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Logging on to hook up

There’s no reason to be embarrassed about online dating

When I first came to Montana in 2009, I imagined an abundance of men. I thought I overheard someone call this place “Mantana” but now I’m thinking that must have been the wind or nothing. The town didn’t live up to my expectations. The men in my program at the University of Montana were too young, or they had girlfriends, or they didn’t want to date me. It was depressing. And how to meet men outside of school?

I thought turning to internet dating would mean that I had failed somehow, and anyway, didn’t most dating sites cost money and cater to older adults? Then I ran into a friend of mine on a date downtown with a hot guy that she met on OKCupid, or “OKC,” as those in the know call it. It’s a hip, free service populated by young people, and I decided that either there was nothing to be ashamed of or I had run out of shame. It was time to open an account.

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  • Cathrine L. Walters

The questions in the online profile are silly and many of the men answer badly. What are your favorite books, films, TV shows, etc.? (“Too soon,” I answered.) What are six things you can’t live without? Saying you can’t live without “air, food and water” isn’t clever. Beware a man who loves Fight Club and no other movie. Avoid anyone looking for a “partner in crime.” Spelling and grammar count.

Missoula can be a tough town for dating. It’s too close-knit; we all know or almost know one another. All the men are bearded and holding up a dead elk. If OKC is any indication, there isn’t a soul in the state of Montana who doesn’t enjoy hiking.

Even the founder of OKC says the service works best in bigger cities. In Seattle, for example, where I’m writing from now, you jump into the nebulous pond and if it’s terrible, you jump out again, dry off and no one has to know you were even there. In Missoula, the slime of a date gone wrong clings. You’ll probably run into him again, often.

The internet is exactly the same as life, or it’s a copy of life. You can use it to get laid or find love the same way you use a bar stool. It might even be better this way, because it’s more efficient. The tipping point for online dating is about breached. It’s lame but we’re aware of it, so there’s no reason to be embarrassed.

In three years, I’ve told three people I met on the internet that I loved them. I don’t know if that’s normal or not; I tend to be generous with the word and move at a steady clip. Even the few creeps I’ve met along the way have added something to my life.

I think that more than anything, people are afraid of that first moment of contact, when you’re standing in front of the person who was only yesterday a profile picture and some answers, and they’re judging you. But courage is a virtue. Just keep jumping in.

When I first made my profile, I was teaching at the university and weary of one of my students—or let’s face it, anyone I knew—recognizing my face. I chose what I hoped were flattering photos that betrayed that I was a woman but not much else. Of course one of my students unwittingly wrote me anyway. I wrote back, “Billy, no!” (Not his real name.) “It’s me, your teacher from Comp 1 autumn semester!” I saw him later on that year. We sang a karaoke duet at the Badlander. Now I know there’s nothing left to be afraid of. (Molly Laich)

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