I grew up in Massachusetts but at the other end of the state from Boston, so I never really got into the Boston Globe. Not that I imagine my friends who grew up near Boston were all obsessed with the Boston Globe or anything. God, I am being so boring right now, aren't I? This boringness is not something I would indulge in on a blind date. But what I am trying to do—and this is a segue I would never use on a blind date—is talk about my absolute favorite thing on the internet, which is the Boston Globe feature Dinner With Cupid. (But wait – is it really called Dinner With Cupid? It is! But wait. Is it still 1992? It's not! So how is it called Dinner W… I don't know I don't know I don't know!) I feel that I have to clarify that although Dinner With Cupid is my favorite thing on the Internet I actually discovered it in print. (Oh my God, that is so interesssttttting. What? You don't think so? You don't think that's interesting? You think I'm wasting your time with that particular clarification? And wasting it in general? You don't want to go out with me again? But I am well read! I'm in good shape for my age and I'm a professional working in my field goddammit what the hell is wrong with you? ) Oh… I'm SO sorry. I just found myself in an alternate universe I try to inhabit as much as possible called Dinner with Cupid, where Boston singles are sent out on a blind date which they then report on in a lively 500-600 word feature.
My parents are regular readers of DWC. "I would never tell people this stuff," says my father, Roland Miller, 74, a retired school superintendent. "Oh my God, did he really say that to her???? In a restaurant?" wonders my mother, Judith Miller, 75, a retired professor of education. Neither of them has been on a date since 1960, and yet, when I took them into separate rooms and asked them why they enjoy reading Dinner With Cupid, each replied, "I strangely enjoy the feeling of abject terror that pools horribly in my loins and then winds a dark and sinister path through my limbs to my very extremities at the idea that I would ever have to meet a stranger and then report on the event to the 3,992 readers of the Boston Globe." Is that amazing? Now that, sadly, that's the kind of compatibility the Dinner With Cupid people are looking for!
Dinner With Cupid always tells you a little bit about each person before they meet. You see that he is an electrical engineer who loves kids. That she is a bookworm. She loves to swim. He loves Israel. It's kind of like getting a description of two trains hurtling toward each other on the same track at top speed, except that with the trains, you know they are actually going to collide and there will be a big satisfying BOOM. With Dinner With Cupid, it’s more like one train keeps moving at top speed while the other one tries to turn around. Or that just before colliding each train miraculously turns into a piece of soggy toast, and sits alone on its track, growing spores.
My favorite Dinner With Cupid is probably the one with this headline: Will these two Middle Eastern Americans form an alliance? The photo made me apprehensive. She looked intellectual. He looked like he was really into his Mercedes. Anyway, the answer is no, they did not make an alliance. And we know this about 150 words into the piece, when the man says, "I was not attracted to her at all. She did not have any of the physical features which I find attractive in a woman." She is not smitten either, but she is at least more polite: "The conversation was intellectually stimulating, but there was not much of a spark." He continues with his general course of unsubtlety: "As soon as I saw her, I wanted to leave."
"As soon as I saw her, I wanted to leave."
We know that people feel such things. We ourselves have felt such things. But to put this into print? It could be seen as bold or honest, but there’s nothing in the reading of this admission that triggers any of the emotions generally associated with being in the presence of bold honesty, like say, empathy, or even recognition. All you can think is, wow, that guy said that knowing she would read it and he is out walking around in the world like, “No big deal! I’m just going to go home and make out with my Mercedes.”
That said, as long as we’re on a theme of pretty fucking chilling, let’s move from the participants to the people at the Globe who take Dinner With Cupid on its journey from date to page. The subheads in this piece are worth paying attention to. The "alliance" theme, announced at the start, plays out with more subheads based on the political unrest in the Middle East: first the couple is "establishing a dialogue," then they are "searching for unity," finally, "cutting off talks." If Gilbert and Sullivan were alive today I very much doubt they would produce a light opera about the life and death of Anwar Sadat, but you get the sense that this is the sort of art for which the editorial presence behind Dinner with Cupid may pine.
An almost poignant feature ("almost" is DWC’s stock in trade: it’s almost an article, about almost people, almost having an experience) of the column is the extent to which its participants say they want to have a relationship but seem utterly horrified that the people with whom they might have these relationships are not exactly like them. (Everyone is like this, of course, but again, to know this and to see it written are two different things.) She's "a little short for my taste" and "I asked if she liked Quentin Tarantino movies, and she didn’t know who that was," reports a 24-year-old job coach whose favorite thing—favorite thing on God's green earth—is "drinking beer on the beach." You'd think maybe he could give this short non-Tarantino fan a little slack… oh, but she's had three glasses of wine to get ready for the date, and she's in her 20s. But what makes her unsuitable for a relationship isn't that she has to be drunk to talk to people, but that she doesn't know a certain movie director. Here's a woman in her 30s describing her date: "The one real deal breaker was when I was talking about my recent trip to Chicago. I mentioned I saw the Cubs play the White Sox at US Cellular Field, and he didn't know that both teams are from Chicago." Well, you go girl! You know your worth. You deserve a man that knows which two baseball teams are from Chicago, and don't you ever settle for less!
Then there are the (sad) dates where you think everything is going along really well.
MOLLY He was cute — I liked that he had thick hair and seemed to be in good shape.
Clue? Clue? If they both love Clue, they have to get married. Right?
MOLLY Jason was really nice and normal, so the conversation was really easy.
JASON Molly was attractive the entire night; I enjoyed looking into her eyes.
And you think great, okay, wonderful. But then, Molly doesn't like him. "I see friendship potential." Okay, Molly, guess what? You just said "friendship potential," and you know what that is? It is so totally the password to get into the secret underground beyatch club.
Still, it would be nice to feel that when someone like Molly doesn't like a nice guy like Jason she has somehow betrayed us, the reader who is rooting for these crazy kids to make it work. But How Can A Robot Betray You? How can you root for a robot? What I keep discovering as I delve deeper and dinner into the Dinner With Cupid archives is that everyone who participates in it is a robot looking for another robot with their exact programming. When it works out (it almost never does) you're not like, oh, great, love! It's like being in a hardware store and matching up the serial number for a light bulb you wrote in felt pen on your hand with the one on the shelf. Only less exciting.
Here are some lines that I think prove the people doing Dinner With Cupid are robots.
I had some photos on my phone, which prompted some laughter.
She enjoys drinking and works at a store that sells alcohol.
I don't think I can be with someone who is in hospitality.
I went home to get dressed for the date. I didn't have any shirts to wear, so I rushed to the mall.
We both have an older sibling that lives in Florida — fun fact.
There is always a photo. The number of guys wearing backwards baseball hats is upsetting.
It often seems like whoever plans these dates don't have a lot to work with and will just put anyone together if they are roughly the same age. Like the Ivy League-educated guy who is going out with a girl whose idea of happiness is "a cooler full of Bud Light Limes." She thinks he's great; he thinks she has big hair. It's sad. "What are Bud Light Limes?" my mother asked when she read this. "You don't want to know." I said. I heard her tapping away at her keyboard. A few seconds later, she gasped. "Why do they invent stuff like that? Oh my. Well, I don't know how they were ever going to get along."
Previously in series: Cabinet of Curiosities: The Internet's Creepiest Corners