and The Commodification of Love

Now that I had moved back to Long Beach and was officially settled in, my first order of business wasn’t buying textbooks or preparing for the upcoming semester, it was signing up for For those of you who scoff at the idea of finding love over the Internet, I would like to proudly present my Internet Dating Hall of Fame:

1)My college roommate and friend, Diana, and her husband Chris:
*met on; together 6 years;

2)Another college roommate, Laura, and her husband Jesse:
*met on; together 6 years

3)Laura’s best friend, Adrienne, and her husband Jonathan:
*met on; together 5 years

4)My friend Marlayna and her husband Bobby:
*met on; together 7 years

5)My friend Woody and his girlfriend Kay:
*met on; together 1.5 years

6)My current roommate, Ivy, and her boyfriend Kurt:
*met on; together 10 months

I’m not saying that it’s an exact science, or that online dating is guaranteed to be successful, but I am saying that I happen to know a lot of people who have had good luck with it. However, I will preface my praise with the caveat that it doesn’t come cheap. A few random sites are free to post a profile, but the major players—like and Eharmony—will have you paying through the nose. I looked at the price tag and decided I would only sign up for one month. Yes, my Internet Dating Hall of Fame was already well underway at this point, as my friends seemed to be falling in love right and left with men they met on the Internet; but that still didn’t stop me from exercising a healthy dose of skepticism in the process.

After spending far too much time choosing pictures for my profile and coming up with some sort of witty introduction to Christy Krumm, I began to do some searching of my own through the many single men in Southern California. has an interesting method of funneling through potential love interests and it generally involves process of elimination. Basically, you go down an extensive list of attributes you would want or not want in a partner—everything from physical appearance to lifestyle choices: Do you want to date a man who has children? What about someone who was previously married. What if he’s got a strategically placed tattoo and sometimes smokes cigarettes?

There was even a box indicating each guy’s annual salary range. During Week One of my experience, I actively avoided even glancing at the salary box. It seemed so superficial and I was completely above all of that, of course—a born romantic who wanted a soul mate regardless of how much money he made. I would be happy living in an alley way as long as I was with the man that I loved, I told myself in utter 25-year-old idealism.

Week Two rolled around and more and more guys started emailing me. In the process of scanning their profiles and deciding which ones were worth the time and energy to talk to, I couldn’t help but notice that Potential Love Interest A was a Christian, a non-smoker, never married, and made $35,000 a year; while Potential Love Interest B was all of those things too; yet, he made $100,000 a year.

Hmmmm . . . quite the moral dilemma, now isn’t it?

The problem with online dating is that it pushes you rather quickly towards inconsiderate superficiality. I say inconsiderate because the sheer volume of single, 25-year-old men in my zip code alone was rather overwhelming. Even as I tried to whittle down the results by looking for guys who liked to travel and read books, I was still left with hundreds of faces and the more I scanned them all, the more dismissive I became.

My consumeristic survival tactics started kicking in subconsciously. It is the same strategy that most employ while walking down the cereal aisle at the grocery store and noting that there are 300 different brands and types of cereal to choose from. When one first starts grocery shopping, she quickly finds that studying every single box is overwhelming and rather time consuming. As one becomes a more experienced shopper, she learns that it is more advantageous to merely scan the shelves in search of specific things, such as brand name, price, or picture on the box.

Internet dating is sadly similar; the only difference is that instead of skipping over inanimate objects on a shelf, I was skipping over actual people. They had become equally disposable. If Karl Marx were still alive, I’m sure he’d have a field day with this one. It was solid proof of the evils of capitalism—the process of commodification at its very finest.

Thankfully, I began to recognize my superficiality by the end of Week 2, and vowed to write back to both Potential Love Interest A and Potential Love Interest B. I would let my intuition guide me rather than allowing a bunch of numbers to outweigh their personalities and genuine character. Neither of the two ended up panning out, as I met each of them in person and felt that they were nice, but not quite the right guys for me.

I wasn’t swooning over them. I really wanted to swoon.

In the meantime, I had been exchanging emails with Potential Love Interest C for quite some time. He was taking things a bit slower than the other two, and when we did finally meet up, I have to admit I was swooning. He was a film composer who lived in Santa Monica and on our third date, I got to see his apartment. He gave me a tour of the second bedroom that he had converted into a recording studio. It was filled with guitars, keyboards, microphones, and most fascinating of all, a double computer screen. This was back in 2006 and at the time, I had never seen two flat computer screens that connected on one side and enabled you to drag and drop things from one screen to the next. He showed me how they could also operate independently of each other, allowing him to play scenes from a movie on one screen, while he wrote corresponding music for it on the other. That way, the music could rise during moments of suspense, or become soft and melancholy when the main character started crying.

As someone who adores music but has little talent in that arena, I found all of this quite charming. As an added bonus, Potential Love Interest C was born in Switzerland and still had family that he visited there every summer. In spite of all my attempts to be levelheaded and realistic—as I did just barely know this guy—I was still having random visions of him and I tucked away in the Swiss Alps, eating chocolate bars.

Meanwhile, back in my mailbox, I had received a message from yet another guy. We’ll call him Potential Love Interest D, of course. From his pictures, he was definitely attractive, had an interesting profile, and seemed to have many of the same interests I did. Yet, the email he sent was incredibly lengthy and detailed. The first thing I thought to myself was, Why would any guy go to so much trouble to write all of this to a girl, who for all intents and purposes, may not even write him back?

Then it occurred to me that he could be a “cutter/paster”—one of those guys who wrote one stellar email and then copied and pasted it time after time, sending it out to every girl he was interested in, just to see who would bite. I didn’t like those guys and could usually sniff them out. I wasn’t entirely sure if Potential Love Interest D was one of them, but I figured I wouldn’t chance it and opted not to write him back. Plus, Potential Love Interest C had just called and asked if I wanted to spend the afternoon at the Getty and bring along some sandwiches for lunch so that we could picnic in the gardens in between perusing the beautiful paintings.

It pretty much sounded like one of the coolest dates I had ever been on. There really isn’t any point in writing back to Potential Love Interest D, I reasoned.

But a week later, I got another email from him. This time it was rather short. He told me that he had been inspired by my profile because we were both the same age; yet, I had managed to travel and work in multiple different countries. He figured that if I could make it happen, then he could too. Therefore, he had put in a request for some time off of work and booked roundtrip tickets to Germany for Oktoberfest. He just wanted to let me know and to thank me for the inspiration.

I was incredibly flattered and impressed in my own way because most people didn’t have that kind of ambition. Ever since my sophomore year of college when I had decided to spend the semester studying in Italy, I had encountered one person after the next telling me how lucky I was and how much they wished that they could travel and have the same experiences I was having. Every time I heard those words, I was tempted to grab them by the shoulders and start shaking them. “Wake up!” I always wanted to say. “You can have those experiences too, you just have to want them bad enough!”

I still firmly believe that this is true. I paid for my semester in Italy by working the drive-thru window at In-N-Out. I paid for my TESOL Certification in Barcelona by charging my expenses to a zero percent interest credit card, and then spent a year paying it off. I am neither rich nor privileged; I just really love traveling and so I make it happen. This guy seemed to get it, and I appreciated that about him.

Just as I was contemplating writing him back, Potential Love Interest C called and said he wanted to cook dinner for me on Friday night. I hung up the phone and felt guilty for wanting to even talk to Potential Love Interest D. In all of my years of faithfully watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, the one conclusion I have come to is that it is highly distracting to try and date more than one person at a time. How can you possibly get an accurate read on how you feel about someone when your heart is being pulled in different directions?

I liked Potential Love Interest C and I wanted to give him a fair chance. Plus, it just felt strangely unnatural to consider dating more than one guy at a time. Yes, I realize that online dating is entirely based upon that premise and that it’s what everyone does, but I just couldn’t do it. I accepted Potential Love Interest C’s dinner invitation, and then typed up a quick, half-hearted response to Potential Love Interest D. I told him I was flattered and wished him a happy trip. The end.

Dinner with Mr. Film Composer was delicious and even included a surprise celebrity sighting when we were grocery shopping at his local Whole Foods. We were carefully selecting cheeses for his pasta dish when I noticed actress, Madeline Stowe, with a block of Brie in her hand. Her brown hair was long and wavy, as it always was in all of her mid-90s films. She didn’t seem to have a stitch of make-up on and still looked stunningly beautiful. So, he’s neighbors with Madeline Stowe, I thought, yet another fun bonus of dating this guy.

By the end of dinner, I began to realize that all of the perks were quite possibly clouding my judgment. Did I like him, or did I like his musical abilities and his vast selection of Swiss chocolate bars? He was incredibly sweet, but awfully shy, and I often found myself searching for clever things to say or talk about with him. Conversation didn’t come naturally, as much as I really hoped it would.

A few days later, Potential Love Interest D emailed again, this time telling me that he and his friends would be spending a week backpacking around Europe after Oktoberfest. He wondered if I had any good travel tips for visiting Paris—seeing as how I had taught English in France, and all.

It turns out, I did, and I was more than happy to share them. My 30-day subscription came to an end, so he and I exchanged “real life” email addresses, kept in touch while he was off on his European adventure, and got into a relationship shortly after his return. Before he left, I decided to cut things off with Potential Love Interest C. Perhaps I should have sucked it up and dated them both at the same time. It would have been better than blindly dismissing Potential Love Interest D without even knowing who he was. After all, he was sweet enough to give me multiple chances and fought for me through cyberspace. It was romantic, really, and it also made me wonder: what would Karl Marx have done in this situation?