During the two years I worked for the service, I witnessed hundreds of new members join; I only witnessed one person being turned down. A cute 30-year-old woman came in with a three-page, typed dossier about what she was looking for in a man. Her outline covered every possible facet: religion, mannerisms, hair and eye color, height, reproductive desires, family interaction (how often did he visit), what his relationship to his father and mother should be like, what holiday would be his favorite (hers was Christmas), how many kids he wanted (she hoped for a boy and a girl, God willing), how he would raise the kids, and much, much more. As if this weren’t enough, when we got to page three, the dossier read, “Now, here’s the catch…he has to be an airline pilot.”
Her father, grandfather, brother, and uncle were all pilots. She was comfortable with that lifestyle, so that was what she wanted. We all held our breath and looked to the owner to make a call. When she said no, that this was way beyond our scope, we all let out a collective sigh of relief.
∗ ∗ ∗
I got together with a group of single friends to talk about my job and the hostility I was dealing with. Was it just because I worked at a service that charged a lot of money for dates, or was it the norm for people looking for love to behave like Veruca Salt? Only now the golden ticket is a marriage proposal.
“Nope,” my friends assured me, “it’s not just you, and it’s not just about the money. It’s everywhere.” People have no patience when it comes to finding “the one.” As it turns out, they aren’t just being horrible to me, they behave atrociously to each other. My friends and I weighed in with theories on the reasons.
I blamed it on the analogies people have come up with for dating, something probably started by some high-strung psychologist trying to sell her book, Dating is like… Dating Is Like Shoe Shopping, Dating Is Like House Hunting…
One client told me she’d read a book that told her to treat a date like a job interview. So, she’d written a pitch about why any guy would be lucky to have her. Her style was “proactive and intense.” That didn’t even sound appealing on paper, much less in real life. I asked if she’d ever had fun going to a job interview, and she said that first impressions were serious business, and she wasn’t about to blow it. I tried to find a way to say as gently as I could, “Too late.”
This analogy technique allows people to look at dates as little more than inanimate objects. If that old shoe doesn’t quite fit the bill, it can be tossed back into the closet or dumped off at the thrift store. I had one woman who went to a restaurant to meet her date, and when she saw that he was wearing shorts, she asked the waiter to sneak her through the kitchen and out the back door, so she wouldn’t have to meet him. Her reason for leaving: “He wasn’t polished.” She didn’t call and cancel or say she wasn’t coming. She just left him sitting there.
Perhaps she’d read the City-Data.com forum on how long it should take to find a house and applied it to her dating technique:
Usually, people know within 30 seconds of walking into a house if it is a possibility — and it is easier to spot the “no’s” than the “yes’s.” Don’t be afraid to take one step in and another right back out. There’s no point looking at a house you know won’t work. People are amazed how many times the house looks “perfect” in pictures, but totally different in person…I can always leave feedback for the seller that the driveway/siding/location wasn’t what my buyer wanted, so they know we took a look, even if we didn’t look inside.
Unfortunately for me, I was the one who had to leave feedback for the seller. That poor guy left alone in the restaurant was crushed and embarrassed to death.
My friend Tory thought that people’s unrealistic expectations and impatience had more to do with the speed and breadth of online dating. With an online ad, you can connect with someone anywhere in the world. You’re out there with the widest net possible, whereas before, you were just looking in your own backyard.
Add to that the fact that some people pay to be a member of a service or a club. Their friends tell them, “Hey, you’re paying for it, you should get what you want, no compromises.” All of a sudden, looking to find a mate is like a Build-A-Bear workshop. Each physical characteristic becomes nonnegotiable.
My least favorite client was that type, a pushy and domineering middle-aged woman notorious for passing on dates because they didn’t meet her ever-shifting criteria. She would keep me at my office for an hour after everyone else was long gone, meticulously going over every detail of a potential date, purring out questions like the Cheshire Cat… “And what color are his eyes?” I had to stop after each question while she furiously wrote down the answers. She took these notes with her on dates, to compare the guy’s answers with mine. The saddest part is, I would sometimes spend an hour convincing her to go out with a guy, only to have him pass on her within a minute because she was too old.
We had a middle-aged man who was the opposite: he wanted to go out with everyone. The moment his date was seated, he’d slide over a glossy business card. Instead of his office information, this card featured a picturesque mountainside with lush trees shrouding a glistening lake. In the left-hand corner, his disembodied head hovered among the clouds. To the right, his list of “likes” were punctuated with bullet points: hiking, eating, and speaking French. One woman said wryly, “It’s too bad his ‘likes’ don’t include having a job or paying his own tab.”