In a recent post, I shared one of my early online magazine columns from several years ago. Today, I’m sharing my most recent column, published this week. Most of my pieces (both for the magazine and here on this blog) explore science, medicine, and life in medical school. This piece, however, explores new territory. It’s called “Dr. Dating,” and as the title suggests, it delves into what it’s like trying to find a partner while surviving as a 35-year-old medical student.
This piece was first published in the online magazine The American. You can see the original version here.
Dating in medical school is hard. When your 3:30 a.m. alarm heralds a 15-hour workday, you have little time left for yourself, much less a partner.
Dating as an older medical student is even harder. When most of your classmates are a decade younger than you, your dating pool automatically shrinks. Dating apps make the whole thing almost impossible. When Cupid’s main criteria is pixelated faces there’s little room for meaningful romance.
I tend to post on sites that allow a more freeform profile, minus images. I want responses to my words alone. So far, I’ve had mixed results. I’ve dated two men seriously; one for a few months, the other for a few weeks. I was comforted to know there were people out there who shared my mindset. I’ve also gone on a number of dates with like-minded people who weren’t the keeping kind. There was either no physical chemistry or political differences of opinion too deep to overcome. I can’t date someone who doesn’t believe in the importance of social welfare programs, for example.
My online profile says I’m an intelligent, attractive, ambitious woman. I mention I’m a writer who wants to be wooed by words. I say I want more than a laundry list of hobbies. I ask for a photo or two, clothed please, promising to return the favor.
I put replies in folders so I can keep track of my suitors. My folders are labeled: “reply!,” “maybe,” “nope,” “compliments,” and “LOL.” The most interesting responses usually don’t lead to dates. Many say a lot about the people — I can’t say men, since until you meet the person it’s impossible to know — who wrote them and society at large. I’m part-lover and part social anthropologist. Human behavior intrigues me.
The messages in the “nope,” “LOL,” and “compliments” folders have taught me a lot.
But let me break it down. The “nope” e-mails are usually one- or two-liners like this:
Hi, I’m interested in you, hope to read back from you.
Good evening, how are you? I hope all is well. I am reaching out regarding your post. I am in my early-30’s, 5’10”, and looking to meet someone new outside of my social circle. Hobbies and interests?
I hope we have a chance to chat soon. Take care and enjoy your weekend!
If you’re looking for a wordsmith, you skip past these.
The “LOL” responses exist to remind me there are still plenty of misogynistic men who feel threatened by confident and capable women. Some believe a bad marriage is better than divorce. Many can’t imagine they might be the source of a divorce. I try not to respond to such messages. Here are a few examples, as well as my potential responses. I’ve made some minor grammatical changes for the sake of clarity, and have removed identifying details.
I’m white, live in [NYC borough], and [am] looking for a relationship hopefully leading to marriage and raising a family. I’ve never been married, no kids, don’t smoke or do drugs, rarely drink, no pets, not a vegetarian, and am Catholic. And you? You seem like a nice person. Why did you divorce?
The most interesting thing about [your profile] is the part where it notes you’re divorced and that you chose not to offer an explanation re: same. Thoughts?
I might reply this way:
Just because I posted an online profile with some vague details about my personal life does not mean that I owe you — someone I have never met, and know nothing about — an explanation. To be honest, I mentioned that I’m divorced for one purpose and one purpose only — to screen out people who have a problem with dating divorced women. Looks like my strategy is working.
One man responded every time I changed my profile. Here are excerpts from what I received — so delightfully — over a two-week span.
1. You’re pedestrian and obvious, you’re a plebe and a wannabe. You’re a middle-aged … student. Not sure where you get the right to be that pretentious. I wouldn’t even consider bedazzling your face with my semen.
2. I see you started four out of five paragraphs with “I.” Do you lack such an imagination as a writer that every sentence needs to start with “I” or “I’m”? Also — SELFISH. Your ad reads as “me me me me.”
3. You’re fucking stupid.
To this eloquent man (assuming he is one), I would reply:
Given that you have replied not once, not twice, but three times to my profile, not with the goal of meeting me, but of insulting me — and are therefore wasting your own time — I have no choice but to conclude that it is you who are stupid. Best wishes in your own search.
Some just don’t understand intellectual attraction:
What planet are you from where men will be drawn to your words before they are drawn to your body?
To which I would say:
Dear Sir, I am from Earth, a planet where a minority of men still desire not only physical but intellectual intimacy with their partners. This may not be your goal, but it is the goal of dozens of people who have replied to my profile. I do thank you for your kind concern, though.
My “compliments” folder exists to remind me good men are out there. Three snippets in that vein:
1. If you don’t mind me saying, this was probably the most well written and grown-up post on [this website]. I’m impressed, most everything else is devoid of any type of substance. Although I would love to go back and forth with you about any and all topics, I’m probably not what you’re looking for. But I felt compelled to write you. Anyways, I wish you the best in your journey!
2. Hi, seriously I wished I was 35. I loved everything about your ad. Unfortunately I’m [in my mid-20s]. Been looking for a woman like you for awhile but it’s so hard to find. My last relationship didn’t last long because she was more of a Nympho and I wasn’t unfortunately. But I need someone like you in my life. I hope to find my own … soul mate. I wish you all the best.
3. I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your ad. It was a pleasure to read such a well-written, clever ad. It brought a smile to my face as I perused the rest of the junk [on here] today. … Unfortunately, I’m not your type. (I fail in one important category. I’m married. Otherwise, it would be a great match.) But I wanted you to know that your ad brought a smile to my face and gave me hope of finding someone decent on [this website]. Good luck.
So there are kindred spirits out there. Somewhere. And one day I’ll find a smart, funny guy who isn’t married, isn’t crazy, and I click with. For now I’ve got medical school, and she’s a demanding mistress.