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The message in my in-box from "elite dating site" IvyDate read: “At this time, membership in New York City is very strictly capped, and we are only able to accept a limited number of people at a time to ensure diversity of industries and backgrounds.”
But I read, “YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US!”
Harsh email, I thought, especially since I had been a member of IvyDate up until the site’s redesign.
It was particularly traumatic because after exhaustively living out the single-in-NYC troupe, I had just decided to take matters into my own hands and finally reach out to one of my matches. So what if no one had reached out to me first?
I read all those articles about black women on dating websites, and I knew what I was up against. Armed with a whole lot of courage, I shakily pressed “send a smile” on the page of my latest match, a curly haired dude from Michigan with nerdy-cute keyhole bridge glasses and a big smile.
“Message sent,” the site confirmed.
I spent the night wondering what kind of reaction I might get from Mr. Keyhole Bridge Spectacles. Best-case scenario: a response. Worst-case: that he would think I was fat or have some weird rule about not dating black girls. Whatever the outcome, I tried my best to be proud that I used my agency. Besides, nothing could have prepared me for what really happened next.
The next day I logged in only to be greeted with an error page. In horror, I thought only one thing could have happened: I broke the site with my smiley face emojicon. I knew it was too much, I should have tried to make it seem like I cared less. I should have messaged, “Hey, whatevs,” or just some punctuation. But I didn’t, and now the site was down and it felt like the stars had aligned to stomp out my online dating potential.
After convincing myself that it was a coincidence, I logged in again and saw a posting that the site was relaunching as a better, more “remarkable” experience.
A few days later I was able to log in like normal, only this time I had to fill in a few more questions and upload a couple more photos. I think I wrote about digging a fire pit to make lunch on an Adriatic beach as my favorite travel experience and about Bossa Nova and tea where it asked about my favorite things. I rounded it all out with a photo of myself posing for the camera at a Halloween party while decked out in an APC shift dress and cat ears.
But before I could navigate any further on the site, i.e., see my matches, I had to fill out another application that requested a link to my social media accounts, my work title, and educational history. It seemed like a job application.
For love, I saw no harm in filling it out to get it over with -- especially since I was already a member and this was all probably to match me even better with potential suitors...right? Besides, I had a keyhole bridge glasses wearing carrot dangling in front of me to push me to jump through flaming hoops of BS.
Toward the end, it asked for a link to my LinkedIn account or a resume. Such an unsexy request for a dating site. But I obliged, and put in the link. I mean did they really want to read my resume? I thought not.
But they did.
Soon after I’d hit submit, the rest of the site went inactive for me, and I stopped receiving email updates. I then got an email from the membership director that said, “We’d be delighted if you could please provide links to your Facebook/LinkedIn profiles for verification (and upload a resume if you have one on hand),” and “It would be great if you could please submit a new, clearly visible photographs.”
Feeling a little sensitive, I wrote back, “I just checked my profile, and all four photos are clear. And I checked the application page you've provided above and can confirm that my LinkedIn profile and my personal site were already filled in. Confusingly enough though, it said provide a link to LinkedIn or upload a resume -- so I was under the impression it was one or the other. Also, the photo in the application page features just myself, but I did notice that it lost a bit of resolution upon going through the Website's photo editor. Was that the issue? If so, I've reuploaded it.
Finally I wrote: “I chose not to add my Facebook account because the site said it was optional and I rarely update it. Did the requirements change? If so, I would be happy to provide you with its link.”
Not only did I have to worry about whether my pictures were attractive and my profile witty enough, but now whether or not I was literally good enough -- and not even by the standards of the matches, but by the site itself!
A few emails later the membership director wrote to just send higher resolution photos.
Meanwhile, the mom of a friend, who’s not black but of color, made a profile one night on a whim and already she was being invited to events and getting personal letters from the founders. She talked about how dreadful she thought it all was and how there were no other people of color.
“I think they’re being racist,” she said.
What if it was because of my race? I didn’t want to assume the worst -- I wanted to imagine there was something else. Of course, that stung even more.
Was it because I’m an overworked and underemployed millennial according to nearly every news outlet? A freelance writer in an unstable media climate? Because I’m from a city at the top of everyone’s most dangerous list? I know I'm no blue blood or have Gordon Gekko aspirations, but surely they didn’t think I fell off the turnip truck and landed at Columbia.
One of my college roommates from Northwestern came to mind, the one who, when she thought I wasn’t home, yelled to someone on the phone that I only got in because of Affirmative Action. Yeah, it took me there.
So here I stand, locked out my profile and kicked off a dating site. Because... well, I have no idea why. My job? My race? My looks? Either way: gross.
When I told my friends what happened, they laughed and laughed at how serious things had gotten with my resume getting involved and the long email chains about photo resolution. Then I laughed too, because it was all pretty silly and elitist, and I’ve definitely filled out less intense job applications.
I can only imagine why I suddenly didn’t fit the bill and wonder if I should have just sent the resume, but can think of a million things better to do than dwell on rejection over who knows what from people I don’t know.
And honestly I don’t want to leave my dating life up to a site that doesn’t want me.
So, cute Mr. Keyhole Bridge Spectacles, if you’re reading this, drop me a smile!