Photo credit: George Marks / Getty Images
New York magazine recently published an article titled “Meet the 4 Most Desired People in New York (According to OKCupid),” in which writer Logan Hill talked to the four most popular New York City-based OKCupid members about their experiences. The “they”: Lauren Urasek, 23, female, straight; Kerry Campbell, 26, female, gay; James Hawver, 29, male, straight; and Thomas McKee, 24, male, gay. It was a fascinating look at the range of ways in which this generation approaches a social networking tool that’s become ubiquitous in its ten years of existence.
What we wanted to know: How big a role does food play in people’s judgments of potential dates and, eventually, romantic relationships? The answer, we found, after talking to each of the people interviewed for New York’s article ourselves: a pretty significant one.
All four of our interviewees said some mention of food is usually part of OKCupid profiles. “It’s a safe topic of conversation, and telling on so many levels,” says Hawver.
Urasek, who lists whiskey as one of her interests, agrees. “It’s an open invitation to say, ‘Let’s go get whiskey,’” she says.
"The majority of people are saying similar things: ‘I love going out to eat; I love good food.’ I looked up the food tag and ‘good food’ is by far the number one food-related term that people use,” says McKee. “It suggests that you enjoy [food] broadly, because specifics would rule out the possibility of a date with someone who might not agree with your tastes.”
“In the online dating world, the goal of a profile is to come across as easy to be around. You’re trying to cast a wide net and appeal to as many people as you can.”
Hawver, on the other hand, prefers specificity. “I really like when women write down their favorite spot to grab a cocktail or favorite restaurant,” he says. “It can say a lot about a person; it can definitely give you a better idea of their interests.”
For Campbell, it’s been a good way to weed out some users. “There are a lot of vegans out there, especially in the lesbian community, but if it’s like ‘All I eat or drink is like powders or something’? I’ve had vegan food myself, but when it’s super hardcore where it’s like vegan or nothing, then there’s not a possibility of going out.”
Again, there was agreement here: drinks are good, for two main reasons.
1. They ease tensions. “To be honest, I’ve been more focused on getting a drink,” says Campbell. “When you’re going on a first date, it can be nerve wracking; a glass of wine will help you loosen up.”
2. They’re less of a commitment. “[Dinner] is expensive!” says Hawver. “I don’t want to drop 130 bucks on someone who might not like me and vice versa.” Urasek uses drinks as a testing ground: “I usually meet someone for a drink first and if we hit it off, then we’ll get dinner.”
Hawver avoids the restaurant first date altogether. “It’s a little too formal for me,” he says. “You’re sitting across from each other—I would rather sit next to you, on a couch or something.”
“It’s also not very attractive to watch people eat,” he says. “I don’t think I’m a sloppy eater, but I’m putting food in my mouth. It might be a very unpleasant experience for the person sitting across from me.”
McKee is a full-on fan of the restaurant first date. “The dining experience is a great litmus test,” he says. “There are so many points of interaction, and all those different cues in the dining experience. Ultimately, it’s a test for: Do you have chemistry? Do you vibe on more fundamental levels of consideration and manners?”
“How a person orders is a telltale sign of how important control is to them,” says McKee, who told New York that he likes to let the waiter order for him. “That speaks to not needing to be so in control and being open to experiences. It’s also fun, on a date, to release the reigns a little bit.”
Control isn’t an issue for Hawver, but open-mindedness is. “There was this young woman who was very conservative in her food choices,” he says. A few dates in, “we ended up at a Thai restaurant because she had never had Thai before. (You live in Connecticut! Thai food is like Chinese food in terms of availability!) Anyway, she had some sort of bland lemon chicken and I got duck soup with these awesome handmade noodles and made it really spicy and it was great. She tried a little and she was repulsed.”
“She didn’t need to like it. That’s fine,” he continues. “But I would rather be sitting across the table from someone who’s like, ‘Hell yeah! I’ll order the duck ramen!’ She just liked her chicken fingers. And that’s totally fine. I love chicken fingers, too. But someone like me wants to be with someone more open-minded.”
While it’s not a deal breaker and while it may not be fair, Urasek says, “I’m going to be more attracted to a guy who’s ordering straight whiskey than a girly, fruity drink.”
We are overjoyed! Etiquette is still important.
Campbell is no longer on OKCupid because she has been dating the same woman (who she met on OKCupid) since January. She says of their first date: “My wine glass was empty and she was like, ‘I’ll get you more.’ My girlfriend is very attentive. Very caring.”
All four interviewees have noted that kind of caring—filling up a water or wine glass that’s run low—with fondness. The two men, unfortunately, have also experienced bad behavior.
“A young woman I was seeing chewed with her mouth open,” says Hawver. “We went for breakfast one morning and got bagels and lox and cream cheese and that was the first time I saw her eat. It was not appealing. We went for dinner after that, and same thing. We saw each other maybe one time after that.”
“How a person eats is directly proportionate to how considerate they are,” McKee firmly states.
“I was on a date a couple weeks back with a guy I had liked beforehand. Our message exchanges and rapport were good. We had similar senses of humor, the pop cultural references we pulled from were the same, but once we got in front of each other… He was eating like a maniac. I felt like I was in front of a monster.”
“The way he was eating was an extension of a fact where there was no chemistry,” says McKee. “It got to a point, to be completely honest, where I wasn’t even hungry. I just sat back and let him have his moment, and I continued to drink my dry white wine.”