Is Adult Dating Just an Exercise in Dumpster Diving?




This quote really resonated with the women, especially the single ones, at a recent women’s only yoga retreat. Dating as dumpster diving. Do men feel the same way about dating as adults? Which might be the point. Do any of us remain adults when we enter the dating arena?

Or are we morphed back into teenagers with better cars but worse hair?

The last fellow I met online told me that so many of the women who’d contacted him had profile photos wearing camping attire and hoisting up large fish they’d caught, each bass or grouper proclaiming these ladies were low maintenance, high energy, and one of the guys. And apparently could scale their own fish. But this guy was really urban. He wondered why he was attracting pioneer women.

When we go online we are looking for reflections of ourselves; we are looking to see what we reflect back. Whoa, that hot successful orthodontist contacted me, I must look pretty good. That guy with the bad rug who looks to be 20 years older than I (and put up an unfortunate swimsuit shot) thinks I’d be interested? I said I want a relationship, is my profile so secretly needy that Mr. Zipless Fuck thinks I’d say yes? Or in my case, how come I only attract guys from Berkeley who like Bill Maher and NPR and think that makes them seem smart as opposed to cliched?

My ego is my Plenty of Fish profile. Lets see who it reels in.

But even when I’d found a promising flounder, the guy usually turned out to suck. The Alec Baldwin lookalike still wasn’t over his ex and thought I needed to bathe in his pain. (I know not why). The rich artist still wasn’t over his mother and had unresolved anger issues he thought I would’t notice were toxic. (Yup, millions of dollars and tons of resentment). Or the environmentalist’s life was so disorganized there wasn’t even room for him in it.

Or like so many men I’ve met, my prospect might be a nice fellow, but all the fruitless searching and resulting loneliness have left him with a patina of disillusionment; he has lots of crazy dating stories but a famished soul. Oh yeah, plus we have nothing in common, or his politics are problematic, or he still lives at home or he wants to date a woman who can gut her own salmon.

So, the grown up dating process is like dumpster diving but you won’t even find a free coffee table. I got no answers. That’s why I blog. I had my soulmate. I am grateful for that. I no longer have true love, but I’ve found a relationship that’s often fun and, thanks to him, I’ve discovered Aimee Mann and Wilco and beaches and….’nuff said.  I’ve dipped my foot into the polluted waters, but remain essentially alone.  And I think there are other solutions to loneliness beyond dating.

So, when we are looking at the metaphorical trash heap that is adult dating, are we not saying, what is wrong with me that I am attracting refuse? Why aren’t I hooking someone who reflects back my own potential? Am I sporting an invisible sign that says I lust after the irremediably damaged?

An old friend recently attracted the perfect guy on Plenty of Fish. He was smart, uber successful, thoughtful, and really into her. She crowed about him incessantly. And as she gushed, and quipped “I don’t stay on the market for long,” what I heard her saying is “Look who I can attract. I must be pretty special.”

After I realized that being alone can make us feel defective in the myopic eyes of society, I wanted to drop kick her.  (Instead I wrote this).  Her Prince High Tech turned out to be a professional con man. The moral: Beware of succumbing to your own reflection.

The single women I know are lovely and clever and flexible (we’re all yogis). The male dating pool can’t all be comprised of discounted, long expired cold cuts. Or do a greater percentage of damaged meat popsicles go online; whereas, us lithe, evolved yoginis have simply given up, retreating to Netflix, and, you know, retreats. Have all the sane singles left the butcher shop?

Why is grown up dating a visit to the dump complete with flesh-eating zombies when we all know cool single grown ups? Does dating bring out our inner insufferable teenagers such that we’re all reliving our insecurities through the mating process?  Or is it that the undamaged dolls have left the Island of Broken Toys?

I’m truly curious.  What are your conclusions?




  • Quinnland23 says:

    This first thing that came to mind with your friend’s revelation that “I don’t stay on the market for long” is that she must make frequent trips to “the market” in order to make such a statistical boast. And seeing as how she is the one constant in that little data set one might further conclude that she’s the reason the relationships peter out after the initial magic has faded.

    For me, I acknowledge, as a more “seasoned” human, that I have my own assortment of quirks and qualities that may not be fully appreciated by the general population. When we are young we are still malleable and undeveloped, and therefore more adaptable to different personalities. As we age and develop our own sense of self, we also develop a keen sense of the types of individuals who we do and don’t get along with. I think this works both ways once we hit the dating site and two people with developed likes and dislikes have to see if anything jives, and so more often then not,…. they don’t.

    • Debbie says:

      And as usual, I agree With your thoughtful perspective. We do tend to become more set as we become older and hence harder to “match.”

  • Bob says:

    First I think we forget that we aren’t fresh out of childhood, a clean slate with no inspirational boundaries. We’ve lived a life, good, bad or indifferent and have come through a few battles with emotional scars. Yes, there are some nutballs out there, but dumpster, no, there are good people too and sometimes they have to be reminded that life is not defined by Hollywood. Patience can be elusive, but it’s the best tool in the shed. Hang in there, a partner is out there, just different from the previous, which can be a good thing!

  • Andy says:

    Another amazing article …. when single I never use the websites, but know many who did. I instead went looking for a friend and found a wife – but much much later after we both worked through many issues.

  • Barry says:

    The thing is we are all damaged. In some way shape or form. The question is, who of us are now open after the shattering? Those are the one I want to meet,
    and hopefully, that is what I have become.

  • Ted says:

    Really? The least broken down thing?
    When I met you, it was just coffee, and it was nice and then you said it was the wrong time…something about going back to an old boyfriend. The boyfriend I think that you mentioned in several blog posts.

    I’ve been dating rather seriously for a year and nine out of 10 didn’t connect. I have been with a woman for six months who has incredible pain and bitterness in her life and yet we have fun, seek to find fulfillment and share our concerns.

    On my one-time meet with you, I had no idea what to expect. Thought you were educated, caring, still hurting, wondering and trying to figure out why you worked in a bookstore. It was, to me, the start of a conversation that I thought would go for awhile. Nope, you said a week or two later, you’re going back to the last guy.

    It happens. Similar excuses had come before, others came afterward. Hoped the best for you and the other women. Never questioned it. With you, I maintained the conversation via Facebook and emails, if only to comment on writing and topics. I consider myself to be a gentleman, upstanding and concerned and friendly. I’m proud of the way I’ve met women, and never questioned why they decided to stop seeing when the reason why – in nearly all cases – was “just not ready for this.”

    So, for the Alec and Zipless and Artist in your dating history, “the metaphorical trash heap that is adult dating,” I wonder if you’re generalizing just a tad, and as a writer that’s sloppy. Perhaps your perspective is darkened by still feeling the pain of losing your lifelong partner. Understood. But I think you have more capacity to see the potential in all humans. But then, I don’t know what goes on in advanced yoga classes.


    • Debbie says:

      Well, I certainly have met lovely people with whom I just didn’t feel a chemical or other connection. I’m afraid advanced yoga classes have their own conversations known only to us of the Order of Vinyasa Yogis. (I jest). Thanks for offering your balanced and positive perspective.

  • Bob H says:

    After ready the previous comments it seems that most of us seem to believe everyone we meet are damaged goods, well, they are. I’ve been dating on and off now for 3 years and I cringe at how awkward and unprepared I was for single life again. I joined 2 internet dating sites after my wife died and I read every article I could to find out how to maximize the number of hits I would get on my page and be the perfect date, but, it just seemed like another language. Based off the women I was meeting, they all just seemed like a train wreck that had worse stories about how they became single than I did. So, I came up with strategies to try to meet the perfect women with the least issues, then, I started hating all the X-Husbands that I followed because I was paying the price for their inability to connect, perform, appreciate, and love these women. WOW, this sucks, I just couldn’t do it anymore, who would love a 52 year old man with a 23 year old daughter, an 8 year old son, and a dead wife. Am I going to have to except the scraps of the dating world? So, I had to breakdown what I really wanted in a relationship first, did I want love, was I just doing this to not be alone, was I looking for a replacement wife and mother for my young son, was it the sex. Then, I realized that what I wanted and needed was evolving and I was more confused and it was time to throw in the towel, I had 1 week left on my online contracts and I just decided to let it go and just be alone, too many dates with crazy people then it hit me. Maybe I’m the issue not all these broken women and I’m asking too much from these women. Maybe it’s all about meeting a person that makes you SMILE when you don’t feel like it. I’ve been dating a woman now for 8 months and she has her issues too, and yes her X screwed up her head and she has a daughter that hates the concept of me, but, she make me smile and I like her and she likes me too. I probably will never have what is gone, but, now I’ve met someone that has her own life and I have mine, but, when I’m with her life seems a bit better. I wish it was more at times, but, I’m very fortunate. The answer is it starts with us first.

    • Debbie says:

      Yes, it does. I agree that we need to start by refining our goals in what we want. I’m still trying to figure mine out. Your story is so helpful and honest.

  • Josh says:

    The key is to not become disillusioned, no matter how much “trash” you have to sort through. Keep a positive attitude no matter what happens or how long you have to keep it for. Did life throw you a terrible person, either terrible for one date or terrible after 6 months? You HAVE to have the attitude, “HA! That was funny as hell. What’s coming next, Life? Throw it my way so I can take care of it, or become one with it!”

    In my mid 30’s I was dating after my first wife died. I never, ever had a bad date! Even the situation where I totalled my truck by smashing it into a condominium turned out to be a very good situation. You see, for any given date, I was successful at one of two things: either I was traditionally successful and had a great time in the company of the woman I was with, OR I was successful at learning something. Sure, if I had a string of dates that didn’t turn into something more I’d get frustrated, but I never got frustrated over one date. Having a great attitude is VITAL if you want to be attractive.

    • Debbie says:

      And your comments are awesome. When I’ve been in a good place, I’ve looked at my bad dates as educational experiences (ah! I’ve learned something about what I don’t want) or could laugh at life’s absurdity. Unfortunately I sort of got sick enough of the process where I needed to withdraw. And you sound really positive and zen with this stuff.