Online dating is,, merely the new social norm, right?
It seems to have been around almost as long as Rohypnol and cell phones. It's just a blind date with someone whom you don't know and neither do any of your friends. What could be the problem?
Which is why, perhaps, all those guidebooks you tend to see in bookstores might separate restaurant listings under sections like "romantic" or "first date," but I've never seen one have a separate section for "online dating."
San Francisco Bay Area food writer and bonne vivante Marcia Gagliardi, who writes a foodie e-column called The Tablehopper, believes that only specific places are suitable for that first moment when your potential love match is 10 years older than stated and their profile picture was taken in analog times.
Her new bar and restaurant guide, "The Tablehopper's Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion," labeled as a "first of its kind guidebook," therefore offers specific recommendations for meeting "LoveBug" or "StandUpGuy."
Being clearly a woman of strong principles, Gagliardi has definite views about the type of location that suits such a nerve-wracking occasion.
"The trick about meeting someone from online is you need it to be quick (coffee, tea, or me?) because sometimes the transition from the virtual world to the real world can be one big mistake," Gagliardi told me in an e-mail.
Her book offers "a few inexpensive cafes and wine bars where the atmosphere isn't too romantic or sterile, but there's some personality, spots where you can talk easily and stay for just twenty minutes (sorry it didn't work out), or for two hours."
For those who live, work or merely suffer in the Bay Area, Cafe Du Soleil on Fillmore Street and the Crossroads Cafe on Delancey Street seem to meet the exacting criteria of meeting a strange, possibly very strange, date in the often cold light of day.
Of the Crossroads Cafe, Gagliardi believes there is hope in the detail: "The bagels are flown in from H&H in New York, in case you want to come back for breakfast. Maybe even together, heh."
The Bay Area is a particularly problematic place in which to enjoy relationships. A recent story in SF Weekly suggested that women are turning to a professional pickup artist in order to so much as learn how to capture the attention of indolent, self-regarding males.
The mere idea of translating the online experience into a meaningful real-world one makes things even more difficult. Gagliardi believes location is frightfully important, nay vital.
"It needs to be a place that shows a little style--this is not the time for Starbucks. You also need a spot where you can talk and not have everyone rubberneck your first getting-to-know-you meeting," she told me.
Rumor has it she will be expanding her rather modern and useful take on the restaurant guidebook to other cities. I am sure that, in time, such location- and occasion-specific advice will be indispensable to every iPodding, iPadding, love-seeking digital human.
However, I was intrusive enough to ask Gagliardi if she had ever had an online date at one of her own recommendations.
"I've had a couple blind dates at Cafe du Soleil and the setting was great, natch, but the prospective dates? Let's just say I'm still single," she said.