Know Thine Enemy

Dating site OkCupid turns up NoVa’s lovers, and haters.

Dating site OkCupid turns up NoVa’s lovers, and haters – By Susan Anspach

Illustration by Matt Mignanelli

You can’t chuck a duck these days without hitting a couple who met on the Internet (watch those ducks, though; 2009, OkCupid, married one year and expecting). Especially in a region as dense and teeming as ours, we’re long past the stigma and on to the websites, plus all the analytical interest surrounding those websites. The phenomenon’s spawned partnerships and one-night stands, advocates and opponents, and as much speculation about its effects on divorce rates as discussion about its impact on commitment. What hasn’t gotten half the attention is online dating’s juiciest byproduct, one ironically antithetical to its purpose: the OkCupid “Enemy” quotient, generated by the website’s personality-based algorithms.

Here’s how it works: As soon as you’ve set up a profile, the site prompts you to start answering a series of questions. Working off your responses, it calculates your compatibility with other users on a scale of Match-Friend-Enemy. You tell me which of those categories jumps out at you as most tempting. If “Match” is good for you, if “Match” is a multivitamin, “Enemy’s” a family-sized bag of Cheetos and five-liter box of pink wine. With data like this, it’s instantly impossible not to start wondering: Who’s the Goomba to your Mario? The Hamburglar to your garishly redheaded clown? Before now, you may not have known you had an enemy. Now that you do, a small part of you is dying to know, which is why I made Northern Virginia an OkCupid account. Well, an account for an avatar designed to represent Northern Virginia, with a profile cobbled together from recent average and median Census Bureau statistics. “BlueRidgeMidge” is a straight, 35-year-old resident of Prince William County. She’s 5-foot-4, Baptist, and rakes in between $50 and $60K a year (having earned a four-year degree). Midge identifies as a moderate liberal. 

All in all, a good start. But the stats couldn’t answer Midge’s personality questions, the census failing, sadly, to ask residents how long they like to wait before sex and whether they’re willing to tolerate dating vegans. On those I had to take a shot, answering how I best imagined a former acquaintance of mine might; we’ll call her Jane for having been the most predictable person I’ve ever known. Jane lived in Herndon, listened to sermons on the way to and from work, and wore her hair in plaits. I imagine she went to bed every night at 9:30 with a cat and hot water bottle. I answered the personality questions by first asking myself WW(Jane)D?

Q: Should burning your country’s flag be illegal?

Q: How often do you brush your teeth?

Q: Do you want your partner to be kinkier than you?

Midge: Yes; thrice daily; less of a want, more of an inevitability.

Right off the bat, Midge got a message from wafer71, not that she’s bragging or anything. wafer’s a 41-year-old Manassas resident who, in his profile, cites a talent for “quoting movies” and, in the category of favorite foods, simply writes “yes please.” You should contact him, he says, “if you have a pulse,” which Midge supposes is fair enough.

wafer: Hi, looking for a new friend?

Midge: Kind of! Define friend. Merriam-Webster’s defines it as “one attached to another by affection or esteem,” so if by “friend” you mean its precise antonym, yeah! What’s your sign?

wafer: I’m a Virgo. Do you pay a lot of attention to astrology?

Midge doesn’t, though she pays attention to tone, and she doesn’t care much for his. But plenty of fish, especially since wafer only clocked in 3 percent Enemy, just getting her started. The next message came from tgq247, a Gainesville man with self-professed “great” kissing skills. He rates his self-confidence as “higher than average” and in his photo appears to be enjoying a mixed drink at a black-lit robot-themed dance club. Enemy quotient: 23 percent.

tgq: Hello, there! How r u? Tell me more about u!!! Would u like to meet?

Midge: Absolutely! Seems dangerous, though. Twenty-three percent? What’s your family history re: vendettas?

tgq: Lol. What u do for fun?

Midge: Braid my hair, braid my cat’s hair! I notice you have short hair but believe me, I could work with it.

By and large the messages dried up.

Next up, MakeYouShudder is 42 years old and a resident of Midge’s county; the similarities stop there. MakeYou declares love as “absolutely” overrated and explains his username as “earned.” Boasting “the legs of a Roman god and the cardio of a Soviet-era Olympian,” He maintains a blog of sorts on his profile, one detailing his grievances against divorced mothers and “duck-faced” women, whom he urges to “drive off a cliff.” Survey says? 50 percent Enemy.

Still, MakeYou had some redeemable qualities, like honesty, and his standing offer to explicate the wrongs of anyone’s profile (demonstrating a generosity with his time). But where was her sworn Enemy, a rival so acrimonious that, if Midge died first, she’d be compelled to come back to haunt him. An hour’s search turned up mgamarra, a 36-year-old living in Germantown, Md., who runs up an Enemy score of 96 percent. 

mgamarra is a dog-owner, a gym-goer, drinks socially but doesn’t smoke or do drugs. He works in management and he’s not bad on the eyes. “I’m an easygoing, family-oriented, grounded guy who looks for humor in a girl,” he writes. “I love all kinds of music. I love to go out and meet new people, as well as see new places. If you like to salsa and love dogs (Golden Retrievers), that’s a plus.”

But Midge likes Golden Retrievers. Midge likes the gym! Going out’s nice; so is meeting new people. Has the pink wine sent the needle of her moral compass tailspinning, or does her 96-percent Enemy sound, well, like a great guy?

Midge: mgamarra, you sound like a great guy.

mgamarra: [no response for three days]

Nothing? No offers to IM, to meet up for coffee? No “Thanks, Midge!” or measly profile view?

Midge admits it: That stung—the work of a masterful Enemy.

@CitySprawlNVMag is friend to the lovers, and haters! Hit her with your best shot on Twitter.