When I was young, as many others did, I had created a list of “wants” for a significant other. While this seemed to work when I was 14, as I got older I realized this was a really poor way to approach dating. I guess I figured “must have beaten the third stage of the fourth boss in my favorite video game” was a bit too unrealistic.

So what better place to explore the “no expectations” ideal than online dating. Oh the irony. Online dating is starting to look to me more and more like a dating 101 class than actually meeting people to form a real relationship.

I mean between figuring out how to end poor dates without excuses, learning the different sub genres of people and personalities, and actually enjoying yourself, you have to battle through those who are using the tiny semblance of anonymity provided by these sites to boost their egos, recover from breakups, or feel they are not worthy of another counterpart due to a self perceived flaw.. so you start to subconsciously make that list again!

But unlike childhood we aren’t writing these down, making some sort of crayola version of an excel sheet to keep track, we are just experiencing it on every date we go on and either smiling or cringing when it happens.

All the different parts of people, their voices, their personalities, their likes, dislikes, outdoorsy, indoorsy, drug use, animals, kids, social skills, their height, their body size, their smile, lips, sexual compatibility, smell, pheromones, 2d pictures vs 3d in person… That silly list you had as a child starts to become a real thing but this time with dislikes, likes, loves, and deal-breakers. Yes deal-breakers are a thing, that one thing that you can literally breath out and say, “phew I don’t have to talk to 5 people at once and just 4 now that I realized this person has a deal-breaker.”

What I am starting to realize is there is a lot more that needs to match up for a match that can bring me happiness, problem is there is really no way to expedite the process. We have to experience multiple dates with these people in order to get past intuition and actual application in real life scenarios. I didn’t realize someone I liked was extremely racist until we went out for the third time and I almost crawled under the table as she berated the Chinese waitress for not speaking perfect English.

Each person we date or are attracted to usually has one or two of these things we have been adding to this fictitious list, but not all of them, making us feel unsatiated, thus afterwards deciding to move on. Not only the good but we are adding the bad too. So as we date more we are checking things off the list but simultaneously and maybe even subconsciously adding them. Because the difference is night and day when we meet someone with 90% of our indescribable experience list… Even the smallest thing like the sound of someone’s voice can have a huge impact.

Is the massive amount of dates just making us numb to seeing what is right in front of us? Or worse yet are we piling onto a metaphorical list through jaded dates? Are we putting more value on the bad than the good? It is like after each date we are rebounding and the next person who is the opposite of the last date just jumped up the list because we aren’t seeing the things that may be even worse for us.

Not to mention, going from one person that may have been a great experience to the next can change your emotional state. Stressing or depressing your ability to give the new person the same amount of uninhibited attention and creativity. You may be left feeling a little empty having fueled the person before to full. Not that you don’t want to give your all, you just have a bit of burn out. Who doesn’t want to give their best version of themselves?  But we do have to remember, that version was specific to the other person and how they made you feel. Remember that. This I believe will allow you to do your best to be who you are now, burn out and all. Let it breath it’s own life into this new moment, with this new person, however it shapes itself. Due to the numbers game that I speak about in my podcast, “Things change, make a conscious effort’, you just never know how much time will pass in between your next “good” date/experience. This can take an emotional toll and be draining. I don’t have an answer on how to not pile onto the lists of prior nor avoid the burn out, I guess speaking with the person about it as I talk about in my podcast “Embracing the Past, Verbalizing the Present” could be an option if the person seems receptive to it, being open to those reflections being your today, not defining it, but having a say in your day. Perhaps this kind of un-abated raw honesty could make these transitions easier for everyone.

I guess I am still a romantic at heart because even when recovering from the last date, or subconsciously playing Jenga with my “lists”, when I run across someone who breaks the mold of the categories and sub-genres I have put people into.. Someone whose voice makes me nervous that I might stumble my own words, but more importantly, feel comfortable enough to do so and makes me feel insecure and vulnerable from the chance that they not feel the same way, yet secure and safe to say it anyway… if you can embrace it, you realize how little your “list” intentional or not matters. You realize that the moment, the day, the want for tomorrow is now your list. Your list is defined by timehad, time spent, and time to come. You don’t see a giant scroll with your Christmas wishlist to Santa anymore, but you hear the jingle of the bell when you still believed.

I am online for dating because I believe in the idea that technology can help us to skip some of the less desirable parts of “meeting” and truly help us make great connections. If we don’t invest some time into an honest profile, aren’t we just showing our faces for a physical attraction and then drudging through figuring out what in the profile was real or a boasted version of self? How does this differ than going to a bar? We have so much more control over our “self” on these sites than we admit to and I feel like it is time we start acting on it.

But for now the list grows, changes, gets marked up, folded, bookmarked, highlighted, and the like. I cannot wait for the day that I can tear it to shreds and start actually diving into the real fun: Love.