03 December 2006

Craig's List social experiments...

At 2pm yesterday - it was a slow Saturday afternoon - I had an idea. At heart, I think I am a sociologist, because the culture of people and human behavior fascinates me. Faced with the prospect of soon having to start dating (and probably "internet dating" at that), I decided to run a little social experiment of my own. My plan: Put a posting up on Saturday afternoon for a dinner date on Craig's List's "personals" site, and see who responds. Here is my post... and please note that to protect the innocent, insulting, insane, and just plain idiotic, I've edited responders' names in the ensuing commentary:

Tall blond, looking for a Saturday evening dinner date - 33

Reply to: pers-(edited)@craigslist.org
Date: 2006-12-02, 1:57PM EST

Hello all... Who knows if this Craig's List thing actually works, but hey, life's an adventure, so I'm just going to take a leap and give it a shot. Me: Tall (5'11"), athletic blond-ish, intelligent, and a great conversationalist who happens to have left a long-term relationship a few months ago and has no plans for this evening in New York City.

What I'd like: It's a Saturday night, and things are sort of slow in my dating life. Lots of offers, but not a lot of interesting guys. So tonight, I'd love to have a nice dinner, a great chat, and some fabulous wine... just a relaxing, no pressure kind of situation.

You: Smart, tall, intelligent and can carry on a good conversation over a great meal and wine. Dessert is TBA... let's see what happens at dinner first. (Are you noticing that conversation skills are a key here?)

The usual CL disclaimers: D/D free, please send a picture, no spam.


That's the posting... simple, straight forward and fairly low key. I swear that when I wrote the "dessert TBA" thing, I wasn't thinking dirty... I honestly meant chocolate cake or something.

When I first thought up this little social experiment of mine, I thought it would be kind of fun - to write a blog about Craig's List and the weirdness of online dating. To be sure, I received plenty of strange and humorous responses, including "J" who wanted to make some cultural assumptions: "'cheers' means your British?" while "D" let me know exactly where his priorities were right off the bat: "I've got my Bruins on til 8 but after that I am free", and super-date "F" was "here to save the day :-))" complete with a double-chin smiley.

"L" apparently has a problem with backslashes: "M39 nyc here/ East Midtown Manhattan area 235lbs/ brown eyes/ dark hair/ 6'2''Marketing consultantI like to travel/ golf/ movies/ the beach/ romantic dinners/ good wine/ long candle lit baths/ kissing ........" and "R" apparently doesn't have much to say quite yet: "hi. I live on the ues..6 feet/185 finance, blah, blah, blah." Hm, wonder what part of the conversation requirement he didn't get...

"V"'s email (submitted sans photo) was short and to the point. I'll quote it in it's entirety here: "Find anyone?". But "Vinnie's" was the one that scared me the most: "www. freewebs.com/ woofwoofbone"... and no I didn't go there, and no, neither should you. Yet another, from "S": "oh, I'm sure we'll get to dessert! (*winky smile*)" (gack.)

"I" was brief and strangely insightful: "With your athletic background... ever dabble in martial arts! " Hm. Why yes! Why does he ask?

Others were confident, like "A", whose response email was titled "tall blond looking for me!". In the body of his email, he says: "I am replying to your post because it's simple and honest. And you have a warm, vibrant smile." Interesting how he values honesty, and so very nicely complements me on my smile. There could be potential here! Oh wait... In my original ad, I didn't post my photo.... So, how does he know what my smile looks like? Uh oh, I think I just busted a "cut and paste" responder! Another confident responder - "M" - apparently works for Nike and is a tad competitive: "Lets do it. I am taller then you probably in better shape too." Get the impression we'll end up arm-wrestling over who will be paying for dinner?

"D" was much more verbose, with no less than a 7-paragraph self description ending with a very clear list of what he requires when responding to him: "If I am indeedright, ONLY IF YOU ARESERIOUS ABOUT WHAT YOU ARELOOKING FOR, would I loveto know whatyou do fora living, what brought you tothe site, what doyou like doing for fun, what you arelooking for, what turns youon/off in a man etc." (to his credit, at least he gave me the option of picking whether or not he was "indeed right"... and - a side note - apparently has a problem with his keyboard space bar. I really wonder if any woman really does have any prepared notes on what turns them 'on/off in a man etc.' Quite interesting, however, was that earlier in the same long email, he explains his lack of required photo by stating that "i do not havemy picture handy sincethis was totally spontaneous (a nature of mypersonality)." Is it just me, or with all of his requirements for a response, it's clear that he doesn't want spontaneity from his date? Hmmm...)

Congratulations are due to "M" who was the first to respond. I posted at exactly 1:57pm, and his response rolled in at a time stamp of 1:58. So a special prize to you, "M" for being on the ball when it comes to trolling CL for new listings! By the time the clock hit 2:05pm, I'd received 15 emails.

Through the course of the afternoon and evening, I received two very strange offers to take me shopping:
"F": "Seeking a hot girl to take shoe shopping once a week. very submissive and love to be bossed around" (eww!)
"I": "A suite at the Mandarin Oriental or Hotel on Rivington (a getaway in the city). A facial and massage at the Ritz Carlton (Central Park of course).. Private tour of Bergdorf (Courtesy of Amex). Maybe some Shoes, Maybe a necklace, Maybe some La Perla, Maybe a dress..dinner at Daniel or Per-Se.. table at Tenjune (its all about being current) or Bungalow or Butter on Monday nights (I have trust me, but need someone lovely to do this with). (First off, what is it with men and shoes? Second, I think what I really want to respond to these two guys is 'They're called Professional Escorts... give 'em a call sometime'. )

I also got a fair number of photos... some very artistic, and some pretty straightforward. More than a few were close-up photos of men's genitalia... I'm not quite sure where that fits into my request for good conversation, though. (If anyone has any ideas on that, please enlighten me.) Other photos were just plain work-ID types, but some were quite creative. One was a photography buff who sent me a photo of his chin. Yep. Just his chin. For the record - "B" - you should shave before taking and distributing another photo of your chin to potential dates.

Believe it or not, the chin-shot wasn't the most baffling, though... The photos that really confused me were the ones that included the prospective dinner-date with his arms wrapped around another woman that was definitely NOT his mother. This happened twice, and in one photo, "C" very clearly had his hand on her tush. The accompanying note said "Here's a photo of me, and my friend." Hmm. Note to "C": When sending a photo to a prospective on-line candidate for a prospective off-line dinner date, it's best to at least edit out with Photoshop your former girlfriend... or at least edit out your hand on her arse.

I also received several photos of men scowling into the lens... Trust me, guys, you will fare better with a toothy, cheesy grin than an I'm-serious-handsome-and-mysterious photo that - in all honesty - makes you look more like a child molester than an appealing dinner date. Yes, I know we all ask for tall-dark-handsome-mysterious types, but what we really want is someone who isn't afraid to laugh a little.

A few responses, however, made me really worry about the "women" (I put that in quotes because like the lottery, you never know) that are posting on this site. And about here is where I started feeling a little guilty about my fun social experiment.... when I started getting warm and fuzzy, I'm-lonely-just-like-you responses like these:

"DL": "Hi. Hope you're having a nice day. I saw your posting on Craigslist. You sound like a nice and normal woman."
"TL": "Thanks for your honest post about where you are in life and what you hope to find."
"L": "Wow, you're a real person!"
"C": "I found your posting to be sincere and quite articulate. What a refreshing change!"
"J": "I may be a sucker for brains and a well-penned posting but I had to reply, and I guess I only get one shot at this so here goes."

These were just a few of what I dubbed the 'nice-guy' responders. Of course they all could be fakes, just hoping to figure out if I really am a "natural" blond, if you catch my drift. But the impression I got was that there are - simply - a lot of lonely people on this planet, and they're all just hoping to catch a break when it comes to companionship and intimacy. I feel a little bit unethical, posting a listing as simply a misleading social observation and experiment. My only consolation is that few people really expect to get responses from these kinds of postings... I think... I hope...

Nonetheless, to the authors of the thus far 79 email responses I've gotten to my posting: Thank you for participating in this study. You can get free orange juice and cookies on your way out the door.

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