I am not cheap. Well, not in obvious ways. If you find lame the fact that I have to assess whether products and services that I buy will pay for themselves, then you may call me cheap. For example, I buy cheap shirts because more often than not, I want new styles and colors and buying cheap allows me to switch up my look. They are also more likely to get stains, more often washed than other clothing, hence they wear out. Oh, I could go on and on.
But I am not cheap. Call me a “conscious shopper,” because it’s usually not all about the money.
One day as I was deciding what menu item would be the best buy for my hunger and wallet, I started to wonder about my conscious relationship-shopping. For a while, I wasn’t happy with the amount of interest from black men on a free, multi-racial dating site so I signed up for a paid black site. Currently, I have two new messages, three new flirts and my profile has been viewed 11 times (per the automated site emails). The messages and some flirts have been “new” for a few months now because without having a paid membership, I am effectively a peeping Tom-ika. I can see profiles and pictures of men who show interest, but I might as well be looking through their garbage cans since I’m not allowed to talk to them.
I got my food and started eating, still curious. Why am I so adamant about not paying for online dating? The void for black, “professional” love has been filled at least 5x over. Isn’t that what I want as a single black woman? What’s my problem?
Immediately, I knew that what I have is not a problem. It’s really a chance to see if my way of approaching one aspect of my life can help or harm another aspect of my life.
Before that day in the restaurant, I found paying for online dating somewhat living in the realm of fantasy. It reminded me of paying for home security alarm services. The home security service is marketed as two things: protection and peace of mind. But if you think you’re being protected from burglars, you are mistaken. The service is the same as a neighbor calling the police after a crime is committed. That is to say I find it rare for criminals to be scared off without physical threat and equally as rare for them to be caught. For me, criminals on dating sites are also likely to go unnoticed. I’m paying for peace of mind, not protection.
One point for not paying to see potential criminals and losers online.
In the world of online dating, peace of mind is having a pool of responsible men who are employed enough to pay a fee. Since I chose a black site, it is also a peaceful idea to have a pool of brothers.
One point for paying to see my flirts and messages and for sending my own.
How do I break this tie?
Honestly, I find online dating to be a very convenient service. Paying online is sure as hell cheaper and more convenient than traveling around the world to eat, pray and date. In fact, when I advocate online dating to girlfriends I am quick to point out how the amount of exposure (us to them and them to us) alone is cause for signing up. As my best male friend puts it, Girl, you only meet two guys every six months – how many dates can you go on? If you’re a pimp like me, you talk to as many as you can, stay busy.”
Perhaps I can stop counting. This feels like strike three. Who has time for this whole process? Who has time to search through hundreds of profiles and read them, after making their own? And really, that’s just the beginning; the next steps include sending flirts, messages and other cutesy interactive courtship equivalents. This is when feel I desperate—has my life come to this, spending hours looking for men?
For sure my online dating experience is time-consuming. But maybe I’m the cause since I want to assess the prospects closely, not to mention I want to present a well thought out profile of my own – right down to perfectly cropped pictures that eliminate distractions from my cuteness. Yes, this is the great advantage of dating online. The ability to tell a story about myself.
Another advantage is the ability to do a cost-benefit analysis before I buy (does that sound harsh) a guy: He “loves” to read so I’m okay with him playing video games. Send message. He doesn’t like to read AND he plays video games, but he’s super fine and I only want to date him. Send message.
Maybe online dating is worth the cost. Within a few hours, I can learn qualities of men near and far that it would take at least a few weeks to know with face-to-face encounters. So what if I have to pay to play as they say? At this point, it’s a convenience that will soon be a cliché not a pop culture pseudo-taboo.
I never thought of paying for online dating as taboo. From the start, my curiosity was about getting my money’s worth and whether I could apply that concept to relationship-shopping. I don’t think I can. If it happens that I meet my husband on the site, I would feel that it paid for itself. I will pay the six months in advance to save a few bucks and then check my old, “new” messages. Like I said in the beginning, I’m cheap.