“No. Freakin’. Way.”
When an editor asked me to sign up for a couple of the major online dating services because she wanted a story on what it was really like to be a forty-something reentering the dating scene, my response was vehement.
I’m not insulting any of you who have found happiness via online dating sites. I know several people who have. And I’m thrilled for them. It’s just not me. Not. Me. I’ve never been a gal who clubbed it. I’ve never appreciated a pickup line.
I’m one of what seems to be a dying breed. I tend to think of having a happy life first, with a relationship as an added bonus. A legacy left to me by my mother who raised me to ponder my educational and career options, support myself and succeed. It’s not that I don’t appreciate how great a shared life can be. But I probably will not be one of those people that goes surfing the Internet for it.
“Think of it as donating your body to science,” my editor coaxed.
“Let’s leave my body out of this,” I urged. “How about a piece on extreme sports or trendy vacation spots?” If you knew how much I hate extreme sports, you’d know just how desperate I was in that moment.
She would have none of it.
“You’re the perfect candidate because you’re so NOT into this scene,” she explained. “I want the reluctant adventurer.”
At the end of 15 minutes of haggling, I agreed to sign up for two sites, with the caveat that I didn’t actually have to go on any dates. The piece would center on how the system worked, so to speak. And what type of men showed up, along with their expectations, etc. I’m sure she was thinking I would cave when the ordeal actually began.
No big deal, you’re thinking, right?
Try Continental Divide big.
The real reason for my reluctance? I don’t enjoy dating. Not at all. There. I said it. Get your collective gasp over with now.
Even as a Lincoln Park Trixie, in my 20s, I hated casual dating. When I’d accept an offer of dinner, usually about 15 minutes in, I was wishing I was out with my friends having a glass of wine and yukking it up, or listening to my favorite band. I’m one of what seems to be a rare breed (why this is escapes me—completely) who actually likes to just get to know people in a safe, non-dating situation with no pressure. And if I get to know you well enough, and there’s some mutual admiration there, hallelujah. But meeting for coffee or wine and trying to gauge attraction/potential in 60 minutes or less? You can keep it. I don’t want it. People who love casual dating mystify me as much as my sister calling a Jell-O dish a “Jell-O salad”. (I mean really—putting carrots or fruit in Jell-O does not a salad make. Am I right?)
I base this opinion on experience. Let’s see . . . there was the hand model that couldn’t play beach volleyball with my friends and me because he might bruise his hands. You can guess who bee-lined it out of the kitchen when it was time to do the dishes. Dishpan hands were his nemesis.
Oh yes, and the man who approached me in a pub saying he’d drawn a portrait of me the previous summer. I remembered my friend Juliana mentioning that some man looked like he was drawing me, as we sat in Lincoln Park. Sure enough, this was the guy. Creepy.
And the pièce de résistance, the strapping young man from Brown University who told me he was working with a professor on a study at Northwestern University. He seemed quite promising until, after a few odd encounters, he finally shared that he had gotten a head injury while riding his motorcycle and WAS the subject of the study by this professor.
There were plenty of nice, average guys. I met Joel on Halloween one year, as I paraded around in my ninja costume. So normal. So down to earth. So not for me. After a couple of lunch dates, I knew there just wasn’t any spark. And I’m sure he felt the same. But, to give you an idea of my dating luck, guess who I ended up sitting next to on a plane six months later? He was taking his girlfriend home to meet the parents. As she opened up her Good Housekeeping and I opened up my Vogue, I realized he’d found the woman for him. And that never in a million years would I have fit that bill. So be it.
I don’t mean to sound persnickety. I’m not perfect. But now, in my mid-40s, it’s different. I’m busy. Very busy. I have two kids. My workouts are not what they once were. Which means neither are my hips. And, quite frankly, on a Friday night, a good book or movie and a glass of wine sound pretty darn good. All of which would seem to make me the perfect candidate for online dating. If only I could get over the ick factor. Despite some of the very genuine, nice messages I’ve been sent, I just am not feeling it. That in no way demeans many of these what I’m sure are great, decent men. And the others? Well . . .
As I’ve been writing this blog entry this evening, I’ve been poked by Will, nudged by Ben and Lorenzo has broken the ice. Oh, and Mike “can’t stop smiling” (this is a canned phrase—I’m still learning but I think there’s a button to push that allows you to virtually smile at someone—sheesh.) I mean really. It’s only been about 24 hours and I’m already feeling a bit violated. All this virtual poking, prodding and nudging is a little much. And I’ve been sent several sets of questions from these gentlemen—everything from Jon Stewart or Jeff Foxworthy (Really? Do you have to ask?) to what I’d grab first if aliens invaded the planet. Come on, guys. You wouldn’t ask these questions on a real date, would you?
Bill is interested but he says he never drinks and his best friend is a priest. I’m no heavy drinker but I’m also not Mother Teresa. Hmmm. Greg sounded quite fun until I saw the pics of him—and each one seemed to involve a motorcycle, a beer or both. Ok, I’m no prude but no Hell’s Angel either. Lance wants a woman who can sense “the minute he gets tense.” Hmmm. Does this happen often, Lance?
“Deeper than a puddle” doesn’t sound so deep to me. Juicy3214 (are there really that many men who choose Juicy as their code name?)—well, enough said. “Exciting Robert” probably is not so exciting if he feels the need to put it in his user name—shouldn’t that trait just jump out at you from the get-go in a wordless sort of way?
On the flip side, I’m far from perfect. Nothing is as humbling as thinking about opening up your life again to a potential love interest. I’m smart, reasonably funny, a good conversationalist. All in the plus column. But, I also come with some creative clutter (my desk looks like Mt. Everest in prime climbing season). I rarely make my bed. I’m a bit of a shoe freak. I can be very impatient when on deadline. All potential red marks. My ex found all these things charming once upon a time. Maybe someone else will some day? Maybe not. Like I said, humbling.
My friends seem to think none of these minuses matter. So much so, that months before my divorce was even final, I caught them trying to plot fix-ups AT MY FATHER’S WAKE. Yes, you read that correctly. And I believe one of my sisters was in cahoots with them.
I hear them. Time to move on. But this gal seems to march to her own beat. Come hell or high water, editors or well-meaning friends, I’m standing my ground. In the midst of my unmade bed, messy desk and a mountain of deadlines, here I am. Take it or leave it.
Well, what do you know? “I’d date the hell out of me” just gave me a virtual wink. Too bad I’m really into this book club selection. And I think a bubble bath awaits me.
Something tells me this article is not headed for a series . . . nudge nudge. Wink wink. I’m virtually smiling at you.