Thoughts on a first date (no, I haven’t gone OUT yet with anyone)

(First, welcome to the person who found this blog by searching for “hairy legs depressed.” I hope I helped, I think… You’ve probably noticed I talk about other things, too. Hope you’re okay with that.)

Last night in grief group, the subject of dating came up. I giggled and told the group about signing up with an online dating service. The entire group was soon laughing (the kind of laughing that makes your eyes water), as I told a few of the stories of my experience so far. We were so loud that one of the counselors came down from the kids’ area to ask if we were okay. It was a good session last night.

One of the women in group asked what I wanted in a first date with someone. My response:

I want to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a separate, paper kids menu with “fun” activities. I don’t want to blow on someone’s food to cool it down or take someone to the potty 15 times during dinner (all false alarms). I want to eat when my meal is hot – actually, I’d settle for slightly above room temperature. I want to not play tic-tac-toe on a napkin using crayons or crawl around on the floor looking for a lost red crayon – in fact, a crayon-free place would be preferred. I would like to not have a stack of extra napkins on the table “just in case.” I don’t want to tell someone to sit down and be quiet more than once. I don’t want someone to freak out because their hamburger is cut in half or their mandarin oranges are touching their French fries. I want to eat without someone at the table putting ketchup on something ketchup shouldn’t be on, like fish or chicken or fruit or broccoli. I want to have dinner with someone who can hold his own cup without spilling the contents on himself or others. I’d like to have a conversation – a nice, long conversation about anything and everything without hearing “I’m bored” or “can we go now?” or “when will she be DONE with her dinner?” I want to be a grownup, even for just an hour or two.

That’s not asking too much, is it?

(Relatedly, after a major overall to my profile this week, I’ve gotten a lot of new responses. Most are garbage, but a few are promising. Conversation with one potential have been so awesome that we decided to take our conversations to regular email instead of through the service. At least I know his full name now. He’s been Googled. And I have some questions for him…)

Online dating: one week later

I’m a little more than a week into my experiment with online dating. And (surprise!) I have some thoughts. I’ve been trolling a few of the big ones, but the one in which I chose to actively participate is the one that starts with OK and ends with -upid. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that “stupid” also ends with -upid…

Some background on this site: I chose to start with this one because it’s easy. A quick page of bio info (a summary, list of books/movies/music/TV shows liked, six things can’t live without, something private). Answer any, all or none. Upload a few pictures. Answer multiple choice questions – your answer, what answer you’d “accept” in a partner, and how important that question is to you. You can also skip questions without answering or decide to answer some privately. You can also comment on your answers, which is nice because several of the options are black/white. Based on your answers, the site determines your best matches, giving a percentage to those you’re most compatible with as a partner, friend, and “enemy.”

My thoughts:

  • What’s up with the algorithm? How am I answering the questions that would lead the site to believe that I’m compatible (with a surprisingly high percentage of compatibility) with someone interested in an open relationship or a kinky fetishes or looking for a super-skinny/model-esque/ditzy/blonde/no kids/heavy drinker and big time partier companion?
  • I have a huge appeal to men in the medical profession who are age 55+ (if they’re closer to my mom’s age than mine, I’m turned off), men who are under the age of 25 (mommy complex?), men who are unemployed and/or make under $20K/year, and men who are ridiculously dorky. I can appreciate dorkiness – heck, I have some dorky tendencies, but hot diggity these guys are beyond stereotypes. Oh, and I also rate highly with atheists, men looking for a third-party for their marriage (wink-wink), and men who want to be dominated. Great.
  • And on the issues of doctors, with whom I’m very compatible (allegedly), why are there so many docs on the site? Am I really to believe that these men can’t find dates any other way? By their descriptions of themselves and their photos, I’d think women were flocking to them. Red flags much?
  • I’m convinced that the majority of men on these sites are lying. (Maybe that’s where I went wrong with the kind of man to whom I appealed – I TOLD THE TRUTH!) Photos are old, and even if they were uploaded recently, some of the (alleged)  42 year olds looked at least a decade or so older. And if they’re not lying, the profile language is so cliché: how many hardworking, dependable, reliable, honest SINGLE men can there be in the world? And why, then, would they be single if they were so ridiculously fantastic?
  • Or maybe they can’t read, as evidenced by the responses to the questions. I’m certainly hoping that there are literacy issues that have caused men to answer questions in certain ways – drugs as a romantic activity but you detest smokers? Really? Men who would like there to be a nuclear war? (And why is this even a question?) I really hope that low literacy levels have caused men to miss words like “always” or “never” as part of the questions because for some of the questions, there’s NO question what the answer should be…
  • Let’s talk about the photos for a moment. I don’t need to see you shirtless before we’ve even met. Really, put the shirt back on. Why would you include a photo of just your eyeball? What are you hiding? How come so many men are posing next to “toys” like big boats or motorcycles or fancy cars? Pretty sure they’re not yours, buddy. Or include photos of their kids or pets? I’m not looking to date your child or your labradoodle, so why do I care what he/she/it looks like? Or photos taken from a distance with the man wearing a helmet of some sort – or scuba gear. Like I can get a sense of anything with a breathing apparatus or wearing a snow mobile helmet.
  • Oh, and I live in the land of milk, cheese and beer – I do not believe that every man on this dating site has an “athletic” physique. Unless, we have different definitions of “athletic” – sorry dating site dudes, but the “six pack” in athletic terms refers to “abs” not how you buy your beer…

All this aside, I have had a few “conversations” (online only) with a few men. One claimed to be a widower working in London, but was so short and uninteresting in his responses that I let the conversations drop.

A second was one of those “too old for me” guys who just wanted to talk dirty – or try to trick me into talking dirty to him – PASS!

Another is a local dairy farmer with a history degree who volunteers at the local historical society for fun. Farm-guy and I seem to have some things in common, but I have some reservations: 1) he lists his height as 5’4″ (I’m two inches taller than that). If he’s anything like the other guys on the site, he’s probably lying and even shorter. Height isn’t a deal breaker, but I do like my heels to be at least two-and-a-half inches tall. 2) he’s excruciatingly formal in his written expression. Hey, I teach writing, and I dig a guy who can craft a complete sentence (they are few and far between on a dating site!) but it’s just VERY formal in his sentence structure and word choice. 3) he’s 39 and never been married. I don’t know why this bugs me, but it does. What’s the problem – with him?

In our last email exchange, farm-guy is hinting that he wants to meet. I’m surprisingly nervous about the prospect of meeting someone from a dating site in person. I mean, what do I have to lose (as long as we meet in a public place and people know where I am)?

Thoughts on online dating

It’s been 18 years since my last “first” date. When I realized this recently, I sort of panicked. A lot has changed in almost two decades, and even though I’m not ready to date-date (i.e., not date anyone seriously), I want to see what’s out there. Sort of establish a base line so when I decide I’m ready, I know what I’m dealing with.

I visited some online dating sites this week. Even signed up for a couple and started profiles – again, JUST in the name of seeing what’s out there. Result: I’m so not ready for this, at least not meeting someone online. (Yes, I had an online profile for a VERY short time after my separation, before Mike’s death. I should have realized things probably haven’t changed…)

I am astounded at some of the screening questions a few of the sites ask: everything from would you allow a partner to lick certain parts of you (and NOT the “GOOD” ones but the really, really BAD ones – yuck!) to how much pain you’re interested in receiving during sex. So many sex questions…OMG. What about establishing a RELATIONSHIP first?

It isn’t that I wouldn’t answer these questions, it’s just that these are considered appropriate SCREENING questions. I’m not a prude, but I wouldn’t divulge this sort of information until LONG into a serious relationship… Hell, I wouldn’t even kiss on a first date, let alone…

Amazingly, surprisingly, ridiculously, others apparently don’t feel the same way, and reading how men have answered these questions is…just wow. If THIS is the sort of thing people are into, there’s no hope for me finding someone normal, or at least compatible with me.

I’ve had a few messages from obvious scammers. (Really, dude in Trinidad and Tobago: I have completed less than 40 percent of my profile and only have one incognito photo of me and I’m supposed to believe (this is verbatim): “It’s has been a great deal for me to see such a pretty like you here, I liked your profile very much..you sounded sweet and it was nice reading it.when i joined this place i never expected to meet a woman of your type, because you soo adorable and cute.” Um, no thanks. BLOCK!)

Wow!

I also feel like there are larger issues at play. Some men haven’t uploaded new photos since early 2010 – that means they’ve been on the site for THREE YEARS. At what point do you just cut your losses and try another way? Or are YOU the problem, Mr. Online Dude?

I think I’m in a weird age bracket, also. A few years younger, and the guys seem REALLY young. A few years older, and they guys seem (and look) CRAZY old. Maybe people are lying on their profiles? Wait, am I supposed to lie too? Then, what’s the point?

And what do some guys have against proper grammar and punctuation? And would it kill them to throw in a capital letter or two? Put your best foot forward, dude. Try proofreading your profile to avoid looking like an uneducated buffoon.

Another question: how are guys coming up with their profile names and photos? I do not want to see a selfie of a man posing shirtless, flexing in a bathroom mirror, toilet clearly visible behind him (or selfie of just his bare chest with the same background). And the profile names – why is every other man a something-”asaurus” or a something-“InABox.” Are these supposed to be funny names? Are they supposed to mean something else? It’s lost on me, other than to think they must be weird.

Then there are the guys looking for sex. They’re married, and claim to be in love with their wives, but they’re profiles are active and they’re looking for some NSA side action. (“NSA” apparently means “no strings attached.”) And even though I’ve made it very clear that I’m not in this for just the sex, these guys are still checking me out. It’s disgusting. I feel like I need a shower just knowing they’ve clicked on my profile!

All that aside, I have come across a couple of promising profiles, but the thought of reaching out makes me cringe. They’re STRANGERS – even though I know more about their personal preferences than probably their closest friends.

It’s overwhelming to think of starting a relationship with a stranger. To tell all my stories over again. To explain the little idiosyncracies that make me, me. To tell the story of my marriage and Mike’s death. To think of sharing a first kiss with someone – which way to tilt my head? Will our noses hit? Do they want to be kissed too or did I totally misread the signs? How long and involved should the kiss be? Ugh!!

Even before Mike, I wasn’t a serial dater. I can count the number of guys I’ve gone out with on both hands (with a few fingers left over!), and I’ve kissed far fewer. Still, I don’t remember dating being this complicated – or maybe I was just so much more carefree and oblivious? I definitely know that almost everyone I dated was from my real life – I knew them as a friend or through friends first. (Maybe I should see if there’s some sort of potential with K… Then there’s the single friend from my past that I THINK I’m flirting with through Instagram and email – and I THINK my flirting is being reciprocated. Unfortunately, he lives 1,800 miles away.)

I’m going to give this online thing another couple of days, then probably close my profiles (for now). I’m not sure I will find someone this way – not if THIS is what the eligible pool of men looks like. Wow.

And the award for the most awkward interaction with a man…

I haven’t dated anyone for 18 years. (I even had to check the math on that – really, that long?) The internet was in its infancy – there wasn’t a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or online dating. I was barely of legal drinking age. I didn’t think I’d ever get married, and I wasn’t sure that I’d ever have kids.

Mike and I started dating in college, and until August 2011, we didn’t have any breaks or time away from one another. It was just us, together, through thick and thin, for better or worse, through sickness but not alcoholism…

Now my kids are my first priorities. I’m not a college student, but I teach them. I’ve grown a lot. I’ve changed a lot. I’ve been through a lot.

So fast forward to yesterday. I must have been exuding some sort of crazy-ass pheromones. First, the Starbucks dude gave me a free pastry (he didn’t give anything away to the three women who were in front of me in line) and a wink and up-sized my latte.

And then (I think) I was (sort of) asked out.

Background: I’ve never been good at flirting or knowing when a man was interested in me. Before Mike, I only dated a handful of guys. I was a late bloomer for sure, not having my first boyfriend or first kiss until my senior year of high school.

Ethan and I attended mass on Sunday morning. During communion, I noticed K, a good-looking and very recently divorced dad, walking back to his seat a few aisles away.

(Sidenotes: his son is E’s “arch enemy” and his daughter is one of Ethan’s crushes. I’ve talked to K on occasion – wouldn’t say I know him well, but I have caught him looking at me at school meetings and other events. I brushed it off as coincidence or my crazy imagination. One last note: the mom-friends I went out with last weekend, three of the four of them said separately that K and I should date. I laughed it off, but the comment stuck with me.)

So when mass ended yesterday, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that K was looking in my direction. I concentrated on Ethan and getting him down the aisle so we could get his stuff for his extracurricular meeting post-church. But then I noticed K alter his gait when he got close to our aisle. It was like he was stalling, waiting.

“Hey,” he said casually, raising his hand and smiling. He gently tossed Ethan’s hair and asked him about his weekend.

We continued with various pleasantries and small talk – the weather, his new condo, our kids – through the church and into the lobby.

“I’m starving. My stomach was growling all throughout mass,” he said with a laugh. “Thinking about going and grabbing some lunch somewhere…”

And that’s when I turned into a ridiculously awkward idiot. I think.

Was he kind of hinting at going to lunch? Was he looking for a lunch companion? Or was it just a continuation of the small talk? If it wasn’t for K adjusting his walking speed to “meet” us at the end of our aisle, I probably would have not paid attention to the comment, but…

I panicked. Said something like “yeah,” steered Ethan into a side hallway, then ducked into the women’s bathroom. I’m super smooth.

I either lost the chance to go to lunch with K and get to know him better OR acted like a complete buffoon by reading too much into nothing.

Regardless, I really need to work on my social skills with men. Geez.

Unsolicited advice: needing a man

“I’ll tell you exactly what you need – you need to find a man.”

I was standing outside talking to Ethan’s teacher on Friday afternoon. We had just wrapped up a meeting about enrolling Ethan in speech through the local public school when she made this ridiculous statement while offering (unsolicited) advice about how I could help Ethan through this tough time.

Honestly, after she said this, I lost track of what she was saying and why/how a “man” would solve all my problems. I was just pissed.

I don’t doubt that having a strong male role model would be good and healthy for Ethan (and Lauren), but to make a broad, bold statement like this is just… stupid. (SIDENOTE: I have started the process of matching E with a Big Brother, but it could take months for the right match to be found.)

Ethan and Lauren (and I) don’t need a “man.” If I started dating TODAY, it would be a LONG time before I’d introduce someone to my kids. If a man from church or school offered to take Ethan fishing or bowling or to play video games, I would be very hesitant to let my son go alone with someone. (Think of all the horror stories…) His teacher recommended sending Ethan on a playdate with a friend when the friend’s dad would be around (right, because men are KNOWN for participating in kids playdates…)

No, a “man” isn’t the answer. (See my previous entry on men and unicorns.)

There isn’t a man in our lives, and we don’t live close to family or close friends. But Ethan sees women (me and my mom) doing all sorts of things: sleeping on a submarine, taking out the garbage, hanging shelves, building things, watching sports, talking about his personal care and hygiene, going fishing (my mom takes E, not me. Fishing is where I draw the line), discussing urinal etiquette, killing spiders. Not to say these are all “men” things or that these are the only things men are good for. Quite the contrary. Even if Mike and I were still married, I’d probably be doing most of these things (and arguing with Mike at the same time). The point is that Ethan sees us doing all sorts of things to keep life moving. We do all this without complaint, without being told, to keep everything running smoothly. And at the same time we’re doing all that, we’re also making meals, cleaning the house, doing laundry, grocery shopping, hemming school pants, walking the dog, reading bedtime stories, helping with homework, kissing boo boos, and on and on.

Ethan and Lauren are witness to a fully functioning household – with or without a traditional family structure.

Now I understand that both kids would benefit from being around a strong male role model, to have a real reference point for what it means to be a good man/husband/dad/friend. But that’s the thing. It isn’t about exposure to a random old testosterone-filled person. It’s about finding the “right” man, a good man, from whom my kids could learn and grow.

And those don’t sell those at Target.