Canada
3 min

The trouble with online dating in smaller cities

Take a lesson from globalization: import some homos

As a single person staring into a Winnipeg winter, the future can look bleak. But well-meaning friends are quick to suggest a brighter path: online dating. Real world got you down? Try the virtual and see where it takes you. The first kind soul to suggest this was Puss ‘n Boots (internet-style, let’s use a pseudonym). She waggled her ring-clad finger under my nose and reported that she met her honey on girlsweb. Who cares if the babe of her dreams lives 3,000 km away in a different country? Love conquers all.

Now Puss is lovely: the kind of woman who will drop her basket in Safeway, roar “Come here,” and give you the kind of bear hug that’ll make you want to get your ribs taped. She’s a salt-of the earth prairie person prone to polka-ing despite whatever techno bullshit the DJ is playing. She’ll rewire your house (as she did mine) simply for the asking. So I know her intentions are good. Better than good. She’s a rock steady straight talker with a heart of gold. And she also happened to be an early adopter of the internet for the purposes of finding luv.

Her first experience with online romance was in the early ’90s. After an entire year of e and phone calls, snail and the exchange of presents, her sweetheart moved to Winnipeg. Their first meeting in the flesh was going to be the first day they lived together. They had talking about everything, or so they thought. So needless to say Puss ‘n Boots was surprised when the love of her life showed up with only one leg.

It’s not that Puss is legs-ist. The leg was not a deal-breaker. But it seemed like the sort of thing that might have come up in conversation. Losing a leg is pretty significant, and that her darling hadn’t mentioned sent up a little red flag. But big-hearted Puss shrugged it off. It’s not like she’d ever asked her online lover if she had two legs. They’d only ever exchanged head shots. Her girlfriend hadn’t lied, just forget to mention a detail, a limb.

It turns out the love muffin also hadn’t mentioned she was mean to the core, controlling, bossy, jealous and downright no fun. They toughed it out for another year before Puss called it quits and went back to the drawing board, back to the computer.

Now I’d be once bitten, twice shy, but perhaps Puss has more stamina than I. And her persistence has paid off. Here she is, happy in love once again, as she has been many times in the intervening years. So fair enough: when she suggests online dating and I say, “Remember the one-legged nightmare?”, she can retort, “A temporary set-back.”

The dating pool in Winnipeg is small. If there’s no one here for you the options feel like resigned singleness, a long-distance affair, importing someone from out of town or moving. I suppose there are other, more desperate measures like the ever-popular softball, but for some of us that would end in injury and embarrassment. Not sexy.

Even my fag friends despair and, when it comes to sex, they are much less picky. Tired of seeing the same faces at the bar each week, many of them have turned to online cruising services like ManHunt. But the Winnipeg listings are populated by exactly the same guys who hang at Gio’s! Sometimes a catchy code name and penile profile shot temporarily disguise someone’s identity, but when push comes to shove it’s, “Hey, weren’t you in my biology class at Kelvin?” or “I saw you at the Rainbow Resource centre fall supper. How were your meatballs?” And then there are those that sign onto ManHunt but claim to want “friendship only,” as if there is any shortage of friendship in Winnipeg!

No, in a smaller city online in-town dating is no different than real time in-town dating. Liasons with mysterious strangers just don’t happen. There simply aren’t enough of us. The cast of characters remains the same.

So I appreciate my friend Puss for widening the gene pool. Sure, the possibility of deception is there. But the potential choice is endless. Any fetish, any special interest, it’s out there: the world wide web. Why not? Puss is a lesbian importer! A cross border shopper! A global villager.

So many people have found love and sex through a keyboard. But online hook-ups and computer dating are much different, much easier in a big city. Those of us here in the B- and C-list Canadian cities have to apply the principles of globalization to experience the frisson of “the new” and really reap the rewards in our bedrooms. And some brave souls do. Premier Gary Doer should give Puss ‘n Boots a medal! She keeps Manitoba growing.