The timing of my experiment was a bit unfortunate. Given the complete disintegration of every seemingly-stable marriage around me, my general outlook on love and happily-ever-after was pretty jaded. So, essentially, I figured I was looking for which guy I would most like to rip my heart out and stomp on it.
I significantly reduced the distance I was willing to go to meet these folks, but my number of matches was still overwhelming, since I rarely logged in to check them. So basically, I decided that I would look at profiles as time allowed, but I was not going to be proactive about contacting any of them. After all, as Stu Weber wrote, “Masculinity means initiation,” and I most certainly cannot be with some timid little girly-man. So, I decided that, for me, if these men didn’t have the gumption to initiate communication with me, then I did not desire to talk with them.
Unfortunately, most of the men who did contact me were not ones I wanted to talk to, based on their profiles. Not to worry, when I closed the matches, I said it was because I was “pursuing another relationship,” because I figured that’s the least disheartening of the choices. After all, they just got there a little too late, right? And technically, I am pursuing another relationship – it’s just not with them, and not in the near future.
My little experiment did serve to reinforce the realization that I am a very picky person. My friends tease me about it, but seriously – it takes me months of deliberation to buy a new pair of shoes, so how much more difficult is it going to be for me to find a man I really think I could stand to be around FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE? That is a really long time. (At least I hope it is.)
For one thing, if the profile was full of misspelled words and bad grammar, they were pretty much getting the axe. Everybody who knows me knows how I feel about that kind of thing anyway, but it’s not like I refuse to be friends (or more) with people who don’t excel in that area. What I do take issue with is that this online profile is the one and only way that this person is introducing themselves to me. It would be like getting a job resume with misspelled words and grammatical errors – there is no sense in that. So, needless to say, the guy who wrote, “I am not conceded, but I am confident,” was not on the top of my list. Same goes for the man who had “a since of accomplishment.”
There were also profiles written in ALL CAPS WHICH IS TOTALLY ANNOYING AND COMPLETELY LACKING IN ETIQUETTE and others who apparently had a broken “Shift” key. Why would you not even capitalize your name, for goodness’ sake?!?
I was also less than impressed by profiles where every essay-style answer was covered in just a few words – maybe not even a full sentence. The idea is to get a little snapshot of the person’s personality – a point which some of the men obviously missed. For example, “Gonna have to find out” is not an acceptable answer to any question on the eHarmony profile.
Despite the simple human instinct that we all have (myself included), I tried not to do too much “judging a book by the cover” once I could see the profile pictures. Still, I scoffed at the people who uploaded (as their one and only profile picture) a group shot of ten people. I could barely see anyone, and even if I could, how was I supposed to know which was the guy? I am pleased to say that I did not run across any profiles where the person googled for “male model” to swipe a photo. And any guys who posted gratuitous pictures of themselves flexing in a mirror definitely went on the Heck No List. As for the 30-year old (yes, I said 30!) whose only photo was his high school senior picture, bow-tie and all…I mean, really? Seriously? That’s the best picture you could come up with?
As far as the rest of the profiles, some things raised my red flags and sent some men to the chopping block. For instance, if the last “book” you read and enjoyed was Maxim, you are probably not the man for me. I also have no desire to date a “huge Journey fan” whose favorite books are that Obama book and “Marley and Me.” REALLY?!?
Any profile that contained the word “golf” more than ten times was a no-go. To the guy who said “I will rock your socks off,” I say, “No, indeed you will not.” I rolled my eyes at Mr. “Live while you love, love while you live.” And I wasn’t terribly excited to get to know the guy who kept talking about his “brother from another mother.”
Another common point of contention: While I may have had my doubts about men who listed Van Halen or “My big screen TV named Bob” under the 5 Things they couldn’t live without, I could at least appreciate the honesty, even if I questioned their life choices. However, I do not understand why SO many “5 things” lists read like this:
3. The Holy Spirit
Ho-kay. So you’re a big ol’ Christian. Good for you. I think that is somewhat inherent in this whole eHarmony thing, but hey – I definitely want someone who is firm in their faith. I do NOT, however, want a guy who is so obviously beefing up his profile with as much religious mumbo jumbo as possible, in the hopes that will increase his chances of getting a girl. There was plenty of room in the other questions to make it clear that God was my top priority. I didn’t answer every single question to show how pious I am – I answered them to give a little bit of insight into who I am as a person beyond that. For comparison, my five things I “can’t live without” were listed as follows:
1. Music (and an iPod to hold it all)
2. TV on DVD
3. My car
4. Water bottles (which I refill and freeze)
Sure, I can’t live without God, much like I can’t live without oxygen and my brain and a million other common sense answers. I just didn’t feel the need to say that in every other sentence. It has been my general experience that people who do nothing but talk about how holy they are ALL THE TIME are really anything but, and I have had enough false piety to last a lifetime.
When my month was over, I was honestly relieved to be done with it. I felt as though I had checked something off my to-do list. So, the next time someone suggests I try eHarmony (or the like), I can say “been there, done that” and know I’m not missing anything.
My friends tell me that God is not going to send the man of my dreams to my front door wrapped in a bow with a card that says “From: God,” but hey — He could if He wanted to! And while I do not expect anything that obvious, I guess God will send the right person along when it’s the right time. I do sometimes worry that it will never be the right time, but I guess that doesn’t exactly help anything, does it?
All of my previous relationships have come as a huge shock to me, and in every case, God was in control and I learned a lot about myself through those experiences. I also learned that there are some really great guys out there, because I’ve dated some of them, and I am certainly not going to downgrade!
I am sure that many people have gone on to find great happiness at eHarmony, and I am thrilled for them. (Provided, of course, that they do not come anywhere near me with their sickening lovey-dovey crap.) It just so happens that eHarmony is not the solution for me. I have a better chance of finding the man of my dreams gift-wrapped at my front door.