‘Date*’ reveals the sociology and quirks of online dating
April 6, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 7:25 pm)
There are more than one million members on Grindr, the GPS hookup application for smart phones that connects gay and bisexual men looking for hot, non-committal sex by location.
There are about half as many members on christiansmingle.com, the dating site that allows you to find like-minded folks looking for sober hand-holding over a decaf coffee and Bible reading.
Beyond their niches – one promises to find God’s match for you; the other promises a good fuck – these sites basically do the same thing: they both allow people of the modern age to skip through pretensions and get right to the point.
“We know from sociological studies that people tend to match with others with about the same level of attractiveness, the same level of intellect and from the same background,” said Luciann (Luci) Lajoie, writer, producer and sole actor in a new Denver play about online matchmaking, Date*.
“We don’t really like to talk about it, but it’s kind of the truth. Which is why online dating makes so much sense,” Lajoie said.
If the directness of online dating was applied to the real world, people would, within seconds of meeting each other, say things like “I want to fuck you, when could we make that happen?” or “while I find you attractive, I don’t want to marry someone who makes less than 50K a year. And I plan to be married in the next five years.”
In some ways, it makes us more honest.
In others, it makes us want to lie.
Some singles will Photoshop their profile pictures, or stretch the truth about their income, weight or personal interests, claiming to love Russian literature when they actually only read US Weekly.
Yet this has not deterred singles from utilizing the more than 1,500 dating websites in the U.S. alone – making it into a $2.1 billion industry with familiar names like Match.com, eHarmony, OKcupid, zoosk and sugardaddy.
One in five couples who connected in recent years have a website to thank. If you’re gay, those statistics are astronomically higher.
A 2009 online found that as many as 61 percent of gays and lesbians found their partner online within the last two years – as opposed to only 23 percent of heterosexuals according to a study done by Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfield.
Some cultural experts, alongside Rosenfield, are hypothesizing that the medium’s discretion is what attracts LGBT singles, allowing them to remain closeted in a way that a gay bar just doesn’t.
Lajoie – who holds degrees in psychology and psychiatry, returned to Denver in 2009 after a seven-year stint studying in New York and London. She was single and looking.
Though she was dismayed to find that the social circles she had run in years earlier had gone through some changes.
“Traditionally, how you meet people is through your church, your school, your family. But having been gone for seven years, all the people I did know were married with kids – a totally different place than I was,” Lajoie said.
So, alongside 5.5 million other Americans, Lajoie turned to online dating. “I had some good experiences and some horrible experiences,” she said. After a year and a half of online dating, Lajoie said that while she didn’t find the love of her life, she did find the subject for a new play.
Lajoie – who has also studied acting – understood that the solitary experience of one white female in her 30s wasn’t representative enough for a play about the newest sociological phenomenon.
“So I did interviews with around 150 people. Old, young, gay, straight, Mormon, Jewish,” she said. “I was really surprised at the willingness of people I’d never met before to meet with me for coffee, for like an hour-and-a-half, be tape recorded telling me their story, and be in my play.”
Lajoie edited the recordings into monologues, performed by local actors on film. The play’s multi-media angle projects the monologues on three screens behind Lajoie, who stars as the play’s sole live performer.
Lajoie’s excited about the challenge of an unorthodox medium, she said.
“One of my pet-peeves about theater is when writers and directors don’t give the audience credit for their intelligence,” Lajoie said.
She believes that the relationship between entertainer and audience should, like a first date, “be a dialogue,” she said. “You present all of these beautiful, thought provoking things, like a buffet, and then have an interesting conversation afterward.”
And there are plenty of conversation-provoking elements in Date*. From a man with a small penis humiliation fetish, to a lonely widow being scammed out of $500,000, Lajoie’s play touches on a subject that both sheds light on the countless differences humans have in their tastes and strategies for finding a mate, and also the number of similarities that transcend time, culture and technology.
Yet despite the increasingly-cosmopolitan nature of the Web, some still associate internet dating with awkwardness and embarrassment – something that Date* demystifies.
In a global study conducted in 2007 of online dating performed by research firm Synovate, one third of respondents believed that “only desperate people used online dating;” with a third of those believing the medium to be dangerous, a fear rooted in the statistic that one in 10 sex offenders use online dating to find their victims, one reason many sites are now performing background checks on every profile.
“It’s interesting that even though there are so many people doing this, there are still some who are embarrassed to say ‘we met online,’” Lajoie said.
“There’s still this feeling amongst some people that there’s something wrong with you if you have to resort to online dating. You aren’t socially adept enough to go out to a bar and meet someone. And that’s kind of shooting in the dark there anyway – at least with this you have numbers on your side.”
’Date*’ is written, produced and starring Luci Lajoie, is directed by Ashlee Temple with musical score by Ian Cooke. It premiers at 8 p.m. at the Jones Theater and plays through May 12. For tickets and more information visit denvercenter.org.