NEW YORK — Mark Miller has survived 19 years of online dating since his 1995 divorce, yet he still has a smile on his face.
There’s much to hate about the process, the Los Angeles-based humorist said in a recent interview, but he refuses to despair as he continues his hunt for true love. One thing that DOES bum him out, though, is how so much dating advice seems skewed to women.
That’s why he decided to share his quest for ever after in a collection of essays called “500 Dates,” out last week from Skyhorse Publishing in time for that ultimate date night, Valentine’s Day.
Miller, 62, isn’t shy about poking fun at himself. He describes a dating disaster with accoutrement he purchased entirely from a 99-cent store. He’s had sex way too soon after meeting someone, given up prematurely on relationships, stayed in relationships beyond their expiration dates and coveted his neighbor’s wife.
Conversely, one date showed up in her forest ranger uniform. Another admitted she was 15 years older than advertised in her dating profile, and a third made it clear that she found dating so soul-draining that he was her last-ditch attempt before she packed it in forever. It didn’t work out.
A conversation with Mark Miller about finding love online:
Q: So how many dates are you up to now?
A: The 500 in the title is underestimating it. It would probably be closer to 750 if I was going to be honest about it. During that time I’ve found maybe seven fairy tale endings that ranged from seven months to four years. I’m still looking.
Q: How has happily ever after changed in the 21st century? You have a chapter where you write: “And they lived apart happily ever after is the new fairy tale ending.”
A: I think that absence does make the heart grow fonder in many ways. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who date regularly and only see each other once a week. It’s become more special, more datelike to them. There is such a thing as living together happily ever after but it doesn’t happen for a lot of people, especially in this day and age.
Q: Do men suffer from a lack of dating advice?
A: I think men are less prone to asking for that advice. They have more of an “I can do it myself,” more of a macho thing going on, whereas women are more open. If you do a search for dating books, you’ll find most of them are written either by women or for women. I think there was a void for men in that regard.
Q: What was your worst date?
A: When I showed up and the woman didn’t show up. The next day I called her up and she said she didn’t feel like it, so she didn’t. That’s the ultimate worst date, when the woman doesn’t show up, or when she shows up and she insults you.
Q: Is it fair that men still pay on a first date?
A: Well, I don’t resent it. I read something where a woman cataloged the amount of money she spends on dates and she had a whole list of things. Getting her hair done and an outfit and a baby sitter since she was a single mother. It was a lot more than what a man pays for dinner. The tradition is so strong for men paying.
Q: You write about how the first date shouldn’t be about romance. What should it be about?
A: The first date should be about connection, establishing some common ground and making sure your personalities are in sync. It’s a mistake not to establish the friendship first.
Q: What’s your best advice for men who are jumping into the online dating pool for the first time?
A: I would say not to get discouraged too quickly. I’ve spoken to a lot of men who have had one or two or three bad experiences and as a result, it turned them off to online dating. Develop a sense of reality and optimism and understand that things not working out is the norm so it will make you appreciate it all the more if things do work out.