Maybe you’re out at a bar with friends, or perhaps on a tedious date yourself. You look around the bar and there’s something about the couple by the door that grabs your attention. They’re so…rigid. They’re both smiling constantly for no apparent reason, and oh my god are they drinking fast! What is wrong with them?! OH WAIT – they’re on an Internet date.
One of my favorite games is Spot the Internet Date, and it can be played in any bar, restaurant, or public bathroom across the country. All you have to do is look for two people sitting next to each other, then try to decipher if they met on the computer. Everything gets taken into account: body language, outfits, beverage of choice, conversation style, the whole dealio. And lest you think your bar may not have any Internet dates present, listen to this little stat: at any given time there are three Internet dates going on in every bar, restaurant, and coffee shop in the continental United States. Impressive, right? Sure, I totally made it up – but imagine if it were true??!!
So what do you want to look for when playing Spot the Internet Date? Here’s some of the tip offs I check for:
1. Wide Disparity In Dress and Attire
The great thing about Internet dates is that one of the people probably has no idea where they’re going. They were just given a name of a bar and a time to show. That will often lead to one person being dressed completely inappropriately, which is both a hilarious good time and an easy indicator that an Internet date is going down. For instance, last week I invited a lady to a casual neighborhood pub for a drink, she showed up in heels, large hoop earrings, and one of those sparkly shawl things that women like to wear. Entirely understandable mistake, but the whole night I was wishing I was another person in the bar so I could spot us and totally know we were on an Internet date.
2. Hysterical Smiling
You’d think that when people are in an uncomfortable situation – which even the best Internet dates have a touch of – they would frown or look confused or seem generally unhappy. In fact, it’s just the opposite. People on Internet dates smile like lunatics, I don’t really know why. I think it’s the tension, combined with the desire to look like they’re having a good time in case they end up liking the goofball sitting across from them in an hour or two. You’ve never seen someone happier than when they’re on a date with a person they’ve never met listening to a “funny” story about high school or explaining why they liked cats and not dogs in their profile. Even I smile too much, but in my case it’s because of the booze.
Speaking of which…
3. Wine and Beer Only
In the countless dates I’ve been on, my companion has ordered a mixed drink maybe ten times, maximum. Enjoy a beer or wine and you’re a normal, sophisticated person who’s having a leisurely drink with a new chum. Order a gin and tonic and you’re an out of control alchie who rides the freight trains at night and kills hobos in their sleep. It’s of course a preposterous prejudice, but it’s a prejudice nonetheless. If the pair in front of you is drinking rum and cokes then chances are they met like normal humans.
4. Half-Finished Board Game In Front of Them
Common mistake: “Hey, this bar has fun board games like Parchessi and Scrabble, and I want this evening to be fun! Maybe it’ll be hard to make conversation at first, so let’s grab one of these wacky games and have a guaranteed good time!” You bring the game over, start talking because you’ve been emailing for a week and have a genuine curiosity about your date, and then have the specter of this stupid board game hanging over you all night. “Oh wait, am I supposed to draw a card now? What were we talking about, I forget? Does it count if the dice go off the board?” Uch. It’s all too horrible to think about. An unfinished board game has eHarmony written all over it. If you’re out with friends playing games, you play the damn game. Out on a date you sort-of-play-and-sort-of-talk, then try to let your partner win as if throwing a game of Boogle is a romantic act of chivalry. Nonsense.
(Wow, I got really worked up about that one, huh?)
5. Body Language
When all else fails, just look at how the couple is sitting. If one person is leaning in – intrigued, attentive, involved – while the other is aloof and non-committal, you may have an Internet date on your hands. They do usually end with one person into it and the other uninspired. Of course, you could also be looking at a ten-year relationship… so scratch that one.
No matter their size, shape, or level of inebriation, everyone carries themselves the same on an Internet date. Forced relaxation, deliberate nonchalance, restricted comfort – all these terms would apply. You’re trying very hard to seem comfortable and in your own skin, despite the fact that you’re talking to a complete stranger who you may end up, in the very near future, french kissing. If you want to spot these people, just look for a lot of tension in their body that they’re desperately trying to mask by slouching or twirling their hair. Like they just sat on a thumb tack and are trying to play it cool. Or they don’t have a care in the world unless you clap loudly in their ear, in which case they’ll yelp and sprint out of the room. Think…Frankenstein on a handful of sleeping pills. Or R2D2 after he smoked some really good pot. You see that and you can bet the house – that’s a meeting born on the world wide web.
But hey, the list is far from complete. You tell me, what’s the best way to spot an Internet date?