East Village artist Dan Perino has done his best to avoid Internet dating, but still finds himself objectified online.
In lieu of going on OKCupid, Tinder, or Match like other lovelorn New Yorkers, Perino, who doesn't have a website and eschews social media, has been posting thousands of fliers with his picture, phone number, and the earnest plea, "I'm really looking for a girlfriend," all over Manhattan.
In 15 days, his old-school search for an inamorata netted hundreds of phone calls and 39 dates ("I spent a LOT of money") but love still eludes him.
Many inquiries come from women who seem more interested in using a date as an anecdotal post for their social media accounts than in earnestly exploring whether an authentic, lasting connection is possible. Perino, has, been surprised by the response from "bimbo-type girls who just want to take pictures," and to discover that "I'm on everyone's Facebook," and Instagram accounts. Too many single ladies, he noted, seem as if they're already in love -- with their mobile phones: "I'm not bad-mouthing that, but I find it funny that it's so important to be on the Internet all the time," said Perino, a divorced father of a 17-year-old daughter who lives with her mom in New Jersey.
His girl-illa marketing campaign is entirely sincere, assured Perino. Part of the difficulty might be that he is determined to land a partner in her 20s or 30s. He is limiting himself to younger women because "I dont want to rule out children" and is incapable of being attracted to women his own age, he explained. How, then, will he cope should he find a woman who, God willing, lives long enough to become 51 - his own age?
"That's different," Perino said.
Other criteria he would find welcome is a fondness for camping and hiking (Perino is planning to tackle the Appalachian Trail again) and playing pool. ("I love that game, but I don't like to go to bars.")
Perino has also fielded hundreds of obscene and crank calls and lots of creative propositions from men who interpreted his flier's statement that "to me each and every person is beautiful," as indicative of an openness he does not in fact possess. The media has come calling, too. "I'll most likely be on the Howard Stern show," he said, noting that he is now negotiating an appearance with the show's lawyers.
While his street did not begin as a stunt, it has, in fact, become "a social experiment," acknowledged Perino, who stressed he is not interested in casual sex. "One-hundred years ago a guy would court a woman and the courtship would all be chaperoned: Then he would ask her father for her hand in marriage," he recounted wistfully. "To me, that's beautiful," Perino said.