The Accidental Dater

I accidentally started online dating.

One of my online profile photos -- showing my "quirky" side.
One of my online profile photos — showing my “quirky” side.

I know, right…how does one “accidentally” start online dating?  Here’s how:

A couple of months ago I took a peek at Match.com.

More than a year had passed since my divorce was final, and the people who had suggested I take some time off were now suggesting that perhaps I might consider putting myself out there.

I didn’t get very far.

I began filling out a profile and got stymied on “body type.”  I said curvy.  I was told I was mistaken.  That the correct answer was thin or fit.

I pushed it aside and entertained a long-distance love affair instead – pinning my heart to a man who lived 700 miles away, wasn’t quite divorced, and was even less emotionally available.  Until he just couldn’t do it.

He never said that.  He never said anything at all.  He walked away without a word.  And for the first time in my life, I did not demand an explanation.  It was clear.

Well-intentioned friends suggested I consider JDate while I nursed my heart back to health.  Once again, I began filling out a profile, as I had done with Match.  And once again, I didn’t get very far.

The men I saw while trolling neither quickened my heart nor tugged at my loins.  This likely says more about me and my availability than anything about them.  Nonetheless, I stopped looking…even though Match and JDate continued to send me “potential” matches.

A few weeks went by and I thought I’d try again – this time, OKCupid.  It seemed everyone I knew who had any online-dating success – including my ex-husband – met here.  And, unlike Match and JDate, it was free.

I began filling out a profile, believing I would troll anonymously as I had on the other two sites.  Within moments I started receiving pop-ups like, “Mr. OnlyHasEyesForYou viewed your profile.”

What profile? I hadn’t even completed filling one out.  I panicked, but kept typing – adding photos and pithy prose describing what I am doing with my life and the six things I cannot live without, wondering if I had chosen the proper screen name.

"Show don't tell."   One of the first rules from journalism school.  Dancer. Traveler.  Joyous.
“Show don’t tell.” One of the first rules from journalism school. Dancer. Traveler. Joyous.

That was two weeks ago.

I’ve received photographs of 20-somethings’ manscaped chests with a note asking if I fancy younger men.  I’ve received cheesy, singles-bar lines like, “You are too hot to be on this site.”  Recently, I received a note from a man in his 60s looking for companionship on his ranch in Arkansas.  He isn’t looking for love, he said.  If that comes, fine.  But what he really wants company and a stay-at-home gal.

I have not responded.

I’ve discovered humor doesn’t always translate and what I think is clever might not be received that way.

And I’ve learned what looks and sounds good in email also does not always translate, as evidenced by a seriously strained phone call.

I responded by resorting to an old behavior – sharing unattractive information about myself, in hopes it will drive the other person away.  While I am not proud to admit this, it worked.  Neither he, nor I, followed up with one another.

I thought about writing a quick note, wishing him luck, but I didn’t.  I’m not sure what proper etiquette is here.  My ex tells me there is none.  (He also told me to get ready for a bunch of dick photographs.  Thankfully, to date, I have received none.)

my first, with one of the first men who wrote to me.

He appears smart, clever and articulate.  His pacing feels in sync with my own.

We do not communicate every day.

We have just begun to share more personal aspects about our lives.

He has an adopted daughter who is African-American, and he cannot get her braids right.  I am an adoptee too.  My mother couldn’t get my braids right either, and my father never considered trying.

I’m talking to a couple of other men.  Some seem a little too eager.  And I wonder if that is my own fear or if it is the truth.  Others seem a little more breezy – like myself.  And that is the miracle of this.  I feel breezy.  I have not hooked into any of them.  Or even the idea of any of them.

Turns out, online dating is an excellent exercise in detachment.  People come.  People go.  Some respond.  Others don’t.  Some respond and then stop responding without a word.

Sometimes I respond.  Sometimes I don’t.  And sometimes I stop without a word.  When it is clear there is no “there, there,” to quote Gertrude Stein.

Sadly, I’m not quite over Mr. 700 Miles.  However, meeting all of these men reminds me the world is full of romantic possibilities.   I’m fairly sure that this new knowing, unlike how I got there, is no accident.

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Getting Right Sized

Up until now I have shied away from online dating.

It didn’t fit my sensibility, how I imagined meeting someone.  The magic, romance and serendipity of a chance encounter whacking me over the head and shaking me to my core.  Entirely unexpected and gorgeous.

My body today...moving and joyful in Africa.
My body today…moving and joyful in Africa.

I recently changed my mind, thinking it might be helpful to, at the very least, see who is out there.

I’d been noodling on the idea for a little while.  Then I found myself sitting across the table from my divorce buddy – the man who walked side-by-side with me through the dissolution of both of our marriages – and thought, “I could grow old with you.”

I’ve been here before with him.  He didn’t share the sentiment.

At that moment I realized I had been fishing in a barrel – albeit unknowingly.  If I wanted different I had to do different.   Beginning with looking for someone who, at the very least, appears to be available.  (Unlike my most recent, fast, woefully unavailable, flirtation.  Core shaking and lovely, but impossible.)

Last night I began an online dating profile.  I didn’t get very far – stymied on the first screen.

Question: What is your body type?

Answer: I don’t know.

Several I could rule out: Big and Beautiful, Full Figured, Heavyset, A Few Extra Pounds, Stocky.  What about “About Average?”  At risk of sounding, hm…not right sized…I don’t think of myself as “About Average.”  At all.  Period.

(When I mentioned to the aforementioned divorce buddy that I needed to shave my head before leaving on our cross-country drive from Seattle to Chicago, he asked that I consider not – instead letting my stubble grow.  “I find it best to blend in when in Montana and the Dakotas.”  “I have never blended in,” I responded.  “I know.”)

That left me with Slender, Athletic and Toned, and Curvy.

I picked Curvy, filled out a couple of more screens – offering up that I am a liberal, Libra, entrepreneur who would selfishly treat myself to something special should I be blessed with a financial windfall – and went to bed.

I told my friend Kendall about the experience this morning.  When I told her I chose Curvy, she told me I chose wrong.

My body (and my relationship status) as it once was.
My body (and my relationship status) as it once was.

But what about my hips?  My breasts?

Curvy implies extra weight, Rubenesque, she explained.  “You are not.”  When one of our regular Weight Watchers members walked through the door, she posed the question to him.  “Definitely not Curvy.”

This was news to me.  For most of my life I would have chosen,  A Few Extra Pounds, Full-Figured or, at best, Curvy.  I forget that was more than 12 years ago.  Thirty-five pounds ago.  A breast reduction ago.

Seems my brain is still busy trying to catch up with my body.  This isn’t the first time.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new pair of winter boots.  Like a kid, I wore them right out of the store – tromping home through the snow, giddy.  When I arrived at my apartment 20 minutes later, I had blisters on both ankles.  They were too big.

I cursed myself for being 44 and not knowing what size shoe I wear.

I went back the next day, head dipped, shoe box in hand, to see what, if anything, the store could do for me.  They began by measuring my feet.

Six.  A little less than six actually.  But the boots were a six and one-half.  And sometimes, I’ve been known to buy a seven.  (These shoes usually ended up in a friend’s closet or at GoodWill.  Now I know why.)

The right-size boots.
The right-size boots.

They didn’t have my boots in a smaller size, so I purchased a different pair – red leather and suede, treated for winter, with a lug sole.  The salesman gave me $50 off for the “inconvenience” of having gotten the wrong size.

I always think I am bigger than I am.  Even when I was bigger.

Like the time I picked a fight with a guy a foot taller than me at a bar.  Drunk and messy, he swung his girlfriend around the dance floor, continually knocking her or himself into someone else.  Often me.  Next I knew, I watched myself running into him, full force, slamming him into the wall.

He spun around, ready to fight.  He looked around, and then down.  When he saw me, he appeared confused.

He grabbed my wrists in one paw, and held a fist with the other, while his girlfriend screamed and I shrieked, “Get a bouncer.”  I hadn’t counted on this.

He got kicked out of the bar that night.  I was lucky.  I think about my brother telling me to not start something with my mouth that I couldn’t back up with my body.  I had forgotten.

So I changed the body type on my profile to Slender.  But that is all.  I’m still not certain about all of this.

In the meantime, I’m working on getting “right sized” – physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Seeing myself as I truly am – good and bad. Neither better than or less than.  One of the pack.  Perhaps even, “About Average.”