Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

Wondrous Readers,
For Date #19 I have something a little different for you… I’ve surrendered the reins:

The 20/20/20 Project was born out my initial curiosity about online dating, and my complete surprise at how prevalent a dating tool it is.

“Advertising” for a date has always possessed a certain stigma – whether through newspaper ads, a dating service, or online. It has always been considered a little taboo or embarrassing, and anyone in that kind of position to search out the love of their life, much less a date, online must be desperate, pathetic, or a freak.

If you need help finding love, it seems, there’s something wrong with you.

But with the steady proliferation of the internet into every corner of our lives, new possibilities for interpersonal connections are possible and acceptable. First there was AOL instant messenger, chat rooms, and online dating services. Then came Friendster, and soon on its heels: MySpace. These services are used for all sorts of social networking, but are fast being used as free dating tools in addition to pay-for services such as Match.com and Nerve.com.

They all do pretty much the same thing: make accessible profiles of another human being which you may or may not know, and you may or may not want to know. Pictures, interests, About Me sections, even “testimonials” round out the personal ad, bringing richness to what used to be a few brief, stark, impersonal lines in newsprint.

In this way, an online presence such as Friendster, MySpace or Craigslist isn’t desperate cry for human connection, but more of a presence in a space where connections can occur organically.

As I mentioned when I first launched the Project, I saw 24 Hours on Craigslist and was really fascinated with how ubiquitous Craigslist really is; posting a CL ad further allowed me to learn about online dating first hand.

But throughout this whole process, I always had a certain distance between me and the dating experience — it wasn’t “real.” I wasn’t “really” going on online dates; it was for my writing project. I found myself — with the intention of reporting that online dating no longer carries negative social connotations– not willing to admit that *I* would ever really use online dating. One of my dates (#14) asked me over the phone about what I was doing, and what made my online dating pursuits different:
“What are you looking for?”
He didn’t dwell long on the question–he didn’t mean it to be profound. But I realized, I didn’t have an answer for him.

* * *

This Project ended up being a lot of fun. I met so many interesting people and did things I otherwise wouldn’t have met / done — at one point I had to start writing in my Entourage calendar each date idea just to keep track of everyone: “frisbee golf,” “coffee,” “charcoal rubbings at the mission cemetery,” “skee-ball,” “greasy spoon breakfast,” “ranting about architecture in Chinatown…”

I started on this project not knowing what I was doing — in fact, I started it as a kind of joke. I just knew something would become clear as I went along. I had a feeling that if I were to sit down with 20 perfect strangers, at the very least I’d learn something about online dating (book deal for an Expert’s Guide to Craigslist Dating?) and at the very best I’d learn something about dating and humanity in general.

And I did. I also learned a hell of lot about myself.

I didn’t realize it until one of my dates (#11) said that my project idea was a good one, but what was I going to write about, at the end of it? Would it be anything with any real substance? He said I was playing it safe; I had put myself in a position where I never really had to be vulnerable — here were 20 people willing to go on a date with me and have no idea what I’d say about them. In other words, I was in control. I wrote the 20 words, I told the funny stories to friends–I got to set the parameters.

“I think you’re going to have to bleed for your art” he said.

At first I wrote him off as being melodramatic. Now I see he had a point.

* * *

Suffice to say, that I realized what I had to do: I went on a “real” online date. There was no post. No caveat. No objective writer ready to report witty quips in 20 words about what went on. I wasn’t even going to post about it. My date, however, has given express written approval, and I think it makes a nice point.

So, for Date #19, I let my real online date — a nice young man in law school whom I met on Friendster, Thank You — set the parameters. Here, in his 20 words, was our date:

(Our Date #1)
Coffee with energetic writer.
Tangential conversations.
(Three Hours!)
Am I tangential, too? >> Approve writing project inclusion.
Looking forward to #2…

§61 · December 22, 2005 · 20/20/20, Craigslist, This Modern Life · · [Print]

2 Comments to “Date #19:”

  1. roya says:

    was there a #2?

  2. Kari says:

    Yes, was there?

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