Have you ever been set up on a date with your brother? Not your soap-opera-separated-at-birth-evil-twin brother, but your legit older brother who you fought over the TV remote with and who would then turn around and fart in your face? The one who would noogie you for no apparent reason and con you out of your weekly allowance. Yeah, that guy.
When I was in my mid-30s and perpetually single, I received an assignment to write a dating column for a local magazine. I was excited for the job because it came from an editor friend who I really respected. I wanted to impress her with scintillating and hilarious stories of love and loss, but the problem was I wasn’t much of a dater. My last relationship had ended four years earlier, and aside from a string of dismal dating experiences during the year I lived in London (midnight “cum round 4 a shag” text messages, anyone?), I didn’t have much to write about that was relevant or specific to Toronto, the city I live in.
I had never tried online dating because it seemed so manufactured and insincere, but based on what I had heard from friends who’d tried it, I knew I’d be able to gather some good material. (After all, in what other forum would you be simultaneously praised for your good looks and harshly accused of posting a fake profile picture BY THE SAME PERSON? Seriously, that happened to a friend of my mine.)
So I joined an online dating site that seemed to offer a thin veil of authenticity by using a specially formulated algorithm to match people based on an excruciatingly long and detailed questionnaire you had to fill out upon joining.
It bears mentioning that I embarked on this adventure with the trepidation of a busty blonde in the first 12 minutes of a horror film. For reasons that I can’t quite explain -- especially seeing as I met my boyfriend, who I’ve been with for almost two years now, on a different dating site -- I was filled with self-loathing throughout this maiden online matchmaking voyage. It may have had something to do with the endless questions about my finances and my career. (I’m a freelance writer -- thanks for reminding me I’ll always be poor, UnspecifiedDatingSite.com.) Something inside of me said that this was not the forum for me.
I gave the site four days before deciding that it wasn’t going to work. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t feel comfortable. Besides, the guys it was setting me up with were not my type. (In fairness, it’s hard to tell if you’ll connect with a person just by reading their profile, but when “preparing for the zombie apocalypse” and “feet” are listed among their interests, I think it’s a safe bet that it won’t result in a love connection for us.)
A day before I was ready to erase my profile and consider randomly taking to the streets to drum up some dates, my friend begged me to hold off. We were scheduled for a dinner date at her apartment and she wanted to see what the site was all about. I agreed to give it one more day.
The next morning, as I scanned my emails through bleary, pre-caffeinated eyes, I opened the message that was to deliver my 10 new potential Romeos for the day. I quickly ran down the list fully prepared to trash the message within seconds of opening it, until a name caught my eye: Maurizio, 37, Toronto.
“It can’t be,” I thought. “Not possible,” I said audibly. “Oh, no!” I screamed after clicking on his name.
I was filled with equal parts horror and humiliation. How was it possible that of the thousands of people on this website, my brother floated to the surface as a potential match? How un-matchable was I that the algorithm had to pull from my own gene pool? I felt like that girl who has to take her cousin to the prom because she can’t get a date. (Which is a pretty apt metaphor for this story, come to think of it.)
Naturally, I called my brother right away. I wasn’t going to shoulder the PTSD from this experience alone or in silence. I told him to check his email immediately and after a brief pause, I heard a strained whisper from his end: “Oh, God, I think I’m going to be sick.” We made gagging noises, vowed never to appear on the same dating site again, and eventually conceded that all things considered, meh, we could do worse. Then we went back to gagging.
The only thing that can possibly explain this egregious oversight is a seriously flawed algorithmic system. I mean, sure, we probably proved to have loads in common -- we both have one sibling, live in the same city, speak the same languages, lean left, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of "The Simpsons" -- but I think it would behoove any dating site to avoid fixing up people with the same last name. You know, just to be safe.
I did get a good story out of it, though.