All You Need Is…

WARNING: This will be about as self-pitying as anything you’ve ever read in the almost nine years of C?WC?’s existence (assuming you been a faithful reader that whole time—all six of you). So, here’s your chance to bail now.

Ah, Valentine’s Day, when we send our loved one a card or sweets, or treat him or her to dinner, or perhaps a bedroom layered with red paper hearts (one of my more romantic partners did that once and as you can see, I still remember it fondly).

cupid

Get that arrow outta my face,  you little…

Of course, we only do those things if we have a loved one, a spouse or partner who makes our lives brighter each day (when she’s not driving us crazy. And vice versa.) For those of us who are single—and especially ones who are unhappily so—Valentine’s Day can suck. It’s not that I have an urge to take part in the commercial aspects of the holiday—though buying a love one vegan chocolates that I can then dip into ain’t so bad. No, it’s because the day is another reminder of my current loveless state, and it brings up memories of the past loves who are no longer part of my life. Not that I would want all of them to be here visiting or anything, and having them all together at once could get dicey.

The memories, though, remind me of the women I have hurt, who have hurt me, the loves that have gone unrequited, the pain of the divorces. Six years on, I can’t pretend the last one still does not leave a mark (and that’s all that needs to be said here). And while good has come of it—setting off to Santa Fe, meeting great new people, discovering a greater sense of self-reliance—I spend too much time alone and longing for another special someone to share my life, assuming she can tolerate my neuroses and having aspects of our relationship blasted across the Internet from time to time.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to find that next partner (perhaps not another wife at this stage, and I’m reluctant to say soul mate, as if there is only one person that might be right). I mean, I could tell stories about my almost-incessant online dating experiences over the last six years (and don’t let anyone convince you that this process and the attendant feelings of being a lovelorn teenager flailing about isn’t loads of fun when you’re pushing 57). Of course, they’re mostly stories of being ignored and rejected, but stories nonetheless.

Online dating has not been a total bust. I’ve had two relationships going that route, though obviously the women had drawbacks, or I had issues from the past, or there was a combination of the two. In any event, I’ve been single for almost a year, and during that time I’ve tried out just about every dating site imaginable. Some general observations (in case you are also middle-aged, single, male, and thinking of giving Match or OK Cupid a spin. And I write knowing that women can have totally different experiences online, with nightmare scenarios more hellish than any I have endured).

So, first, there’s this: I can’t tell you how many women do not even acknowledge an introductory email. I understand, some are probably inundated with notes from eager men, but I know that mine are not inappropriate in any way. And I’m not expecting back a tome, especially if you’re not interested. Now, granted, I don’t get many introductory messages from women, but I answer everything I get. It just seems polite, you know?

Next: a lot of women, in their profiles, are quite detailed about what they want and don’t want. Very detailed. In at least one case, psychotically so. Now, I understand that being specific can help, but reading a list of “don’ts” and “nos” right off the bat sort of get things off on a down note. It’s more the negatives that jump out at me, since I think everyone lists what he or she does want. And I admit, I have some things I don’t want to see in someone’s profile—like that picture of the fish you just caught or deer you just killed. Not gonna work with this vegan.

Speaking of pictures (and I know that women have some of the same gripes about men): Really think about that profile pic. If you are a dot on a distant rocky horizon, it doesn’t help me much. Wearing sunglasses—also not helpful. Having other women in the pic so that I can’t tell which is you—maybe reconsider that. Really blurry or dark—try another selfie. I don’t expect a professional head shot, but you can do some amazing things with cell phones these days.

More on pics—and I know these reflect my own biases. You love your kids, I’m sure, but maybe I don’t need to see them right away. And same goes for multiple shots of your dog (this I know is my hang up, because Santa Fe dog owners have made me even more of a cat person than I was before).

OK, enough about what goes into a profile, you’re probably thinking. What about the first dates?! The horror stories that find their way into books, TV shows, and movies. Actually, I haven’t had any. You meet, you chat, you go your separate ways. (Well, sometimes you meet; I’ve had several women express an interest, sometimes after contacting me first, and then they just disappear into the ether.) On those first-and-only dates, there usually seems to be an unstated mutual understanding that you’re not clicking, and that’s that. There have been a few cases where I was interested in a number two, and the woman said the same, but then for some reason she never acted on it. I keep reminding myself, thank god I’m a playwright and so have all sorts of experience with rejection.

While I don’t have any first-date fiascos, one of the few second dates led to an incident that makes me smile, because I have a warped sense of humor and that writer’s knack for handling rejection. Our correspondence began while she was back east visiting a sick relative. We emailed pretty regularly, and I was certainly interested and assumed she was too, or she wouldn’t have kept writing, no? So, she finally comes back to NM, we go to dinner, things seem to go well. She contacts me about getting together again for a hike in a nearby national forest. Sure!

santa-fe-national-forest

Just a nice hike in the woods, she says…

We set out, and dark clouds in the distance become more threatening, with thunder getting closer, but we plunge on. So, maybe 45 minutes into the forest, we stop to rest, and she informs me (paraphrasing here), “Yeah, this isn’t gonna work. I thought maybe I just needed to see you in a different setting, outdoors, and maybe I’d feel something, but nah, I’m just not attracted to you. And I think I’d rather go for a woman anyway (I knew she was bi).” So, how does one respond to that and the other nuanced reasons why I was not for her? Well, out there in the woods, knowing we were going to hike back together, I simply said: OK. I get it. Thanks for being honest.

The rest of the story—we get lost on the walk back and only the miraculous appearance on the forest road of someone she sort of knows saves us. This guy and his wife drive us all over until we finally find her car. And we go back to her house and I go home, and I only see her again when she returns the cordless drill I let her borrow before the hike.

And that’s why I love online dating.

And why I wish I had not screwed up so many previous relationships.

But I persist, because, as the saying goes, I need the eggs.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovers out there. Some day I will once again be in your ranks. If I can avoid getting lost in the forest.

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~ by mburgan on February 14, 2017.

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