Sunday, 22 July 2012

Equal Opportunity

Hopeful  7    Hopeless  3

Today I wanted to make a post to illustrate just the sort of dilemma you can face on Plenty of Fish.  Here I was looking to create more opportunities to meet people with the site, but finding that the huge side-effect is moral issues.  I ended up with questions that I had never really asked myself, things perhaps I had vaguely thought of before, but that I had never been faced with.

What makes this particularly difficult is that you are faced with these questions directly and at the same time you are not.  Plenty of Fish is a strange virtual world where things seem real and unreal at the same time.  This is what contributed to the confusion that I wrote about in an earlier post.  I was kind of "in the situation", yet I was not at the same time.  The question I kept being faced with was: "Would I really date a person who...?"

This is what made me conflicted.  I had always thought of myself as an open and unprejudiced person for the most part.  I always professed to be a person who didn't notice someone's size, shape, colour, style, etc., but someone who noticed their personality instead.  I said that for me, their physical appearance kind of gets blurred and what comes into sharp focus is the person.  I still believe that is quite true in person.  But on Plenty of Fish, I found myself feeling rather influenced by the listed ethnicity on someone's profile or their picture.  I actually am embarrassed that I asked myself, "Would I date a person who is Asian?" or, "Would I date a person who is Latino?"  It was making me feel incredibly shallow.  It made me feel like I was discriminating when I was just going through my messages and trying to figure out which to respond to and which to delete.  I began to be unsure what my answer was.  If I had asked myself this question a week ago, I would've said that none of those things mattered and that of course I would date someone of a different nationality if they had a great personality.  The sort of dialogue running in my head on Thursday was darker.

Ethnicity was not the only thing I was wondering about.  I asked myself about religion too.  I have always prided myself on being religiously tolerant, a trait I developed as a young girl when a school teacher tried to convert me to Protestantism.  I began to ask myself about whether or not I was willing to date a Muslim (I have received messages from a few).  For shame!  That is a question I hope never runs through my mind ever again.  It is possible to date someone who doesn't share your religious beliefs.  It is not always possible to work things out in the long run, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.  My cousin and her husband are not of the same faith and they are happily married with a beautiful baby boy.  Then I got a message from a guy in a wheelchair.  He sent me a polite message and his profile made his personality sound fabulous.  He said point blank on his profile, though, that if you were not prepared to handle his being in a wheelchair, then you should move to the next profile.  So I asked myself whether or not I could live with it.  I felt incredibly selfish to have the thought occur to me that I should be with someone who is very healthy, because I am not.  I felt like a terrible person.

The one that particularly hit a nerve, though, pertained to age.  I've mentioned that this is a sore spot for me.  Since I was a very young girl, I have gotten along with adults and attracted their admiration and attention.  In high school, sometimes I was convinced that I got along better with people more than twice my age than my peers.  This is a continuing pattern for me: men outside my age range are ones I connect with and that connect with me.  It makes me sad because it makes me feel like I was born in the wrong decade or that I'm not compatible with guys my age.  It makes me wonder whether or not "they make any like that anymore" as the expression goes.  Rejecting every man over a certain age is also a form of discrimination, so I felt strange about not wanting to talk to the 35 year old or the 43 year old.  That was not allowing me the chance to ascertain their personality and see if they were a potential match.  Many people have told me (including a psychologist) that age is just a number and that it doesn't necessarily mean you are incompatible.  I also couldn't help thinking about my beloved Giles.  I began to admire him when I didn't know his age.  I estimated 30, but he was truly 41.  He always made me feel comfortable and good about myself.  He is still one of the most positive people I have ever met.  Here I am trying to be more realistic and find someone to have a crush on that is closer to my own age, but Plenty of Fish is showing me all of these older men interested in me.  I felt like I was going berserk.

I talked to my friends Natalie and Stella about these sorts of tortured reflections I was having.  Natalie was very practical about it.  She said that people never like to think of themselves as prejudiced, but that everyone has a certain amount of prejudice.  It was not pretty, but it was the truth, she said.  She added that it was an important part of being honest with yourself and knowing what you want to be aware of your preferences.  Stella put things into a perspective that I could relate to readily.  She said that everyone has deal breakers, that it is normal and it is perfectly okay.  She reminded me that it was very important not to go back on them, because it will just make you unhappy in the long run.  This is a concept I have understood for a long time and have practiced.

It was good to remember that I couldn't possibly date all of these people who messaged me.  I am feeling less guilty and more at ease about the process now.  I had been so focused on creating a fair and equal opportunity for everyone that I forgot about what was best for me.  It is not possible to be 100% equitable towards everyone.  I was afraid of missing out on opportunities, but that is par for the course, I have realized.  There are casualties of online dating and everyone knows it.  It is unfortunate, but there is nothing to be done.  Your best effort is to be as fair and open as you can.

You can't possibly date them all... 

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