illustration by Alison Seiffer

Laura Kostelny on the Joy of Text

New Dallas-based dating service Serendipity Sense is ideal for socially inept people—folks, like me, who prefer texting over talking.

Unlike Barbra Streisand, I don’t believe people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. “Stranger danger” is my motto, which is great when you’re going for a run at 10 pm but less so when you’re trying to find Mr. Right. Obviously, I’m not a shut-in, and I can shake hands with new people without reaching for the Purell. I’m simply incapable of flirting. I’m missing the sexy banter gene. Instead, I find myself offering scatological bon mots and insights into reality television. This could in part explain why I have been dating Mr. Wrong off and on for the last five years. Our shared inability to communicate is matched only by our love for Real Housewives of Atlanta and toilet humor.

But I’m not getting any younger. It’s time to meet someone new. The problem: phobia aside, once you reach a certain age, meeting unmarried men of the same certain age is hard. “You’re a writer,” people offer. “Internet dating!” I watch Lifetime. I’ve seen all the happy couples on the eHarmony commercials. (Apparently 2002 was a very good year for love.) A few problems here: I don’t have the MFA or the two or three weeks necessary to complete the scientific questionnaire. Also, one of my prerequisites for Mr. Right is that we never, ever talk about feelings, so someone who takes the time to write down way-too-personal information in essay form is clearly not for me.

Enter Serendipity Sense, a new Dallas-based dating service ideal for socially inept people—folks who prefer texting over talking. The premise: text with proximal people without fear, as communication goes through a system that allows phone numbers to remain private. I knew I was in the right place when I completed the profile in less than three minutes. No pressure here to include a Chaucer reference in a 2,000-word essay answering the prompt “Describe three things you can’t live without.” The important things here are age, sex, location, smoking and drinking preferences, and little else. Bonus: “N/A” can be used to answer every single question. After I signed up online and established my profile (lrkostelny, 37, white, BA, liberal, tall, athletic, Christian, nonsmoking drinker, in a curious state of mind), I got on my trusty phone, texted my location, and immediately received a list of potential suitors within a 5-mile radius.

A few user names struck my fancy—undercoverbro, LakewoodGeek, tbuttine. After checking all three of their profiles, I decided undercoverbro held the most promise. His status message said he was playing poker. On a Tuesday morning. And he chose to describe himself with this: “I went to Miami University and I am cool.” (Me: “I like to run 6 miles and then drink a 12-pack of beer.”)

I channeled my inner minx and crafted a clever flirt message to undercoverbro: “Hello. How are you?”

No response.

Just in case I was experiencing technical difficulties, I sent a test flirt to a friend also on the site: “My tummy hurts.” I received his response almost instantly: “I hope you like baggage.” All systems were apparently a go.

Luckily, with time and a little counseling, I was able to get over undercoverbro’s rejection. And later that night, I received a message from Chris. He texted: “Hi, are you out on a school night?” My time with undercoverbro had taught me the importance of just the right response. “Sure,” I texted back. And then I added a sexy—well, less sexy, more smiling—emoticon.

I never heard from Chris again.

The next night, I flirted with Bacchus, a happy, outgoing male Christian of medium height and athletic build with a postgraduate degree who drinks. I sent him a note: “I like Christians who drink.”

He replied: “I’m with the band.” Good start, even though I had no idea what that meant. I made a joke about band uniforms, which he must have liked, because he wrote back: “Is it hot in here or is it just you?”

Now we were getting somewhere! I popped an Imodium tablet.

I replied: “Yes, it’s just me. And the heater. And the sun.” I was on fire! He asked if we could chat more. I settled in for some sexting. This was a guy who chose for his user name “Bacchus”—the god of agriculture, theater, and winemaking. I thought I’d save my note about getting together for a naked performance of Romeo & Juliet in the middle of a sorghum field while drinking Strawberry Hill. Instead I wrote: “Alright, mister, are you ready for the hard questions?”

Bacchus wrote back: “The creator of this thing is a business partner of mine. I’m playing on it to give him feedback.”

So the only guy I could attract was showing me attention strictly for business reasons. The whole experience made me feel so cheap, so used. Just like normal. Only with standard text messaging rates applied.

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