How To Date Online Like a Sane Person

How To Date Online Like a Sane Person


This was originally published on June 22, 2015.

We addicts and alcoholics tend to get compulsive about anything, and online dating, or dating in general, can turn into just another fix. Of course dating can be a big struggle for anyone on the planet, but often it’s more maddening for us sober people. We don’t have a social lubricant. We can’t numb our anxiety, we can’t crank up our charm with a few cosmos, we can’t meet people while intoxicated at bars—we are 100% present in our skin, sentient beyond what we’d often prefer.

These days it can be extremely difficult to meet people, especially if you live in a major city, and it’s probably even more impossible if you live in LA. I’ve always had a terrible time meeting men—guys just never hit on me. Or, to be fair, guys under 65 who aren’t homeless never hit on me. Nothing against the homeless guys, but I do prefer dating someone with at least an apartment, and as for the 65-year-olds, well, that’s my dad’s age.


My ongoing joke is that I went to college twice and never met someone. Really, after eight years at university, you’d think I’d score at least one date, but it never happened. Granted, I wasn’t there to get an MRS degree anyway (and I really don’t care about getting married), but still, not one date?

So you can imagine why online dating would be a viable option for someone like me. And online dating can be a real bitch. Sure, it can sometimes lead to fulfilling relationships, hot hook-ups and maybe some cinematic affairs when you’re visiting Cancún or the Barbados, but it can also lead to obsession and compulsion and suck up hours and days of your time that could be spent doing something more interesting.

I’ve been there. Done that. But it never lasted long.

I’m the kind of person who will painstakingly craft a well-written and witty profile, thinking guys are interested in how well I can write and how funny I am. They are not. They are interested in my legs, my ass, my tits and my face, and, being a supreme idiot, I typically post God-awful pictures of myself that aren’t remotely attractive. I blather on and on endlessly about my passions and pursuits, then I wonder why all the hot guys and not-so-hot guys aren’t messaging me. So I’ll message some of them first, usually get no responses, but sometimes I will get a response and I’ll go on a few boring dates, and when nothing’s panned out after three or four weeks, I’ll delete my profile in a huff and vow to never return to the cesspool of online dating again.

I’ve gone through this pattern over and over since I was 24.

I’ve tried JDate (I’m not Jewish, but I’m totally hot for Jewish guys), Hye Singles (because I do have Armenian blood), Adult Friendfinder,, Nerve, Why Don’t We?, OK Stupid and LavaLife, the site where I met my current beau just a few days after I posted my profile. Truthfully, we hooked up just for sex, but four-and-a-half years later, we’re still together.

They say it’s when you’re not looking.

For the record, we’re technically in an open relationship, but we really don’t act like it. At 51 he claims he’s too old to chase tail, and my two sexual flings threw me over the cuckoo’s nest. Still, we have a free pass for a hook-up if some irresistible opportunity arises, which we’ve sort of agreed might happen when he goes to Argentina and I go to Spain.

What happens in a Spanish-speaking country stays in a Spanish-speaking country. And fuck Vegas. I hate that place.

But for those three or four weeks that I’d be online, I’d constantly check my messages, scroll for suitable bachelors and update my profile. Sometimes I’d even go online pretending to be a dude to surf the chicks and check out my competition. That always made me depressed. In LA there are some pretty fine women, and many of them aren’t even stupid. Lots of them have high-powered jobs along with their $300 highlights and fierce sex appeal. Yeah, no wonder no one hit me up.

I never got to the compulsive dating stage, because I just never got that many dates. Even if I had a bunch of propositions, I’d probably have tried to get out of them. Nothing’s worse than first dates! I absolutely loathe them. But many of my friends have no problem dating compulsively; while at first I envied their determination and balls, I’ve now started pitying them.

I’m sorry, but that’s no way to live—it makes your world super small, and it can make you really boring, too. When all you do is date and think about dating, what on earth do you have to talk to your dates about? I for one am turned on by brains, charm and a killer conversationalist. If all the guy can talk about is how fucked up the dating scene is like in LA—and I’ve met plenty of guys who do this—he absolutely will not get a second date.

Many of my single girlfriends, both in and out of recovery, go out on dates nearly every night of the week, sometimes scheduling lunch dates on the weekends only to double-up for dinner dates in the evenings. I know this is judgmental, but to me this behavior reeks of both desperation and escapism, and neither are sane behaviors.

As sober people, we finally have a fresh start. We have unlimited potential. We can go back to school, we can travel, we can master a new language, we can learn how to knit, we can volunteer at homes for the elderly or animal shelters, we can write books, start businesses, home-grow tomatoes, learn how to bake croissants and maybe even get a pilot license. At the very least, we can work on ourselves to become whole, independent creatures. There are interesting and fulfilling things to do outside of compulsively dating, and even compulsively having sex, which I’ve recently learned.

It’s tough to do this in our sex-obsessed culture. Whether it’s a dating site, Axe shave gel or Victoria’s Secret, American businesses reap major profits by telling us we must fuck the next hot man or woman we see. But we’re the ones missing out. Romantic love and sex are great, but they’re only a small part of a huge world full of other pleasures and other subjects of intrigue.

For sober folks who are striving to be balanced and healthy and who are done keeping our worlds super-small, compulsive online dating is two steps backwards. Of course it’s fine go online to hunt for your next hot lover or fiancee, but do it in moderation. But I say give yourself a time limit: spend 20 minutes on it once a day and call it quits. Cap yourself off at one-to-two dates per week.

If you can’t stick to that, delete the profile altogether and take a couple of months off. If you still can’t control and enjoy your online dating after a hiatus, I’d recommend giving it up completely and just living your life.

The truth is, it’s going to be over soon. You don’t want to be 85 and sitting in an old folks’ home lamenting all the time you wasted on Tinder.


About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.