Online Dating in the Cancer Age
So, as many of you know, I’m single now, and sort-of, kind-of, searching for a new relationship. I’m not going at it full steam, but I’m not kickin’ the idea out of bed either, if you know what I mean. It’s difficult, though, when you are dealing with cancer, to know what to share when, and how much to let someone see. Relationships are a difficult lasagna of feelings to begin with, but when you add a second layer of cheese, things get messy.
Taking the right picture
Unfortunately, dating these days is pretty much all about one thing – apps. Online dating. Just saying the words make me do a sour lemony face. It’s the worst. First you have to have someone take professional photos of you, sometimes with a dog (never a cat – cats are match kryptonite), sometimes on a beach with a bikini (no comment), never at a normal angle, and the sun has to be exactly at the perfect angle to stream past your face with just a hint of angelic grace (not too much –fake angelic grace would look soooo bad). Oh, and you always have to make your best “What me? I was just walking in my sexiest outfit with this dog on this beach and a photographer in a tree, silly, nothing serious!” face. Because that’s what normal people look like all the time now – accidentally totes adorbs.
As you might imagine, for someone who is recovering from lymphoma and is still finishing out chemo, looking good isn’t easy. I mean, I make it look easy, but it ain’t. Seriously, though, even before this crap illness was foisted on me, I had a difficult time taking a good picture. There was a trio in my 20’s, one in my early 30’s and then NOTHING SINCE. I tried to take a few selfies but I did it wrong and the phone covered half my face. The good half. Still, I didn’t want to be one of those people who uses a picture from when they were twenty and a 10, and then shows up at forty as a 1. So, I in my infinite wisdom, decided I would take a few recent pics and use one of those websites where random strangers rate your picture from one to ten and can leave comments on why they think it’s lacking. Riiiight. What could possibly go wrong?
Let me just take a moment to interject that I have always considered myself a pretty confident person, with a healthy ego and an old-faithful style wellspring of self-esteem. I really didn’t think that anything could put a dent in my armor, I mean, I’d been through things that would make an MMA fighter hang up his spandex. So, I uploaded a few pics and waited a few hours. I knew there would be some sour apples in the bunch, but in general, I expected a positive result. Instead, I discovered that the Internet is a sewer, and I was just another piece of crap washing down it’s ever-flowing lanes of human word-barf.
Discovering internet trolls
After the first day, I rated somewhere around a 7.8, and everyone was in good spirits. Off to a fine start, I thought, maybe cancer hadn’t extinguished that old charm after all. Promising, although one or two of the comments were “would prefer he smiled more.” I was already smiling in the picture, like one often does when attempting to not be confused with a serial killer. The only way I could have smiled more would be to have Batman drown me in a vat of chemicals first. I put it out of my head, though, and checked again before I went to sleep that night. I was down to a still-respectable 6.9, and decided to hit the hay with a positive outlook. Hope springs eternal.
The next morning, I woke up, bushed my teeth, took my meds, showered and dressed. It was then I remembered I had left my picture up for rating all night. So, I checked the results. I should have flushed my phone down the toilet instead. When I pulled up the website I saw that I had gone down to a 5.1, which was ridiculous because everyone knows I’m a hard 6, soft 7, easy. This was based on thirty more ratings given during the night, and, as a fun bonus, there were five more comments too.
My first question was who were all these late-night picture raters? Were there minions of Internet trolls with nothing better to do than sit around at two in the morning and shatter a stranger’s self-perception? Of course, the answer was – yes, yes that’s exactly what they do. It’s the net, stupid. So, once I got past that, I decided to read some of the comments. Here’s a selection:
“Would prefer if he wasn’t wearing a hat.”
Well, person who seems to prefer non-chapeaued individuals, the only reason I’m wearing a hat is because I have cancer and I haven’t had time to regrow all of my hair. How do you feel now?
“This person looks sad.”
Yes, I am sad, sad that you idiots have rated me a 5.1 when I feel like a 1.0 inside every day from chemo. Do you know how difficult it is to put a smile on your face and look like a 5.1 when you feel like puke and your energy level is -1? No, no you don’t, cause you’re too busy trolling hardworking Internet people’s pics.
“Would prefer him with different clothing.”
How is this even a thing? Are you saying you rated me lower because I wasn’t wearing a tight shirt with a print of a tiger clawing a rainbow on it, and the tiger has a sequin for an eye? What are you some kind of weird fashion sadist? Do you hate tigers?
“Would prefer him to smile less.”
I’m not even…
Ego destroyed, psyche shattered, I put down my phone. What a horrible experience. I came away thinking I must look like a literal piece of shit, who didn’t smile enough but also smiled too much, who dressed like a first grader living on his own but also had a sadness about him. Or thereabouts. So I wallowed for a few hours. Then I had some lunch, and then I did a bit of after-lunch wallowing, which as everyone knows is when you get the best wallowing done. By dinnertime I began to get past it, and I realized that those people had no idea about me. They had no idea what I was going through or what I had survived. I looked good for what I had been through, and I knew that, and I knew I knew that. Still, though, I have to forge ahead with Internet dating (sour face), but now I just put up my pics and hope for the best. Maybe I should smile more…