(Copied in entirety with permission from Kristin’s Random Blog, dated 18 June 2008. Thanks, KC!)
(If you like, read her “Prerequisite reading for my next post” first.)
Single. To be or not to be? That is the question.
There are time’s a person’s life when they feel that being single is exactly what they need; so much so that they will end a relationship in order to explore their “single self.” Conversely, there comes a point in your life when you realize that life could be a more enjoyable experience if you have someone special to share in it with. After realizing the latter last summer, fed up with trying to meet men in loud, smoky bars or through acquaintances, a friend of mine decided to take her dating fate into her own hands. She signed up for the Internet dating site, eHarmony.
Although the concept of Internet dating has been around for quite a while now (the first “Internet couple” just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary), it is still an idea that can raise eyebrows. As my friend began to tell me more and more about her early experiences on eHarmony, I was intrigued; due both to curiosity and my intent to continue making forward progress in my personal life (see previous post). It sounded far different from the other sites I had heard of, with it’s extensive personality profile, directed matching and guided communication. (Be warned, the style is definitely not for everyone.) One Monday morning, which happened to follow a weekend spent with my friend where I heard a lot about the site, my Internet browsing brought me to the eHarmony page. I started looking around and was surprised that you could take the personality profile survey and read the results without having to officially join and pay. About an hour later, I had my full “Compatibility Profile” based on the “29 dimensions” of my personality and matches started popping up in my inbox. Of course, here came the catch and I could not actually view any information or communicate with any of the men I was matched with until I registered and paid for a membership. Perhaps it was the fact that I had invested a good hour of my time in the site. Or it could have just been curiosity over the matches that were now coming into my mailbox. Personally, I like to think that I was inspired by my friend and decided to take some initiative for myself; give fate a little push in the right direction. So, I said “What the hell?,” and I entered my credit card information to join at one of their lowest packages…something like $129 for 3 months. I forget. What did I have to lose…besides $129 dollars?
Like I mentioned, the way eHarmony works is different from most dating sites. Based on that long personality test you take, the site matches you with people who are compatible with you along the 29 dimensions, such as values, character, intellect and sense of humor. You are not allowed to create search parameters and browse profiles of other members like on other sites. You can only begin communication with those that are matched with you by eHarmony. Once you are matched, you can view the person’s profile and open the guided communication. Whoever initiates communication picks 5 multiple choice questions from a list and sends them to the recipient for the answers. The recipient answers the questions and picks 5 of their own to send back. The initiator sends their multiple choices answers along with 3 open-ended questions (which are chosen from a list or can be created yourself). The recipient answers the open-ended questions and sends their answers back along with 3 open-ended questions of their own. The initiator then sends their open-ended answers. If they like everything they have heard so far, the recipient can then send their “Must Haves/Can’t Stand” list – basically a list of 10 items from each category which are deal breakers, i.e. “must have a job” or “can’t stand a smoker.” The initiator then sends their own lists. Now, you have jumped through all of the hoops that eHarmony has to offer and you are ready to embark in “Open Communication” with Dr. Neil Clark Warren’s blessing. :p
You may have noticed what I found to be a flaw in the guided communication system…perhaps it is a matter of personal preference or personal shyness. When you finally get through the back and forth, question and answer session, the person who must then write the first open and unguided e-mail is the recipient, not the person who originally initiated contact. I feel that this burden should lie with the person who started the communication. I know that they went out on the limb to contact you in the first place. Risking rejection and all that, but still. [Ed's note: They listened, and, at the end of March 2008, they changed the communication process.]
So, like I said, I joined the site. I would look at all of the matches that were picked “especially for me” by eHarmony, reading the profiles and viewing the pictures, but I wasn’t taking it very seriously. I was still testing the waters, taking small steps in my personal healing process. I had no intention of initiating contact with anyone, even if their profile piqued my interests. I would answer anyone who contacted me, quickly (but with thought) answering the multiple choice and open-ended questions they sent me. However, I came to a halt when the “open communication” period started. I did not know where to begin. If they had been allowed to send me an e-mail first, I am sure I would have been able to start a dialogue, but the system would not allow it. Open communication has to be started by the person whose “turn” it is and if they don’t do it, the original initiator has no recourse of action, no matter how interested they were.
Or so I thought.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007, I was out at pub trivia as per usual. I revealed to my teammates that I had joined eHarmony but planned to cancel my subscription at work the next day. Sure, I said, it was entertaining for the past two weeks to get so many notifications during the day…answering all those multiple choice questions gave me something to do when work was slow, but it was going nowhere. I was not going to write an open e-mail to anyone and since that essentially stopped all chance of communication, it was really a waste of time. My friends told me that I should really make an effort. Who knows who you could find, they said. But my mind was made up.
The next day I went into work and logged into my e-mail. I had a few notifications from eHarmony. The usual: “Mike from Quincy has responded to your multiple choice questions” or “We’d like to introduce you to Bryan from Raynham.” I was going to ignore them, planning to sign onto eHarmony and cancel my subscription as planned, when one caught my eye. “Bill from Billerica has nudged you.” Nudged me? What does that mean? Apparently there is recourse for the hopeful initiators who refuse to let the person who originally caught their attention get away so easily. After a week of silence, eHarmony opens the “nudge” feature which basically allows them to send you a notification saying that they are still there, eagerly awaiting their first open e-mail from you. Well, allowing communication to taper off is one thing, but ignoring something as blatant as a nudge felt rude. I immediately logged in and sent an e-mail to Bill from Billerica apologizing for the delay and asking him some questions about himself. He wrote back shortly and we began our e-mailing.
I remember feeling very comfortable e-mailing him; it was more like a conversation. I didn’t feel like I had to sit and think about what to say or what to ask, it just came naturally. After a week we exchanged real e-mail addresses and continued the conversation outside of eHarmony. It was so easy to talk to Bill. We told each other so much in that first week or so, bouncing e-mails back and forth about ten times in a day. We played games with each other; ending each e-mail with a movie quote, trying to stump the other on what movie it was from. (He totally won but gave me double points on the last one so it would be a tie). A few days later we exchanged phone numbers and that night we talked for 2 hours, ending the call only because we had to when company arrived at my house. The next time we spoke, on a Monday night, was for 4 hours. Tuesday we spoke for 3 hours. We talked about anything and everything, never getting bored. Never pausing in awkward silence…maybe I talked a bit more than he did, but I didn’t feel like I was babbling. He was really listening and enjoying what I had to say. We discovered how much we had in common, like one of our favorite television shows! We also learned that there were many things we didn’t have in common, but realized how much fun it would be to share our interests with each other; such as his love of video games and my love of musical theater.
On Wednesday, September 19, we decided to meet up for dinner. We chose a place that was equidistant to our homes. I was totally nervous, but also excited. Meeting Bill for the first time was so weird because I remember how distinctly I felt like I knew him already, even though we had never met. As we sat in our booth at Pizzeria Uno (now known as the “Uno’s of Love”), the strangeness of actually being with each other in person melted away and we picked up where we had left off in our last marathon conversation. After we ate, we sat there talking until the waitress’s glares made us realize that we had overstayed our welcome. Then we stood in the parking lot talking more, neither of us wanting to go home. As is recommended when first meeting someone from online, we both had told a friend where we were and what we were doing, so they could check in on us and make sure everything went OK and that we hadn’t inadvertently gone on a date with an ax murderer. Our talking outlasted the “chaperones,” both of whom went to bed while we chatted. As it got later and later, we realized that we both had work the next day and should be getting home. But not before we shared our first, wonderful kiss (and perhaps a second, and third…). As I drove home, I called my friend Emma because since she lives in Seattle, she was the only person I knew who would still be awake. As I settled into bed, I got a sweet text message from Bill telling me that he’d had a great time and we’d talk the next day. We did, of course, talk the next day. And the next day and the next.
And the rest, my friends, is history.
I guess sometimes all you really need is a nudge in the right direction.