I never liked group projects. Just like an episode of Survivor, everyone going into a group project has a desire to vote someone off of the island. Who’s the kid that’s going to sleep through the meeting? Not contribute his/her part to the group paper? The deemed “loser” is all relative in group projects, too. The worst member in a group might have been the kid that showed up 15 minutes late to the first meeting and his bad rep stuck.
Then there’s the other extreme: the overachiever. The one everyone fears in the group and the “second professor”. She (or he – but let’s face it, it’s usually a girl. Boys don’t want to ruin their chances of getting with a female member at the end of the project by playing professor’s pet) will be ruthless to slackers. And she will voice her opinion at all times:
“I have all of these ideas. What are yours? I don’t like that. I don’t like what you’re wearing.”
I thought all of this went away in grad school; and for the most part, it has. Most people have full-time jobs in grad school, especially in the night classes, and know the “real world” deal. They know voting someone off the island will just burn a bridge you need to cross again in the future. And slacking will get you fired. But this one particular group I was working with was a 4pm class I had on Mondays. It took special permission from my boss to leave work early for this class, since the other night classes were already booked. The night classes with the chairmen and CEOs of companies, who would guarantee everyone in their group project an A and a better job at the end of the semester. This class was the full-timers – no slacking allowed. Group assignments were recently distributed for our final paper and I even had the privilege of having an undergrad student in my group. He loved switching our meeting times so he could shower after the gym and grab a quick sandwich on his meal plan before meeting up with us.
It was 10pm on a Friday night and I could feel the stress building from the surviving members. I sat in our school library with my health policy group. We had less than 12 hours to piece together our individual group paper components and it was getting ugly. Empty coffee cups littered our tiny table and my area was covered with muffin crumbs, evidence of my stress eating. Undergrad Dan was front and center, hovered over his laptop like it was going to self-destruct if he walked away. I guess I would pin him as the group overachiever, although a bit of an exception to the rule: both being male and being accepting of group members. Must have been the fact that the rest of us had at least five years on him. But I appreciated his enthusiasm for the project. If we were all undergrads, I would have been voted off this health policy island on day one.
“Guys, how does this sound now?” he pleaded. We were done fusing our sections and were now working on the bookend paragraphs – the brutal intro and conclusion that always took the longest in a group.
“’Evidence of microfinance organizations in sub-Saharan Africa show that’ – no that doesn’t sound right. How about we use the word illustrate instead of show?” Hey walking thesaurus, let’s see how many adjectives you can come up with three bud lights deep. I was the only one of my girl friends not out painting the town red, but we didn’t have a choice. I glance over at the beautiful Indian girl in our group who is monitoring her text message traffic on her iPhone. She was probably pushing off some hot date tonight to throw around synonyms with the rest of us. Wonder if undergrad Dan takes girls out on dates. Was a senior in college too young for a 26 year old? He does work out a lot.
“Right back, quick bathroom break,” I said efficiently. I was hanging onto the Survivor Island by a thread and needed to clear my delirious mind now falling into desperate cougar mode. As I sit down on the throne in complete exhaustion, an advertisement of hope is staring back at me:
Not meeting Mr. Right in grad school like you had hoped? It’s not too late! Join DateMySchool.com and start finding your soul mate from another program!
Key words: other program. You know a boy is a lost cause in grad school when your public policy class last semester is filled with chatty women who crushed on the skinny Asian professor with the wedding band. This ad screamed suits and nice dinners. It would filter out the skinny hipsters in my program who argued to the death for a greener planet and couldn’t use the word “equity” in a sentence. It might distract me from dreaming up a solid make-out in the library bathroom with an undergrad in future group projects. I couldn’t wait to check out the site.
It wasn’t until two coffees and another muffin later when someone else from our group snuck off to the bathroom and spilled the beans about this goldmine ad in the stall. Pretty Indian girl came back to our table laughing, excited to mock my future husband’s dwelling:
“You guys wouldn’t believe this ad in the bathroom!” she starts. “It’s like a match-dot-com for grad students, so bizarre – Heidi, you must have seen it…”
I do my best to conceal the fact that I’m already at “playing guitar” – the fifth interest that will appear on my profile.
“Yeah I saw that! Looks – weird. I mean, I don’t know how I feel about the whole online dating thing anyway.” It was true. The day my sister told me she was pregnant, she also gave me an early birthday present of an active (as of that morning) 3-month subscription to eHarmony, personality profile already filled out and everything. I spent the next 10 minutes weeding through the “Joe winked at you”s in my email, while yelling at her that I was too young for this. Little did I know the hilarious dates and one semi-serious relationship that would come from this unwanted present. But now was not the time to divulge my previous tampering with online dating, or the fact that my profile was already sketched out in my mind. I had to discourage other group members from joining so they wouldn’t sway results or steal prospects. Although we were a solid team on this paper, there was no passing the ball or assists with datemyschool.com. This was a one-man show.
“Alright so I think we’re almost done here,” I suggested. Surely one of them had to get home to feed their cat. Or wake up early to get a head start on studying for their stats exam in a month and a half. “Any final edits before we submit?”
Sure enough, we slapped on a conclusion and were out of there within twenty minutes. Well at least the rest of them were. I walked out with them as a team, feeling that cold blast of air for the first time in hours as the door swung open and we parted ways. “Later guys!” I yell out enthusiastically, as if I were rushing home to paint on some eyeliner and hit the town. Instead, my feet lead me around the block and I re-entered the library café a new woman with a mission: score a date with a suit before I hit the sheets.
Website seemed pretty straightforward: input your grad school email and create a password. Done. Next stop: profile page. I pull up facebook and begin weeding through pictures of me with my left eye half-closed like a pirate (something that usually happens when my smile is too big) and my mouth open, holding three beers. Suits are usually responsible and serious, so I must play the part. I kept filtering through. Suddenly the picture I used for my LinkedIn profile pops up. Straight posture, curls ironed out with a professional hair-flip at the bottom, all while donning some kind of collared shirt number. IBM just hired a new CEO and she looked like a nicely dressed bombshell in the Wall Street Journal. That’s the look I was going for. A professional smokeshow. I uploaded it and moved onto interests.
Found this section to be the toughest. “Describe yourself”. The key is to not have it look like you spent too much time on it, but have it chalk-full of witty comments that will entice shoppers. It’s also a way of secretly showing off. “Interests: doing Irish jigs in Galway bars (hint: I travel a lot), hermiting on the second floor of the (insert Ivy League) library, running half marathons (hint: tight bod). Friend made me sign up for this (hint: don’t want to let the world know I’m actively husband hunting and spend way too much time staring at ex boyfriends’ facebook pages). As much as I tried to keep my interests honest and straight-forward, they were exactly this. Subtle hints thrown in that I’m an awesome catch and that someone maaaade me sign up for this. And that was a wrap. My fishing pole was hooked with live bait and I was ready for casting.
First catch was the co-founder and CEO of the website. Ladies, I don’t waste time. Well let me clarify – it was an automated email signed by the CEO. Yes, the generic “welcome” email, but I was impressed it had my name after welcome. And the two founders even had their own profiles that I could click on. I was so excited, I replied to the automated email.
“Thanks Pierre!” I wrote. “Very excited to try this out!” To my surprise, Pierre wrote back within minutes.
“You’re welcome, Heidi. Glad to have you on board.” I clicked on him immediately and discovered that he was a French native who moved here two years ago to attend Columbia Business School. He and the other co-founder started this site only weeks earlier. I was smitten. Well, not really. His pictures were stocked with colorful scarves around his neck, looking flamboyantly Euro. Nevertheless, he was the co-founder and there was nothing subtle about his half-marathon tight bod. I considered him a snapper catch and kept him on the back burner.
What was so great about this site is that you could literally shop for men by school. I could specify that I only wanted to see profiles of men from Columbia Business School, or Fordham Law, or NYU Medical School and only those men would appear. I could shop by height. Total kid in a candy store. What I didn’t realize is that my profile was open to the rest of the world. I thought that limiting my search also limited who could search for me. This was not the case.
Within five minutes, I had an email in my inbox from “DaggerRevenge92” – a 19 year old college dropout from California who resembled Marilyn Manson. Unlike his grim- faced photos, his email was enthusiastic:
“Hey there, Heidi562… you rollerblade too? That’s pimp. I know we’re on opposite coasts, but I think you’re fine.”
Kidding. This email made me feel like I witnessed a small child being punched. My mouth dropped so much, I swear my laptop was now holding up my lower jaw. I immediately jabbed the Block button at the top of his profile and clicked out of the message. How could he see me? He couldn’t even legally drink. This was the place to find my grad school suit man and fresh flowers on dates, not a place for therapy chats with goth dropouts. I did the only thing that seemed reasonable at that time. I emailed Pierre.