Wednesday, July 25, 2018
A friend of mine’s daughter has grown tired of waiting to meet Mr. Right in the aisle at Target and has gotten the courage to join an online dating site. I understand her plight completely. At the age of 46, I faced the same dilemma and started my online dating adventures.
I wish my younger counterpart much luck, and may she have discernment as she navigates the murky waters of cyberdating. In my book, Leave Him?, the chapter Dating Denise gives those who may have had a few years since dating a humorous view of the new way to shop for a mate.
As I sat in my swinging chair on the huge front porch of the old building that I now called home, a fall breeze caught my hair and cooled me off a bit. I was in a familiar position with my laptop perched on my knees as I spun around amongst the flowers carefully planted in the many pots. I should have been doing my schoolwork. Instead I clicked on the dating site icon. Had I really stooped so low as to have to shop for a man this way? What happened to the romantic notion that you have a destined meeting with the perfect someone at the grocery store in the produce aisle? I knew that I was a little too old, at forty-six to wait years for destiny to find me a relationship, so I had decided to join the rest of the single world and cyber-shop for a date. Really, I had no choice. My circle of influence had shrunk considerably. No decent single male in my old friend circles would consider dating the one who had left Mark, and the new people I met came from my interactions through going to college again and student teaching. My peers had become twenty to thirty-year-olds, not people I wanted to have a relationship with.
As I logged in, I explored the site for the first time. I saw that it worked much like Autotrader. I could set different parameters and limits. I wanted someone within driving distance—no more than a hundred miles away; I wanted someone close to my age— forty-five to fifty-five, and that was pushing it, most of all I wanted someone who was fun to be with and wanted adventure—I didn’t see a button to press for that.
Hopefully the bio I had written when setting up the account would help with that part. I had spent hours the night before crafting the perfect depiction of myself and my desire for adventure. With a final click, I began my search.
The whole process seemed a bit superficial as I scrolled through the photos with a few lines of their bio, I did feel as if I were shopping for a used car. This one looked pretty nice—how many miles, oh, I mean years does it have on it? After eliminating ten profiles, one caught my eye. He was a nice looking guy in a grey T-shirt, arms crossed and smiling, standing on a balcony overlooking the ocean somewhere. I read the bio where he talked about being an airline mechanic and offered to take someone for a ride on his jet skis for a casual date. He said he was looking for someone to have fun with. I clicked through the other pictures he posted. He was cute, and I did want to have fun—riding jetskis would be fun. I thought back to my only experience with small watercraft bouncing off the water in the Gulf of Mexico with a tiny James seated in front of me. That was fun.
I saw a button that said, “Add to your favorites?” I wanted to save this one for a possibility. So, I clicked the favorites button and closed the laptop. That was enough for one day.
The next afternoon I had a few minutes to shop for a man, so, as I twirled in the swing, I logged in. The website had sent me my daily suggestions. As I perused the new profiles, something shocking happened. A chat window appeared. Someone was trying to instant message me, and I was able to see by the tiny profile photo that it was the guy I had saved to my favorites.
“Hello, Denise Reid. How are you today?”
With shaking hands, I typed a response. I hoped that I was talking to an authentic person, not someone trying to take advantage of me. We chatted back and forth for a while, and he asked if he might have my phone number to call me. A little later he called. He seemed legitimate and sincere, plus surely the airline makes their employees pass a background check, so he can’t be a convicted felon. He wanted to meet me for dinner on Friday night. Well, if I were going to date using this method I needed to start sometime, and I did want to ride on those jet skis... A date it would be.
I took the necessary precautions for someone to report me missing if need be. When I was on my way, I called Leigh. I told her we were eating at Longhorn in Newnan. She told me to call her when I was on my way home. I was halfway there when I realized that I might not know him if I saw him, so I called him.
He laughed at my last minute thought and said, “I’ll be the one-legged man sitting at the bar waiting.”
We had both talked about concerns of people not really being like they appeared in their glamour-shot profile pictures.
As I walked into the darkness of the restaurant from the bright, sunny, late-August light, my eyes adjusted. He was sitting at the bar watching me come in. His black Columbia shirt brought out the darkness of his salt and pepper colored hair. As we were seated at a table, I was better able to look at my evening’s date. I noticed that he had piercing blue eyes behind his glasses. He told me to order whatever I wanted, that the night was on him.
He said, “You didn’t misrepresent yourself on your profile pics, in fact, you are more beautiful in person.”
During dinner we talked about small things, because I had already decided to wait to tell my ugly story until I knew someone better. When we finished eating he asked if I would go with him to buy a candle at Ashley Park. He picked out a couple of Yankee Candles and offered to buy me one. I opened the jars and sniffed, trying to find the perfect scent. I settled on a purple one with lemon-lavender scent. We walked around the shopping areas and he reached out and took my hand. So this was what people did on Friday nights...this could be fun, but it was so weird to be starting over at my age.
When we got back to where my car was he leaned over and kissed me. I would have to say that was my worst kiss ever. It wasn’t that I wasn’t attracted to him. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to kiss him. It wasn’t that I thought I shouldn’t kiss someone else. I just felt the need to slow the process down. I wondered if dating as an adult would always feel this way, or if I would adapt to this new way of life. I still resented being put in this position. On the ride home I had a nice cry with familiar red-hot tears, but I knew I was one step closer to adult relationship again.
The sun glared down on me as I ran errands before my next adventure. I called my brother to aid in the recovery of my body if something went wrong.
“Hey, we are going jet skiing at Lake West Point this afternoon. I want you to know in case I die or something.”
There was a pause before my much younger, now wiser-than-me, little brother answered.
“I’m sure you will be fine if you don’t fall off and drown. If he were an axe-murderer, he would have probably killed you on the first date. The biggest danger you will have is that there are stumps you could hit since the water is so low.”
“Great, now I have to worry about that in addition to riding jetskis with a person I barely know.”
“It will be fine. Call me when you get back.”
Following my date’s directions, I drove into the subdivision and drove up his driveway for the first time. These were nice houses...this would be fun except for the nerves I must face.
He pointed to a spot on the side of the driveway for me to park my car. I got out with my bag of essentials in hand.
“Hey, you ready to ride? You can put your stuff in the back seat. We will get set up on the beach where we can pull the skis up on shore. There is a bath house there to change in. The weather is perfect today. Let’s get some sun.”
As we drove for almost an hour, we talked a little more in-depth. He had told me about his marriage and its demise on our first date and had also told me that he had a live-in girlfriend who had recently left. I could tell from his tone and matter-of-fact account that his feelings about his wife were long gone. He told me that the marriage had cost him years of happiness and a lot of money, but the divorce was worth it for him. The long ride would have been the perfect opportunity to share more of my story, but I wanted today to be a fun day, and bearing my soul didn’t sound fun.
As I let him carry most of the conversation, I noticed a distinct difference when his conversation moved to his ex-girlfriend. He tensed up. Lines on his forehead deepened. He talked a little faster. All of this pointed to a more recent and deeper wound, maybe even one that had not been given time to heal. Oh well, I’m looking for fun, not instant deep relationship.
Dave let me out to change into my swimsuit at the bathhouse. Walking up the sidewalk to the bathroom I had a revelation. I probably should have thought of it before now, but as I glanced down at the tote bag in my hand I realized that I am going to be on my second date with this man in my swimsuit—not a great thought.
I pulled up the swimsuit and crammed my shorts into the bag as I took a critical look at what I could see of me in the tiny bathroom mirror. I had been working on reshaping my forty-something, two grown kids body for the past eight months and had lost fifteen pounds and rearranged a few more, but I still had a way to go. Oh well, you can’t have fun if you are too afraid to come out of the bathroom, can you? I slapped on some courage and my sunglasses and walked out the door.
The rest of our ride to launch the boats consisted in a crash course in watercraft safety where I was told to remember that you don’t have brakes and be careful as you are riding them up to the shore, to look for stumps because the water is a little low. I kept my false sense of confidence and assured him that I had ridden jet skis before, I just left out the ‘it was only one time in Florida with a guide showing us what to do’ part of the story.
With the life-jacket on, I managed to mount my boat then start the engine. I turned the boat in slow circles until he got on his boat and motioned me closer to him. He yelled, “Follow behind me until you get the hang of things.” He revved the engine and took off down the lake. I gave my boat the gas and followed behind.
I couldn’t help but smile as I felt the surge of the boat at my control. The speedometer reached seventy-two miles per hour as I bounced across the waves. The adrenaline coursed through my veins as I balanced staying on the seat and going as fast as possible. This was fun!
It was as if this experience with the wind pushing against me, yet me flying ahead anyway was what I was doing now with my life. All of the times of waiting, times of watching others, times of yearning, all of the shoulds, and oughts, and musts coming against me, but finally an urging to live was winning out. I was beginning to put into action Jonathan Swift’s quote, “May you live all the days of your life!” I had spent so many days watching that now, with the sun shining brightly I vowed out loud, “I want to make every day count and not say what if about anything!”
Dave turned a circle in front of me slowing his boat down. I coasted up closer to him. He smiled and said, “You said you could ride and you can. I’ve taken other people who claimed to know how and they ended up in the lake after a minute or two. Let’s circle back and you take the lead.”
After turning a couple of donuts, I pulled out of the circle and blasted back in the direction of the dock. This was living!
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