2. On Instant Gratification (and Online Dating)

“You gotta make this dude believe that your body is a secret garden, even though it’s a public park that has hosted many reggae fests.” — Ali Wong (b. April 19, 1982)

I didn’t join OkCupid to find my soulmate. In my early twenties, all I wanted was a steady stream of dates so that I could meet guys and score free dinners on a weekly basis. It’s not like I was averse to being in a relationship. I just didn’t bank on it. My next date could have turned into something serious or been a complete bust. I was game for either option. I figured they would result in an entertaining brunch story regardless.

That’s why OkCupid proved to be the perfect supplement to my standard IRL dating scene. Unlike crowded bars and inaudible nightclubs, it only took OkCupid a few messages and some clicks to land me a date. In no-time, this magnificent site could connect me to a never-ending supply of bachelors. All of whom were filtered down to my liking. In fact, thanks to OkCupid, I dare say that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the finest gentlemen that New York City has to offer.

There was the former Naval officer from Alabama who finalized his divorce at the age of twenty-two. There was the Brooklyn filmmaker who maintained a polyamorous relationship with a girlfriend in Boston. There was the acclaimed artist who had been featured in numerous museums. As his work would suggest, he had an intense smoking fetish. He requested that I puff away on our first date while he took tantalizing photos. I didn’t have the heart to take him up on his generous offer. And of course, there was Mike. The man who proved to be more interesting than his name would suggest.

After a few messages, Mike and I had plans to meet in a trendy Midtown restaurant. It was complete with obnoxiously dim lighting and $15 cocktails. As an underpaid intern, I was more than enticed by the thought of a free drink and the possibility of dinner. When he walked through the doors, I smiled to myself as I realized that he looked better in person. The pinnacle of a good sign as far as online dating is concerned. It also didn’t hurt that he was a twenty-something Ivy League graduate and a litigation lawyer at a prestigious firm in the city.

By the end of our date, I had everything I needed. Multiple free cocktails were secured. Our conversational flow was consistent. The goodnight kiss was achieved. Thanks to OkCupid, I acquired all of them. There wasn’t much else that I needed out of a first date. That’s the benefit of online dating. The results are immediate. But, I suppose there’s one thing that could have made our date even better.

Sex came after the second date. What started as a make-out session at a champagne bar evolved into consummating in his bedroom that overlooked Times Square. While the sex was good, I’d hesitate to say that it was great. For a couple of reasons. One being the cliché and ever-allusive “spark” that every woman seems to set as the benchmark for love. Whatever it is, we didn’t seem to have it. Conversation became a bit dull midway into our second date. I believe the make-out session began in an effort to compensate for that.

The other reason being that Mike performed a sex act that I had never experienced. Tickling. I felt his fingers wiggling back and forth on the soles of my feet while I was in a rather compromising position. With my face buried in his sheets, I let out an involuntary laugh as I wondered what in the actual fuck was going on. He, on the other hand, seemed more than pleased seeing as he finished soon after. When we were done, no word of tickling was brought up in conversation. Instead, I quietly took it as a lesson learned: There’s a fetish for everything.

As Mike continued to wine and dine me, I continued to see him and tolerate the tickling. Who was I to turn down good company? Sure, I didn’t see us forming a long-term relationship. But, he was a fun, easy-going, and attractive guy who could provide me with what I needed, when I needed it. What I didn’t need was getting caught up in labels and expectations. Mike seemed to agree.

“I don’t really believe in monogamy,” he said on our third date.

The attorney in him questioned the topic from every angle. He believed that monogamy was entirely imposed on us by society. A child doesn’t choose only one parent to take care of them. You don’t choose to only have one friend for the rest of your life. It’s only natural for us to choose multiple people when it comes to the interpersonal connections that we make. Why are we forcing ourselves to limit our sexual gratification to just one person?

I knew third-date conversations were supposed to go deeper, but I wasn’t prepared for this. Monogamy was something that I never questioned. I always assumed that, when the time came for me to be in a relationship, it would be a monogamous one. But, I wasn’t so sure why. In my previous long-term relationship, I had been fucked over multiple times by a not-so monogamous boyfriend. The exclusive label provided zero guarantees. Where was the satisfaction in that?

With Mike’s anti-monogamy stance and my monogamy-hesitant mindset, it seemed like we were on the same page. So after a month of seeing each other, there was zero pressure. We didn’t have to wonder what we were or where this was going. All we had to do was enjoy each other’s company. That’s why I felt completely at ease the first time I slept over his place. After a long night of drinking and dancing, we comfortably talked and cuddled in bed. Then, as I was running my fingers through his hair, I thought of a brilliant question. One that I felt inclined to ask after many drinks and our discussion on monogamy.

“How many women have you slept with?” I asked.

He answered with mild reluctance, “About 150 to 200, I think.”

I would like to thank the alcoholic beverage industry for enabling me to subdue my reaction and calmly smile at Mike’s response. As I quietly laughed it off, I drunkenly fell asleep by his side. The next morning, he stepped out for his morning jog. That’s when I ripped the sheets off my body and went through everything. His closet. The dresser. Under his bed. Like a bat-shit crazy girlfriend, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I’d find something. Anything to shed light on Mike and his raging sex number.

As thoughts of STD tests and sex-crazed serial killers raced through my mind, I abruptly stopped my search. I found what I was looking for. A pile of folder papers was located in the second drawer of his nightstand. There, they quietly laid on a bed of Trojan extra-ribbed condoms. I took a breath. I sat up straight on his bed. I calmly picked up the papers and unfolded them.

Each paper was labeled by location: New York Sex, Chicago Sex, and Las Vegas Sex. Mike mentioned that he had lived in each of those cities. Below each title, he wrote down the names of every single person that he had slept with. His system of organization was standard throughout: number, first name, last name initial, and either the letter “M” or “O” marked next to each individual. Sure enough, there were close to 200 of them. A quick cross-check against his Gmail clarified the letter symbols. “M” stood for Match.com, and “O” stood for OkCupid. He had corresponding folders labeled in his inbox.

I was number 18 on his New York Sex list. I saw a faint “O” marked next to my name. Then, I saw the multitude of names that followed. The sight of it made me go through a wave of emotions. First, I was enraged that my name was added to his laundry list of sexual encounters. Then, I was upset that I wasted my time on a neurotic online sleaze. And finally, I was confused as to why I felt anything at all.

I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew it as soon as I created a profile for the sake of good conversation and free dinners. I knew it when I continued to see Mike in spite of having no connection and getting tickled during sex. We weren’t some exclusive, monogamous couple. I had always reduced our relationship to a means for instant gratification. What did I care if he reduced it to a number on a piece of paper?

I folded the lists, placed them back in the nightstand, and went home. Like the tickling, the entire situation was never spoken of. I never confronted him or told him what I found — I didn’t need to. I simply let our pseudo-relationship come to an end. Unsurprisingly, Mike didn’t seem to mind. And I was fine with that. I was just happy to walk away with a clean bill of health.

As OkCupid users, only a couple of things separated me from Mike. One being a freakishly organized sex list. The other being quantity. Other than that, both of us took advantage of the instant gratification that comes with online dating. Free dinners. Decent conversation. Casual sex. Whatever it was, we clicked, swiped, and messaged to get it. And that’s to be expected. The digital age breeds this behavior.

We have websites that date for us, engines that search for us, and networks that socialize for us. It’s no wonder that we expect immediate and seamless results in all aspects of our life. What we can’t anticipate is our reaction to those results — whether or not we’ll actually like what we’ve asked for. Especially when it comes to dating. When we’re inundated with options, the best (and perhaps the only) thing we can do is proceed with caution and filter accordingly.

With that said, maybe I should reconsider the artist with the smoking fetish.