The Superpower of Being Alone

I stumbled upon “My Superpower is Being Alone Forever” in the Awl after perusing the best #longreads chosen by Edith Zimmerman, a writer and co-editor of The Hairpin. Joe Berkowitz writes about online dating, its repercussions, and why some of us are still single:

Putting together a dating profile means performing a self-autopsy and reassembling the pieces into Sexy Robocop. You save what’s worth salvaging and shield the damaged parts with reinforced metal. You strive to find the middle ground between showing you have nothing to hide, and just showing off. You carefully curate your interests as if they were co-op displays in a Barnes & Noble, reveling in the understated complexity of liking both Nicki Minaj and My Bloody Valentine. Your picture gallery broadcasts a series of defensive messages: “See? Other females aren’t afraid of me.” “See? I go to museums sometimes and mimic sculpture-poses because Culture.” “See? I’ve been to a Halloween party so obviously I don’t spend much time alone, crying to The Cure’s Disintegration LP and drinking wine from a can.” Dating profiles reveal more about how you see yourself than how you really are, and more about how you want to be seen than how you will be.

With infinite choice comes infinite opportunities to judge. The more options that exist, the pickier you become. Scrolling through profile after profile, I am transformed into an imperial king, surveying his goodly townsfolk from a balcony on high. Those with minor perceived flaws are summarily dismissed (“Next!”) because surely someone closer to the Hellenic ideal is just around the corner. Anyone cute might be cast aside for the smallest breach of taste: a penchant for saying things like “I love life and I love to laugh” or self-identifying as “witty.” Yet even when I genuinely find myself attracted to someone, I’ll still react with skepticism. What’s the catch? What dark and terrible secret causes her to resort to this thing I am also doing? After scanning closely for red flags and finally deigning her regally worthy, I dispatch a message. But then the truth reveals itself: the king is not her type and also he is not really a king.

No piece on online dating would be complete without a mention of OKCupid:

Everyone has a friend who is so charismatic, brilliant or good-looking that the idea of him or her trolling OKCupid is mind-boggling. I am haunted by those friends. What is it that separates us? Is it gluten? I’m at peace with the fact that Drake sings about how jaded he is from being constantly propositioned by beautiful women—because Drake is crazy-famous. My friends who’d never be mistaken as online daters are not famous, but they also possess some ineffable quality that makes them forever F-able. As far as our social sphere is concerned, they might as well be Drake (or nearest female equivalent): They’re stars, and finding them on a dating site would create cognitive dissonance of Orwellian proportions. Personally, I’ve never felt as spectacularly anonymous as I have as an online dater, united with everyone else on the site in that we all have a reason to be there. I can rationalize about Internet dating for days. I can think up reasons for why the way my grandparents met is outmoded. But I don’t want any woman to think she was my last resort, and I don’t want to imagine that I was hers. When we say, “I’m so glad we found each other,” I don’t want it to refer to the way we had to find each other like hidden files in a hard-drive search.

I highly recommending clicking over to the original article to see Joanna Neborsky’s wonderful illustrations accompanying the piece.

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