No dating site seems to have a check box for “intentionally unemployed while I decide what’s next.” But will “unemployed” keep a guy from getting dates?
My current unemployed status is part of a bold choice that I have made to leave a dead-end job in search of something more fulfilling.
That, combined with my relationship status of “single” offers a perspective on the unique challenge of online dating and the perils and pitfalls of the “What do you do?” question.
With equal parts terror and excitement, I click “sign up” and begin to fill in an unending series of psychometric analyses and personality profiling questions. My deeply cynical core violently rejects the idea that any algorithm can know me or form accurate inferences about who I am, but I focus my mind for a moment on the incredible accuracy with which Google seems to “know” what I want (even when I don’t!) and push onwards.
Now the “Profession” section. My favorite! For some reason there isn’t space to put “High-functioning, mildly autistic ex-Merchant Navy navigator with medical exclusion seeking career change toward satellite navigation technology after wasting the last two and a half years fielding complaint calls in a dead-end job” so I just go with “Entrepreneur”. I recently read somewhere, probably incorrectly, that this was one of the sexiest careers a man can have. Anyway, it’s not a dating site unless you tell at least one white lie! (I have formulated plans for a small coffee and smoothie business and am weighing up investment opportunities for my dwindling savings so it’s not a complete fabrication.)
It occurs to me that the society in which we live places so much value on the amount of money that we earn, it forgets entirely the absolute banality of how that money is earned.
The mundane daily drudgery that we ordinarily pull ourselves through just to subsist is glorified as long as the financial rewards are high enough. The fact that I have chosen to depart from this game entirely and am seeking my own path should, at least in my less-than-humble opinion, be revered as brave. The ‘U-word’ weighs heavy on my mind, years of media-led social conditioning have left me unable to hear the word “Unemployed” in a positive light, despite knowing that all it means is that I am not currently contributing to a social state that does not serve my interests.
Next I am asked, rather impossibly, to summarize my personality type in one word. “Sapiophile” seems a little too conceited. “Hedonist” is in some ways reflective of my outlook, but could result in undesirable sexual advances, or women thinking I am only after one thing. “Humanist” seems like the only viable option that treads a line between accuracy and acceptability.
So after much deliberation I make my selection. I only hope any connotes of affirmative atheism don’t ward off free-thinking bohemian types. (Free-thinker was an option but that can convey a multitude of sins – thinking freely does not necessarily imply quality or focus of thought.)
Choosing some vaguely suitable photographs of me looking happy and doing active things that reflect my desire for a similarly go-getting mate, I mean partner, I move on to the “Bio”. So many options here about how to present myself; need to be funny, need to be truthful (someone’s got to be and that white lie is still playing heavily on my mind), need to leave some questions unanswered to develop a sense of intrigue. I reveal that I live in a log cabin and redact the part about not having hot water, a shower or a flushing toilet (compost is the way to go guys, seriously, the environment doesn’t like you purifying 15+ liters of water per day to a drinkable standard for the sole purpose of throwing it down a sewer) and mention the Shetland ponies that graze the paddock in which my cabin is situated because who doesn’t love ponies?!
I make an all-too-accurate quip that likens the whole process to that of a job application. In both cases I am seeking snapshot validation from a stranger based on criteria, many of which are flawed or arbitrary, not to mention easy to manipulate.
So far on my adventures I am pleased to relate that only one prospective suitor has been put off by my unemployed status. This is a significantly lower number than those who are deterred by my total disregard for social norms. In the right context it can be seen as statistically insignificant. Having said that, I wonder how many more might have been receptive or tolerant if I was a doctor or a lawyer.
This process has changed my view of such hoop-jumping. I now see that the boundaries we set when deciding to let someone in or shut them out are really a function of our own limitations. Every one of us has value that is all but inexpressible in ordinary linguistic terms. Sitting within each of our heads is an organic quantum computer with almost limitless potential; dispense with the boxes, stop trying to give everything a name or a place.
As my dating profile ‘Headline’ says, “All we need is space to roam.”
Photo: Flickr/Elvert Barnes