I’m not a math whiz. I can barely spell algorythhm aglorithym algorithm.
But that is what is at the heart of the dating apps. A predictive model that matches up you with “the one.” It matches your interests, wants and hopes with his. How tall you are, what you believe, what’s important, how you like your steak, your bucket list travel destinations and who’s your God.
The dating app knows you, your habits and your hopes and tosses it into the great food processor of similar people, habits and trends. A result, with a high likelihood of success is the expectation.
It’s the promise. It’s the hope.
I reached a point last year when I was ready to call foul on their algorythhm aglorythm algorithm. I have a manuscript that could be a book, that should be a movie, filled with examples of the madness of the almighty algorithm. But not everything made the book. . . .
Bad Ass Barney Fife is a great example of the algorithm and reality . . . . not adding up.
When I was up to my app in online dating, my inbox would be filled with the matches of the day . . .Lots of 5’6”, 65 year old African American males, making @$35,000 a few hours outside of Detroit. I’m sure they’re all nice guys. But if that’s the result of a sophisticated, nuanced selection process, then there’s a dead gerbil on the hamster wheel of the algorithm.
And then Leo1956727 popped up one day. A few small photos, head shots. A bit blurry, but generally cute. Older and kinda funny and he wrote his way into my evening and hovered there for a while.
Nice guy. Funny. Flirty. Very flirty. Very alpha male. There was strength and confidence in his tone. He seemed to have his feet on the ground and was learning to follow his heart. He’d talk about the importance of intimacy, touch and the power of a kiss. He asked if I was spontaneous? In touch with my feelings? Enjoyed adventure? Ready to travel? He had been all over the world and was ready to go again.
He would check in during the day. And ask about my evening while I was on the train home at the end of the day. If found myself checking my phone and smiling when I saw his text pop in.
Nice. Smart. Fun. He texted in full sentences. With punctuation.
But I’ve been down this road before. The fun, flirty guy on my phone . . . can be a very different guy in person.
So I suggested we meet for a drink on a Saturday evening. Busy restaurant. Fun outside table. Summer night. Endless potential. I called ahead and made a reservation, in case he didn’t. I bought a new dress, fun shoes. Got my nails done, spent an hour in the shower, hair, make up, a dust of honey dust in case he kissed me . . .and kissed me again.
The restaurant is in a busy part of town. Bustling on a Saturday. God gave us valets for a reason.
I got there early. Stood in the bar watching the end of a golf tournament and tried to look carefree and relaxed. I really wanted him to be awesome.
After a few minutes, a tap on my shoulder and I turned to find myself staring at a guy who had a small, slight, bird-like build, tentative comb over, big genuine smile, and eyes that seemed over eager about life. “Hi!” he said, with great enthusiasm, and a slight squeak.
I was staring at Barney Fife.
Or what Barney Fife would look like, when he was old enough to claim social security and retire back home in Mayberry.
My Leo1956727 was a gentle kitten, not a commanding king of the jungle.
Over dinner he was pleasant and sweet, and shivered a bit in the evening air.
He’s a retired federal agent. A dogged, desk jockey that connected dots and read stacks of documents and put together the pieces of the puzzle that put a lot of bad guys away. He had great stories and big moments to share.
He was Barney. A badass Barney. But Barney. And our country owes him a debt of gratitude.
He was sweet and gentle and earnest. He is devoted to his daughters. No negative reference to his exwife. A champion volunteer for an international charity.
He was funny and charming and just lovely.
In a bar with 110 beers on tap, he wanted a Miller lite. And he only had one.
He ate his burger well done and fretted a bit about how busy the neighborhood was, where he had to park and if he’d find his car.
I laughed out loud as he told stories about work and life. And somehow I felt safe with him sitting there, should the world go to hell all around us.
He was charming. And there was no chemistry. At all.
He walked me to the valet and never took my hand. When my car came I offered to drive him to his. But no. A quick kiss on the cheek and a long hug. And I thought that I if I had a grandfather, this is what his hug would feel like.
He texted me that evening. And for few a days afterwards. Sweet, funny, flirty. He’s a different guy on the phone then he is across a table.
I thanked him for dinner and declined the second date.
On the dating apps, the algorithm and the swiping and the winking will only get you so far. It helps when the process produces an opportunity with some likelihood of a good outcome. And perhaps that possibility did exist with Barney.
The algorithm can only create the possibility. But there is no formula that can predict the chemistry or foster the spark between two people. At some point you have to step out from behind the app and meet face to face.
There are days when the app and the whole process are maddening. Infuriating at times.
But part of this process is learning about yourself. You begin to learn more about what you are looking for. What makes you smile. What tugs at your heart. And what doesn’t. You need to know who you are, before you can know who you want.
And while a lovely, slight, wren-like, devoted dad and badass Barney might not make my heart soar. He was a lovely guy, and I’m glad to have met him.
I learned a few things that night, about myself and life after Mayberry.