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Alyssa Bereznak Doesn’t Know How Dating Works

In Rants, Relationships on September 2, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Some time ago I was interviewing people at Seattle’s Emerald City ComiCon, and talked to a man dressed up as an Imperial officer from Star Wars. I asked him how long it took to reveal his sort of eccentric hobby to a girl he was dating. He said, very quickly “third date.” He’d very clearly thought about it quite a lot, and had a clear strategy for gradually revealing his geeky hobby to prospective romantic partners. Given that the third date seems to now be the customary time at which doin’ it commences, I thought that his strategy seemed pretty sound.

Which leads me to Jon Finkel and Alyssa Bereznak.

Earlier this week Bereznak wrote a deliberately incendiary and hugely unprofessional post on Gizmodo about the “harsh lesson” that she learned from using OKCupid. The “lesson” in question was that her date happened to be a champion Magic: the Gathering player. Bereznak’s problem seemed to boil down to “Jon Finkel is a big nerd, and he should have put that on his profile.”

This whole thing was, I suspect, deliberately designed to provoke nerd rage. The internet has been flooded with angry commentary and opinions about the incident, all of which has directed more eyeball’s to Gizmodo’s page (which I’m not going to bother to link to). This, I’m sure, was their plan all along. The question remains, though: should Finkel have talked about his affinity for Magic: the Gathering on his OKCupid profile?

No- he had no obligation to do so.

When you go out with someone for the first time, you do not necessarily project the totality of yourself. You try to come across as attractive, interesting, and fun, and are projecting a version of yourself that you imagine other people will find likable. This is not necessarily deceptive. Most people with a reasonable amount of emotional maturity know what constitutes appropriate first date conversation/behavior.

First date conversations tend to be things about jobs, friends, hobbies, favorite movies, and other such low-impact topics. You would not, for example, pour out your heart to your first date about deep emotional problems or difficult issues. That would be weird and off-putting. Another thing is that first dates are not depositions. If you don’t really know a person yet, you’re not necessarily under any obligation to tell them every little detail about yourself. You are allowed to keep some things private. This is not deception- this is something that emotionally mature adults should be cognizant of.

This is doubly true for online profiles. Your online self is not you. It is not the sum total of your hopes and dreams and fears. Instead, it’s the version of yourself that you project to the world. Like this:

(Image via the Inquisitr)

When crafting an online profile, cover letter, resume, or even dressing up for a job interview or first date, you try to make yourself look awesome. That is allowed. Part of making yourself look awesome can include not talking about weird hobbies like poodle grooming or competitive macrame. It’s not that these things are necessarily shameful, and after two or three dates it is a good idea to start talking about stuff like this. But, an individual is not defined by their hobbies or pop culture affinities.

Bereznak’s supposed “harsh lesson” is that she learned that Finkel was doing what everyone else on OKCupid is also doing- he made himself look appealing and attractive, and he did not lead with the sort of eccentric fact that he’s a champion Magic player. Instead, during the date he tried to make a first impression with other aspects of his personality.

Online dating can be kind of hit or miss (I’ve been on some bad dates myself) but this is hardly “harsh,” and Bereznak displayed a galling lack of professionalism when she called out Finkel by name. He is not a public figure, so making fun of him in a public forum is not okay.

I hope that Finkel gets lots of good dates out of this, and ends up meeting a sexy nerd lady who smooches his pants off. As for Bereznak, I hope she spends the rest of the year forlornly watching romantic comedies whilst attempting to drown her solitary sorrows in inexpensive boxed wine. Finding out that your date is a nerd or that maybe you don’t mesh with them is not a “harsh lesson” at all. It’s part of being an adult.

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