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.

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.