Love & Tinderness: Is there a limit to your love?
How far will you go for love? The danger and allure of dating Outside The Perimeter.
To protect your heart and sanity in the world of dating in general, but especially online, you must set boundaries. If this is not immediately obvious to you, Google “dating boundaries” where you’ll find hundreds of self-help books that substantiate this claim. If the idea of boundaries remains opaque, order several of these books before continuing with this piece. In truly extreme cases, consider starting at the emotional fountainhead with Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and graduating to Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.
Now that you're on board, identify your boundaries. Mine are simple enough — no professional magicians or men who enjoy blood sports.
Once you know your limits, they can be roughly converted into a system for weeding out undesirable matches. For example, if I’m going to correspond with someone online, the answers must be “NO” to the following questions:
1. Is he holding a fish or a gun in any of his photos?
2. Does he appear to live his entire life in Halloween costumes?
3. Is he Outside The Perimeter (OTP)?
Because if there’s one looming boundary in the world of Atlanta dating, it’s a literal one: The Perimeter.
That massive psycho-social-sexual divide that neatly corresponds with an interstate banding the city. As a woman living staunchly ITP — practically in the armpit of 75/85 and I-20 — it is no joking matter.
There are beautiful men outside The Perimeter — ones with white teeth, even tans, and good pitching arms. These are the sirens of Greek myth, singing their enchanting songs of weekend barbeques and close-knit families, calling us city-dwellers out past I-285, where the beers are cheaper, the houses are bigger, and the schools are better. Atlanta is literally ringed with these beautiful but dangerous creatures, who prey on our nostalgia for an America that cares primarily about lawn care. They lure ITP denizens out to shipwreck on the rocky coast of suburban ennui. (And metaphors aside, I-285 is the deadliest interstate in America.)
Online dating is a strange and seductive realm in which the mind plays tricks. You reason, “Aren’t I doing this because I want to meet people who don’t just pound tall-boys at The Earl?” and “Doesn’t he look wholesome, like the type of person that enjoys weekend barbecues?” and “He’s only 12 miles away. That’s totally reasonable. How far is a mile?”
Valid though all these points may be, if you answer these siren calls, you risk dashing your ship against the rocks, or more realistically, going on a crappy date.
I admit, this idea of shrinking one’s dating radius may be controversial, no doubt, and probably pretty offensive to the people that live OTP. But if you switch every instance of “OTP” for “ITP” and “suburban” for “urban” in this article, the sentiment applies equally well.
The real risk is not that you will go on a crappy date. Crappy dates are manifest. The risk is that you will drive for an hour and then go on a crappy date. Nothing feels quite as much like scraping the bottom of the barrel as commuting to your own disappointment.
Maybe I speak only for my own tender heart when I say this, but finding romance, whether online or in “meatspace,” is a difficult self-esteem balancing act. If you’re going to be driving home after another bad date, marinating in your own ugly thoughts about how maybe you’ll never find love and running through a mental list of all the ones-that-got-away, it’s better that you drive the seven minutes home from L5P than the hour from Macon.