As a Valentine’s Day experiment, we asked two of our colleagues in the Seed office— one man and one woman—to give Chemistry.com a test drive. Ten days after the most romantic day of the year, they’ve filled out the profiles, rated their relationship priorities, jumped through hoops, juggled with one foot off the ground, rubbed their stomachs and patted their heads at the same time, and, finally, went on a date brokered by the website. Here’s how our little experiement turned out:
Our female dater gets a pleasant surprise
Let me just preface this by saying that anyone who has been reading and (I hope) enjoying this blog is going to be disappointed. I’m disappointed. And confused. But enough about me, and more about my date. He was…cool. Really. In fact, the words “pretty rad” actually escaped my mouth when I was describing him to a friend. What the hell is going on here?
The date is at 7 p.m., so I pre-game it in the office—and by that I mean I instant message furiously with a few friends and read www.thesuperificial.com until it’s closer to date time. We’re meeting at lounge which citysearch.com tells me is “sexy and romantic” and full of “beautiful people and models.” I share this information with my friend, who, when he hears the place’s name asks if it’s some obscure country in Eastern Europe?” A “sexy and romantic” country! I plan on ordering the most expensive drink on the menu.
On the way over, I mentally prepare to cozy up with a complete stranger amidst candles and velvet drapery. Another friend of mine develops a number of hilarious scenarios such as how I should coordinate with the waitstaff to have them form a semi-circle around us while singing “Happy First Date to You” to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” at which point I would pull out a single rose and hand it to may match. A second scenario involved me wearing the matronly eye glasses that have been sitting in the office lost and found for months and immediately upon meeting my date, loudly proclaiming, “Gosh I’m hungry! I haven’t had anything to eat all day but gummy bears, and they’re stuck to the roof of my mouth.” I remember that I’ve always wanted to toss a martini in a man’s face, or really anyone’s face, and, muse, that my time may finally have come.
I was the first to arrive at the bar, and to my relief it was far less date-y than the reviews had led me to believe. When my date came in, I recognized him at once—although his picture was not completely accurate. He was actually really nice, and the date wasn’t awkward at all. The bar was crowded so we went across the street to a slightly less crowded bar and sat down. As it turns out we went to the same university and have mutual acquaintances. I was glad to hear that, because it gave us something to talk about that wouldn’t require a lie (such as where I work).
I was really dreading a conversation about why we were both on Chemistry.com and, basically, anything that might involve the expression “that special someone,” but it never came up. He’s on the site because they offered him a free trial. I didn’t feel like he was looking for anyone seriously, and it never felt like a date so much as hanging out with a friend.
Will I see him again? Possibly. Is it love? Nope. But then again, how could it be when it was all based on terrible, terrible lies??? I also don’t own enough swanky clothes to see him more than twice a month. (He’s a sharp dressed man). Can I expense a new wardrobe to Seed? For the sake of science?
I think things went well because we both had the same attitude about the situation: casual, low-key, laid-back and all those other synonyms for “no big deal.” Does this mean that Chemistry.com works? I have to admit that our personalities were compatible, but I prefer to think that we are both just the exceptions to the Chemistry.com rule.Do with that what you will. And, no, I’m not self-defeating. And, no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking someone. Why would you even think that? This isn’t about me; it’s about Chemistry.com!
This morning I filled out the date evaluation. There’s a rate-your-chemistry dial that you can move to: Not at All, A Little, Quite a Bit and A Lot. The next step is a chart in which you rate how accurate your date’s profile and photo were. And then come the questions (in this order):
1. Was he fun to be around?
2. Was he a good listener?
3. Was he on time?
4. Was he interested in learning more about you?
5. Was he dressed appropriately?
6. Was he well-mannered?
7. Do you still want to get to know him?
At the bottom of the screen, there’s a link for “Inappropriate User. Tell us about it.” I tried to click on it, but it wouldn’t let me. Bummer. As I was answering the questions I wondered what happens if you get a bad rating by your date. What if I said that he was wearing a crew neck sweatshirt and sweat pants and was forty minutes late. Would they lecture him about putting his best foot forward? I can only hope. After the survey step, Chemistry.com turns you loose with their congratulations. Which reminds me…
Hey, editors, am I done now?
Our male experimenter gets no real reaction
So the journey is complete: I have gone through the gauntlet of Chemistry.com, went on a date and survived. That said, I don’t think I’m going to use this site to meet women in the future.
There were two lows during my date. The first came instantly when my match and I greeted each other and danced the awkward dance of people who aren’t sure if they should hug, shake hands, just wave or full on make-out. We waved. Ugh.
The second low was a personal one. I was telling her about being a technology and science writer and she brought up the notion that I should write about these online dating sites. I quickly changed subjects and mentally recited Hail Mary’s in an attempt to avoid future damnation.
But the real problem with the date: I was with a plain-Jane girl. She was nice, funny and, at times, even enticing, but in the end there were no sparks. She was a girl with no allure, I was a dude with no charisma and together we had no (ahem) chemistry.
I suppose this is understandable. Did I really expect our eyes to meet, and then we’d run off in the sunset hand-in-hand? No. But I think the issue is that the women I typically go for have a certain something that draws me to them, and it isn’t membership to an online dating service. Maybe our personalities aren’t always perfect compliments to each other, but at least there is something internal that told us to give it a shot and see what happens.
Although it would appear that my date and I do have complimentary personalities (and I have to admit we got along fine, and I could imagine being her friend), there was nothing telling me to go for it. It wasn’t just physical attraction, it was a lack of emotional pull.
In the end I don’t think a website can really create that moment for you. It’s carnal, lying somewhere in the nether regions of the brain that can’t be captured by a computer test that profiles your personality.
So why am I still showing interest in matches, filling out relationship profiles and responding to emails (with a new girl I’ll call “Andrea the Academic”)? I don’t know, I guess these kinds of sites always keep you feeling hopeful. If anything that’s the real service rendered by a site like Chemistry.com: the illusion that somebody special is right around the corner. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I get matched with more of my friends and neighbors before my trial run is over.
Originally published February 24, 2006