Zip Code Roulette

Please Mr. Postman, look and see.

“Just change your location,” my friend said. “It’s how I found you, right?”

I’m chatting with H, a guy I connected with while his zip was set for Seattle. He does not live here, he’s not planning to live here. He’s the guy I mentioned earlier — we have a mutual friend and decided to toss pretense out the window. It’s been nice, I joked that he’s the guy in the next cell who I can talk with but will never see.

“Oh, right, I can do that, can’t I?” So I did. I’m in Philly right now, but I spent some time in Chicago. I got more matches in three days in big cities where I don’t live than I did in three months in my home city. That’s annoying. Everyone says this place is terrible for dating; I didn’t really have much experience but maybe it’s true. Though it’s a numbers game, too, and there are 4.5 million people in Chicago. Not so many where I live.

The site I use has a percentage match score. Through a series of questions, it reveals key issues very quickly. It asks you things like:

  • Are you a feminist?

  • Do you have a problem with racist jokes?

  • Should evolution and creationism be taught side by side in schools?

The answer to these questions is self-evident to me, but not to everyone, it seems, and they’re good filters. Look, I’m not going to tell anyone what they should believe at this point. But I know what I believe and if a guy doesn’t share these bedrock ideals, we are not going to get along, even if he lives walking distance from my home.

The men I match with seem to think this shit doesn’t matter. “What makes me think we won’t get on?” one asks me.

“Dude, you don’t think vaxxing is essential? Have you… been awake in 2020?”

Another guy says our disagreements are “neutral different.” To him, maybe, but not to me, which tells me he thinks my opinions don’t matter.

I say I’m a liberal snowflake — I use those exact terms — he says he’s a centrist and doesn’t care about politics. I say I’m mostly vegetarian, he posts a carcass on a grill and says he’s a good cook. I answer none of the questions about sex; it’s all he talks about in his profile. I get that reading the room on these things can be hard, but these errors in judgement make me think reading anything is a challenge for these guys. A lot of first messages tell me I have a great smile. I am not smiling in any of my pictures.

I get two interesting matches. An Egyptian born artist and a screenplay writer who is also an English professor. They’re clever and conversational, both of them, and they have read for comprehension. Both caught that I don’t live in their cities and messaged anyway. Both acknowledge that we have no idea what the hell we’re doing right now with our social lives. That we have no idea for the foreseeable future. That we may never meet in person.

Last week I got a message from a local guy who asked if we could meet. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He thought the whole thing was overblown. Minimizing my concerns? Wrong answer. “Not ideal, I know, but we could meet somewhere outside and talk in person, six feet apart,” would have been a better answer. “How about we talk on the phone?” Also better than being dismissive of the plague.

I match with a dozen guys who seem, forgive me, entirely interchangeable. Proud of their grown kids, into cycling, love to travel… nearly all of them are balding white guys carrying a few extra pounds, though one, a plastic surgeon, is black. I imagine him saying, “I can fix that for you,” on our first in person date, should we ever have one. One guy sends me a note with an obscure word in it then compliments me when I bother to look it up. “Most wouldn’t have the intellectual curiousity to do so,” he says, and for some reason, I feel condescened to by this response. He is wearing a bike helmet and a lycra jersey in his primary profile photo. I don’t mean to dismiss or generalize about middle aged cycling (or sometimes motorcycle) guy — maybe he’s a nice guy? But also, wow, how can there be so many of this one specific type and how are they all so bad at distinguishing themselves?

I’m not sure what the point is in this experiment. I am not moving to Chicago or Philly, I’m barely leaving the house. I’m not getting into a long distance thing again, no way, no how. I’m not looking for, I’m just looking.

I wonder what the scene is like in Atlanta. Or DC.