Facing reality with FaceDate.

For someone who doesn’t date I am strangely fascinated by both matchmaking and dating apps. My latest focus of interest? FaceDate. The FaceDate app forgoes following in the footsteps of popular apps such as Tinder and social media platforms such as OKCupid. Instead of taking text profiles or socioeconomic categories into account, FaceDate matches people solely on the basis of physical attraction. In layman’s terms, you tell FaceDate the celebrities you find attractive and the app scours your location for potential mates who possess the same features you find alluring amongst your favorite starlets.

What intrigues me about FaceDate is that I believe that by shirking profiles and statistics to hone in on facial features the app will do a much better job battling the bigotry that plagues its competitors. There are no sliders to weed out individuals of a certain race, body type, class, or religion. One is judged strictly by one’s phenotype and skin care regimen.

“Friends who use Grindr complain there’s a lot of racist ‘whites only’ requests on there. Let’s say a guy only enters in photos of white men. Would he only be shown white men, or would FaceDate’s algorithms leave race behind?”Sophie Wilkinson

“It’s a good question. I think by default, it should leave the race behind, because I don’t think it’s that easy to say you can learn a race based on photos. Different people have different faces, it’s not like a race has the same model face. As a scientist I would need to test it, though.”Cristian Borcea

As a brown-skinned black woman I am all too familiar with statistics that label me persona non grata on various social media sites and dating apps—hence my swiftly removing myself from the dating scene. Many are quick to state their preference for a particular race, not realizing they are including countless individuals who aren’t their “type” and are excluding many they would find extremely attractive. A heterosexual man who is enamored by large eyes, full lips, and long streamlined noses would find himself drawn to both Rosario Dawson and Angelina Jolie. Yet should he adjust his settings to only search for white women, he would never discover a Dawson doppelgänger. Racism has its consequences even at the most superficial level!

FaceDate would force individuals to actually see the beauty (or plainness, to be fair) of an individual before assumptions based on race could sway one’s judgement. In the past I have discussed the breathtaking subversive beauty of Rihanna, who has allowed the world to appreciate full lips and broad noses by cloaking those attributes in the fair skin deemed acceptably feminine by the masses. I am amused to think of how the straight men using FaceDate will respond when those who have stated their admiration of Rihanna are met with a selection of brown-skinned women with beautifully broad noses and adorable bow-shaped lips. I believe many will have to face their own bigotry and decide how to come to terms with it going forward. I believe many more will be surprised to discover they have a “type”—one that includes a different assortment than they believed it would.

Draw back your bow.

It took me about a month to realize that I had been on the wrong site. Seeking platonic friends on a dating site? Why not? After all, OKCupid had provided the opportunity to search for friends or activity partners. Confident in my newfound venture, I created a profile. And to head any potential suitors off at the pass, I listed myself as seeing someone and reiterated my search for friends in my summary—then sat back and waited for a gaggle of girlfriends to roll in. Oh, I bet I’d be the Josie, or the Jerrica, or the Misty! No. No, let’s face it. I’d be the Sinclair, the Rose, the Charlotte.

Oh, God. I would completely and utterly be “the Charlotte.” But, hey! I could work with that! I could poke fun at myself! I wouldn’t mind being the butt of a few jokes regarding my naïve outlook, to cringe when being dragged to Magic Mike only to finally loosen up and hoot and holler with the rest of the girls. I was ready.

I was the only one ready. I received no responses from potential girlfriends. Not one. And while I scanned through OKCupid’s list of friend matches, eagerly hoping one of the individuals listed would contact me, my profile was not visited by one woman.

I did, however, receive profile visits from men, and responses from men, and instant messages from men. Some of the men were pleasant; some of the men were creeps; three of them were likely registered sex offenders. However, what they all had in common is that none of them had read my profile. My plea for local friends had garnered responses from men outside the United States. My request for friends five years younger or fifteen years older drew messages from men old enough to have sired me. Expressing my distaste for drugs seemed to attract regular marijuana users. Men who stated that they would not be interested in seeing a “geek” asked to see me romantically. The whole process had become an unmitigated disaster.

I decided to be more proactive. I visited profiles of those I found interesting in the hopes that curiosity would compel said individuals to seek me out. I broadened my search to include residents from a wider radius. Sadly, the result was the same. Discouraged, I disabled my account.

The older one becomes, the more difficult it is to make new friends and keep old ones. Often months pass between interactions; it makes the fleeting moments caught at a convention or wedding or baby shower bittersweet. It will last only an hour, a night, a weekend before bags must be packed and flights must be caught. And then one is back to writing occasional emails and viewing pictures on Instagram.

I have found myself in the bizarre position of building a social life almost entirely from scratch. And I am not alone. However, I don’t believe I will be using Social Jane to place an ad for that “Kei” or “Colleen.” It’s not because I believe that such sites do not work; In fact, I actually believe wholeheartedly in their usefulness. It’s that I’ve learned enough about myself to know that seeking a group of close-knit local friends isn’t the current path for me.

The best thing about placing an ad for someone else is that it requires the examination of oneself. I learned that I prefer suburban life in the shadow of a big city, that the culture and climate of the Pacific Northwest and West Coast are preferable to life in New Jersey, and that coffee shops and burger joints are more enjoyable than discos and bars. Gathering a group only to leave them high and dry once Seattle or Sacramento came calling seemed cruel. And it would leave me in the same spot I am now, a great distance from those I call friends.

The loneliness can be hard to bear, but it is often a burden one keeps to oneself to avoid pointed lectures. “Girl, you should have been moved out here! That’s why you’d never catch me building my life around no man!” Moral support can often be salt in a wound. I’d rather endure endless nights of solitude than a phone call peppered with “I told you so.”

I often think about what my ad would look like. Restless Jersey girl seeks Western geek for celebrity gossip and comic industry dishing! Misty seeks Colleen for Thai food and True Blood marathons! You: 30s, short, likes good Kung Fu and bad wrestling!
Hmm, probably not appealing to anyone except me. But, hey, if it sounds good to you? Drop me a line.