Keepin’ On: The Internet Dating Update

By popular request, I am writing an update about my dating foibles.

Okay, just one person requested it, but she’s very popular, so I think that counts.

It’s been a year since I wrote this post about not being ready to date. I stayed off the dating sites through the holidays, because starting something new at the holidays is so awkward. You’re not sure if your new beau is ready to join your wacky family for Thanksgiving, but it might be rude not to invite him. Then there’s that question of what to buy him for Christmas, trying to match the gift to whatever stage of the relationship you’re in. New guys at the holidays really are no fun at all. Unless you’re into cozy evenings by the fire, romantic walks through beautifully lit neighborhoods, planning holiday surprises, or having someone to kiss on New Year’s Eve.

But, you know…who really likes all that stuff anyway? Not me, obviously. I waited for January.

Turns out, everyone waits for January. The dating sites were hopping with activity so I had lots of opportunities to meet new people. And I did. I don’t even know how many. Here are the highlights, and I’m using that word very loosely.

I met a funny, sexy, articulate guy named Joe. (There are enough Joes in the world that I can just use his name, right?) Joe was extremely flakey. You know those people who make vague or tentative plans with you and either don’t follow through or wait til the very last minute to solidify? He was one of those. He always left me hanging. I don’t like that feeling, so I backed off and waited for him to call me. He didn’t like that much. “Why don’t you ever call me?” he asked. “Why do I always have to call you?” I said, “I don’t want to chase you. You seem like you’re always half-assing it. I don’t mind if we only see each other occasionally, but you’ve got to let me know what’s going on so I can plan.” And he said, “Why do all girls want to have this relationship talk so soon?”

Huh? Relationship? That’s not a relationship talk. That’s a scheduling talk. But Flakey Joe’s half-assed ways got annoying so I resumed my search.

I met a guy who spent 45 minutes of my time complaining to me about his ex-wife. He asked me how long I’d been divorced and I told him: 17 years. And he said, “Wow. That’s a really long time. What do you think the problem is?” Because there MUST be something wrong with me if I haven’t remarried by now. Duh.

I met one guy whom I actually dated for a couple months. He was not a very good kisser. Do you know how hard it is to get past that? But he was fun to be with, except when he was kissing me, so I decided to give it some time and see how it went. (See? I try. I don’t give up right away.) It didn’t go very well. Bad kissing leads to bad other things. And those other things were pretty bad. (It would be rude for me to get into details here. Buy me a couple drinks and I’ll give you specifics if you want them.) Anyway, I was gimping it along with Mr. Unsexy and then one day, at a hangover breakfast, while I was eating a reasonably healthy half-order of poached eggs and asparagus and he was eating a giant plate of steak and eggs with hash browns and a Bloody Mary the size of my head, he gently suggested that maybe “we” should try to lose some weight.

We. Did I mention that Unsexy was very skinny? And that I am not? Yeah. I decided to stop overlooking his gross lack of skills and get the heck out of there.

I spoke with another guy, a big shot I now refer to as The Onceler, who asked me what I was doing that evening. I said I had to work—I had to write some web content and load it into our company website. He said, “I have a Filipino virtual assistant who does that for pennies.” I think that may be the rudest thing someone has ever said to me that early in a conversation. Not to mention all the levels of wrongness inherent in that statement.

There was the red-headed mailman who spoke a total of 17 words during our whole date. And I had to ask him 17 questions to get those words out of him.

I went out with another guy whose lack of confidence made me cringe. At one point in the date, he got up to use the restroom and when he came back, he looked at me with surprise and said, “Oh, you’re still here!”

I met one guy who was really nice to talk to and very interesting, but he never put the moves on me. Still, it was fun at first. His Pinterest boards were almost identical to mine! He enjoyed looking at old houses, just like me, and shopping for home décor, just like me, and the more I got to know him, the more certain I became that he probably should be dating dudes (just like me). Raised in a strict, conservative, religious environment; adamantly and loudly homophobic; sews his own curtains…it was repression stew. And even if he wasn’t deeply closeted, I can’t date a homophobe.

Oh, that reminds me of the guy with the very soft, small hands and gentle, quiet voice who met me at a bar and then ordered white zinfandel. Everyone should drink what he or she likes best, and if you are happiest with a glass of pink wine in your ladyhand, who am I to judge? But I can’t date someone who seems more feminine than me. Don’t blame me; blame the patriarchy.

Most recently, I met a guy who told me, about a half hour into a coffee date, that I was his first attempt at dating since he got out of prison, and that he would be on federal parole for the next several years. So that was a real mood dampener. But I respected him for his honesty and for turning his life around. Then we started talking politics, and you know what this guy was? A Trump supporter! You can be a felon; I understand that sometimes we all make bad decisions. But if you think Donald Trump is a legitimate choice for president, there is something gravely wrong with you. I could not end that conversation fast enough.

I’m only telling you about the ones that I didn’t like. It goes the other way, too, of course. There was Hot Scott, who was brilliant and interesting—and hot, of course. He took me to a very nice dinner, so nice it almost made me uncomfortable. He told great stories and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. But he didn’t even walk me to my car (basic courtesy, right?) so I knew he wasn’t interested. Hard to fathom that someone wouldn’t be interested in ME, but hey, it happens. At least it was an entertaining date. There was also a guy from high school that I found on Tinder. We went out and he was delightful: charming and handsome and so fun to be around. Still is. We landed smack in the friend zone. That happens sometimes, too, and I’m okay with that.

So there you have it: a brief, sad summary of my dating life over the last year.

Sometimes I wonder whether I’m too picky, or if I have unrealistic expectations. Am I like George Costanza, ruling out people for ridiculous reasons? Contrary to popular belief, being single for long periods of time does not make you inclined to settle. If anything, it makes you pickier. I’m old enough to know what I can and cannot live with. While I occasionally get tired of being alone (occasionally is another word I’m using loosely), I am pretty good at it. I know from experience that I’m happier on my own than I am when I’m with someone who isn’t a good fit.

We’re coming up on the holidays, so I’ll take another break pretty soon. My Match.com membership expires at the end of the month, and I’ll shut it down, delete my Tinder app, etc. I’ll have cozy nights by the fire with my dogs, who never tell me I need to lose weight. I’ll plan Christmas surprises for family and friends who aren’t flakey. And on New Years Eve, who knows? I could kiss anyone—anyone but a Trump supporter, that is. A girl must have her standards.

Let the Games Begin…Later

It’s already been six months since my big breakup. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not—have you noticed?

It’s time to get back on that horse. (tee hee hee! Save a horse; ride a cowboy? Nevermind. I will spare you the stream-of-consciousness “riding” jokes. Sorry.)

Let me tell you, as much as I would love to start dating again, I’m having a little trouble.

A) I don’t know how to meet men in real life. Remember the mattress guy?
B) That leaves online dating, and OH MY GOD, I’M SO SICK OF ONLINE DATING.

Here’s what happened.

A few months ago, I re-activated my profile on OKCupid, which is a free online dating site. I hadn’t been on there in a couple years, of course, because I’d been dating someone. I was surprised to find that all the familiar faces were still up there.

I’m not speaking archetypally here. It wasn’t just any old foot fetish guys or twenty-something cougar hunters: the actual same people were still there on the site.

Buncha losers, right? Still on the same dating site after TWO YEARS? I was feeling mighty superior until I realized that if any of them logged on and recognized me, they’d assume that I’d been on there for two years, too. I was tempted to post a disclaimer: HEY, DON’T JUDGE ME. I HAD A REAL LIVE BOYFRIEND FOR 18 MONTHS!

I skipped the disclaimer. No point in drawing attention to my failure. Instead, I updated my photos (my favorite!) and refreshed my catchy, definitely-not-desperate, sexy-yet-respectable profile.

This is so ridiculous it makes me cringe. And yet, I'm not above it.

Oh god, the shame. Either way. This is why internet dating blows.

Let the games begin.

Within a couple days, I had begun corresponding with a man who seemed intelligent and pleasant. He was reasonably attractive (a ginger, but I’m open-minded, you know) and had a job that was absolutely fascinating to me: a dealer in rare antiquities. Yes, my BS radar went off, and I wondered if he really was just an unemployed guy who believed he’d found the Holy Grail in his great-aunt’s basement. Nevertheless, he did seem smart and interesting. If he actually was a legitimate antique dealer, then that’s about the coolest, most Meg-perfect occupation I can think of.

The Ginger was quite romantic, and had big ideas about a romantic first date: walks on the beach, picnics and the like. I asked him, “Have you ever done this before?”

Nothing says “I’ve never been on an internet date” like premature romantic hopes. Let me tell you, a couple internet dates will kill those early romantic impulses dead. The first meeting is not a date; it’s an awkward, fact-checking, mutual evaluation exercise that is best accompanied by strong drinks in a public location with at least two exits.

So I convinced him to settle for ordinary drinks in an ordinary bar and scheduled a meeting for the following Friday, just a few days out. He gave me his number and encouraged me to call him.

I didn’t. I grew a big knot in my stomach instead.

Thursday night I found myself sitting on the couch, eating ice cream out of the container, bawling in front of the TV for some unidentified reason.

ABORT MISSION. REPEAT. ABORT MISSION.

I sent the romantic, unsuspecting Ginger an apologetic email cancelling our date and took my profile down before he could reply. I’d never called him, so he had no way to reach me and tell me what a flake I am.

Newsflash: if you’re still bingeing and bawling on the couch, you’re probably not ready to date yet.

Fast forward a couple more months. I was starting to get lonely, among other things. Time to try again. Couldn’t go back on OKCupid because the Ginger would probably be on there still, along with every other guy I’d interacted with over the last two years. So, I tried Plenty of Fish.

Plenty of Fish is known as a hookup site. It’s free and there are a zillion users so it’s like a giant man catalog. Incidentally, it’s where I met my ex. (There’s more where he came from, right? That’s why they named it Plenty of Fish.)

New profile. New pics. New inane conversations with men that have absolutely nothing in common with me, except that they like vaginas and I have one.

After a few days, I had begun conversations with two men who seemed intelligent and interesting: a tall, quirky I.T. guy, and a short, well-dressed Art Director. Both seemed like decent guys—courteous, articulate, and genuine. Both gave me their phone numbers and made tentative plans to meet me.

And I did it again. No bingeing and crying this time, just a big panic in my gut that said NO FREAKING WAY. I CAN’T DO IT AGAIN. I sent more apologetic emails and deleted my profile, again. Left two perfectly decent guys in the lurch.

I can’t even tell you why.

This is not a self-esteem thing. I wasn’t feeling unworthy or what-have-you.

This is not about my ex. That’s water under the bridge and I’m not harboring any hopes or could-have-beens about him.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. I just know that there was no way in hell I was going to call either one of them, or pick out an outfit and try to look pretty and show up in a bar and make dumb small talk or any of that first-date nonsense.

Just can’t do it. Not yet. Maybe never. Maybe this time I’ll have to drag myself out into the real world and not hide behind a computer. Or maybe I will go back to the internet dating sites when I’m ready.

I always say that online dating is like shopping at T.J. Maxx—you have to dig through a lot of crap, but if you’re patient you can find some good stuff there. Maybe I just have to build up my stamina a little bit before I’m ready to hit the racks again.

Goodbye, Swoony McLovestruck

Seventeen months ago I posted about the absurdities of internet dating. Ironically, that very same night, I went on an internet date with a guy who knocked my socks off, triggered a series of lovestruck posts, and started me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could step off the dating merry-go-round for good.

Alas, dear readers; that is not how the story ends. Oh, it ended. Just not like that.

My big romance is well and truly over. So, I’ve taken the usual steps: crying, ranting to my girlfriends, buying shoes, drinking, eating, buying more shoes…and all of that helped.   I’ve taken healthier steps, too, like painting and taking long walks. I even tried yoga for the first time. (Wow, yoga! More on that later.)

Mostly, I’ve done a lot of thinking. It was hard for me to let this relationship end, because I wanted so badly for it to work. This is the first time in my adult life that I really threw my whole heart into a romantic relationship, because this is the first time that I felt like I’d found someone who was worth that kind of risk. I fell hard, and I think in the process, I forgot something very important.

I went through a lot of crappy internet dates to learn this important lesson, and one sweet romance almost blew it right out of my head.  A year later, when things were starting to unwind with my beloved, the lesson came back to me.

Here’s the short version: I can’t control what another person wants, and I can’t become what another person wants. Instead, I need to decide what I want. I need to be who I want to be, and find someone I want to be with.

When I was younger, and I first started dating, I worried all the time about whether guys would like me. Was I pretty enough? Thin enough? Sexy enough? Wholesome enough? Should I be more open? Or more mysterious? I’d be out on a date, gripped with insecurity, always worried about whether I was what my date wanted.

Then I got a little older. The beauty of getting older is beginning to accept yourself.  I’m not perfect, but I’m perfectly acceptable. I started to see what a waste of time it was to try to be what someone else wanted. When I look at myself now, there are things I want to improve and things I struggle to accept, but the bottom line is this: it is what it is, and really, it’s just fine.

Instead of trying to be what someone else wants, I need to decide what I want for myself.

That outlook greatly improved my dating life. I began to go out more, because I stopped ruling myself out.  In my early days of dating online, I’d look at someone and think, “I’m not his type”—even, sometimes, when he approached me first! I started enjoying my dates more, because instead of trying to prove myself, I focused on each person I met. I’m sure that made me a lot more fun to be around, too.

Eventually, this strategy led me to my boyfriend ex-boyfriend. (Ouch.)  For the first year, it seemed pretty close to perfect. When problems cropped up, I thought, well, all relationships have problems; this is worth working for.

So I tried hard to not cause the problems. I tried to be more tactful; I tried to be more communicative; I tried to be more available; I tried to be more feminine; I tried to be less independent; I tried to be less stubborn; I tried to be more open; I tried to guard my words; I tried not to upset him. I found myself apologizing for things I never knew were wrong. I found myself trying to change things about myself that I’d always been proud of.  I tried and tried and then I remembered:

I can’t become what another person wants. I can’t change what he wants.  I can only decide what I want.

The fights continued, but instead of trying to prove that I was a good girlfriend, I began to try to evaluate our relationship. Am I being reasonable? Is he being reasonable? Are we really compatible? Are we really loving each other?

Is this what I want?

It sounds selfish; I know. “Meg, really? It’s all about what YOU want?”

Well, yes. Because I can’t control what he wants. And I can’t be what I’m not.

Sure, I can work to improve myself, and I can work at being better in a relationship. “What I Want” includes standards for me, too: I want to be reasonable, gracious, forgiving, open and kind. I know that I fall short of those attributes sometimes, and I know when I’m not at my best. But I trust my own judgment. I know when I’m trying my hardest to be the person that I should be. I want to be in a relationship that allows me to be that person.

And I wasn’t.

So it’s over.

It hurts; I wish I could breeze through this on the confidence that I’m doing the right thing, but it’s not that easy. The right thing hurts too, sometimes.

And the question now is… what do I want next?

Swoony McLovestruck Writes Again

So, if you read my last blog post, you know that I met someone super fantastic and I got all loopy for him. Despite my chronic worrywart headtripping, everything is going great.  I’ve seen the inside of his car, his freezer and his closet, and he has no stash of human heads or carcasses of any kind, even though we met on the interwebs. So far so good.

Seriously, since that last post, if I relayed all the cutesy-wutesy that has transpired, you would get a toothache. But I am going to tell you about one great day, because a team of romance writers could not have scripted it more perfectly.

Saturday it was “cold” here in SoCal: sparkling sunshine, light winds, dry air— highs hovered around 60 degrees. Brrrr!  That’s a wintery day for us–we break out the scarves, hats and boots the minute the thermostat drops below 70. I got all bundled up in my warm hoodie, and I wore real shoes and socks instead of flip flops.

Mr. New Guy loves to be outdoors, and he will actually PLAN things to do. (Tip for guys: chicks dig it when you plan.)  He suggested Crystal Cove State Park, a place I had never been, even though I’ve lived in Orange County for over 30 years.

Crystal Cove has sandy beaches, tide pools, acres of hiking trails and a restaurant and visitor center that showcases the vintage 1920s cottages.  In case you failed to get sufficiently excited by that sentence, I just want to reiterate BEACH and VINTAGE. Also TIDE POOLS.  And for the rest of you, the restaurant serves bloody marys on a beachfront patio.  You can’t lose in this place, I’m telling you.

We walk a short trail down to the visitor center and spend a little while poking around the gift shop, where Mr. Wonderful talks about art with me, because he’s actually interested. We check out the historic cottage display, which makes me nostalgic for times I never experienced, and then we canoodle under a tree in a surprisingly cozy Adirondack loveseat. When I remark on how comfy the loveseat is, he suggests that we try to build one together sometime. I am not making this up. When he comes out with stuff like that I want to look for hidden cameras. How does he know?

So then, no shit, we hold hands and jump across a little stream of water to the beach, because we are some kind of walking romance novel cliché and I’m just going to accept that now.

The beach is gorgeous and perfect, see?

We walk down the sand, not talking because when you’re at the beach you don’t need to talk, and then we crouch over tide pools for a time, looking for tiny sea creatures and poking anemones. Tidepools make me feel like I am 10 years old again.

One more perfect beach pic. (He took the pictures. I’d give him a photo credit but I’m trying to keep him anonymous.)

Beaches make me feel like nothing, in a good way. I don’t have any words for them because that is the effect they have on me. So I will skip to the Thai restaurant part now.

He takes me to his favorite Thai place in Costa Mesa called MaDee Thai Kitchen. As we walk in, they call out his name from the kitchen, and I feel a little pang of pride—not because I feel important, but because I’m with a good guy, someone who bothers to know the people he encounters in his daily life, someone who’s curious and considerate about the experiences of others. That’s huge for me—to be friendly and to really know people.

These people are worth knowing.  Tony and Sue, the owners, talk to us about the long hours they work in the restaurant and their plans to finally take time off over Thanksgiving. I like to listen to non-native English speakers when they put words together in ways I wouldn’t. When we ask if it’s been busy, Tony says, “Not too busy. Just easy coming.”  That expression makes perfect sense to me and I stash it away for future use. Tony talks to us while we eat, about cooking, about the ingredients in his baked mussels and where he learned to prepare them that way.

I learn that I do not like mussels, but holy cow, the Pad Thai is good. So is a dish called Crying Tiger, which does not involve tigers or crying.  It’s beef, served with greens and a yummy sauce.

On our way out, my new guy spots this on the counter:

It’s a graphophone, like a primitive record player, from the 1880s. New Guy points it out to Tony and Sue, and they call up their friend (relative?) Jay from the kitchen. Jay is an older Thai man with limited English and a face like a laughing Buddha. He’s so excited about the graphophone that he whips out his iPhone and flicks through pictures of his extensive phonograph collection. I laugh at the incongruity of his age and passion for antique technology, and his obvious iPhone proficiency. Without words to explain how he feels about the collection, he repeats in his thick accent, “I VERY CRAZY. You see? Very Crazy.”

While we’re talking and laughing, Jay opens a small canister with an Edison label and takes out what looks like a thick vinyl cylinder, but according to my in-depth Wikipedia research is more likely either tin or cardboard with a wax coating. He cranks the machine up, slides the cylinder in place, and everyone stops talking as the crank unwinds and a perfect, plinky tune wafts out from the cone-shaped amplifier. Magic. Auditory time travel.

The sound is so sweet and I want to hear it again, but I feel like it would be greedy to ask, like maybe there are only so many times you can listen to magic before it’s used up.

Instead we thank them, chat a minute longer and then head out into the chilly afternoon. In the car I am quiet, which isn’t normal for me, so he asks if I’m sleepy.  Not for the first time that day, or the last, I grin and shake my head. No words.

I very crazy, too.

Notes from the Flip Side: Meg Gets Loopy

When I wrote my last post about misadventures in internet dating, I got commiserating responses from fellow internet daters, and a note of fear from one dear friend who is “just dipping his toe” into the online dating pool. “You’re scaring me,” he said.

Of course, I graciously reassured everyone that there are plenty of nice people in the internet dating pool—heck, I’m in it, right? Mostly it’s decent human beings out there, and everyone is looking for the right match. Sure, I sniffed, I haven’t found mine yet, but I still believe he’s out there.  Then I poured another cocktail and tried to laugh it off.

Well, everything changed, the very day I published that post.

Today I can hardly write because I can’t see out of my heart-shaped cartoon pupils. No kidding. I’m pretty sure there are birds and maybe even squirrels singing happy little tunes right outside in the parking lot of my office building.

I met someone. I mean SOMEONE.

Normally, I meet nice guys on internet dates— guys who are pleasant and reasonably attractive and have jobs and all their teeth and I think, “Okay, Meg…this could be viable. There is nothing wrong with this guy. You should give this one a shot. ” And I try to send some moderately enthusiastic text messages to indicate interest, and I try to pencil him into my schedule within a reasonable time frame, and I walk this weird line of trying to keep him interested while I try to talk myself into being interested. Try, try, try. So much work!

You can imagine how attractive I am while I’m doing this ambivalent crazy-dance. Invariably, the guy senses that I’m not actually interested and it fizzles, or I sense that I’m not actually interested and it fizzles, and back to the drawing board I go. Yes, I’m a head case. I keep thinking that maybe if I just give one of these guys enough time, some kind of spark will ignite.

Apparently, sparks don’t require much time to ignite. I met this new Someone one time, and BAM! Two weeks later, I have become a 16-year-old girl. I haven’t been this attentive to my phone since EVER, because maybe he sent a text! Maybe I should send him a text!! Maybe I should write our initials in a heart on a Pee-Chee folder!! With lots and lots of exclamation points!!!!

That “maybe you should try” voice is drowned out by the “WHOOOOEEEEE!” voice and now there is a new one chanting, “Slow down slow down slow down.”

Look, Voices– I am a grown-ass woman and I can handle this.

It is hard to be 40 and 16 at the same time. I’m flip-flopping between giddiness and eye-rolling at my own insipid state. There’s no way to erase all the lessons I’ve learned about rushing into things, or people not being who they appear to be at first. An overthinker/worrywart, I tend to play it close to the chest.  So now, I have this constant argument in my head between the infatuated teenager and the cautious adult.  And you thought I was crazy already. Ugh.

The good news is that the Someone is also loopy. He’ll send a message saying, “I’ve been wanting to text all morning, but I’m trying to maintain composure.”  Or he’ll follow some sweet sentiment with, “Am I being pathetic?”

So we discussed it, this delightful Someone and I—we had an adult conversation about whether we are being reckless. Should we be mature about this and take a step back, perhaps?  Do we need time to cool off?  After thoughtful consideration, we decided HECK NO! THIS IS TOO FUN! Who cares about tomorrow because TODAY ROCKS!

In a week or two or six, if I post again about how internet dating sucks, please forgive this brief, moony-eyed lapse into smarminess. I’m not in my right mind. And I really, really hope I get to stay this way.

The Joys of Internet Dating

I swore I would never do this– write a post about the men I encounter on internet dating sites. It’s cheap and low brow, and I am a classy girl. More than that, I recognize that I am potential fodder for someone else’s jokes. I realize that a chunky, 40-year-old mom trying to rustle up some action with her not-so-sexy pics could be pretty amusing to a lot of people, so I vowed not to throw rocks from my glass house.

I can’t help it. There’s just too much material.

For starters, at least I know I’m a chunky, 40-year-old mom. I’m nerdy. I like to read and garden and I make that very plain on my profile. No cleavage pics, no sexy pouting, no enticing descriptions of a wild, party-girl alter ego.  Which is why I’m shocked when I’m approached by guys like this one, who actually emailed me this morning:

I’m sorry, Natural Born Hustler; did you mistake me for a hoodrat honey? Do I appear to be thuggin’?  Cuz I ain’t, Hustler. Although I cannot see your pants in the picture, I’m sure that you need to pull them up.

Holy cow, I could write a whole post about this guy and how I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Not him, not the tattoo, not why he approached me at all. Do you think he wants to rob me?  I just don’t get it.

Then there are the screen names. If your screen name is, “4U2SEXWITH,” I don’t want to meet you.  And because I am crazy, the thing that bothers me most about that screen name is not the inherent sexual proposition, although that is extraordinarily tacky. No, the thing that bothers me most is the use of the word “sex” as a verb. I hate that, because when “sex” is used as a verb (all by itself, with no preposition or helping verb—yes, I am a grammar geek), I always interpret it as “to determine the sex of.”  Since I don’t have a litter of puppies or a batch of chicks at the moment, I don’t need anyone to sex with.  I don’t need to sex at all. By the way, “4U2SEXWITH” is a real screen name from a real person who actually emailed me. I have no idea what the email said.

Another recent email came from a guy with the screen name “Footguy.” He wants to know what color my toenails are painted. He wants to know if I like foot rubs and he hopes I am enjoying a relaxing evening at home, barefoot.  Criminy.

Then there is the massive barrier that results from trying to communicate with someone in writing. This morning a man—a good-looking man with nothing offensive or off-putting in his profile—attempted to contact me through the dating site. The conversation looks like this:

Man: Hi pretty

Meg: Hi there 🙂

Man: Your pretty

Meg: Thank you. I think you’re cute, too.

Man: I like your profile

Man: Can I call u

This guy is trying to be nice, but he’s certainly no conversational wizard. Yes, the incorrect “your” is his error, but I try really hard not to tweak on that. Plenty of intelligent people make that mistake, and I know some very smart people who can’t spell. The problem could also be typing. Some people, especially those who don’t work on computers, have to type everything with two fingers.  If they tried to be dazzling and eloquent, it would take all day. I’m really trying to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but still, this is all I have to go on. I can’t form an impression from this grunting sort of communication.  Am I the only one who reads that exchange in the voice of Animal from The Muppets? “YOU. WOMAN. PRETTY.”  I don’t want to be critical, but I really don’t know what to say in response to that. Hi. Thank you. No; it’s probably better if you don’t call me.

Then there is the flip side: flowery messages by romantic men who are trying to woo women they know nothing about. One guy signed his sticky-sweet but generic email, “Captivated by you.”  Really?  Was it my sexy mom pics or my list of exciting domestic hobbies that were captivating? Do tell! One guy sent me the message, “Hello, Beautiful. You have a very enigmatic smile.”  If you know me, there is really nothing enigmatic about me or my smile. I have a pronounced overbite and I’m a goofball, so what I have is a dorky smile. I’m fine with my dorky smile, but I know damn well it isn’t enigmatic. How to answer that email? Should I flutter my eyelashes and say, “Aww, shucks, I bet you say that to all the girls?” Because he does, apparently; a week or so later I got the exact same email from the same guy. That’s his form letter.

While I was writing this post, I received a message from a guy who is 21. TWENTY-ONE PEOPLE-YEARS OLD, messaging a clearly-labeled 40-year-old on a dating site. With an age gap that big, it’s not even flattering; it’s just baffling. He is new to the area and wants to know if I will “hang out” with him.  Poor lamb– I suppose if he is lonely I could set him up on a play-date with my 19-year-old son.

Oy vey.

One perk about online dating: the longer I do it, the more I am content to be single.

Butterflies: This is How it Starts…

I have a date in two hours. So, I look considerably nicer than I usually look at work, and I’m starting to get a little bit nervous.

It’s an internet date. That means there’s a 98.9% chance that there’s absolutely nothing to be nervous about—since that is the likelihood that it will turn out to be lame.  If you haven’t experienced the joys of internet dating, you probably think that sounds very cynical. If you have done any online dating yourself, you’re thinking, only 98.9%?  Get real, Pollyanna.

Here’s how it works. You sign up for a dating web site, attempt to encapsulate your dazzling personality into a one-or-two-paragraph description of yourself, and post a couple photos. (Taking the photos is a whole ‘nother blog post. Actually it’s a whole ‘nother blog. If I was a mean person, I would start a blog that just shows horrible dating web site photos with snarky captions. It would be hilarious, but it would also be really mean. Some of us online daters are woefully vulnerable.)

You also have to classify yourself into a number of searchable categories. My favorite field is always the “body type” field. You have to check a box to categorize yourself as “Athletic and Toned” or “Curvy” or “Skinny” or “Full-figured”.   I need a 150-character text field, not a check box. My category is, “I’m-overweight-but-I-still-have-a-waist-and-some-people-still-think-I’m-hot, goddammit!” There’s never a check box for that.

Anyway, you set up this profile, which is a demoralizing undertaking in itself, and then you start searching through profiles to find someone who suits you. More accurately, someone whose representation of himself suits to you.

If by some magic you find an appealing profile, and the owner of said profile also finds yours appealing, then you start trading emails. If no apparent psychoses* manifest, you trade phone numbers and begin texting or talking on the phone. Another crazy-check ensues, and if both parties pass that test, you find yourself in the place I am in right now.

*I originally used the word neuroses, but I looked it up first and discovered that by definition, I may actually be neurotic. If you’re delusional or hallucinating or REALLY wacked out, that’s psychotic. So that’s where I (and other neurotics, apparently) draw the line.

For me, no matter how many lousy internet dates I’ve been on—and that’s a lot—there are butterflies at this phase. I have a little argument with myself every time, a heated debate between my internal romantic and my jaded alter ego.

ROMANTIC: I’m so excited!  I think I’ll wear my new blouse and these cute, girly heels.

JADED: Aren’t you trying awfully hard?

ROMANTIC: It’s a date! You wear pretty shoes on a date.

JADED: It’s an internet date. You’re going to know within five minutes that you want to leave, but you’ll be too polite to do it, so you’ll sit there awkwardly until courtesy permits you to excuse yourself. At least you could be comfortable.

ROMANTIC: You don’t know that! This one sounds funny and smart!

JADED: So did the last one. Remember those tight sweatpants he wore?

ROMANTIC: You have a point. But I’m still wearing the shoes. And the sparkly earrings, too.

(For the record, this is just normal talking-to-myself behavior. It’s not an actual hallucination. That would be psychotic.)

Both imaginary parties in the above conversation are correct.

Yes, the last guy seemed funny and smart—in fact he was funny and smart, and very nice—but he just wasn’t for me. At all.  That happens frequently; they seem great but the connection just isn’t there. Or if I’m interested, they’re not.  (I can’t imagine why, but it happens.) Internet dating is a numbers game. I once heard that dating is the process of ruling out the bad ones. Chances are, today I’m going to rule out someone else.

But what if I’m not? What if he really is wonderful? What if all that smart and funny I’m getting over the interwebs shows up in the form of an attractive, available guy? That happens, too. Less often, and not to me, yet—but it has happened for other women. I have met actual, real live men who were actually found via the internet who turned out to be actual nice boyfriends.

It reminds me of the DMV. (Just work with me. There’s a correlation here.) When I go to the DMV, I see all the government employees sitting behind the counter. They deal with a bazillion people every day. They probably meet a lot of dummies, and whiners, and excuse-makers, and people who don’t read the directions—all manner of irritating folk. By the time they get to me–a charming, pleasant, well-intentioned direction-follower—most of them treat me like I’m another idiot. They don’t bother to notice that I’m exceptional. They’re rude out of habit. They’ve been conditioned.

I don’t want to be like a DMV worker. Yes, I have dated all manner of irritating menfolk. But this guy that I’m meeting today just might be exceptional.  I can’t become conditioned to think, oh great, here comes another dud. I can’t just wear my frumpy mom-shoes because whatever, he’ll probably wear sweatpants anyway. Every guy I meet—every person, actually; this works for all human interaction—is separate from and not responsible for the behavior of the one before him. Some conditioning is inevitable (that’s why you meet in public places!) but I still have to open myself up to a good experience and not let the bad experiences dictate my responses.

Even if I’m disappointed two hours from now, I will wear the cute shoes and the sparkly earrings and show up ready for an exception.  I have to feel the butterflies and do it anyway.

I’ll keep you posted.