"Dating spreadsheet guy" (or girl) is the romantic anti-hero, someone who hopes to manipulate love (in Excel!), someone who needs to "keep track" of dates as if they were inanimate objects, someone who makes harsh judgments via paper or computer documents. This is offensive to us as romantically inclined humans, terribly offensive, which is why Thursday's New York Post article on the subject, responding after the story of "dating spreadsheet guy" appeared on Dealbreaker, Deadspin, and Jezebel, carries with it the home page headline "What a Creep." (The Post credits Jezebel for this piece of news.)
If you haven't read the story, the brief run-down is this. An investment banker was dating a bunch of women he'd met on Match.com, because, in fairness, people who online date tend to online date a lot of people. He was also dating some women he'd met after being introduced through friends or family. Because of the number of people involved, and/or because he worked with spreadsheets at his job and felt comfortable in that medium, he ranked their appearances, he kept track of the dates (or the non-dates) and communications they shared, he included a note on whether to monitor casually or closely. (You'd imagine, if ever he'd focused on one of these women, he wouldn't have had to do this.) His biggest mistake, however, along with being an investment banker the trendy occupation to hate-love to hear such tales about, was sending the spreadsheet to one of his dates.
David Li and Jeane Macintosh, who've written the story in the Post, explain of the spreadsheet:
The spreadsheet shows the meticulous records that David Merkur, 28, kept on each of the girls — eight of whom he met on Match.com and four he’d met through friends and family — and a column for their profile photos. After one date in February, he noted under the “Initial Date Comments” category: “very jappy; one and done for me.” Other missives included, “Drunkenly hooked up after J****’s birthday party at K-Town karaoke,” and “Conversation still on- going.”
Merkur, while apparently a bit douchey, also was somewhat complimentary: "None of the ladies scores lower than 7 in the appearance category."
His system was exposed after an April 4 date at the Rose Bar with a 26-year-old brunette stunner named Arielle.
Over drinks, Merkur told her about his spreadsheet.
Arielle asked to see it — and he e-mailed it to her.
“Well . . . this could be a mistake, but what the hell,” Merkur wrote.
Obviously it was a mistake. Arielle of course passed on the spreadsheet—a dating spreadsheet is too good not to pass on—and now, Merkur is in the Post, with his apologies, and done on Match.com. He's also fodder for the entertainment and outrage of the Internet, inspiring ensuing Post op-eds like "Real men can close the deal without opening Excel," op-eds clearly part of the problem rather than the solution—if we're going to judge a spreadsheet, let's judge the term "deal-closing." And who's to say what "real men" can or can't do? Who's to say that a spreadsheet is inherently bad?
A common sentiment we hear in response to such stories—remember the girl who was fishing, essentially, for free dinners via Match.com dates? She had a spreadsheet too!—is how awful it is to keep a spreadsheet of your dates. But...why is it so bad? Fair point: It's awful to send your spreadsheet to your date or dates. It's also not recommended in terms of accomplishing further dates, and if that needs an explanation, you'll probably die single. But it's not like "keeping track" in some physical form is a bad thing. People can date however they want to date, including more than one person at a time—they often do—until they agree they're not. And if a spreadsheet helps you remember someone's name, or what you did the last time you were together, so be it. The bad thing is acknowledging, to the Post and your mom and dad and your dates and God, and anyone else who might judge you for it, that you're keeping this spreadsheet.
A spreadsheet-keeping woman in her 30s who at one point was dating 5 to 10 guys at a time had this to say:
"Out of respect for the likely many people you are in correspondence with when online dating, not to remember needing to remember pet names, brother is a twin, where they went to school, etc., a spreadsheet is a helpful tool for everyone involved. That said, in the same way we don't show rough drafts of the final manuscript, or reveal game plans on national broadcast sporting events, the spreadsheet definitely should be confidential and not shared with others, especially dates! It is a tool to stay organized and make level-headed dating decisions when online dating, when you might be texting, chatting with, calling, having coffee with, having drinks with, or otherwise communicating with as many as 3 to 10 people at a time...with the goal to be respectful to those people by hopefully narrowing things down and finding someone to date more seriously."
Our source kept information including names, ages, schools, recent correspondence, dates or future dates, prior relationship status—if ever married, if he has kids, etc.—family, and any other important details they might have mentioned. She also included email addresses, phone numbers, and "red flags" that could be deal-breakers "to keep organized and objective about things where possible."
As for Merkur's spreadsheet, she remarked, "Because he is a guy, he had a whole photo evaluation and hotness ranking system, which to me is a waste of time, because as soon as you meet in person you will know how attractive you find them." However, she says his biggest mistake was talking about the spreadsheet on a date and sending it to her: "He probably liked her and was showing off and trying to make her think she was 'special,' but sharing the spreadsheet was ill-advised at best."
In terms of romance, we are hopelessly hypocritical. While we know books like The Game and The Rules exist, we also really don't like thinking that the people we're dating are doing any of that sort of thinking at all. We want people to go in without the complications that make them human, the petty desires and shallow needs and manipulations, and to fall hopelessly, madly, non-spreadsheetedly in love, and to forget about all else (assuming we feel the same way—if not, they're creepy). The spreadsheet brings us back to a reality in which people are more complicated, have more complicated lives, and maybe, have motivations other than simply wooing one particular person purely. But the idea that love is not, in some ways, "business," or at least, is more than simple, pure feelings emanating from our perfect, pure hearts, well, that's an idea that the movies want us to believe. There is more to it than that—as the self-help relationship books illustrate, everybody's angling for something. This guy's "game" failed because it was nerdy, because he did it the wrong way, because he told the wrong people. But if a spreadsheet helps, let daters have the spreadsheet. But, yeah, don't forward it to anyone. That's just dumb.