Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Looking for Love In All the Wrong Places?

I got into a debate with a colleague today over the kind of people who look for mates through online services like eHarmony.com.

She had a friend who dated a few men whom she met through a Web based dating service which does not do the kind of extensive screening eHarmony does. Her friend didn't like any of these guys. They were, my colleague said, introverted and nervous. Based on her friend’s experience, the women I was debating drew a generalization about the faults of Internet matching services. "Frankly, I think they attract cowardly men," she said. Later, she withdrew that statement.

That's good, because her original proclamation was wrong for several reasons.

First, being nervous or introverted doesn't make a man a coward. I'm willing to go on record saying 100 per cent of people who use Internet dating services have some anxieties about the opposite sex. I'm even willing to grant that meeting women through the Internet might be easier than approaching women at a bar, a party, or at church for men who are especially anxious.

That's a long way from being a coward. A coward lets his fears dictate his choices. A man who is terrified of approaching women for dates, but does it still, is being brave, even if he meets those women through the Internet.

What was most offensive in my colleague's original categorization was the implication that men who fail to master the nuances of middle class social expectations sufficiently enough to be considered "normal" are unworthy of a woman's love and probably incapable of loving a wife. Nothing precludes a man who is nervous, shy, or awkward from also being supportive, compassionate and wise, all qualities that make for a good husband.

It's quite possible a man might be nervous around women because he values and respects them. The chauvinist and the womanizer are never anxious because they think so little of females.

Of course, a man can be nervous in these situations because he's had damaging experiences with women. Perhaps past rejection has left him wary. That this damage can't be seen by some young women for what it is, a temporary condition love can heal, is evidence of how little they have thought through the qualities that make a good mate.

What do you think? Who's right here? Guys, would you/have you used an Internet dating service? Does using one make you a coward? Ladies, would meeting a guy through on of these services color your feelings about him? How so?

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