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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Love, Scientifically

The February issue of The Atlantic has a feature story about online dating, that examines the “scientific” approaches – I’m using quotation marks because this science of attraction is very new and still tentative – that some Internet dating sites, such as eHarmony,, and, have developed to match people looking for mates. These sites employ psychologists and sociologists with Ph.D.’s and vast research experience, to develop compatibility questionnaires that identify various aspects of people’s personalities and then match them in a way that ensures successful long-term relationships as well as immediate physical attraction.

This interests me very much because my husband and I met through an online dating service. I wasn’t really looking for love. I was just out of college, working a rather blah office job, and wanted to find someone with whom I could talk about books and – well, really, just talk about books. Husband and I e-mailed each other for three months before we met in person. I was so excited to be able to “talk” with someone so articulate, who read books very different from what I had in my own library (science and philosophy versus my obsession at the time with Victorian novels), and more than a little suspicious. I was sure there was something very wrong with him to compensate for the intelligence and wit of his e-mails.

I was disappointed when we met in person. He was rather indifferently dressed and didn’t talk very much. He beat me horribly at chess. When our meeting (it cannot be called a date, believe me) he gave me to read a book called The Physics of Immortality that I got through goodness know how and don’t remember anything of. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to see this man again. There was no chemistry to speak of between us. When I got home I wrote him an e-mail – I mean him, the man with whom I had corresponded for three months, not the tight-lipped guy I had just spent the last two hours with. They were two different people, as I’m sure my writing self and my physical self were to him. It didn’t seem possible that these two selves would ever converge.

They did. But I had to be patient; I had to put aside my impulse to flee after the awkwardness of our first meetings; I had to remind myself of the intellectual connection I had with him. The emotional and physical chemistry flowed out of that intellectual connection. He is a man I’ll always have interesting conversations with. That I love him and am attracted physically to him are simply nice bonuses, icing on the cake.

This is what concerns me about this new science of finding love: that it attempts to do without patience, to cut corners, to find a sure-fire and quick formula for a process that takes time because it requires self-discovery as much as discovery of someone else. It’s like the secret for losing weight: there is no secret. You have to do the work. And I don’t mean only the work of looking for someone but also the much harder work of figuring out who you are and what you want above anything else from a relationship. For me it was honesty. Everything else – flowers, candle-lit dinners, having sweet nothings murmured in my ear – falls by the wayside. And that’s just fine with me.


Blogger madness rivera said...

I love a good Meeting story. And I love that you had to merge the email guy with the in person guy. Way to not blow him off!

I agree, having the patience to smooth out the wrinkles and build a solid base, I believe, proves to be more long lasting. Those that are looking so hard for "a mate" online and then are relieved when sparks fly may be easily discouraged when a conflict arises. Like, Oh maybe this isn't what I thought it was instead of, Ok let's roll up our sleeves and figure this out.

February 19, 2006  

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