I’ve been traveling a lot this year. While this has led to some amazing voyages far and wide, it hasn’t really broadened my romantic horizons. How could I meet any serious romantic contenders when I was hop-scotching around the world, landing back in Paris every 6-8 weeks? Pondering how I could do a little parisien fishing from a beach on Bali or the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, I kept coming back to what seemed like the best solution: to cast my net into the sea of Paris online dating. My journey on the virtual Love Boat was not necessarily smooth, but I survived its rocky waters with some useful lessons… and entertaining anecdotes. Ready to set sail?
Even outside of a work context, I can’t seem to take off my work project manager hat, so I sat down and made a plan to attack my online dating mission. I would be back in Paris for six weeks before heading off for another four. In order to meet someone I might actually like within that time frame, I’d have to get started in advance from abroad so I could have some dates lined up for fairly soon after I was back in the City of Love.
I wasn’t exactly an online dating newbie, but almost. I’d conducted a humorous experiment with AdopteUnM.. almost two years ago. It lasted a day. Then as a part of my Trouver un Jules à Paris experiment, I used the now defunct app “Bonjour/Bonjour.” It didn’t provide very fruitful, unless I was picking from the tree of cheating chatters. On the contrary, I did manage to meet my Latin Lover in Buenos Aires online back in January, though I’d put about as much effort into that search as I had into my choice of Malbec at the supermarket. I’d lucked out on a good vintage. This time around would be the first time I was truly going to make a concerted effort.
The Action Plan
Decision made, I now needed to choose a site. I didn’t know if I could handle AdopteUnM.. again (it’s intense!), and I wasn’t very impressed with PoF from my very short time on back in Argentina (the interface is totally Internet 1.0!), I thought a happy compromise could be with the little cupid. The character Dave from my book has been on it for a while now and raves about it (though, in truth, he loves its approach more than the results it garnered him) and my friend Maude, did have some success on it amidst several disasters, so I thought I had nothing to lose… well except a lot of time and all my hope in dating.
Most sites ask you to list a few of your interests or what your looking for, but on OKCupid, you can answer dozens of questions which, in theory, match you with candidates who have similar interests, values, sexual habits, life ambitions etc. In addition to this plus, it’s interface is only in English, people can fill in their profile in French, however, the anglophone angle did help eliminate anyone who didn’t speak English at all, an important consideration for someone like me seeking more international or open-minded profiles.
After uploading a few photos, scribbling profile description and answering a zillion questions, I was in business. And quickly my quest seemed to be getting off to a promising start! I actually did have dates lined up for practically right after returning, not quite 7 in one week… but over 10 days. I don’t do things halfway! That said, my determination to succeed had other forces to reckon with, recounted in these entertaining stories and some practical lessons I learnt along the way. I urge you to read to the end… there are some surprises!
Photo Credit: Jennifer Marx
Lesson: Don’t necessarily accept to meet the first profiles who write you
When your online dating profile goes live, you make a star-studded entrance onto all the dashboards and matches pages of your target audience. Within minutes of activating my profile, I was already getting “visits,” “likes” and messages. Oh my, this was another world! I knew better than to discard the messages of profiles of the likes of “hard-passion-guy”, “I-give-oral” or “makeout-club,” but what was up with all of these “Xname-the-cat” profiles?? Was “cat” code for something? I had some ideas… but they looked like such normal guys!
I did understand from the start that I’d need to be somewhat selective, but I was a little too quick to start making plans to see some people who were only a 70% match… I didn’t realized immediately that these would improve. A few days after getting back to France, and in the midst of penciling in dates, I was having a apéro with Maude and revealed my plan. She instantly asked if I’d run into a shaved-head guy around 40, a charmer, quick to ask you out… I said yes… and after a few more questions to be sure it was him, she proceeded to tell me that he was married with four kids, a bit of a sleazeball, though a good kisser. Well, well, well. Apparently, he’d tried wooing her AND another friend of ours… I wasn’t going to be some side gig, so I promptly blocked his profile.
My second mistake with this was my first date. It was with one of the first guys to write me as well, and with a quick look at his profile, though I didn’t think he was exactly my type, he looked fun and he lived not too far from me so we met up for a drink late the Saturday afternoon. The poor thing wasn’t exactly like his funky-fun-loving-looking photos; he was shaking, having trouble speaking and not very cool at all… and kept texting me afterwards. Looking back at both, our match percentage was actually only around 70-75%. I would learn to be more selective, with some more trial and error.
Lesson: Actually READ their profile page and CAREFULLY
Part of the problem of Date 1 was that while I really had skimmed over his profile text, not carefully enough and I seemed to forget he was … a math teacher. There’s nothing wrong with being a teacher… nor with being passionate about or good at math. He just wasn’t the profile I would normally choose nor get along with… and he never traveled. The equation just didn’t add up.
So when checking out profiles, I had to learn to not just eye up our percentage match and his photo, which certainly instigated be to click on someone’s profile, but the rest also had to be carefully scrutinized. For example, occasionally, a profile would pass the photo and high percentage rate, then upon clicking into their profile, a suspicious relationship status would catch my eye, or alas sometimes I wouldn’t even notice right away!
The day after my depressing first date, I confessed to Sassy that I’d opened up a dating profile and over apéro we browsed my “quick matches” and “liked” a bunch of profiles. ping, ping, ping! Wow! It turned out that three had already “liked” me too. Sassy persuaded me with a “you have nothing to lose!” to send them the first message. I had nothing to lose… except achieving my mission. The first guy, Date 2, was a little on the young side, however, from the photos he looked cute and we started emailing back and forth. Once again, I shouldn’t have based seeing him because we’d “liked” each other. I got a feeling from the emailing that we mightn’t actually connected and in person this was made even more apparent.
Meeting for a drink near the Canal de l’Ourcq on a sunny afternoon, the setting was perfect. The conversation was not. Things started off well enough, but since over email he’d called me out for not reading over his profile well enough (I was starting to lose track of the minute details of all these guys), I’d gone back to check it quickly and noticed he listed a hobby as a rare form of martial arts, so I used this as a conversation topic. He proceeded to force me to guess, yes force (verbally), the various moves from which you can knock out a competitor during a match. Fifteen minutes later, we were both defeated. Me in his guessing game, and him as a dating contender.
Lesson: Make sure they even have ANYTHING written on their profile
In the heat of my project managing, attempting to get enough dates lined up, fielding new likes and piling up emails, I made my worst faux pas. I’d received a nice simple email in English (they were about 50/50 English/French) from a guy of Asian descent who simply wrote, “Hey there, care to meet up to see if there’s chemistry?” I liked his direct, but not seemingly sleazy approach. I replied, he suggested getting together that weekend, I took a day to assess my rendezvouses and when I wrote back he said he was all booked up. Well, well then. I didn’t bother replying so when he nudge me the following week, I thought I’d give him a shot. However, by then my week was filling up and I only had a dinner slot after an apéro (not another date), so we planned to meet up then.
We met up on the charming pedestrian street rue Montorgueil and grabbed a terrace table at a busy café, a relaxed ambience, it didn’t have to feel like a dinner date. In fact, Date 3 didn’t even really want to eat, and asked me that before sitting down, setting off the beginning of the warning bells, which continued to ding off as we munched away at our salads. I’d thought he was Australian (as he’d said he’d recently moved here from Sydney), he was actually Canadian like me, but that’s where our similarities ended. Soon I was hearing about how he used to like to slip down to the Naturalists’ beach near UBC in Vancouver, then I got to hear how he thought it was particularly cool that the French had an expression, un cinq à sept, for a afternoon… love romp. Virtually as soon as I lay down my fork he asks, “So what exactly are you looking for?” and I said “A relationship, which is obviously not what you’re after.” I carried on by smugly saying that there was a selection button “casual sex” for those looking for a cinq à sept…. and he replied that he’d thought “casual dating” was a classier euphemism for this.
He awkwardly flagged down the waiter, who, in typical French style, took forever to bring us the bill, stretching out the anguish. Sure enough, when I went back to check out his profile… it was completely blank! This should have been a clear sign to me from the start that his intentions were equally blank, but since he’d gone directly to emailing and I was juggling too many profiles… I’d failed to have a proper look. Lesson learnt!
PS: AND he was ANOTHER mathematician! This time with a Doctorate, that definitely didn’t make him smart in dating. Both these mathematicians could go work for this dating website, which seemed to have a problem with both simple math, some of my matches were with people to whom I had a 50% match, my favorite being a 54% match and a 50% enemy… I was beginning to think that that little cupid was drunk when he adding up some of these percentage matches!
Lesson: Don’t go out with someone JUST for a seemingly impressive profile
I was pretty discouraged after the cinq-à-sept seeker, but luckily my dating spirits were quickly lifted the following evening by the surprise message from this other guy I was emailing a bit with. By this time I’d learnt to scrutinize profiles prudently and Date 4 was promising. He had a filled in profile, we seemed to have a least a few things in common, including that he was a writer. Though while not wildly attractive, had a je ne sais quoi, so I replied to his email. During our starter emails back and forth, he “revealed” that he was a screenwriter. France being one of the largest producers of film, I could naturally believe this. I used to work at a film school and perked up at the thought of reviving that slightly dormant.
It was a little on the late side, but we’d already established from a missed opportunity a couple of nights back that he lived on métro line 2, as I did. Since he was offering to come to my neighborhood, I said sure, let’s grab a drink around Pigalle. Now, I might be an online dating virgin, but not a dating one, I wasn’t going to meet him too close to my place either.
Crossing the street to our designated meeting point in front of the métro exit, I gathered that the lone person in the square must be him. Not exactly the 39 listed as his age and some rather outdated photos to boot. Actually, I was surprised that I hadn’t run into misleading ages/photos even more so far, but, as I would gradually find out, the fudging of the truth would not end at his appearance.
I was going to take him to one of my favorite neighborhood casual bars, Le Fourmi, but I thought the café across the street would be quieter. We settled in at a table and we went through pleasant “get-to-know you” chatter. After asking me a little bit more about myself and what I did, he started out with saying yah he was a screenwriter, it wasn’t necessarily very well paid, but he didn’t need much to live off of. Okay, fine, I guess. Then somehow we got around to the future and I, in jest, brought up the villa that I’m sure to have (one day!), which he cheered on. Then he went on to say that he was sure that he’d be able to live to 250. Yes, 250. As technology was progressing, cell-regeneration would enable it. I thought he looked about 5-8 years older than 39… maybe he was actually 50 years older than 39?? Damn, looking not bad for 89, he’d look wonderful at 250.
While I was trying to digest this bizarre futurism, his phone buzzed with a text message. “Oh sorry, it’s my agent, I should see what he wants.” His agent? I didn’t think screenwriters had agents, pourquoi pas? After some sighs and clicking send on a text message he proceeded to tell me that he was going to be in an upcoming film. “I thought you were a screenwriter?” I questioned. To which he replied something like he’d gotten this new agent who was lining him up with all kinds of work. He’d be playing a secondary role, a psychiatrist, along with some très grands French stars. I knew someone who could use a good shrink… and he was sitting across from me!
Luckily he didn’t try to “walk” me home or anything, but when the bill came he only paid his share. “If it were cheaper, I’d get yours.” It was 4.50 euros! Sure, I could pay my own 4.5 drink, but if he couldn’t even do that, he might want to get another agent too, or certainly have a good pension plan to last him till 250…
Lesson: Don’t take ages emailing back and forth, meet up!
Woe was me! Couldn’t I find a guy that wouldn’t a) be mute b) torture me c) be a jerk d) tell the truth. Back when Sassy and I went on our “liking” rampage, we’d “liked” this guy who seemed to have excellent potential. He was French, but had worked in NYC for 10 years and had recently come back to France. He looked cute enough, was 40 and worked in advertising. Cool yet not too cool that he’d be full of himself like the Mexican. French yet international. Sounded perfect!
We started emailing back and forth quite often. Of all the matches he was by far my favorite. He was witty, had a totally Mad Men job, soon I was imagining myself swanning through cocktail parties in a sixties style dress. We finally managed to set a date for apéro. I was a little nervous to meet up, but the cocktailed filled afternoon I’d just spent with some of my too fun expat gal friends loosen my stiff spirits… I was very excited but from the start, there was just something missing. I’d created this whole persona around him in my mind, something which, in all fairness, he was not. He was just a tad on the boring side in person, his witty humor (or what I’d interpreted as witty) was not shining through. I really think things might have been different if we’d met up earlier, before I’d morphed him into another character and took this as a lesson. Some emails: essential. Too many: possibly disastrous.
Lesson: If at #6 thou does not succeed, click on and try, try again
I used this new philosophy with my next date. He must have come up as a good match, in fact, so good that I think we had 94%. He sent me a nice little email and after while examining his profile, I instantly caught his love of travel and his intriguing profession: ethnologist. I have to admit, I didn’t exactly know the difference between an anthropologist and an ethnology, but Google informed me that the latter was “the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the characteristics of different peoples and the relationship between them.” Let’s meet up and compare!
He seemed like a really nice guy and he even suggested a cultural date. That was more than most of the others had attempted. So we met up at the small, but lovely Musée Bourdelle and chatted while admiring the artist’s mammoth sculptures. I learnt about how he’d spent many years studying different ethnic groups of the South Pacific, though had recently returned to France… to be closer to his small child, who lived with his divorced wife. Alas, despite the colossal artwork around us, there were no colossal sparks.
Could I carry on this dating quest? This was getting both sad and tiring. In the meantime, others had contacted me. One sleepy morning I received a message from a certain Alex, a simple, “Salut, ca va?” Thinking it was the martial arts guy from the beginning who was also an Alex, I gave a little “hello, how are you” back to him. When he replied, “funny to find you here!” I realized it wasn’t the same Alex. It wasn’t even anyone I’d been chatting with on this site… but the one and only WhatsApp Doc from last year! The cheating chatting doctor whom I’d met on the Bonjour/Bonjour app. I’m not making this up. I dragged myself out of my shocked start to ask him about his… girlfriend. Broken up, huh?? For real this time? He kept writing me, even as recently as a few weeks ago, but I have no time of day for the likes of him. Could I only trudge up worthless options??
Lesson: Don’t forget, in life things happen when you least expect them
What was I to do! After almost two weeks into my mission, I was wiped. This online dating was a lot of work! And up to then… had yielded very few results. Before I could wallow in too much gloom, the love vibes of Paris had already started their magic. My 7th date was not from the dating site. However, with starting all this dating, I must have started exuding romance. After virtually a year, who shows up but Blogger Boy, whom I’d met at the CitizenM Hotel opening last June. It was only then that I really realized that he’d actually been texting me for months, I was just never around for him to try to see me. Well, he also could have tried harder. But this time I pegged him down and we met up. We had a lively chat up over a few drinks near métro Saint Paul. We had a really nice time and even made plans to do a hipster bar crawl around SoPi. It wasn’t until after that he started to flirt by message… giving me compliments and teasing that I should detour back to his place… it was all so promising! Then he once again disappeared back into his turtle shell as soon as I actually tried to schedule our SoPi crawl. Maybe we’ll see each other annually? Next June?
I must have been sighing home another night, lamenting to myself about the catastrophe of the online dating experiment, when who do I run into right across from the métro? Mr Mali! I hadn’t seen my Montmartre stalker in a little while (possibly an actual advantage of being away so much!). He was harmless, but I couldn’t help wonder how he’d just appear out of nowhere at my side as I would be walking home (he appeared three times in around a week). “Okay, I know you think I’m too young…” he said trying to debunk my previous excuses for not wanting to go out with him. I hadn’t told him the real reason was that he’d thought Asia was a country instead of a continent, among other things. We were just on different planets, plain and simple.
I had to raise the white flag on this dating battlefield. I’d be going on another trip soon and I now didn’t have time to get anything new going. I have to say that the “experiment” wasn’t a complete waste of time, and upon returning from that trip, I did meet someone possibly interesting from the site, in fact, too much my twin in so many ways… however, that might have to wait for another post…
Either way, it looked that my quest would have to be rethought, but I wasn’t giving up hope. In the meantime, I could cuddle with Papou, my friend Gail’s fluffy persian above (he even has his own FB page), a real “cat” and the puurfect bed mate 🙂