I left my husband after twenty-four years. Then I dove into a sea of singleness looking for that one perfect fish but, I have to tell you, the fish in the sea had changed. The sea had changed.
I live in a provincial town. I know everyone here, and, believe me, there are no eligible men. What to do? I can’t travel to a metropolis every time I want to go on a date. (Well, I guess I could, but it would be inconvenient.) So, I went high-tech. Online.
The first site I tried was eHarmony. This site promises to put you together with only the people you are most likely to connect with, given your personalities and interests (quirks and foibles not included). I spent nearly an hour filling out pages of survey questions. Practically the only things it didn’t ask were: What did you have for breakfast? And what’s your favorite sex position? When it asked whether I was married, separated or divorced, I responded, quite honestly at the time, that I was separated. After I had finished plowing through all the questions, a message popped up that read – and I am not kidding – Marcia, you’re separated. We recommend that you go back and give your marriage another try. Good luck, and thanks ever so much for playing!
eHarmony, the Great Aunt Josephine of dating sites. Really? I was devastated, and more than a little annoyed at Aunt Jo.
So I took a little break. I was working full-time and still had a teen-ager at home. Not the most conducive atmosphere for dating. My ex still lived in the same town, and, well, it just seemed a little complicated.
But six months later, I decided to try again. This time, the granddaddy of dating sites: Match.com. Costs a fortune. About $35 a month (unless you sign up long-term) to dangle your photo around at millions of men, none of whom had the slightest interest in contacting me. I couldn’t get a single “wink.” When I winked, no one winked back.
Okay, I’m not bad looking. I have brown eyes, kind of like a mocha latte, and curly blond hair that just brushes my shoulders. I’m tall and slender, with long legs (an asset) and tiny breasts (definite liability). I have a good personality! (Can you tell?)
This was not good for the ego. I was crushed. Maybe it was my profile. Maybe the photos weren’t that flattering. Maybe I came across as too strong and too competent. I read somewhere that guys on dating sites go for the sweet kitteny things who appear to need protection. Yeah, that is not me. Also, this article said, women whose photos show a little cleavage do better than those who don’t. No surprise there. Problem is, as I noted above, I have no cleavage.
I decided to tweak my description of myself. So I asked one of my buddies, “If you had to describe me to a friend, what would you say?”
He said sweet things. I’m kind. I’m gracious. I’m fun to be with. I have nice teeth. What? Nice Teeth? Am I a gift horse? Clearly my friend, who’s been married a jillion years, needs to get out more. He didn’t say any of the things I think I should be saying, like I’m sexy, hot, adventurous.
I gave up, again. Another eight months went by. The divorce became final. My kid graduated from high school and went off to college.
One day on Facebook, I noticed an ad for a dating site called Plenty of Fish (as in, there are plenty of fish in the sea, get it?). My mother used to say that, and it always – always – irritated me. But Plenty of Fish was free! On a Thursday evening after several glasses of wine came that What the Hell? moment. I filled out the profile. This time, I said things like: Fun-loving! Loves to dance! Lookin’ for love! I had a new photo a friend had taken that, honestly, really did make me look kind of sexy – in that warm and inviting kind of way. I posted it and poured myself another glass of pinot.
Within fifteen minutes I had four men say they wanted to “meet” me. The second one was a tall, handsome film producer from Los Angeles. He looked just like a young, better-looking version of my late dad.
I hit reply.
We arranged to meet for coffee about halfway between my town and Los Angeles. I admit I was nervous. A lot.
When I saw him, he immediately stepped forward and gave me a little peck on the cheek. Charming! We had a nice chat for about an hour, but he kept checking his iPhone. Still, I called him the following Sunday after I had attended a poetry reading in Los Angeles. He suggested we meet for a late supper.
It was almost 10 when I arrived at a famous restaurant in Malibu. He was waiting for me in a booth overlooking the ocean. It was beautiful and very seductive. We ordered mojitos. The more we talked, the more he touched me. Holding my hands and at one point putting my hand on the back of his neck.
“Your hands are cold,” he said, “let me warm them up.”
By that time it was close to midnight. I confess I freaked out a bit. I hadn’t been with a man other than my husband in almost thirty years.
I excused myself to the bathroom, and bolted when I returned, begging the late hour and an early-morning appointment. I knew if we continued as we had been, he would try to kiss me.
I just wasn’t prepared for that, or anything that might come after.
After two chance meetings at professional conferences, and one virtual meet up when I waded back into the sea of online dating, we finally had our fourth date. And we kissed. And it was lovely. And although we aren’t still together, it was a good start to owning my new life as a single woman, enjoying a date, or a serious relationship (or two) without the baggage of expectation.
I had never dated when I was young. My husband was pretty much my first boyfriend. Which meant I never experienced the ups and downs of relationships. I never learned that you could have a good time with someone without a lifetime commitment.
Online dating has allowed me to meet and experience all kinds of men. All these dates allowed me to figure out what I want from a relationship and what I don’t want. I have come to see that I can have varying kinds of relationships – I can have any kind of relationship – with a man that I choose. It might be purely sexual, it might be friends with benefits, it might be something more than that.
As George Bush once said, “I’m the decider.” And that is a very nice place to be.
Editor’s Note: Read more of Marcia’s work and see her beautiful photography in her book Heart on a Fence, Poetry & Photos that illustrate the power of love, perseverance and hope.
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