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I don't want to click at a flick.

When it comes to dating, I am essentially a special-needs child. What comes with great facility to most people is like a slow belly-crawl through an enemy minefield for me. So after spending most of 2005 in a post-dump fugue state, and the first 8 months of 2006 accepting literally every opportunity and setup that was thrown my way - resulting in a tower of bad dates both stratospheric and fruitless - in September I threw up my hands and said enough. No more of this. No more cyber-dating, no more speed-dating, no more "Oh, you're single? So's my friend _________" hookups, no more aimless wanderings through the Chapters at Richmond and John at 9:30 on a Thursday trying to connect with someone, somewhere, somehow. I planted my flag in the sand, and stuck my head in with it.

Breathing a hefty sigh of relief at my self-imposed exile, I continued on with the rest of my regular routine, which included (as usual) going to movies all by lonesome on Wednesday nights to fuel the movie podcast, which is like a girlfriend anyway, in that a) it's sexy and b) it requires constant expressions of affection. And so it was that, a few Wednesdays ago, I went to the Paramount after work, and fought my way through the nightclubbish wasteland of the Paramount lobby, into the safe darkness of Cinema 1 to watch The Prestige.

Safe? No. Lavalife had come.

Lavalife?! My brain did a quick double-take. What? Had I accidentally Tronned myself onto the internet? The singles-club vibe of the Paramount lobby had bled into the theatre proper, albeit in a different colour of flashing neon annoyingness. Lurid red Lavalife brand images were splayed all over the walls, spotlights were dancing logos up and down the aisles, and a hyperactive man in a sports jacket and a pair of jeans, with his shirt unbuttoned just so, was running around with a microphone describing how "awesome" everything was. And hanging above it all, a big red banner: "Lavalife presents: Click at a Flick."

Grrrrrrrrr.

Cyber-dating is, through no fault of its own, the bane of my existence. Every single person I know, each of them comfortably ensconsed in the warming embrace of a steady relationship that did not start on the internet, thinks that cyber-dating is the answer to my singledom, and expounds upon this Law of The World every time they see me.

Me, on the other hand, I just don't like it. I've tried it for years - usually on Nerve, though sometimes on Lavalife as well - and at the end of the day, it's just too damned hard to fight through somebody's cyber-persona only to come out the other side and have to start dealing with their real-world persona, which is almost unilaterally completely different.

So, to find Lavalife having exploded out of the relative safety of the internet and into my real life was sort of annoying. Seeing a flock of 50 or so hopeful twenty- and thirty-somethings drinking watered-down G&Ts in the main aisle of the Paramount 1, on the other hand, was something else entirely.

The objective, reasonable person in me had to admit that via Click at a Flick, Lavalife seemed to be addressing the exact issue I have with cyber-dating: that people on the internet and people in real life are completely different. Here's an opportunity, I thought to myself, to actually find out how vapid or shallow or useless these people are, live and in person, without waiting! And the lure of a watered-down G&T cannot be denied.

I mixed. I mingled. There seemed to be a lot of women who were there in a pack, and a lot of men who were there having never dated before in their entire lives. Most of the packed women were talking amongst themselves. Most of the dateless men were standing by their lonesome sipping their G&Ts and scanning the room. (Some of them, I admit, had partnered up and were talking about the PS3. Hmmmmm.)

Nobody really seemed to be having as "awesome" a time as the host, however, so I mostly just made it my business to keep an eye on him. He seemed to be rushing through a hastily-prepared script of party kicks and timelines, checking his watch every ten seconds and sweating it to the event coordinator with his microphone covered.

The weird thing about Click at a Flick (and the very reason I was able to attend) is that it is not exclusive to the folks who are actually there to, you know, click at a flick. It's still a public screening and ten or fifteen minutes before the movie started, regular patrons like myself started filtering in and taking their seats. Which had the effect of throwing the lights on in an orgy: everybody realized what they were doing and became extremely self-conscious. The music died, the people scattered, and the Paramount 1 became a movie theatre again instead of a cheap pick-up joint.

As I settled into my seat to watch The Prestige - sort of an eerily appropriate movie about illusions and self-deception, when you think about it - I thought about this process vs. outcome aspect of dating. For some, maybe, dating itself is the fun part: shmoozing around, meeting different people, flirting, picking up. For me, I know what I want, and where I want to get. And I know I ain't gonna get there via a tarted up singles party at the Paramount.

By the time the lights came up, you never could have told that Lavalife had been there at all. Another conjuror, gone on his merry way.


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