It was the end of December. Christmas was over and 2014 was just around the corner. It was time for a change. Or two.
New year, new you.
So I cut off my hair. And I joined OkCupid.
I’d long been flirting with the idea of short hair, especially once winter set in and my longer tresses consistently found themselves scrunched up in a bun or hiding under a hat. I was craving something low-maintenance, spunky, chic.
And as I settled into my life in Portland and solidified my network of friends, the idea of online dating increasingly appealed to me. I yearned for dating experience, but once again faced the same old obstacle—meeting someone I like (and then being ballsy enough to pursue him) through the normal channels.
So I made a change. Or two.
I cut off my hair. And I joined OkCupid.
When something changes, even if it’s a positive change, it can still make you insecure—if only because you’re not used to it.
Two weeks into the cut, I still wasn’t used to the new, dizzyingly lighter sensation. I kept thinking my hair was up—not feeling it on my neck and shoulders—but when I’d reach up to take it down, it wasn’t there. Amputees experience phantom limbs. I had phantom hair.
Now, six weeks in, my head’s finally used to the sensation. My short hair is everything I wanted it to be, but it’s still bouleversant. It’s constantly challenging me to re-think myself and the notion of my femininity as something distinct from long(er) hair. It’s been freeing and transformative, in more ways than one.
But two days in, two weeks in, even a month in, I never quite got used to online dating…
Within 24 hours of joining OkCupid, I was inundated with messages from potential dates. The attention was affirming and ego-boosting, but also stressful.
I felt an intense pressure to be nice and genuine, to respond to the messages, to give everyone a chance. (Within reason—I didn’t respond to the ones that asked, “Why haven’t we had sex yet?”) After a couple days, it was clear that this approach was self-destructive. I’d been expending too much energy and was socially drained. Besides, these men were talking to me for superficial reasons—they liked the version of myself I’d shown them on my profile. So in turn I became more discerning.
On dates the pressure was still there, but amplified. With online dating it seems like everyone’s in a rush. Insistent. And time is of the essence. There’s a contrived need to immediately decide whether or not you feel a connection—to determine if the other person is worth your time, and, if so, how much of it. Committing to a second date is, well, a commitment. And if you then decide that you’re not interested, the other person might well demand justification and closure. After two dates.
I went out with eight different men in the span of a month, making small talk while searching for a spark that seemed increasingly elusive with each successive coffee date or happy hour meet-up.
And sure, there are plenty more fish in the sea, but finding one who is interesting and attractive, and with whom there’s chemistry (AND who feels similarly about you) is like hooking an endangered bluefin tuna. Rare.
I’d joined OkCupid in an attempt to force myself out of a pattern of unrealized, unrequited unrelationships I’d felt I’d unwittingly fallen into over the years. Online dating reaffirmed that moving on is a process that can’t be rushed—compartmentalized emotions will catch up with you when you open yourself up to someone new, regardless of whether you met him in college, at a bar, or through a dating site.
So after number eight, it was time for a break. I stopped responding to new messages and decided to deactivate my profile. But I still had one last date lined up.
My mom’s always said you find someone when you stop looking…
Two weeks in. He may not be a tuna, but he’s a pretty good catch.