Single in Philly: Are You There, Waffles? It’s Me, Christy

From matchmakers to, I set out to chronicle what dating in Philly is like these days. So how did my heart get involved, too?

Almost as insanely laborious is answering the multiple-choice questions throws at you. Am I turned on by thunderstorms? Well, not expressly, but I suppose they can be romantic under the right circumstances. Check. Does marking that I drink “regularly” instead of “socially” make me sound like an alcoholic? Probably. Social drinker, check. Do I like or dislike erotica? Um, is this a question about porn? I check the “no opinion” box, embarrassed that I’m being forced to even acknowledge the existence of porn to total strangers on the Web. It’s all surprisingly grueling, filled with the self-indulgent self-­reflection you feel at a therapy session, only without the relief or absolution or whatever it is that comes afterward. Instead, you just sit at your iMac and wait to be judged, for a monthly fee of $35.

The winks come first. Winking is a way to let someone know that you’ve seen his/her profile, and that he/she has caught your eye — a nonverbal toe-dip into the pool, inviting you to view the winker’s profile rather than jump right in with an actual e-mail. In my first 10 minutes online, I get two winks, and I’m relieved. Sure, one guy is as old as my dad and lives in West Virginia, but that’s beside the point. Someone — two someones, actually — has already winked. And the second one is sort of cute. And the cute one e-mails a few minutes later.

This is how the process goes for the next few days. First it’s 10 winks and two e-mails, then 25 winks and five e-mails, until by the third day, I’ve gone from relief that someone actually e-mailed me to been-there-done-that exasperation. “Oh, really, enough with the winks already,” I sigh to anyone who happens to be near me when I’m online. “A guy who won’t send an e-mail is someone I probably won’t even look at.” (No matter that at least half the characters sending me e-mails have more than likely sent notes out to every female in Greater Philadelphia, and possibly have done so from prison.)

Another few days of this, and I’m starting to feel the eye-rolls of friends and co-workers who listen to my updates. I don’t blame them; I’m actually starting to hate myself a little, too. It’s not just that I don’t respond to many of the men who’ve e-mailed me (rude!), but that I dismiss a lot of them based on the very criteria I feared I would be judged on days earlier (bitch!). Before I signed up, a colleague who did for three days — before deeming it “too hateful” to stay on — had accusingly referred to participants’ “dehumanizing tendency to treat people like cattle.” He was right: I’m herding out whole genres of men with rules I make up as I go along.

Under five-foot-seven? Delete.

More than one profile picture showing bare chest? Delete.

Confusion about you’re/your usage? Delete.

The is judgmental and small, and I don’t really like her. And apparently, neither do some men to whom I’ve written, and from whom I’ve received only silence in response. If this weren’t work, I think the sting of rejection would affect me more, but under the invisible shield of journalistic objectivity, I simply scroll the site, envision these men reading my profile, and wonder with detached curiosity what the deal-breaker was for them.

“She hates cats?” Delete.