1,001 Nights with Laken: The end

Laken Howard, Columnist

Throughout the quarter, I’ve told stories in both my column and my blog about my numerous online dating escapades that began last May when I first made an OkCupid profile. Because I’m fascinated by the Internet and social media, I have no qualms about sharing my experience and encouraging others to use alternate means to find a partner. I have no idea if anyone has even taken the time to read all the words I’ve written, but I like to think that somehow the time I’ve put into telling my stories has paid off.

I’ve pretty much done it all: First dates, second dates, one night stands, actual relationships and more. I’ve gone out with guys who were older, younger, more aggressive, quieter, funnier, smarter, dumber, more attractive, less attractive — you name it. I’ve had dates that ranged from laughable to scary to disgusting to almost perfect. Despite all these experiences, I have finally deleted my OkCupid profile.

Though I doubt that last sentence caused anyone’s jaw to drop or eyes to flood with tears, it might have been at least a little shocking. Why would a girl who seems to love meeting new people and exploring new options get rid of her one connection to all these men? To be frank, I’m tired. After a while, scrolling through profiles that you know may only mildly reflect the actual person gets old, and going on dates only to be unpleasantly surprised has lost its laugh factor. Just in time for summer, I am retiring from online dating (this choice might also have to do with the fact that I’ve recently been seeing a guy who makes me want to abandon the search).

If I’m being totally honest, I both gained and lost things because of OkCupid. I obviously gained experience in dating and sex and got to explore different parts of Chicago (I have men permanently associated with several El stops now). I don’t want to lie to you though: The things I’ve lost were bigger. Namely, I lost myself. At times, I let men define my happiness. Because I get attached pretty quickly, I would get worked up over seemingly unimportant situations, like whether a guy was texting me back or whether he wanted to stop seeing me. I never thought I would be the kind of girl to cry over someone who clearly wasn’t good enough for me, but there I was time after time being consoled by my friends over another failed OkCupid relationship.

No matter how irrational I knew I was being, it was as though I couldn’t remove myself from a bad situation and stop caring about how these a–holes were treating me. Toward the end, it was almost scary how large the gap between my rational thoughts and my irrational emotions were. I spent my 20th birthday crying on a street corner underneath a tree because all these feelings of worthlessness had finally come to a head and made me go insane.

Thankfully, I made it out alive and with my sanity intact. I knew all along I was a strong, confident person, but something about the frequency with which I was going on dates and subsequently feeling rejected was too much for even me to handle. My standards were subconsciously lowered; I realized too late each time that I put up with more and more bull—-. I won’t pretend there are some things I wouldn’t change, but I can say now that I’m reflecting on the past year that I have learned more about myself because of my online dating profile than I thought possible.

I don’t say any of this to discourage you. In fact, I hope you’re brave enough to try something new like I did, though I implore you to be smarter than I was. Don’t let online dating take over your life or cause you to lose sight of who you are and what you want in a relationship. Though my impatience has caused me to fall too quickly, get hurt often and ultimately feel a lot of pain, it also allowed me to (eventually) meet someone great.

What should you take from all this? I’m crazy, sure. I’m impatient. I’m stubborn. I’m irrational. But I’m also caring, sensitive, confident, strong-willed and independent. It may have taken a lot for me to realize it, but I am fine on my own. And I hope you are, too.