The idea for this story came to mind the week I watched a documentary about the Galapagos. Through it I learned that the male blue-footed boobies participate in a courtship mating dance to attract partners, flaunting their blue feet as a signifier of sexual prowess.
That week I also read Azis Ansari’s book Modern Love. In it, Ansari shone light on cross-cultural dating profile etiquette. He shared that rather than selfies, many Japanese daters instead post pictures of rice cookers (which is tied to their cultural valuing of humility and devaluation of narcissism).
If boobies were to develop both humans’ intellectual capacities and an interest in our customs, how might they fare in the online dating milieu? I wondered. What would we see if we were to place smartphones under their wings and download Tinder to their phones?
Come along with me in my imaginings of this world as I envision possible answers to that question.
Handing the pen over to my booby friend now.
Have a back-up supply of phones.
I learned this the hard way, many botched attempts and water-logged devices later. Swiping doesn’t come easily, which makes sense—our fingerlessness places significant limits on our ability to engage in it. A lack of tactile dexterity leads to absence of grace in the left to right sliding motion humans seem to perform effortlessly. This is just a reality—nothing to be ashamed of. Just make sure to keep a stash of replacement phones on wing.
Use discretion when posting blue foot pictures.
Many a male booby’s profile focuses predominantly on our most important asset: our feet. Zoomed-in shots of our equivalent to the human species’ penis photos at once abound on male profiles and deluge the inboxes of our female counterparts.
I recommend against adding to that deluge. If you want to be a classy booby, highlight instead your prioritization of mind over meat and spend more time honing your self-descriptions.
You might consider writing something like: “Able to fish. There to hold your wing during hard times. Equal parts lover and fighter.”
Note the absence of blue foot references in the above description. In this booby’s opinion, capitalizing so heavily on a single body part encourages objectification. If a quality and enduring union is what you seek, putting forth a more comprehensive view of your values and overall character will be more likely to aid you in your goals.
But if you are one of those boobies with admittedly impressive blue feet…
… Humility is still key. There is a way to highlight this asset without coming across as conceited or inappropriate. Simply include a photo of yourself taking part in an activity, wherein your feet just happen to be visible (perhaps while the light is shining down in a way that accentuates their blueness).
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
For a number of reasons, boobies who use online dating come to find that it’s unwise to do this, especially before meeting the prospect in bird, but also even after one, two, or as many as five good dates.
Sure, you may feel like you have hit it off quite well with a booby, and in earlier eras, this may have stood as a reliable indicator that the two of you were headed into relationship territory. In modern times though, amidst an inexhaustibility of available options, and with many boobies treating their dating lives like they’re protagonists on The Bachelor (meaning you just don’t know who you may be competing with), too many variables are at play to be able to come to this same conclusion.
Maybe they’re dating other boobies. Maybe they’re still getting over an ex. Or, if you’re LGBT, maybe despite what they tell themselves, in their heart of booby hearts they just don’t see committing to a member of the same sex as part of their life plan. Even though they may not tell you this directly, it’s possible that they are just noncommittally testing the waters.
You’ve got to really trust this bird to put those eggs in their basket, and since trust takes time to build, until it’s in place, spread those eggs, boobies. Spread them far and wide.
Directly communicating with the prospective booby to see if you’re on the same page is also an option.
Don’t swipe in front of your date.
When I say put your eggs in different baskets, I don’t mean during the date. I mean any time but. Contain all mate browsing to the off hours. If for whatever reason you’re finding it really hard to restrain yourself though, at least leave the table and resume swiping in the bathroom.
Brush up on the paradox of choice and see how it applies to your dating life.
Those human movies where two of them are stuck in an elevator together? And maybe they hate each other at first, but by the end, they’re in love?
Online dating is not conducive to experiences like that. I would even say that their structure facilitates the exact opposite, providing you too many options; a whole buffet of them.
Two random boobies alone in a room together – Initial reluctance gives way to profound connection
Room full of boobies – Attention scattered, interactions superficial
In his book on human courtship practices, human author Aziz Ansari wrote about the paradox of choice, which basically states that when surrounded with options, we are less likely to focus in depth on any one of them.
Ansari writes: “Many studies have demonstrated that a large degree of choice can overwhelm people. In a famous illustration of this principle, supermarket shoppers encountered a tasting booth that displayed either 6 or 24 flavors of jam. Although shoppers were 50% more likely to stop at the tasting booth with the larger array of jams than at the booth with the smaller array, they were 10 times more likely to purchase one of the jams from the smaller array than to purchase a jam from the larger array.”
The totality of options makes it so that you can always have one blue foot out the door. You may select one of these boobies as your mate based on the charismatic behavior of their representative—and some of us have more charming ones than others—without ever really getting to the deeper stuff beneath. Which is ultimately not too helpful for your quest, because that deeper stuff, i.e. the real booby, is who you’ll ultimately be in a relationship with. Their representative, on the other hand, exits swiftly after a few dates.
There may also come a time when you’ll say “a surplus of boobies only gives me a surplus of things to find wrong with each of them.”
Another problem with buffets: the dishes that look the tastiest aren’t the most satiating.
A booby friend of mine was sitting at a buffet the other day. The creamy decadent risotto instantly beckoned him. He chose it over the plate of brussel sprouts. At first bite, he thought to himself, “This is it. I’ve found it. Fill my plate up with this and only this.” And then after a few more bites, he started to feel sluggish, dizzy, and full―yet not satiated.
The brussel sprouts, conversely, at first bite are un-enthralling. But as he kept eating, he started to taste the subtleties, and more importantly, he began feeling gradually nourished. There was no high followed by a crash. He finished satiated but not entirely full.
When we take our time and are willing to look at the more substantial qualities, we might experience the same positive effects with the boobies we choose.
Pay attention to what your mind does. Have self-awareness.
Our impulses aren’t always intuition, even though they often masquerade as such. They don’t always deliver a wise message. Sometimes unhealed trauma clouds your ability to tell threat from friend.
My booby friend did this the other day. A suitor had a speck on her lip, which reminded him of one that a predator who’d once destabilized his life had also had. All he could focus on was that speck—not any of the wonderful conversations he’d had with this booby, not the calm and patient way she took him in, not how they’d watched the sun set over the ocean, their blue feet contrasting with the brown of the jagged rock as the the light sank beneath the cresting waves.
Sometimes the message is just, “You’re afraid right now, so you’re going to throw all this away rather than unpacking it critically.”
If this is true for you, consider seeing a therapist before you begin your quest.
Keep in mind that it’s a dynamic; what you put in affects what you get out.
A booby friend of mine once rejected a date because she didn’t make him laugh enough, even though he had basically sat there the entire time without saying anything or offering much in the way of laughs in return.
Think about what you yourself are contributing to the interaction, boobies. In my humble opinion, the role of a partner isn’t to keep you entertained 24/7. They don’t owe you a performance or a show while you just sit there expectantly. Like you, they’re also trying to find out if you’re dating material. Like you, they too have needs and preferences.
I suppose what I want to say to you boobies, now that I’ve reached the end here, is that maybe online dating, fancy as it seems and ubiquitous as it now may be, perhaps isn’t all it’s quacked up to be. (I took my own advice and broadened my scope of attraction by going on a date with a duck last week. Can you tell she’s rubbed off on me?)
Maybe we boobies would be just fine meeting the old-fashioned way. I mean, it’s not like we don’t come into contact with each other out in the wild. It’s not like we’ve been relegated to our rocky hovels by a global pandemic with screens and smartphones as literally our only options for connection.
Maybe it’s best to leave the swiping to the human race. Maybe we should protect ourselves from this swirling vortex that makes one doubt herself, engage in fault-finding that leads to her feeling judgey and superficial and treating other boobies like options at a buffet, and that involves expanding so much time and energy into an endeavor that promises no returns on our efforts—that often, in fact, leaves one more depleted than before.
A booby swims by on a sunny day. She spots another booby on the rock in front of her, blue feet outstretched. His beak gently taps at the stone beneath him.
The two of them lock eyes.
They lock eyes and then she joins him on the rock, where they dance.
Though simple, their love story belongs to a timeless script that’s played out since the beginning of our days. And maybe, if we boobies put down our phones and look around at all the beauty and potential connections surrounding us, it can continue to.