This story sounds mean. It's about a girl judging a boy because he's a nerd (like so many of us!) that she met on OkCupid. But that's the point: Judging people on shallow stuff is human nature, and the magic and absurdity of online dating is how immediately and directly it throws that into relief. One person's Magic is another person's fingernail biting, and no profile in the world is deep enough to account for that.
Earlier this month, I came home drunk and made an OKCupid profile. What the hell, I thought. I'm busy, I'm single, and everybody's doing it. Sure, I'd heard some stories, but what was the worst that could happen?
Two weeks into my online dating experiment, OKCupid had broken me down. It was like the online equivalent to hanging out alone in a dark, date-rapey bar. Every time I signed on, I was hit by a barrage of creepy messages. "Dem gurl u so foine, iwud lik veru much for me nd u to be marry n procreate." Or "your legs do look strong." So when I saw an IM from a guy named Jon that said, "You should go out with me :)" I was relieved. He seemed normal. I gave him my name. "Google away," I said. Then dinner was ready, and I signed off without remembering to do the same.
We met for a drink later that week. Jon was thin and tall, dressed in a hedge fund uniform with pale skin and pierced ears. We started talking about normal stuff—family, work, college. I told him my brother was a gamer. And then he casually mentioned that he played Magic: The Gathering when he was younger.
"Actually," he paused. "I'm the world champion."
I laughed. Oh that's a funny joke! I thought. This guy is funny! But the earnest look on his face told me he wasn't kidding.
I gulped my beer and thought about Magic, that strategic collectible card game involving wizards and spells and other detailed geekery. A long-forgotten fad, like pogs or something. But before I could dig deeper, we had to go. Jon had bought us tickets for a one-man show based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's life story. It was not a particularly romantic evening.
The next day I Googled my date and a wealth of information flowed into my browser. A Wikipedia page! Competition videos! Fanboy forums comparing him to Chuck Norris! This guy isn't just some professional who dabbled in card games at a tender age. He's Jon motherfucking Finkel, the man who is so widely revered in the game of Magic that he's been immortalized in his own playing card.
Just like you're obligated to mention you're divorced or have a kid in your online profile, shouldn't someone also be required to disclose any indisputably geeky world championship titles? But maybe it was a long time ago? We met for round two later that week.
At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play? "Yes." Strike one. How often? "I'm preparing for a tournament this weekend." Strike two. Who did he hang out with? "I've met all my best friends through Magic." Strike three. I smiled and nodded and listened. Eventually I even felt a little bit bad that I didn't know shit about the game. Here was a guy who had dedicated a good chunk of his life to mastering Magic, on a date with a girl who can barely play Solitaire. This is what happens, I thought, when you leave things out of your online profile.
I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers. Mothers, warn your daughters! This could happen to you. You'll think you've found a normal bearded guy with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a guy who takes you to a one-man show based on Jeffrey Dahmer's life story.
Maybe I'm an OKCupid asshole for calling it that way. Maybe I'm shallow for not being able to see past Jon's world title. I'll own that. But there's a larger point here: that judging people on shallow stuff is human nature; one person's Magic is another person's fingernail biting, or sports obsession, or verbal tic. No online dating profile in the world is comprehensive enough to highlight every person's peccadillo, or anticipate the inane biases that each of us lugs around. There's no snapshot in the world that can account for our snap judgments.
So what did I learn? Google the shit out of your next online date. Like, hardcore.