Rich Smith on "OkCupid"


Over breakfast I browse for you
and see You With Dog,
You in Bathroom Mirror,
You at Summit Above the Pines,
You Wrapped in Scarf and Parka
Your Satchel Slung, Your Smile Unpracticed
Your Body The Only Clear Shape
in the Center of a Blurred Public—
The Waldo You Among Your Friends.

Your name is Carly and you're 25.
You're Ally and you were active one day ago, five hours ago,
you're online now. When not skipping hot yoga
you enjoy red wine and television.
You named your cat Nabokov.

But what's that always to the left of you?
Who took the photo of you skiing?
Who of you wrangling a trout?
Who of you on a broad green with a solitary
pumpkin peeking out of your wheelbarrow?

Who did you let in close enough
to capture you reading in a window bank?

On "OKCupid"

I had many reservations about joining OKCupid. Half of my brain thought: 1.) I'd say I'm arguably attractive, and therefore a little arrogant. Surely I'm above this meat gallery of human loneliness. 2.) When my friends find out that I'm on the site, won't they come up to me and say, "So, how does it feel to be both a customer and a piece of merchandise in the Goodwill of romantic love?" 3.) Won't my participation here stoke the FOMO mentality that prevents me from making a few adult-level sacrifices and settling down with someone whose ability to love me isn't predetermined by an algorithm? 4.) This cartoonish, pink-and-blue color scheme offends me.

But the other half of my brain thought: I'm drunk!

So I spent the next three hours (/days) browsing and creeping profiles like a fiend. I'm ashamed to admit that my initial thoughts ran in a vain of pure misogynistic fantasy:

"Is this the face of  risk-free sex?"

"Whoa. No. Nope. Nope. Nope. Wait. No. No. No. No. Nope."

"There she is. Eva. The most beautiful woman I've ever seen. And she's a doula! What's a doula?"

"What's the world got against tall girls who like to be tied down?"

"Wait, is that Gina from work? If I can see her, then can she see me?" *closes laptop*

But after a while, even being a terrible person gets boring. The browsing became rote, sad, addictive. I couldn't stop, but I didn't want to go on any dates, either. I felt as if the game was won the moment I exchanged gold stars with another person. After all, a match with a stranger objectively affirmed the totality of my being, which in turn gave me the confidence I needed to succeed in the workplace. There's no way I was just fishing for compliments but convincing myself that I didn't have a rod, right?

The day I decided to delete my account for the first time, I saw a photo of a young woman standing beside a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain. I wondered if she was in on the lit joke. Then I started seeing the cliche photos not as cliches but as 21st century versions of old genres in painting.

The mirror selfie as self-portrait. The summit pic as landscape. The chick holding her nephew as Madonna and Child. The Where's Waldo pic as party scene. It was all so human. Of course you're going to take a mirror selfie if there's no one else around. Of course you want to display your physical achievements and your genuine love of nature. Of course you want people to think you can be trusted with children, and that you have a bunch of friends. You're not lonely in life, you're lonely in love. And even that's suspect. I mean, you're arguably attractive and a little arrogant, so why are you even on here?

Then I logged off and wrote the poem to all those people. In solidarity. 




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