When I meet a man at a family gathering, he sees me in an atmosphere of comfort that goes back decades. My family members and I know each others’ histories and we know how to tease each other safely. When I meet a man at work, he sees me surrounded by people who know what I have accomplished professionally and who have celebrated my occasional triumphs. When I meet a man at a social event, he sees me with my friends, making light conversation and relaxing.
None of those things are true of a date through an online dating site. Instead, what happens is that I face someone who is very likely to be comparing me to the lineup on his home computer. There is a quiet reserve; he tilts his head slightly to one side and makes a slight tightening of the lower eyelid that says “Do you check off all the boxes on my wish list?”
When I started online dating I was naively unguarded and optimistic. Over time, though, I have learned to adopt the more veiled, quizzical approach. I have learned it from my dates. Now I crinkle the lower lid of my eyes and wonder what he wants for Christmas, so to speak.
Neither of us can really know each other on that first date because we are both trapped in the fantasy of the profile we created for ourselves and the wish lists we created for our potential partner. We don’t know each other at work, rest, or play. We only know the carefully constructed self-descriptions and the wish lists.
If on your Christmas wish list you have a first edition of a Dickens novel, a hand carved chess set, and a song written just for you, you are likely to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you wished for gloves, a scarf, and costume jewellery, you are likely to be happy on Christmas day.