Online dating for straight people: We're all just chasing the popcorn
The idea that online dating sucks for straight people is as old as online dating itself. A few weeks ago, as I watched Luciann Lajoie explain in great theatrical detail the (however brief) life of a frantic serial online-dater in Date, I was reminded of just what terrified me so much about online dating: a phenomenon I call "chasing the popcorn."
In Singles, Janet and Cliff didn't have to chase the popcorn.
Stolen from a scene in 1992's fashionably grunge, pop-culturally inaccurate rom-com, Singles, "chasing the popcorn" refers to the idea that no matter how many provisions, expectations, rules and filters you put on someone to make sure they fit a "perfect match" criteria, you can't fake chemistry. In the scene below, Debbie spends a ton of time, money and energy on a dating service called "Expect the Best" (which should have informed her character from the get-go that things were going to suck):
Through the process of elimination and help from her friends, she picks Bicycle Guy to go on a date with. Debbie then completely transforms her exterior, appearing as a faux-cycling enthusiast in order to impress -- and falsely align with his very specific interests -- and ends up missing the date completely, only to later find Bicycle Guy at her apartment making popcorn with her roommate, Pammy from You-Dub.
Pammy essentially makes the popcorn (natural chemistry with Bicycle Guy), and Debbie ends up fruitlessly chasing the popcorn -- despite all her hard work.
Though Singles is set in a time before socially-acceptable online dating practices came into existence, it was a good indicator of the online dating outcome I'm ultimately afraid of -- trying too hard for chemistry. (It's also an excuse to relate more of life to a movie I've shamelessly loved since I saw it in seventh grade.)
As I learned when an on-and-off boyfriend eventually left me for my roommate with whom he shared a mutual love of watching sci-fi movies and reading Adbusters, you can't fight chemistry. You can't make it happen the way you want, when you want, with whomever you want. But online dating sure makes it seem that way.
The bigger problem, though? Online dating for straight people misses the most important point: Straight people aren't honest about what they really want. Not online, at least. If you are honestly just looking to get down with a stranger in some kind of modern booty call situation, Craigslist is an option. Except then you have to wade through dozens of camera-phone-in-the-toothpaste-backwash-covered-bathroom-mirror pictures of dudes looking for "Harry Pussy" or guys trying to lure a "cool chick" in with promises of crappy Jane's Addiction tickets. And dude, let me tell you, you can meet that guy at 24hour Fitness; you don't need the faceless ambiguity of Craigslist.
OKCupid seems to be doing the work formerly done by Myspace and Make Out Club (where I did once meet a boy I happily dated for a whole nine awesome and fucked-up months), allowing people to browse a database of seemingly normal people without providing a ton of information or money. But even then -- as a friend of mine recently experienced -- you might meet a dude who says he's looking for a long-term relationship, only to find out that he's just looking to bone. Which is fine. Except it seems that heteros have a big problem admitting that (or they end up looking like they put a Craigslist ad on OKCupid).
This is where gay dudes have it better.