Dating in D.C.: Online daters battle a stigma, at least initially
(This is the second entry in a month-long series about dating in D.C. Also see our interview with the blogger behind Date Me, D.C., and help us come up with first-date etiquette.)
His JDate profile sold himself well, she enjoyed their series of e-mails, and they grew up in the same area of Boston. He passed all the tests, and Elyssa Koidin was ready to give this guy an in-person try.
As they debated what to do on their first date, he showed off his creativity and sense of humor. They bantered back and forth, and the suggestions got progressively more unusual. At one point, he suggested they get into a food fight.
That’s a little weird, she thought. But it was probably just a misfired joke, so she suggested they simply start with drinks.
That’s when he leveled with her.
“OK, this is what we’re going to do,” he told her. “It’d be great if you could wear a business suit. I want you to come into my apartment, and I want you to sit in my lap and throw pies into my face.”
It was, basically, the caricature of the online dating world. People stop themselves from signing up out of fear they’ll attract someone like this. And yet, Koidin had very little skin in the game at this point. At worst, the time she spent e-mailing him could have been spent on a few loads of laundry; it wasn't like she'd blown a night talking to him at a bar before learning of his...hobby.
Despite the pie man, and despite another date who fell asleep at the table in the middle of dinner, Koidin stuck with JDate, going on about 100 dates over two years. The last one was Stephen, and they’ve been together for four years now.
Online dating’s most strident critics don’t dispute the success stories. The biggest concern tends to be: What kind of people do these sites attract? And furthermore, would we really want to become one of those people? Is an OkCupid account conceding defeat on meeting people in a more traditional way?
“For me, that seemed like a very desperate thing to do,” Koidin says. “Especially at 25, I thought I was way too young to be doing this type of thing.”
The idea that online dating is something to be stooped to — or deciding it's OK to stoop to it — is something everyone who's considered meeting someone via their keyboard has to come to grips with.
“The stigma most often resides in the person doing the online dating,” said Meredith Fineman, 23, the D.C.-based blogger behind Fifty First (J) Dates. “Everyone’s doing it, but no one’s talking about it.”
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