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He turned his back to me to watch the monitor over the pool tables, where the pool players now applauded some exploit. That night I scrolled until I found a handsome man who had written a benign invitation: ‘Let’s get a drink.’ I looked at his profile. The man generally held responsible for internet dating as we know it today is a native of Illinois called Gary Kremen, but Kremen was out of the internet dating business altogether by 1997, just around the time people were signing up for the internet en masse.Today he runs a solar energy financing company, is an elected official in Los Altos Hills, California and is better known for his protracted legal battle over the ownership of the pornography website than he is for inventing internet dating.When I met him, at a conference on the internet dating industry in Miami last January, he asked where I was from.‘Ah, Minnesota,’ he said: ‘Have you ever been to the Zumbro River?Like many visionary entrepreneurs, Kremen doesn’t have very good management skills.
I am not usually comfortable in a bar by myself, but I had been in San Francisco for a week and the apartment I sublet had no chairs in it, just a bed and a couch. One Tuesday I had lentil soup for supper standing up at the kitchen counter. The bar had red fake leather booths, Christmas lights and a female bartender. At the other end, around the corner from where I sat, a bespectacled man my age watched the game. The couch had a woollen blanket woven in a Navajo-inspired pattern, exemplary of a trend in San Francisco that a friend of mine calls ‘White People Gone Wild’. I had fiddled with the knobs and the gas, but couldn’t figure out how to ignite it.After I finished, I moved to the couch in the empty living room and sat under the flat overhead light refreshing feeds on my laptop. As the only man and the only woman alone at the bar, we looked at each other. He handed me his mobile and pointed to a Facebook post. When I moved in, the receipt for the blanket was on the mantelpiece. At night the room had the temperature and pallor of a corpse. I returned to my mobile and opened OK Cupid, the free internet dating service. ‘Tattoos are a big part of my friends’ and family’s life,’ he wrote.