PROSPECT PARK, BROOKLYN—Carl Givens, a 34-year-old comic book archivist, began his foray into online dating in his mid-twenties as his discomfort in the bar scene led to anxiety attacks. “I figured that if I could present the best, most honest and likable version of myself on a webpage, where I don’t have to shout over loud music or pretend to have a good time, I would have a better chance. But right before I got Gizmo, I was about ready to quit the whole thing altogether.”
Gizmo, to whom he attributes his reversal of fortune, is Carl’s 18-week-old French bulldog. Since bringing Gizmo home, and updating his dating profiles to include him, Carl has seen an influx of interest from thousands of women who would have most likely overlooked his pockmarked face and scrawny frame covered by cargo pants and a ‘Han Shot First’ hoodie.
“Used to be I would only get, like, 1 Tinder match for every 1000 swipes or so,” Carl said as his phone vibrated with notifications throughout the interview. He shook his head with apologetic incredulity for most of the conversation.
Years ago, Carl’s late-20s loneliness led to concurrent memberships with several dating sites, including Match, OK Cupid, How About We?, and Plenty of Fish. But it appears that leaving the house to acquire a creature companion may have been the difference maker all along.
“I come out here to the park more, obviously,” Givens said, gesturing to his curious little buddy. “And there’s always a pretty girl on a run or reading who stops to meet Gizmo. I just let him do the talking, mostly. It’s okay for him to snort when he’s happy. Me? Not so much.”
But the advantages of attracting attention with his dog apparently have equal disadvantages. Carl’s overflowing online inboxes caught the eyes of the websites’ customer service representatives, but not for the reason Carl expected. “I was glad they reached out at first because I kept getting these error messages so I couldn’t read anything anymore,” he recalls. “Then I realized that the calls weren’t exactly tech support. It was more women asking me how Gizmo was doing and stuff like that. It got creepy.”
Carl has since deleted all of his online dating accounts because of the overwhelming deluge of interest, but he has yet to go on an official date with any of the women he has encountered in real life, holding out for one who might actually like him for more than his furry friend. “The attention is nice, don’t get me wrong,” he said, “but I mean…I’m not sure I could handle losing a girlfriend if something happened to Gizmo. I’ve read about women in. They can be cold like that. Remember Mary Jane? Peter Parker deserved better.”
The interview with Carl had to be cut short at that point because a mob of women–who would not have otherwise talked to each other, much less Carl–crowded around Gizmo in a cacophony of baby talk, rendering all recorded conversation thereafter useless. But as Carl watched from a safe distance of his leash extension, he whispered, “A few of them will say hello to me eventually, but by then I’ll know all I need to know.”