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Is online dating weird? I don’t like the idea of it at all. Relying on technology for something so primitive and organic as meeting and wooing a woman goes against every Romantic and idealistic sentiment I possess. Also, there are some weird people out there. On the other hand, I am realizing that it might be my only option since the computers are taking over our brains and this is apparently how people meet now. What do the sages have to say on that topic?
— Rafael van der Vaart


We all fear the unknown, so a lot of people would label online dating as weird. But I don’t think it is. I know and have heard about a lot of couples united through online dating services, and I don’t think that using one would contradict any Romantic values. Of course, it would if you took things literally, but if you think about it another way, online dating is just a modern way by which fate can bring people together. And no matter what avenue we use, there is still an enormous amount of romance beyond our control. Computers — in my family, we call them “confusers” — can do a lot of things, but they cannot zap romance of all its magic.

Now, yes, weird people. Fortunately, most online dating companies that require a small fee to use their services weed those people out, but from what I understand — and admittedly this knowledge is garnered from hearsay — those free dating sites are quite good (I know two couples who have met through, and they are all very normal, healthy, unweird people). It is highly unlikely that you’ll meet a woman like the one described in Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind”:

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

That is, of course, unless you want to meet a woman like that (and come on, be honest, you would). The truth is, you have highly attenuated skills that are more advanced than those of any dating site, so you can do the weeding yourself. The Greek poet Sappho says, “But all is to be dared,” and wouldn’t a Romantic and idealistic person agree that love is worth the sacrifice? So you’ll feel uncomfortable for a little while, and maybe learn some hard lessons (and good stories) along the way, but keep your eye on the prize, Rafael. Hopefully, you’ll find a keeper. • 20 July 2010