After months of contemplation, curiosity finally got the better of her, and Alexandra loaded the dreaded app. She picked the least obtrusive, irritating one she had heard about and installed it on her phone.
She was nervous. What would happen if she got caught? Playing on this app felt like cheating, like betrayal.
Immediately after the app installed, she began making a mental list of justifications: she wasn’t happy, he wasn’t happy, she’s just satisfying a curiosity not actually doing anything, if it’s a disaster she could let it inspire her to refocus and pay attention to immediate needs instead of superficial ones…
If it’s a disaster, I can uninstall it at any time, she told herself. This means nothing. I’m just looking around.
She gave herself three months to play with it, just for fun. She had low, almost nonexistent expectations.
First thing she realized was she needed a name. She was certainly not going to use her own name, so she came up with another one. She pondered names that began with A and came up with Abigail.
Abigail was going to be her name on this app, she decided. If anyone asks her about catfishing, she would tell them she used this name as a pen name in the past, hoping it would be accepted as an authentic explanation. Catfishing, as far as she understood it, was more about intentionally harming a specific victim. As long as she was upfront that her app name was a pen name, she felt assured she would not be accused of catfishing.
Next thing she realized was that she needed a photo of herself. She didn’t want to use a selfie, and she wasn’t comfortable using someone else’s photo, even if it was a stock photo. Faking a photo felt worse than giving herself a new name…
Then she remembered that people use fake photos in all sorts of social media all the time. Quickly she glanced at some twitter and tumblr profiles and verified that this was true. Especially in the sex tweeting or blogging categories…there was an abundance of obviously fake photos staring back at her.
If they can do it, so can I, she told herself. Only difference was, she will be honest about it, at least with the name.
Which was a strange revelation considering she was doing this clandestine.
To complete her profile, she had to disclose some personal information presented on a list, although on most items she could choose not to answer. She did click the body type out of curiosity and wondered how she would describe herself. Was she slim/slender, about average, or a few extra pounds?
She clicked and unclicked each option several times, unsure what was considered attractive or acceptable, maybe even desirable to men these days. Several male friends of hers had told her recently that they considered women who were too lean or too skinny unattractive. Why are we constantly dieting then, she wondered, shaking her head at the insanity that is self-perception and acceptance.
How should she answer the body type question now?
Alexandra went to her stash of nudes and other erotic selfies to evaluate herself. She did enjoy taking those photos, and sometimes played around with filters. The black and white nudes were here favorites. She glanced and inspected several of them and nitpicked her body apart. Was her tummy flat enough? Did she have enough curves? Do men like bigger boobs than hers?
She had so many questions. How would some prospective man judge her body if he were to meet her in person, or even if he were to see her in the nude? How do men analyze women’s bodies? Do they compared them to their own? Or to that of a former wife, or previous lover? Or maybe they compare them to the women in their life, like at work or in the community?
Ultimately she reminded herself of the reason why she started taking nude selfies in the first place: to learn to accept herself, acknowledge herself as attractive and beautiful, and to dissuade this exact behavior.
“Stop it,” she said out loud. “You’re 50 not 22, you’ve had kids, and men like mom bods.”
It dawned on Alexandra at that moment why so many people agonized over profile pictures. Not just women, either. Men had insecurities as well.
But she persevered. She answered all the questions she was ready to divulge on her profile correctly, including nonsmoker, likes cats and dogs, has kids. That sort of thing. And of course her age.
That was a tricky one; Alexandra knew instinctively that most women do not divulge their actual age. Two of her closest friends never admit their real age to anyone, and a couple of acquaintances who no longer live local refuse to provide their correct age on any app, much less a dating app.
But Alexandra wasn’t comfortable making herself a 40 something when she was in fact 50.
When she got to the photo upload page, she discovered there was an option to skip that part.
Alexandra was surprised. Everything she heard from her friends or read online is that pictures are crucial, especially to the women who depended heavily on chemistry. If they didn’t find someone’s picture attractive, there would be no chemistry in person which would impede their desire to date them, much less have sex with them.
Or something like that.
Alexandra decided to leave the picture blank for now.
Continuing on, she saw a summary space that invited her to sell, or market herself, so to speak. At first, she decided to write something in it, but almost immediately deleted it again. It was going to stay blank for now, she told herself, so she could familiarize herself with this app and its methods. She wasn’t ready to hook up with anyone, not while technically still in separation negotiations.
This is going to look weird to the men, she thought. My profile summary is blank and there is no picture.
But Alexandra didn’t care. Her curiosity was more intense than ever, and she really couldn’t convince herself that she was doing anything bad. People on twitter dated each other, how is it so different, she told herself.
Now, with her profile complete, Alexandra was ready to dive into the app. How does one go about shopping for men?
At first, only a few pictures showed up. A selection of highlights featuring the flavor of the day. She scanned some of the pictures without much enthusiasm. It took a while for her to familiarize herself with its various filters, such as age, height, religious beliefs, kids or no kids, and relationship status…
Alexandra left them all open, except for age and height. Age she understood, but height surprised her. Are people that superficial that they will not consider a partner who does not match their height expectations?
She thought back to her friend on the west coast. Kenzie was very particular about her potential love interest which she had been pursuing on no less than six different apps for the past two years. Her list of expectations was a mile long and every item better be checked off for her to even consider going for a coffee date with him. What was it Kenzie focused on the most? Alexandra thought back to their most recent conversation which was spent analyzing the pros and cons of the main aspect Kenzie required to fit her needs: instant sexual chemistry. Or, at the very least, a spark.
Alexandra tried to disregard her friend’s voice inside her head. She was not the same, not in the same predicament, and nowhere near ready to embark on a two, three year long serial dating adventure.
I wish her the best, Alexandra thought to herself. But I am not like her. I will never become like her. I won’t let myself.
While familiarizing herself with this app, Alexandra decided to adjust two filters only: she wanted to see the men who were at least two inches taller than her, which would make them minimum 5’7″, and she wanted them to be at least equal to her age. 50 or higher, she decided, remembering how much she cringed every time her west coat friend emailed her about her dates with men 15, 20 years her junior.
Alexandra rolled her eyes at the memory and wondered how one becomes so jaded as to consider things like age and height pertinent to a relationship. But, in the name of learning this app, she plugged in her choices, and then went on a search.
It took less than five minutes to discover that her first impression with online dating was not good.
Continued here with Shopping for men.
More about Alexandra and Andrew here.