Recently a small group of single, Catholic, professional fellows of my acquaintance were sitting around, having some beverages, and doing what all single men do of an evening, when there are no ladies present, which is talk about women, and why we didn’t seem to be having much success in that area. A friend of a friend happened to join us, and suggested that we approach online dating as a way of meeting single Catholic women around town whom we might not otherwise run into. The argument was rational: everyone tends to work more than they play as they get older, people don’t all live in the city, and the opportunities for meeting other singles can become fewer and fewer. His advocacy on behalf of online dating was a reasonably logical one, particularly after the Meursault had been polished off.
The real problem was that I was hugely skeptical, and for good reason: I had tried online dating before, a number of years ago. Despite dating several intelligent, successful, attractive women, all of whom had been interested in going out again, it just didn’t work. In retrospect, I think relationships never developed largely because none of them held the same values I did, and because we had no friends in common at all.
Nevertheless, despite my doubts about what I was doing, the next morning after our conversation about giving it a try once again, I sat down and opened an account on the popular online dating site which had been suggested the night before.
In order to create a profile, I had to answer many dozens of questions. The vast majority of these questions were, quite frankly, obscene in nature, or dealt with drug use, which I have never engaged in. At the conclusion of this lengthy and rather prurient questioning process, the site did its business, and determined several things about me.
On one side of the equation – er, algorithm – I tended toward being old-fashioned, ambitious, spiritual, capitalistic, pure, friendly to strangers, and compassionate. On the other, I tended NOT to be trusting, experienced in life, spontaneous, adventurous, kinky, sex-driven, or progressive. I assume that being “experienced in life” in this context means something other than having skied in the Alps or tried escargot, both of which I *have* done.
Having received my results, it was now time to move on to the matching stage of the proceedings. Naturally I was curious to see the results, wondering whether there was someone who had been under my nose the entire time that, for whatever reason, I had not run into before. Unfortunately, not only were the results disappointing, but they started to have a problematic effect.
The matches were, first of all, mostly not Catholics, even when a 99% match was indicated. I’m not closed to the possibility of dating someone from another faith, but the entire point of this effort was to try to find some previously-unknown local female practitioners of popery; I only later found out that I would have to pay an extra fee to get to that level of detail. Second, the matching functions of the site started connecting me to ladies who, quite honestly, I wasn’t attracted to.
Now before I’m accused of blatant misogyny, let it be said that no one is better than I am at sitting down and providing a list of my many physical and personal imperfections. I’m no paragon of anything. However, I will unapologetically admit that I’m more likely to look twice at a lady who makes an effort to put her best foot forward, as the saying goes. So much of civilization was built on the extolling of feminine beauty, that we (mere) males are hardwired to seek beauty out.
The disappointment in not finding any Catholic women I was attracted to among the matches was compounded when I started receiving notifications from ladies who had looked at my profile, and sent me personal messages or other indications of their approval. In due course, this lead to a sense of guilt, which only grew worse as the days went by. Should I be responding to these ladies in some way, since they took a chance and reached out to me? Would it be rude not to? So what if I didn’t find them attractive – shouldn’t I just be grateful someone thought I was attractive and interesting enough to want to know more about me? Something which had started out as an experiment, was turning into a moral dilemma.
In the end, I realized that the solution was something which a very dear friend tells me from time to time, and which my spiritual director himself told me only a week ago: stop overthinking it.
Overthinking is an occasional occupational hazard for some, but particularly for those of us who advise, write, and talk for a living. We try to see all the possible answers to a problem, and consider them in turn. In certain contexts, this is actually an extremely useful skill, whether you are drafting a complex business contract, or planning for a large birthday party.
Yet more often than not in your personal life, the simplest answer is often the best: rather like getting dressed in the morning. I’ve learned over the years that my first instinct in what I pull out of the wardrobe is usually the right one. Instead of trying to re-imagine what shirt goes with what suit or tie, I simply stop thinking about it, and go with the first option I originally chose. Almost inevitably, what my gut told me at the beginning turns out to be the right way to go.
So in the end, I deleted my profile from the dating site, and am back to where I started, albeit a little bit wiser for the experience. Online dating works for some people, but not for me, because clearly it’s an occasion to overthink everything and accomplish nothing. I’m grateful to the ladies who took the time to have a look-see over my profile, but from now on I’m going to stick to the old-fashioned way of meeting the ladies I date, which is largely through people I already know, and places and activities that matter to me.