Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Alyssa Bereznak: Who The *bleep* Did I Date?!

This is a response post to an article posted on Gizmodo, an article linked to me through G+ by TheTankTheory. His response is posted on his page, This 8-Bit Life. Another response he shared that I enjoy is posted over at NerdPuddle.

There is a show on the Investigation Discovery channel called Who The &!*$/ Did I Marry?, and it chronicles the lives of women who marry serial rapists and killers. Reading through Alyssa Bereznak's article on Gizmodo, you would think she had a similar story.

She created a profile on OKCupid because she "came home drunk" one night. From the get-go, Alyssa is making excuses and blaming a root cause on her action: the alcohol made her search the internet for a date. Red flag number one; if this woman cannot own up to willingly creating a profile because she feels it will aid her in her search for a guy, then how will this article end? Well, maybe it is the truth and it just simply took the drinking to ease her nerves about setting up a profile. It happens to the best of us at times, so why not give her the benefit of a doubt? Let's rescind that first strike and begin the profiled dating.

"[W]hat was the worst that could happen?"
We all ask ourselves this same question at some point in life. Online dating is no different. Alyssa mentions wading through absurd emails and "creepy messages" before finding one from a guy that "seemed normal." With her emphasis on 'normal', the only thing a reader can do is start trying to figure out what was wrong with the guy; Did he have six fingers? Two heads? Eight toes? Blue hair? Permanent eyeliner? Or was he a serial killer? A rapist? Did he like little kids? Or maybe not something so severe, just an average guy with a Howard Wolowitz sense of dress and humor? Possibly a guy that stiffs the waiter at dinner? Or, worse, one that forgets his wallet?

As it turns out, the guy Alyssa meets was a perfectly normal human being...
Jon was thin and tall, dressed in a hedge fund uniform with pale skin and pierced ears. We started talking about normal stuff—family, work, college.
...with a big, horrifying past...
And then he casually mentioned that he played Magic: The Gathering when he was younger.

"Actually...I'm the world champion."
The truth came out about this normal guy dressed to impress. Alyssa mourns the fact that she insisted he Google her name before their date and forgot to do the same. After the night was finished, she did a hurried search on her card-playing date only to find out he has been forever "immortalized in his own playing card."

"He's Jon motherfucking Finkel"

"This is what happens...when you leave things out of your online profile."
Alyssa blames Jon for the couple of dates she shared with him. After all, it was his "geeky world championship title" that ruined any hopes of a future, wasn't it? It couldn't possibly be her shallow desires and self-centered views! No woman in her right mind would date a grown and successful man that liked a geeky card game!

I almost want to ask if she would prefer a trophy bearing ex-football player with a drinking habit that gambles away all of his money at a weekly poker game. To my mind, this man is much worse than the limited description we are offered of Jon Finkel.

It's just "human nature"
Alyssa then goes on to justify her derisive article of a man with a geeky habit by saying it is just human nature.
Maybe I'm shallow for not being able to see past Jon's world title. I'll own that. But there's a larger point here: that judging people on shallow stuff is human nature; one person's Magic is another person's fingernail biting, or sports obsession, or verbal tic. No online dating profile in the world is comprehensive enough to highlight every person's peccadillo, or anticipate the inane biases that each of us lugs around. There's no snapshot in the world that can account for our snap judgments.
No, there's no getting around snap judgements or bad first impressions, but what happened here was not a first date gone awry. She chose to go out for a second date just to get to learn the extent of his Magic patterns. Three strikes were offered on the basis that he still plays, had an upcoming tournament, and met all of his friends through the game. Jon's life revolves around a game in his spare time.

It is here that I would like to object.
Human nature? No, ma'am. This was a case of a prejudiced attack. To degrade a person based on his or her personal enjoyments is wrong. A person's opinion and choice of game is their choice. If it is something that you don't like or enjoy, then fine, don't go back out with him - but do not, DO NOT, shove your opinions down the throats of your readers.

Alyssa writes for Gizmodo, a website with a strong geek following. To publicly criticize a man for turning to OKCupid or any online dating site to try to meet a woman, and, in her opinion, failing to openly disclose any geeky or nerdy tendencies in the profile, is just mean and harsh. Many turn to the online dating scene because of their geeky or nerdy tendencies; they are afraid of rejection and need that cyber barrier to find someone to accept them for who they are before the prejudicial disgust at their habits gets them rejected.

Being shallow is NOT human nature
There is a difference between making snap judgements and being shallow. Making snap judgements based on past experiences is a natural instinct to keep us safe and alive. We immediately recognize a tall, buff man as a strong protector and a twitchy, little man as a weasel - but then our experiences kick in and we notice little tale-tale signs in their behavior: the buff man only ever hits the gym and can't fight his way out of a brown paper bag whereas the twitchy man is smart and can think faster than the Sphynx, answering riddles before they completely hit our ears. My question, then, is who played Magic and hurt you, Alyssa?

Being shallow is an ingrained desire to want certain things to make you feel complete and whole; think of the cliques in high school and how the snobbery ones were the popular kids that wanted and had everything. Shallowness tends to follow the snobbery and the personal attitude of "I am better than you". If that is considered a part of our human nature, then I am a freak from the gene pool.

My online dating experience
I did not sign up for an online dating service. I never felt the need. I blogged, I kept up with a few online friends, and I lived my life. I was recently single when one of those online friends suggested I meet a guy that she knew that lived in my area. It turned out that "in my area" meant Fort Worth to my Richardson, but by DFW standards, that really is just a stone's throw away.

We had a wonderful first date at a local theatre. Our talks let me know he was a bookworm, a dedicated animal lover, a macho tough guy, and, as it turned out, a great kisser. We had a lot in common, but he, like Jon, had a dark past: he used to play World of Warcraft and, worse, he built, painted, and played with miniatures in Warhammer 40k. But here is where Alyssa and I differ: I did not immediately tell him goodbye because of this. Instead, I let him geek out. I let him be himself. I asked him to open up to me and introduce me to his passions.

How did that experience turn out for me? Well, that guy is now my husband and, though I do not play, I do have my own orc army in various stages of painted glory.

There really is nothing left to say...
Alyssa claims to have learned her lesson:
So what did I learn? Google the shit out of your next online date. Like, hardcore.
She missed the mark by a mile, but I think she teaches a better moral through the backlash and outrage she has inspired.

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