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online dating, plus strange writing self-critique detour
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003 | link

After a long vacation from the online personals, I'm BACK! And boy are my arms, no my ass, boy is my ass tired.

I've been doing the Nerve thing off and on since late 2001, and it tends to go in six-month cycles: I'll put up an ad, exchange a bunch of email with a bunch of boys, then either I, a) go on a series of first dates that feel like job interviews with people who are "just okay" or worse, people who bring out the side in ME that's just okay (even "anecdotally terrible" is better than just okay), or b) get sidetracked by some specific someone and we eat and drink and french until we uncover enough dealbreakers (earcuffs, spanking machines, or whatever), and then ... [WILTING PACMAN SOUND].

Both tracks take about two or three months to run their course, and each is followed by a good three-month "disgust with dating" period. Then, Pop!, the weather turns the kind of cold that makes me think of kissing, or maybe I just ovulate, and suddenly boys sound like an AWESOME idea, or at least worth the trouble. And I return once again to the personals -- not because I have any particular faith in online dating, but because it's such a very easy way to symbolize, if only to myself, my readiness to try again.

Each time I get back in the saddle, I read through my old ad and it just makes me cringe. Hooo. I feel like the things I said I was looking for have changed completely, also my reasons for why someone would want to date me, what I think is sexy, the books I described as great, everything, it's all wrong. Not only that, but the tone I used, the very way I wrote the ad, it's just, oh god, terrible.

For instance, here's what I said I was looking for in 2001:

Wants: sweet forearms, a sweet tooth, and a semi-sweet smile. Plus points: tight tee-shirts, clean shaves, significant lips, scars. Deal breakers: darwin fish, easy embarrassment, constant use of the word 'lover.'

"Semi-sweet smile"? "Significant lips"? Eeeeee. In 2002, it was:

Someone who is nice to the waitstaff, someone who embarrasses hardly ever, someone who has lots to do and see but still makes the time to come visit the pigs at the recycling center in San Rafael with me (and holds his breath in the tunnel, even).

Then earlier this year:

I think a list of 'what I'm looking for' isn't the kind of net that's going to snare my ideal co-pilot -- there are too many holes through which someone unexpectedly fantastiwondergreat could slip. Plus all my 'must have's and 'can't be's are probably what got me here (i.e., the online personals) in the first place. So what do I know? But if you think you could spend a morning debating what's cuter, sugargliders, Mini Coopers, or those midget bottles of Tabasco; or you own a powerdrill; or you know all the words to 'Oh Danny Boy'; or you have something of equal or greater value (tell me, tell me!), then that's a fine start.

See? Maybe it's just me, but the breathless overeagerness? The showy semicolons? The strained attempts at wacky-funny? Stinko! Though I must say that this isn't just a personal add thing. I struggle with this shelf-life problem with everything I write.

Periodically I'll get a nice email from someone who appreciates something I wrote eight million years ago on evany.com, which is basically just all my online journal entries from 1996 to 2000 hyperlinked together into a sprawling biography that's as unwieldy and leaden as an unwanted futon.

I lumber over to reread whatever the person found, and it always, always makes me clench. Of course then I start to think that maybe the person's right and the stuff I USED to write is actually good, and what I should really be worrying about is whatever I'm writing NOW. (Thinking is the best!)

You know where this retro writing hatred system works especially well? Grad school. I've been taking classes for two years now and have yet to actually finish a story. I've churned out plenty of first drafts, but when I go back to edit, it all just wilts, melts, explodes. Whatever I find is so boring or embarrassing or so "what's the point?"ing that I'm compulsed to tear it apart or rework it into the mud.

I'm learning to curb these tendencies, I really am. There's always plenty of work to be done on Project Evany! But I'm beginning to think the "redo" instinct isn't entirely fruitless in the personal ad realm.

Because this accumulation of personal ads, in its own repulsive way, is like a chart of my "romantic evolution." Each ad is a core sample from a different stage of my dating life, and taken all together, they demonstrate changes in my thinking and approach -- subtle changes, sure, but still! When you're tripping and groping your way through all the stupid heart stuff, it can feel like you're not getting anywhere, just going in tight, little circles. But with the hindsight documentation provides, you can detect forward motion, evidence of learning that indicates hints of progress.

I just keep thinking how great it would be to have twenty-three year old Evany's answers to this same Nerve questionnaire. Or Evany at thirteen, what would she be looking for? Probably just someone with a valid driver's license and parents with a loose liquor cabinet. Same as now!

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

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