This piece is part of How Google Drive Can Make Every Corner of Your Life Easier
As a teenager, I imagined my adult dating life would go something like this: Meet man. Marry. The end. Trial and error was for losers. Dating was for doubters. By my exacting metric, any time spent with someone I knew wasn’t a match was a waste of time.
Like many teenagers, I did not know what I was talking about. The “trial and error” element of dating hasn’t been a waste of time at all; it’s been an essential part of growing up, and offered some meaningful wisdom along the way. And I found some of that wisdom in a spreadsheet.
One evening a few years ago, with a lot of time on my hands and my talent for self-entertainment at an all-time high, I made a Google Sheet of everyone I’ve ever dated. This was not meant to be a serious project — I titled the document “Mens” — but I soon found myself invested in completing it. I was newly single, and I began looking for patterns in the data, clusters of like qualities or flaws that would help me in my future romantic endeavors.
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The format was simple enough: I made one column each for name, age, how we met, and profession. I also added columns for positives, negatives, and “lessons learned.” I included anyone I’d ever gone out or had a significant “thing” with, starting all the way back in my first year of college, even though my memories of those guys weren’t the most nuanced: Their columns included things notes like “smart,” “funny,” or “smelled nice” (though others turned out to be “manipulative,” “totally boring,” or “disturbed”).
My insights became slightly more sophisticated when I got to the men I met after college, when I moved to New York. In school, I’d been too naive to have any conception of what a red flag was. But by 25, I’d learned to identify pretty quickly when someone was, for…