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 Ruby's Road: Game Of Love-eDating

Ruby's Roadby Dawne Belloise

"If you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain. If you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain. If you'd like making love at midnight in the dunes on the Cape. Then I'm the love that you've looked for write to me and escape" - Rupert Holmes

Valentine's Day, the day your sweetie showers you with extra attention, the card companies make a fortune, everything's coming up roses for florists, and lovers are swimming in chocolates and candied hearts that taste like sugared chalk professing intimacies like Be Mine, True Love and Cool Dude. But what if you don't have a special someone and you're an unwilling member of the Lonely Hearts Club? In Crested Butte, where claims of the odds are good but the goods are odd, both sexes have turned to online dating services - the modern equivalent of mail order brides and grooms. The word “import” in the local vocabulary has nothing to do with manufactured overseas products.

At Match.com, the Ebay of love, millions of subscribers cruise profiles for marriage, companionship, and sometimes, not so covertly, for sex. Diversity reigns at e-dating sites where there is someone for everyone. A surprising number of locals have successfully found their mates through these services. However, there is a blemish of failure associated with even flourishing online matches. Questions linger about why online daters couldn't find someone local, and why no one here wants to go out with them. The LOSER stigma is overwhelming. One of the many questions the site poses when you sign up is if you'd be embarrassed if your friends saw your profile and knew you were dating online.

For journalistic research, sheer curiosity, and an excuse, I went online to Match.com and put in parameters defining the gender, age and zip code that I considered attractive for a quick browse. Imagine my surprise to find twenty pages of available bachelors in my area…where were they hiding? After perusing the profiles, I recognized a few local faces and wondered if they would be embarrassed if they knew I knew. Which brings up the question: is the local dating stock too incestuous? As one anonymous local who met his match online stated, “The benefit in online dating is the anonymity. There's no traffic here in town. To date online in this town would strip away the benefits of online dating.”

To dive deeper into the personas of those hopefuls seeking their perfect mates through detailed online questionnaires, I had to first enroll myself to be able to view the millions of profiles available. Generally, women get tons more hits than men do, especially when they post a photo. I decided not to post a picture at all and to write the most obscure profile as possible rather than deal with hundreds of daily hits in my email.

The most confounding step is choosing a user name. The sites emphasize this choice as extremely important since it reflects your personality. It requires you to think about who you are, or at least who you want to appear to be. After at least fifteen entries, each one increasingly more ridiculous than the previous, I found a name that wasn't already taken and proceeded to the profile questionnaire.

The questions were prefaced with the statement, “People look for very different things in an online dating experience. Please take sixty seconds to tell us your thoughts, and we'll make sure Match.com stays in tune with your relationship needs.” So in a matter of a minute, they could now determine with accuracy what had taken me about four decades of emotional roller coaster rides through relationships and have me debark at my perfect union with a well grounded stranger. I anxiously filled out all four pages in forty-five seconds.

Finally into the meat of the matter, I now had access to intimate information willingly posted by people who would never admit the same publicly. I figured men who posted more than four photos of themselves were way too narcissistic, so I opted for those who didn't spend half the day in front of a camera and the other half in Photoshop airbrushing out wrinkles. I felt a twinge of guilty shallowness then dismissing the majority of applicants solely based on looks or lack thereof. Photos of men claiming to be forty-nine, but who were obviously circa 1942, filled my screen.

Totally intrigued, I spent the next three hours going through fifty pages of awkwardly smiling blurred photos and profiles of men, most of whom had no sense of cohesive grammar. If I were going to lie about my age and present myself to the public, I would at least hire a professional writer. Which means there may be actual employment for me in this industry. Just as on Ebay, you can click “more like this” to find similarly themed men or women. However, just like anything else for sale in want ads, you have to learn to read between the lines. The New Yorker cartoon of two canines at a computer says it all, “No one knows you're a dog on the internet.”

One of my Gunnison friends, who signed up to encourage another girlfriend to take the online dating plunge, went through a long cue of progressively strange dates. “After having the same conversations with girlfriends about no men in town to date, I decided to actually do something about it,” she admitted. “ I felt that if I was going to do it, everyone's going to know about it anyway so I just posted big with photos and everything.” That was in the spring of '05…by the fall she was engaged. But in between there was plenty of fodder for a coffee table book on the horrors of e-dating.

“After hours of witty banter on a regular basis with a guy from Ridgway, we set up our first date. He was standing next to his car when I drove up and he looked nothing like his photos,” she mused. “You invest a lot of time into it before you even meet when you live in rural places like this. I was investing entirely too much time in their online personalities each time; for the most part they were insanely bizarre. I went on a lot of unreal dates.” Another time, a first date dropped his pants to his ankles at the door as they were saying goodnight. Yet another drove up in a convertible Batmobile delusional about being a speed racer, a beer tester, and too sensitive to sunlight to stay outdoors. After calling it quits for online dating, she responded to a “wink” from a penpal-only status, which led to several days of five-hour phone conversations and a meeting. “Everything matched but I was more cautious. His emails had a different tone of exposed honesty. When we met, there was definite chemistry and he was a million times cuter in person,” she says of her fiancé.

That same day, after searching for Mr. Right until 5 a.m., there were ten perfect matches in my email awaiting me, delivered compliments of match.com. So far, I haven't seen the commonalities of lifestyle, spirituality, or physical attraction I require of the daily delivered e-loves. However, I've recently found my most suitable soulmate on an entirely different online resource while browsing through photos of the available. It was that sexy snapshot of him with the blue ostrich feather in his mouth and a spiked red leather collar that did it for me. My perfect valentine was adopted through the animal shelter and we've since been living happily ever after.

Posted On Sunday, February 26, 2006

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