How Online Dating Is Like Karaoke
Out of boredom, and perhaps desperation, I have allowed karaoke and online dating to come back into my life recently. I really shouldn’t have. I should know myself well enough at this point in my life to realize that both make me cripplingly anxious, to the point where I can’t hope to do anything but sweat from my palms and hope for any excuse to flee. Though seemingly unconnected by anything but the time I (mistakenly) allowed them back into my life, I realized that there are actually a number of similarities between the two:
1. They seem like a really good idea when you’re drunk.
Because they require us to be vulnerable, to share hidden parts of ourselves with strangers, both karaoke and online dating are easier when drunk. In fact, there is a direct relationship between your level of intoxication and the probability you will engage in either of these behaviors. If your level of intoxication is high enough, you may not ever remember engaging in these behaviors! I call this the bonus round. Unfortunately, you will be haunted by reminders of your drunk self’s “good” ideas; notifications from Grindr/Blendr on your phone with messages from the 4 you swore was a 7 the night before, pictures your “friends” post of you belting out Whitney Houston on Facebook that you’ll have to untag (immediately), you cannot escape yourself.
2. They attract certain types of people.
Not everyone does karaoke, and not everyone does online dating. Generally speaking, there are two types of people who will engage in such behaviors. Many will be people suffering from a depressingly external locus of identity. In karaoke these are the people who do it specifically for the praise and attention of others, which are vital to their self-worth. In online dating they are the serial monogamists, the people whose identities and self-worth revolve around dating someone (you can identify them by how even their words reek of neediness). The others, a smaller crowd, are motivated by confidence and interest. They sing karaoke because they enjoy it, or because it’s something to do; they date online because they want to meet new people to date and don’t have opportunities to do so in their daily lives. Essentially, they’re what one might call “well-adjusted” or “normal.”
3. Both are rife with clichés.
Not unlike alcohol, clichés make the kind of vulnerability that both online dating and karaoke require easier; rather than thoughtfully portraying a part of yourself, they allow you to appeal to the least common denominator in your audience. “I’m really bad at talking about myself.” Shut up, everyone feels uncomfortable talking about themselves to an unknown audience, we get it. “I’m looking for love/a long term relationship.” Isn’t everyone, eventually? Also, desperate much? “I’m new to the city and trying to meet new people.” Who hasn’t been there buddy, but is a dating website really the best place for it? Don’t even get me started on the girl who gets up on stage, fruity cocktail in hand, and starts slurring Journey. Ugh.
4. Either everyone knows you do it, or no one does.
I, for one, am not a very open person. Being raised in a somewhat WASP-y family has led me to keep my personal life so personal that sometimes even friends are unaware that I have one. This reason, more than any other, is typically why I stop doing karaoke and stop trying to date online; they make me lie to people I care about. I, for one, would rather walk through Times Square naked with a boner than explain to my parents that I met someone online, or share with my co-workers that I have plans for karaoke tonight, but other, less repressed and more confident, individuals can approach these situations shamelessly. I envy them.
5. They are often, though not always, sketchy.
I’ve heard that there are reasonably decent places to sing karaoke but ultimately you have a better chance of seeing a yeti riding a unicorn than you have of singing karaoke in a place that might be described as “classy”. It’s most likely going to be a dive bar, and this is because of one factor: cover.
Who wants to pay a cover to see a free-for-all of half-drunk attention junkies fighting for a microphone? More importantly; if that’s what they want, don’t they realize they can just watch American Idol or The Voice or any of the Real Housewives series? I’ve never been charged a cover when attending a karaoke event, and would laugh if asked to pay one. Online dating functions largely the same way: one could, in theory, pay the membership fees for one of the nicer ones. When you’re young and poor, however, your only options are going to be at least marginally sketchy.
6. I am HORRIBLE at them, and probably should never do either again. Ever.
In my experience online dating and karaoke, possibly because of their temporal juxtaposition in my younger years, simultaneously exemplify the tragedy and comedy of the human experience. Although I will always wince with regret when I think back on some of my (mis)adventures, it’s the kind of wince that ends with a laugh.
Why did my 19-year-old self think it was a good idea to spend a weekend with a guy I barely knew; given the state of my life at the time, how could I not have foreseen that I would end up having a complete mental breakdown and cry hysterically for three hours on this strangers balcony? How did I not see the irony in completely forgetting the words to “Ironic” at that dingy bar in Chinatown? Though they’ve provided me with interesting stories, I’m putting a moratorium on online dating and karaoke in my life. Hopefully this time it will be permanent.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.