Ninety-nine Percent Compatibility–Woo-hoo!
“Wow—you and I match up with 99 percent compatibility!” LaserFocus (a George Clooney lookalike) pointed out to me in a private message on OKCupid.
I clicked over to his profile. Sure enough, we did. Interesting. Four-hundred-plus survey questions into this OKCupid compatibility-matching thing, it seemed my little eccentricities had begun to show themselves in hard numbers. I rarely encountered any prospective date who came up as more than about a 90 percent match. A 97? Ah, what a lovely beacon of romantic-algorithm hopefulness.
And did I mention he looked like George Clooney?
I meandered through some of LaserFocus’s answers to questions. My fact-gathering mission resulted in the following set of data about him.
- Ivy-League education (I really am very fond of well-educated men. They often read books!)
- Blues lover, fond of hole-in-the-wall venues. (How refreshing—I’d become a bit wary of guys who think a U2 cover band is the concert treat of a lifetime. “Seriously, you will not BELIEVE how much the 2-U lead sounds like Bono!”)
- Serious professional. (I’d met some guys who were “in between jobs”—and I decided I didn’t much like the way they seemed to disappear to the little boys’ room for 15 minutes when the restaurant check arrived.)
- Verbal agility (Good, witty explanations to go with most of the survey questions. Bravo!)
The data pointed to the distinct possibility of compatibility. A 99-percent type of compatibility? Well, room for healthy skepticism there. But LaserFocus was clearly smart, articulate, well heeled, and ambitious.
And I may have forgotten to mention he was rocking the Clooney hair, eyes, and smile.
Fast-forward two months.
Laser and I have been seeing each other since our first date—a D.C. Restaurant Week dinner on M Street with free-flowing conversation and abundant chemistry. He is an exciting—and very intelligent—man. An innovator in his field. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable blues-bar date. A world traveler.
He has taken to calling me 99, which I kind of like…since it reminds me of Barbara Feldon’s sexy foil to Don Adams on the old Get Smart TV series. It’s an affectionate nod to our amazing OKCupid compatibility percentage.
I’ve noticed something else, though, over the past two months. When Laser refers to other women he met on the site, he tends not to identify them by name. He assigns a moniker that combines a single distinguishing characteristic with the woman’s profession—followed immediately by her compatibility score. For example…”Clingy Pediatrician: 92 percent.”
I laugh—but the more often I hear these references, the more uneasy I become.
Because I have noticed that Laser is also intensely concerned with exactly where everyone’s degrees came from.
(Hmmmm. Was that perhaps typical of Ivy-Leaguers? Not that I’d known that many. I went to a good, solid public university myself—and most of the people in my world are more concerned with ongoing learning and being interesting at a dinner party than with where you got your undergrad degree 25 years ago.)
And as for the verbal agility, well, that was also a bit different from what I’d first perceived. Laser was an agile responder to survey questions—that much was indisputable. But when I sent him little email notes sharing insights and observations from my reading and conversations, he tended to respond as follows:
“Your ability to synthesize ideas is so strong. I just love reading what you write!”
That’s a very nice reply. Kind and supportive. But, after getting 20 or so responses like that, I stopped feeling quite so excited about sharing my little discoveries. I mean…where do you go from there? After getting an A and a pat on the back?
And, finally, there was Laser’s “high-achieving professional” identity.
Which I admired and found intriguing. And, being a sociable type, part of what I found intriguing was the dinners and galas he was frequently invited to.
Yet, for some reason, he always went alone. And once, when I asked him what qualities were important to him in a partner, he said, “A woman so beautiful and polished that I can take her to any of my work functions.”
The morning he he made that comment, I started thinking. Hard.
I excused myself to head to the gym so that I could think some more while I worked out.
Throughout that hour on the elliptical, Laser’s words ricocheted through my head. “A woman so beautiful and polished…” A woman who, I saw now, was not me. Well, not in his mind, at least.
I liked Laser a lot…
…but I saw him clearly now. He was a ratings guy. When he met people (men and women alike), his mind went through a process of questions about their levels of education, looks, and social (or sexual) desirability. The world was arranged in levels for him—and the level could be calculated according to certain hard-and-fast algorithms.
In Laser’s world, the trick was to find the person who stood shoulder to shoulder with you—according to tangible markers like degrees, LinkedIn profile, and sheer gorgeousness.
As for me, well…He quite liked my way with words and my magazine-writing job—but when it came right down to it he just wasn’t impressed by my housewife career history, not-so-narrow hips, or plain(ish) looks.
It was personal, of course—deeply personal. Yet…on a more fundamental level, it really wasn’t personal at all. When my constants were plugged into his arithmetic function, I didn’t make it into his top-percentile slice. And OKCupid’s emphasis on algorithms and ratings seemed to have added layers of legitimacy to Laser’s way of understanding relatoinships and his place in the world.
I returned home from the gym. Laser was lying in my bed reading the Sunday Post. As I passed him on my way to the shower he shot me that boyish, sexy George Clooney grin.
I thought, this relationship really needs to end…but how do I do this?
The next sentences out of his mouth solved the dilemma for me.
“Hey, sweetheart, good for you for working out. You are NINETY-FIVE percent of the way to a rockin’ bod!”
He shot me a thumbs-up sign and, smiling, went back to the op-ed section.
I took a long, hot shower. Then I put on my favorite little black dress and heels. I told Laser I had a function to get ready for—and with a mix of complete exasperation and stubborn fondness, I said goodbye to my 99-percent match.
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