Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Online Dating: The Drinking Game

A few years ago, in the midst of a dateless streak that had lapped sad and looped itself around to sadly funny, my best friend and I had a conversation comparing our experiences with online dating. This is the result of that conversation. You built this, humanity. You built this.

Disclaimer: Works best with OkCupid, use with Plenty Of Fish may cause immediate alcohol poisoning. I am not responsible for poor decisions made as a result of playing. If there's anything you feel like we've left out, comments are open & I'm ready to edit.

The rules: Go to an online dating site. Start looking at profiles. Try not to retch. Begin drinking as instructed below.

Take a drink:
First correspondence is a single word.
Email asks question that is already obviously answered in your profile.
Email obviously ignores things you mentioned in your profile.
Message is from a user gratuitously outside your age/location preferences.
Email uses the phrase "like your pic," "you're hot," or similar.
- If that's all the email says, 2 drinks.
If it is blatantly fetishizing your appearance, 2 drinks.
- If the email is intended for an adult audience, 3 drinks

Take 2 drinks:
User claims to speak non-native languages, then doesn't understand simple greetings in them.
Use of the phrase (in email or in profile) "now you know everything you need, hit me up.”
User emails you more than twice, despite a voiced disinterest OR complete lack of response on your part.
- Every email received (unprompted) after the 2nd, take a drink
User responds to rejection with threats/insults, chug, block, report.

Language Comprehension:
Take a drink if the profile features:
Intentional spelling errors (Ex: Ur, whut, wut, gurl, etc.)
Earnest use of chatspeak (Ex: LOL, ROFL, n00b, t3h, etc)
User's misuse of grammar is so consistent as to be intentional. (Ex: An entire profile without apostrophes.)
Profile showcases overall willful ignorance re: grammar, sentence structure.
- if user claims to be in school, drink twice.

Profile Pictures:
Take a drink:
Group picture that doesn't specify which one is the user.
User is pictured with their car/motorcycle.
Picture of a place user has been with no people in it.
Picture of user’s animals instead of user.
Picture of user drinking and looking "cool” or “partying.”
Picture is a "MySpace" shot or includes "kissyface"/"duckface."

Take 2 drinks:
Picture includes a datestamp
- If datestamp is 5 years ago or more, take a shot.
Picture of user in Halloween costume
- If costume is sexy/racist, take a shot.
- If costume is sexy AND racist, chug, post to reddit.

Take 1 shot:
Picture fails to include entire face.
Picture taken in a mirror.
User refuses to post a picture because they don't want anyone they know to know that they're online dating or any other clearly cop-out/restraining order-esque reason.
Cheesecake picture of user in their military uniform, surrounded by guns.
Decapitated picture of abs.
- If an arm is holding the shirt up instead of just being shirtless, 2 shots.
- If the user is clearly on steroids, and/or an unnatural shade of orange, 2 shots, swear to wear sunscreen every day for the rest of your life.

For any of the above while wearing a fedora, double the drinking.

Profile Information:
Take a drink:
Profile describes user as "just a normal guy/girl.”
Profile describes user as "laid-back."
Use of the phrase "I like all kinds of music, except for rap/country/classical” or similar.
Profile uses quotes a well known comedy routine/movie/book etc instead of actually writing about themselves/for themselves.
- If the quote is unattributed, drink twice.
Profile states "I'm new to this, lol, I don't know what to say" or similar.
- Types gibberish to get site to accept profile/meet length requirements, drink twice
- “About me” section is 5 sentences or less, drink twice, cry.
Lists something as a "guilty pleasure, LOL!!!!!”
Uses more than 2 exclamation points in succession.
Loves to read, but doesn't really have time to.
Use of the phrase "I am awesome.”
User confuses "talents" with "basic human functions." (Ex: I am really good at: sleeping, laughing, eating.)

User has confused "Dom" with "just an asshole." 
Profile includes sexual innuendo.

- Actually, it's not innuendo at all. - 2 drinks.
- Also, it's their profile name. Chug.

Take 2 drinks:
Description of self includes "I like to hang out (with friends) and/or watch movies and/or have a good time.”
They’re 30-something and their only career goals/aspirations involve "massage therapist."
- There is a standing offer to let them practice their technique on you.  Take a shot.
Doesn't like to read/doesn't really like books.
Claims to have no baggage.
Just looking for a woman to spoil/treat like a queen (conversely, just looking for a guy who will treat them right.)
Longform rant about how people of their preferred gender identity are all liars/cheaters
Tries to use their involvement in reality television (or people they know who are in reality television) as selling points.

Take a shot:
If religious beliefs mentioned in profile are directly contradictory to activities mentioned/shown in profile.
Profile mentions that they have kids, but states that "they never see them/other parent is out of the picture" as a selling point/pro.
- If under 24, 1 drink for every kid they have.

Profile states that user has a really great sense of humor/is really funny, but fails to express any grasp whatsoever of such a concept. (Alternative: User claims to be sarcastic, warns away other users who are "easily offended.")

Take a drink:
Looking for someone "who has a lot in common with me.”
Profile only states what they're looking for and nothing about themselves.
User is over 30, "looking for" is 18-21.

Take 2 drinks:
They love to party, but are looking for a "good (religion) girl/guy.”
Has "play/anything I can get" checked while citing a lengthy list of wholesome criteria a potential mate needs to meet.
User is VERY SPECIFICALLY not looking for “cheaters/whores/drama bombs!”
User is "deeply religious" but are looking for mates of any religion.User has different criteria for their own personal health/appearance versus their mate's. (Ex: I hate exercise, you must be thin.)

Take 1 shot:
User is "in a relationship" looking for "single" mates (only applicable if it's not primarily that kind of website.)
Explicitly mentions furries.  (Pro or con, doesn't matter.) (Also, see above.)

You've exchanged a few messages, you think they're witty and charming and attractive, you'd like to take this offline... then they delete their profile without saying a word.
Drink the whole damn bottle. GOTO Correspondence.

Monday, September 10, 2012

World Suicide Prevention Day: How To Care for Your Stiricide

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (Suicide Awareness Day, if you're the internet), and as all my social media feeds flood with helpful-but-frustratingly-generic tips for how you can help someone who is depressed, I can't help but think: who is this actually helping? And how is this helping them?

Because the thing is, unless you're up close and personal with someone, it can be pretty hard to tell the difference between "kinda sad" and "sitting in a bathtub wondering what else you can use that razor blade for." It can be hard to know when you need to reach out - and even harder to know what form that reaching should take.

For me, if I'm functioning through my depression, no one else will notice it. Because for as much as I hurt, I don't want to be a burden on anyone else in my life.

The LAST thing I ever want when I'm at the bottom of my own personal pit, is for anyone to tell me "It'll be ok." "You're strong, you'll get through this." Or my favourite, eternally, from my mother, "Did you take your meds today?" I have been through this before. I don't need you to offer me platitudes or patronize me. I don't need suggestions based in cool rationality, or reassurances that are foreign to the point of impossible. (I live with depression. It will never be "ok." It will, sometimes, be somewhere between slightly and significantly less shitty. But it will never be "ok.")

When I'm sinking to the bottom, the last thing I want is platitudes, or unattainable hope, or obvious yet impossible advice. All I want is a single thing to momentarily distract me from the bottomless abyss that I'm still trying to find the end of. Not a life changing epiphany or a new raison d'ĂȘtre. Not a phone number to call that will require an enormous amount of emotional energy that I do not currently possess. All I want is a fucking lifeline*A tiny thing that I can momentarily glom on to - that will, with any luck, lead to another tiny thing, and then another tiny thing. (Eventually, all these very tiny things will gradually lead me out of the waters.) 

Do you want to actually help your maybe possibly too depressed to function friend? Take a deep, scary look at who your friend is and how they function on the regular. Prepare yourself for possible and likely inevitable rejection. Don't get offended when that happens. Try not to offer them help in a form that they wouldn't appreciate when they're at "normal" - they'll appreciate it even less when they're in the hole.

But if you want specifics, I'm not sure if I can give them to you. Every person is different, and everyone has their own lifelines. If that friend is me, though, here's a short list of what you can do:

Send me pictures of otters.

Ohhai there.
In fact, you should do this whether or not you think I'm in the hole. Spontaneous otters are code for "I'm thinking about you. I like you. I hope you're well."

But seriously, "Otter Day" is my public access code for "things are no good, ship has been abandoned." It is both a cue to send me a lifeline (pictures of otters are just one), as well as a heads up that things are, well, not ok. Saying "I am not ok, I need help" - literally, in those words (which seem to be the only words that people think have any validity when talking about these things) - never stops being terrifying and next to impossible. So I have code words.

Otter Day.

That's what that means.

- Invite me out to take a walk.

North Boulder Park shot by Ann Cantelow
Somewhere safe, nearby, and normal. Somewhere inside my comfort zone.
Not a hike, not to go dancing, not to have coffee. I can't handle extended human interaction, I'm ashamed to show my face in public. I can't handle a challenge. But I can put on some pants and walk around the block with someone I trust. Though the pants part may take some cajoling.

Show up, uninvited, bearing food that I will eat.

I may be able to shove a Wheat Thin in my mouth,
but I will not be able to make myself an actual meal.
When I'm in my hole, I lose my appetite. I'm too tired too cook, then I'm too sad to cook, then I'm too disappointed in myself to even try. If you haven't seen me in a few days and suspect that I may be sinking, feed me. Probably protein.

But what if you have a friend that isn't me? The only thing I can tell you is, be their friend. Don't assume that the things that work for you to get out a minor funk (or for me to get out of a major one) will necessarily work for them.

Don't treat them like they're an idiot, or like you know how to fix this better than they do. (I can't tell you how many times I've had people suggest that I exercise/take a bath/watch a fun movie/get laid. Just because something is the right answer for you doesn't make it a universal truth. Also, if it's that obvious, your depressed friend has probably already thought of it. 'Cause they're smart, right? Isn't that why you're friends?) Think about who they are, and how they are, and do what you can do to be good to them, in a way that they would appreciate.

Keep trying. Be the best lifeline you can be.

*Of course, if this is the first time, or if it just feels like the first time, they've been down this road, be supportive. Let them know that there are options for them. And help them find out what those options are. Odds are, they don't know what their health plan will cover, or who to call to find out, or even how to set up an appointment with a therapist. If depression comes with a side of anxiety and phone-phobia the way it does for me, they may not even be able to make those calls. If you want to come to the table with advice or options, makes sure you know as much as possible, and have taken as much of the legwork out of things as you can. YMMV, of course, but information and preparedness is always my favourite.