lou brooks c/o theispot.com
Lou Brooks c/o theispot.com
In July, my friend Bekah (not her real name) calls to announce her engagement. I am shocked by the news.
The last I heard, she was dating a guy named Mike, whom she’d met on the online dating site Match.com. A few weeks into their relationship, Bekah texted me a photo of Mike in striped jeans and a leather vest with nothing underneath. He reminded me of Captain Jack Sparrow.
“The sex is amazing,” she said.
She sent another picture, the two of them in motorcycle jackets, posed in front of an Easy Rider–style bike. In this photo, Mike’s resemblance to Johnny Depp was uncanny.
They broke up a few weeks later.
“The ridiculous way he dressed got old,” she said.
Before Mike, Bekah dated a doctor she met on eHarmony. The site matched them through a personality test. After doing an internet search of the doc, Bekah learned that a local magazine had named him one of her city’s most eligible bachelors.
Their first date was at a wine bar. It went well. The next morning, a Saturday, Bekah was awakened by a text message: “Do you have any STDs or STIs? Are you on birth control? Have you ever had an abnormal pap smear? Being a physician, you wouldn’t believe the things I have seen!”
She never spoke to the doctor again.
Two weeks later, Bekah met a new guy online. She decided to Skype with him to avoid the possibility of a wasted Friday evening. Fifteen minutes into their Skype date, the guy held up a framed picture of his ex-girlfriend and asked, “Do you think she’s hot?”
Bekah told him she was tired and logged off.
She exchanged countless emails with a photographer before meeting him.
“We have a great connection,” she told me.
But it turned out that the photographer looked nothing like his pictures.
“He listed his height as six feet, but he was closer to five-six and had a receding hairline. He took me to tea. That should’ve been a red flag. A cup of tea costs about $2. What a cheapskate.”
When she denied the photographer a second date, he sent a scathing email telling Bekah that she wasn’t “hot enough to be so picky.”
“I am 32 years old! Too old for this BS,” Bekah said. “I should be married by now.”
Then came Mike, the Johnny Depp look-alike.
Bekah gave up hope of meeting a normal guy through a dating site. She stopped looking for something serious. One night, out of boredom, she typed the physical characteristics of her ideal man into Match.com’s search engine. A guy named Christian (not his real name) popped up. She viewed his profile. He sent her an electronic wink. She winked back. They Skyped. Two days later, they went to a tapas bar. At the end of the night, they exchanged a kiss.
Bekah was convinced that she’d found the one. The feeling was mutual.
In eight months, Bekah and Christian are getting married. She has already purchased her wedding gown and booked a reception hall.
“He’s perfect for me,” she says with a happy sigh. “I never thought I would actually meet someone I’d want to marry from one of these sites.”
Twenty-two-year-old Rebecca (not her real name) meets me at Cosmos Coffee Café in La Mesa on a Wednesday night. Her OkCupid dating-profile photos show a raven-haired, blue-eyed sexpot, but when she first walks past, I don’t even notice her. Dressed in a pink blouse over a frumpy maxi dress, Rebecca looks nothing like her online images.
When she started internet dating, she was a 19-year-old college student living in Mobile, Alabama. She signed up with the site Christian Mingle, hoping to find like-minded, faith-based men.
She had never been kissed.
“Immediately, I received lots of sexual messages. I was asked by one man to have phone sex with him, and he asked if I could be loud during it. I was a young, Southern, Alabama girl looking for a relationship. I learned quickly that maybe one out of 50 guys on there really wanted to get to know me. Because of that, I deleted my account within 24 hours.”
The following morning, when she checked her email, she discovered one last Christian Mingle message. It was from a 23-year-old named Chris (not his real name), who lived in Corona, California.
“He told me I had beautiful eyes and a nice smile. He said he wanted to get to know me better. I thought it was cool that he lived in California.”
Charmed, Rebecca talked to Chris through Yahoo messenger. They soon exchanged phone numbers and began to speak daily. Within two months, they were in a long-distance romance. Despite never having met, they discussed marriage.
“I was supposed to go to California for my college spring break to meet him, but my family said no. My dad said, ‘If this guy wants to marry you, he’ll come here.’ I didn’t tell my parents that we met through a dating site till later. My dad was totally creeped out. He said, ‘Whoa, whoa, you haven’t even met this man. How do you know you love him?’ They didn’t understand.”
In the end, Chris flew to Rebecca’s parents’ home for a five-day visit. Rebecca was convinced he was the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. A month later, on the final day of her sophomore year in college, she dropped out of school and caught a flight to California in order to be closer to Chris.
“I had never been out of the Southern states. When I flew to California, it was my first time on an airplane. I didn’t tell my parents I was moving until the day I left. I called my parents on the way to the airport and said, ‘I’m moving to California. If you want, you can meet me for lunch before I leave.’ My dad was so upset, he had a breakdown. My mom was sad. They thought it was insane.”
Rebecca’s parents had a hard time grasping that their 19-year-old daughter had dropped out of school and was moving across the country to live with a guy after spending only five days together.
Rebecca arrived in Corona on May 1. By July 4, she realized that Chris had portrayed himself one way over the internet when, in reality, he was a completely different person.
“Chris was happy with my online picture and with the way I planned to look, but never with the way I really was.”
Rebecca admits that she was naive.
“Honestly, it was a little reckless. It was the first time I had been in love...my first kiss.” She sighs. “He was my first.”
After six months, Rebecca moved back to Alabama to live with her parents. She swore off online dating. But she soon grew bored and returned to California. In January 2012, she moved to San Diego.
She signed up for dating accounts with OkCupid and Plenty of Fish. Within a week of living in San Diego, she met a personal trainer on OkCupid. They began a five-month relationship.
“He sent me a message. I thought he was hot. He took me to Benihana on our first date, and to a movie at Mission Valley AMC afterward.”
She liked him immediately. They began to date exclusively. When she discovered, five months later, that he was cheating on her with his high-school sweetheart, Rebecca broke up with him.
“Two months ago, he married the girl he cheated on me with.” She shrugs. “And that’s not even the worst of my dating experiences. I had a guy lie about his entire identity. We started talking because I thought his profile photo was cute. He claimed he lived in La Jolla. But things didn’t add up. He said his rent was $600 a month and that his complex was ghetto. There is nothing ghetto about La Jolla, and you can’t rent an apartment there for 600 bucks.”
The man started sending Rebecca photos. He sent her a penis picture. They had phone sex a few times. Whenever she tried to make face-to-face plans, he came up with excuses about why he couldn’t meet her. After two weeks, he admitted that the photos he’d sent Rebecca weren’t of him; they were of a friend. Also, he lived in New York, not La Jolla.
“He swore the penis picture he sent was his, but the other photos weren’t. He sent me a pic of what he really looks like. He is not attractive.” Rebecca laughs. I am surprised at the ease with which she accepts this.
“I know exactly what to say in my dating profile to get any guy on these sites to email me,” she confides. “I used to be more vulnerable and real about who I was. Now I say things like: ‘I am awesome, I’m so much fun, and you can’t handle me.’ I can get the most attractive guy on these dating sites to email me. It makes me feel powerful. I have dates every night of the week. I leave Wednesday night open, just in case I want to go on a second date with one of them.”
Rebecca says that, most evenings, someone buys her dinner, a different guy every time. If she doesn’t feel like leaving home, she invites the man over to her place to watch movies.
“It’s really fun, though sometimes it can be annoying. I had a Navy guy come over to my place. Less than 20 minutes later, he was begging me for sex. He almost cried when I said no.”
Rebecca shows me her phone. There are dozens of text messages from different men.
“Right now, I’m talking to 12 guys. I’ve met 5 in person. The most promising one is an ugly guy. All the others are just looking to bone me. No one on these dating sites is really looking for a relationship. They’re just looking for sex. That has been my experience.”
Rebecca says that tonight she has her choice between the ugly, sweet guy and a new date. Both are waiting to hear whether she will be joining them for dinner.
“It takes me maybe 30 minutes on any given night to find a guy to go out with. I usually message three different guys. Someone always gets back to me.”
Rebecca has never gone out with anyone outside of internet dating. She has no idea what it’s like to meet someone randomly without checking out stats beforehand: height, weight, smoker, likes or dislikes dogs, does or does not want kids.
“I love it. It’s like a game. My 40-year-old coworker says she wishes she did what I am doing now when she was my age.”
“The problem with online dating in this town is that we live in Man Diego. There are not enough women to go around,” Carlos (not his real name) says. We are sitting in a mutual friend’s living room in Serra Mesa. Carlos is attractive, fit, and could pass for late 30s. He is 48.
“I’ve had a profile on Match.com for over a year and have only gone on five or six dates,” he says. “My profile has been viewed 14,500 times. I recently spoke to a woman who had 12,000 views after just two days on Match.” Carlos sighs with frustration. “The pretty women are snapped up immediately.”
He describes his first Match.com encounter.
“I set up a date with a woman at Wine Steals in Point Loma. She had multiple photos on her profile. It was questionable how recent they were, but I decided to be open-minded. She said she was 45. When she showed up she looked closer to 60. If anything, I thought that maybe the photos she’d posted were of her daughter.”
Carlos knew within a minute that he would never go out with her again.
“I try to date women my age. I want to be realistic. I am looking for a relationship, not just a hook-up. I have my age preference set at 37–48. Women age quicker than men. Unfortunately, they don’t have the same shelf life. I sympathize with older women’s plight, but at the same time, I don’t want to date someone that looks old.”
Carlos has learned from his online dating experience that if a woman claims to be 40, he needs to tack on an additional five years, at least.
“Women either post outdated photos or lie about their age by 10–15 years.”
Over Labor Day weekend, Carlos set up a Sunday-night dinner date in Little Italy with a good-looking woman whose profile he viewed on Match.com.
“Her photos looked great. That night, I saw an older lady making a beeline for me. She knew who I was because I actually look like myself in my pictures. Halfway through our date, she admitted that she was five years older than she’d listed on Match.com. I think it was more like ten. That was our last date.”
Carlos finds that, in order to make an online connection, he needs to be the one to initiate things. He is the first to send a message requesting a date.
“I look at profiles and send messages to women I think I want to get to know. I rarely, if ever, hear back from them. San Diego ladies have their pick of the litter. They have to weed through the men on these dating sites. The women here have guys pawing all over them. They have more choices.”
Carlos is frustrated over the amount of work it takes to find a woman online to date.
“My view of women has become jaded. Women on these sites say things like, ‘I want someone that makes me laugh.’ I can respect that, but I am not a comedian. I shouldn’t have to be. There are women on Match that say you have to make a minimum of $150,000-plus a year in order to even contact them. I can appreciate it, if that’s what they want, but if a man makes that much money, he doesn’t need to be on Match.com to get a date.”
A few months ago, Carlos noticed that Match was advertising an event called “The Stir.”
“Basically, it was a singles’ mixer. In the advertisement, they had good-looking people smiling and having a good time. It was at House of Blues in the Gaslamp.”
Carlos thought it sounded like fun.
He arrived early at House of Blues. The place was pumping. Loud music blared from the upper level. There appeared to be a nice mix of older and younger people. Carlos told the doorwoman he was there for the Match.com event. To his disappointment, he was led to a different gathering downstairs.
“It was in a hidden corner that looked like a dungeon. I walked in and looked around. The people were losers. I was wearing nice slacks and a nice shirt. These guys were wearing cheap tennis shoes and jeans. I thought, Hell, no, I’m not staying for this. There were only a couple of girls. I left. By that point, there was a big line of people trying to get into the event. I wouldn’t date any of them.”
Due to failed dates, Carlos has nearly given up hope of meeting a nice San Diego woman online.
“It’s like high school. All the women I like aren’t interested, and the ones interested in me I wouldn’t date. People are on Match for all different types of reasons. I have coworkers that have met their wives through online dating. I am doing it to find someone to have a serious relationship with, but I don’t know if that will happen.”
Margarita and Avi finish each other’s sentences. Sometimes they talk over each other. On occasion, Margarita shushes Avi with a wave of her hand. In their La Jolla apartment, they sit side-by-side on a microfiber sectional. We keep our voices down because Milana, their 22-month-old daughter, is sleeping.
“We met on JDate [a Jewish dating site],” Margarita tells me. “I signed up for a profile because I wanted a relationship with someone of the same faith.”
“JDate is a more serious dating site, compared to some of the others,” Avi adds. “It’s not a hook-up site like Match.”
“I’m trying to remember why I responded to Avi’s initial message,” Margarita says.
“Because I am amazing,” Avi laughs.
“It’s easier for girls,” Margarita says. “You can be a minimally attractive woman and get hundreds of messages from guys trying to date you. I got a lot of messages. I think I responded to Avi because he’s a really good writer. What he wrote was eloquent and funny. He wasn’t trying too hard or being too serious. It didn’t seem like he was just trying to get laid.”
Avi and Margarita agree that the profiles on dating sites are fairly generic. For the most part, everyone says the same thing. For instance: everyone likes to take walks on the beach, go on picnics, and drink a nice glass of wine.
Margarita says, “For me to click on a guy’s profile, something had to really stand out. Everyone had the same crap. It became borderline cheesy. I’m not going to lie: the first thing I looked at was their picture. As soon as you click on them, you get a stat sheet. It’s pretty awesome, assuming they’re telling the truth. You learn if they are college-educated, a smoker, like dogs, or if they want kids. It was easy to get rid of people based on their stats. It takes all the hard work out of dating. I could come home from work, sit on my couch, and read people’s stats.”
Avi went on a handful of dates through JDate prior to meeting Margarita.
“I went out with one girl who looked cute in her pics. She had a nice-looking bikini photo, but when I met her at a bar in PB, she ended up looking like a Chargers linebacker. Another woman invited me to the University Club, had me pay for our $100 meal, and later serenaded me on a grand piano. It was awkward.”
After emailing back-and-forth through JDate, Margarita and Avi decided to meet at Altitude in the Gaslamp on a Saturday night. Avi showed up at 9:30 with a group of friends. Margarita and some of her friends were to meet them at 10:00. Margarita called and canceled, and Avi spent a chunk of his night talking to her over the phone from the club.
“At 12:30, she told me how much she loved chocolate-covered macadamias. I had a box at my place from a recent trip to Hawaii, so I said, ‘What if I come over right now? I’ll bring a box of those chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.’”
Avi arrived at Margarita’s La Jolla apartment at 1:15 in the morning. She looked out the window and saw him parking a cherry-red 1989 BMW.
“My first impression was, Gross! What kind of douche drives a fire-engine-red used BMW? I thought, Let me get this chocolate and get him out of here. I was gagging.”
“I was dressed nice because I’d just come from downtown,” Avi says. “Margarita came to the door in old sweats and a sweatshirt. Her hair was pulled back. I could tell she was cute, but I had no idea she had a slamming body.”
They both smile at the memory.
“We walked her dogs for two hours that night,” Avi says.
Margarita says, “When I opened the door, he was talking a lot. I was, like, Man, this guy won’t shut up. It was late. I needed to walk my dogs. I figured he could come with me to walk them. I thought he couldn’t be that bad. He was definitely more excited over the whole thing than I was.”
“I was just excited to finally meet a cute girl,” Avi says.
Three days later, the two went on a real date. Avi took Margarita to a Padres game.
“When I picked her up, she had on snug little white capris.”
Margarita laughs before correcting Avi. “They weren’t snug!”
“She looked adorable,” Avi says. “Her hair was in a ponytail. She had a Padres shirt on. She looked casual. Sometimes, you’ll go to these games and see women dressed like they’re going clubbing. It’s a frickin’ ballgame. I decided that night: I don’t care if she likes me or not. I’m going to pursue her.”
A few days after their date, Margarita emailed Avi. She told him she wasn’t interested in him romantically. But Avi wasn’t about to let her go.
“I made her meet me for lunch the next day. I claimed I was in her neighborhood.”
He convinced Margarita to give him one more chance. Friday night, he took her to the San Diego Symphony.
Saturday, both of them had dates with other people from JDate. Avi took a woman to the Corinne Bailey Rae concert at the Embarcadero. Margarita went with a freelance writer to a party at Kitty Diamond in Hillcrest.
JDate featured Margarita and Avi in an advertising blitz.
“I liked Avi, but I wasn’t going to take my JDate profile down just yet. It’s like buying a pair of jeans from Nordstrom. After three wears, you can return them and get something different at Neiman Marcus.”
After four weeks of dating, Avi and Margarita mutually decided to take down their JDate profiles. They began an exclusive relationship.
“I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to waste my time with anyone else,” Margarita says. “It was never forced with Avi. I didn’t have to pretend to be anyone other than myself.”
“I said ‘I love you’ first,” Avi says, “but she said it with her eyes. She had hungry eyes. I wanted to ease her pain.”
Margarita rolls her eyes.
“In July, she sent me a blown-up photo of an engagement ring, ‘Just in case, hehehe,’ it said.”
Margarita shoots back, “I don’t remember doing that.”
A year after their first date, Avi asked Margarita to marry him.
Avi wrote JDate a thank-you letter that included his and Margarita’s love story. Shortly after, the couple was contacted by the site.
“JDate was doing an advertising blitz and wanted to interview us. We said, ‘Sure.’”
They were invited to Los Angeles, were interviewed, and had photos taken.
“We had no idea how the photos would be used,” Avi says. “We signed a waiver saying that [JDate] had the right to use our images. We got no compensation. Not long after, I got a text from someone in New York saying that our photo was in Times Square, up on a billboard.”
“That was a shock,” Margarita says. “After that, a friend of mine in L.A. sent us a photo of a gigantic billboard of Avi and I, in the heart of L.A. It was cool but weird.”
“Later, we did a national televised commercial for them,” Avi adds.
In April 2009, two years after their first date, Avi and Margarita got married at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.
“We recommend online dating to family and friends constantly,” Margarita says. “It’s effortless. If you know what you like, you don’t have to waste your time. It sounds shallow, but who the heck has time to date in the old-fashioned sense? Meeting someone at a bar or club is so much harder.”
“It’s rare nowadays to find the high-school or college sweethearts,” Avi adds. “People don’t date like that anymore. That’s a lost art.”