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The first is near Lake Merritt in Oakland, which provides ample time to sniff each other out and offers enough café choices should we wish to postpone our good-byes. If not, we’ve gotten exercise, and for a short while, can pretend to be another couple around the lake, which brings to mind an impressionistic painting, possibly a Degas or maybe Renoir. Alternatively, we can meet at a mutually agreed upon coffee shop and get our fill of caffeine. The only downside is that many cafés are noisy with the hiss of latté machines and background conversation. A good choice is to find an establishment that caters primarily to the Wi-Fi crowd who sit stone-faced before the altar of their computers.
Preparation requires thought. I like to wear casual attire, no prom dresses. I never want to work hard to impress before I know whom I’m impressing. So a pair of jeans is a good start, assuming that they are clean and don’t have the rips and tears that seem to be fashionable. I can imagine my mother saying, “Women throwing away a hundred dollars on a pair of jeans that are ready for the Goodwill bag? Imagine.”
So a pair of intact jeans, thank you, coupled with an attractive top, which neither displays too much cleavage, but also doesn’t look like Julie Andrews from the Sound of Music, some middle ground that shows style. And even if I choose a simple fashion statement like jeans with a red ribbed top, there are accessories—shoes, rings and bracelets—which is the look I went for when I got ready for my online date at the Peet’s coffee outpost in Emeryville, California.
My prospective date had made a point of saying in his profile how he loved women and was a sensuous man.
He was only a few minutes late, not a biggie. By his profile picture, I recognized the man in the parking lot who had just pulled up on a Honda motorcycle. Tugging a khaki-looking shirt over his head and then shoving it into his saddlebag, he quickly donned a purple replacement. For a moment, I saw his exposed stomach, which was not stylish.
Coffee drinks in hand—his iced, mine a chai—we sat outside for the first chat, but I wouldn’t call it a chat. He talked, and I sat there listening, nodding my head or interjecting such astute comments as “Nice,” “Cool,” and “Really?” For the next hour he explained how he’d credited his friend’s death for missing a chance at opening his own business, and how all the women he meets are on drugs, high-blood pressure, cholesterol, and recreational of different kinds. Would he need to add my name to the list? There was a pause as he invited me to whisper the answer into his ear. But when he mentioned that he had no children because he was bald, and how different women who had passed through his life didn’t want to visit that genetic horror upon youngsters. I stopped listening. Truthfully, I had already rolled my eyes into the ozone about half an hour before. I had a hunch that it wasn’t his baldness that had deterred him from fatherhood.
I made quick escape. “I have to avoid commute traffic,” I told him.
Later, he sent a message saying how I was the love of his life and how he was attracted to my body, my hands, my face, even to my roots, which I wouldn’t have to worry about because he was ready to drive off with me on his motorcycle into the sunset, with or without a helmet. I told him as politely as I could that I wasn’t interested. He persisted, and urged me not to let “love fly away for I might never find it again.”
I thanked him. “I don’t feel the same attraction.”
Oh well. Sometimes an afternoon can become another lesson in the art of online dating, which makes me promise that I will never schedule another walk around the lake or coffee date unless battering myself with a hammer seems more appealing, but then there’s a hope that keeps me thinking. One of these days, I might be surprised.
A word sings
past a chime
of cascading leaves
outside a slight breeze
cousin to the first breath
a holy mantra
bathed in cries
across the bandwidth
of the universe
The truth is that eight years ago I thought the kiss of joy had grazed my cheek. On that particular evening, I had sworn off renewing my online membership. I was going on my absolutely last online date. Then I would try to meet people the old-fashioned way—at parades, a party, a pot-luck, or a dimly lit library table, which is exactly when I met the one. Isn’t that how it always is?
People proselytize that once you stop looking for something, the universe finally cuts you a deal. We went to a Spiderman movie together (not exactly a library table, but it was dark), and laughed before the coming attractions and long after the credits. He was on the short side with a brilliant smile and strong hands and wasn’t shy about taking mine into his own on our first date.
Guys talk about fetishes. I have a hand fetish. I look for the cut of nail, the length of finger, smoothness of palm, and for the feeling of flesh on flesh, which is what happens when someone takes my hand into his for the first time. Later, he ordered drinks and opened my car door when I went home. On our second date, he brought me a motorcycle helmet, and showed me a catalog where I could order a black leather jacket. Pick out any one, he said.
He wasn’t really a bad boy type, more like a southern guy who’s been riding motorcycles since he started to pitch newspapers on peoples’ front lawns. He wanted a friend to join him for the ride and I did. We had one of those honeyed amber courtships. Everything was fun, even asking him to repeat what he said because I couldn’t quite understand the bayou in his southern lilt. He made love to me with his beautiful hands. After a long spate of death and disappointment, for the first time I felt cared for, nurtured, and loved.
So why did it end? For months, I woke up sobbing. Everything reminded me of him. Now I’m beginning to feel numb. I suppose that’s progress. One day I decided to try the online dating thing again, a sort of chain that I could cinch to my waist and pull myself out of the mud.
Send me your online dating stories!
One evening as I was minding my own email, an online dating site informed me that I had a message. I clicked a link from successfulman56 and read, “Hello beautiful.” Anyone who calls me beautiful gets my immediate attention. He went on, “You are the perfect definition of beauty and I would like to know the secret behind your smile.” Melt. Don’t think for a moment that I am not immune to flattery. I responded with a demure little note, which was filled with blushes and thank yous.
David, for that was how he identified himself, came back with this next message:
I signed up on here a month ago and I only came on this site twice. I barely respond to anyone. I would like to get to know you better, be friends and see where one click of the mouse would lead to. I have gotten a lot of superficial email and I am quite disappointed with the standards. Feel free to write me at my personal email address or maybe we could talk now, as I am on my way to the gym.
Nothing seemed suspicious. He was new to the site and rarely responded to flirts. My profile and picture had somehow stood out, more subtle flattery. He was interested in further conversation and had invited me to call before he went to gym to work on what I’d imagined to be his six-pack of abs. But something held me back from dashing to my telephone or sending email to his personal address. Let’s say that several online experiences had made me cautious. Instead, I wrote a chatty note, pushed Send, and waited for his reply. I received one the next morning.
He told me that he had got up to pee during the night and found my message. I’m thinking, do I really want to hear about my Lothario’s visit to the bathroom? Not really. For some reason, he told me how he went to an orphanage to assure the kids that despite all appearances, they have a bright future ahead. Once again he urged me to contact his personal email or call his mobile number.
My true love was beginning to dissolve before my eyes. I considered: successfulman tag, peeing, visiting orphanages, and wanting to move our conversation away from the site to a private area. Hmm. It all seemed very calculated. I plugged his name into Mother Google, davidmcmanaman, and found out he was Romance Scammer, preying upon an ocean of lonely hearts like my own. I could not fathom why he would use the same name, but that’s his problem. Maybe he has the ambition of a graffiti artist, leaving his tag around town and disappearing before dawn.
It turned out that “David” had stolen his photo from an Australian businessman. But what in my own profile had identified me to “David” as a juicy scamming prospect? I went back to read my profile and decided that I had used the word love too many times. Perhaps that had set me up to be groomed as a new victim Now ain’t that a bitch. But what motivates a person to pose as a Romance Scammer, to create the fantasy of a great lover and then obtain the keys to the house? Access to bank accounts, credit cards? Unscrupulous, right?
Oh gullibility, thou name art love.
Send me your online dating stories!
I scrubbed each kitchen tile with vinegar,
doused stainless steel appliances
with cleaner to remove all streaks,
lemon-oiled the two halves of the dining room table
and pushed them back together,
dusted shelves until the micro-fiber
cloth changed colors, gathered up garbage
from all four corners and placed them at the door
to take downstairs. Later, I remembered
how I needed to get gas, postage,
buy three limes. But I kept thinking
how you reminded me of Gene Wilder,
your wild eyes, green and lashed, red hair spun
by Rumplestiltskin into barbed wires,
something primeval in the way you understood the world,
a Willy Wonka who spoke, but did not speak
the same language as the rest of us yokels. So throw me a golden
apple, a chili cheese pretzel dog, hand-outs
from a drive-through window where black and white
cats dance the Tacomania; after hours we’ll meet
at the Sweet Deal poker machine, and for one last time,
place our bets, take our chances, sweep the swamp.
Dates have come and gone bye-bye.
Let me see. One friend didn’t appreciate my letting him pay for our first several dates, whereas I thought I was allowing him to exercise his male prerogative; then there was the guy who phoned to give me his ground rules regarding what I had to do if we had sex, really harmless, he needed me to sleep over so he wouldn’t feel abandoned; or the fellow who spent the majority of his time kayaking, or the man who lived in East Oakland and was in between jobs as a contractor in the biotech industry, both of which evaporated into the online world without my really knowing where they’d gone and why. Or worse, the man who’d read my entire blog with exclamations about my writing, called me on the phone from Europe (!!), and then faded away into his Silicon Valley motherboard.
But what did any of my dates really owe me except an email, and how is that any different from regular old dating, where following a night out on the town, the phone remains a silent collaborator?
Then there was the man entering a second career counseling at-risk teenagers and who had relocated from the mid-west to be with his dying mother and sister (both scoring high in my pantheon of prospective lovers), and who’d even cooked dinner for me with his grandmother’s recipe for tomato sauce, and who showed me around his house with explanations of family pictures affixed to a bulletin board, a man who joined me for walks and decided that I was not able to communicate according to his particular standards, and began to do the most horrible of horribles – calling me choice names that I won’t repeat here but only to say they included, “overwrought, scary, and idiotic,” which brought me full-circle to a marriage that overflowed with such barbs, so much so that I retreated into the walls of my condo, and vowed “never again,” at least not if I could help it.
So where does that leave me? The other day I was sitting in my stylist’s chair waiting for my hair to set, and overheard a conversation amongst several women about their online experiences.
“You mean it was okay with you that he was bi-polar, had wrecked his car, and was living with his mother, but it was only that he was $27,000 dollars in debt that made you to step away from the relationship?”
“Mmmm…yes. I mean, but he was very cute.”
Send me your online dating stories!
Help! Profile pictures confuse me. Many men are wearing sunglasses, often standing in front of a car next to a large dog. Let’s think about this for a moment. Here is the first picture a potential dating friend sees. But what opens on the computer is disappointing–a blurry photo of a man wearing dark glasses.
I can only guess that a man signed up for dating site would want to attract as many views as possible. But somehow, word has gotten out that wearing dark glasses, is a sure-fire way to court love. I’m not certain what marketing firm or social media outlet is spreading this vile message, but it is without any foundation whatsoever. Believe me. Unless you are Paul Newman, wearing over-sized aviator glasses does not a cool profile picture make.
Didn’t anyone learn in high school literature classes that “the eyes are the window to your soul?” So by wearing eye-covering apparel, a person has pulled down the blinds.
I believe many men in the fifty and upwards set, think this is totally cool. Why? Because there are also photos from the man’s youth–on the beach, standing with buddies at a football game, or engaged in outdoor sports activities. The purpose, I believe, is to allow a glimpse of how an individual used to appear, and his connection to the heavier, balder, and more wrinkled guy of today. Who knows? Maybe in the future, we will be able to post time lapse photos of ourselves. But why would we want to? Watch the breasts droop, the skin wrinkle, the stomach protrude over the belt?
The truth is that most of us think of ourselves as being at least ten or twenty years younger than we really are. When I wash my face in the morning, do I look at a middle-aged woman in the mirror? Of course not. I look at myself with flawless skin.
So here’s the hard part. Even if we wish to fool ourselves, we can’t fool everyone else around us.
So please post a clear picture of yourself, and I will do the same. I’d like to see your eyes, and even better, your smile. I don’t mind if you want your car or dog in the picture.
I am not interested in dating either one of them.
Send me your online dating stories!
It sounded like a unique opening line.
We decided on an appointed time for coffee, a rendezvous at Peet’s on Fourth Street. It was an easy off ramp from the freeway.
I looked inside. No obvious suspects. But there was someone who’d just entered.
“Do the words serial killer mean anything to you?” I asked.
“No.” He looked at me strangely.
I quickly stepped back to the edges of the terracotta tile and listened to the hiss of espresso machines. TigerTail101 had described his body type as “thick.” I wasn’t sure how that differed from “a few extra pounds.”
“You writergrll?” a man asked. He spun me around and gave me a hug. “What’ll you have?”
TigerTailwas more genuine than self-conscious, something which I liked. However, he did seem a bit faded from his online picture by about five to 10 years, the hair more grey than sandy, the jaw more of a jowl, and he definitely looked thick, but it wasn’t in a heavy or a stocky way thick, more how a magnet collects metal filings around its middle because it hasn’t lost its charge. Overall, he didn’t look like a serial killer. I guess they never do…
We spent several hours emptying our cups.
“I don’t want to talk about my personal relationship,” he said.
“I didn’t ask you to.”
Well, he didn’t talk about his personal relationship; instead, he talked about himself , stopping only for sips of coffee. On and on he went about his apartment, the roommate who was a pizza maker from Brazil, his adopted child in Africa, his dying mother. I spare you the dialogue.
In a few days I received an email asking if I thought we had chemistry. Chemisty? How about something to say to each other?
Anyhow, what do people mean by chemistry? Is that a code word for, “Do you think you could go to bed with me?” Or are we talking about pherenomes here? For in this online world, unlike its more shadowy real-world sister, we have all boldly stated, “I am available.” Picture a huge bar, people milling around with a day-glow profile stuck to their foreheads. Thee next part is more difficult. It requires sorting through thousands of profiles and becoming clever with search criteria to arrive at a place where it’s possible to have chemistry, even with a pretend serial killer.
Am I dreaming?
Please don’t burst my bubble.
A broken heart is an open heart, at least that’s what I hear.
So here’s to all us online daters because after being disappointed and defeated, it takes courage to return to the playing field, and to announce to everyone who wishes to listen, Here I am. Take it or leave it.
Or for some of us, death’s poker hand had closed out our loved ones’ accounts, taking everything except for their memory.
Maybe it was a good marriage and turned bad.
Maybe the love affair lasted for a few months or several years. Maybe we never jumped into the fray because we were taking care of a sick parent or relative. Or even ill ourselves. Maybe we wanted to get everything right including job, career, and travel around the world first, until none of that seemed important, or maybe we were abused as children and had to learn intimacy block by alphabet block, which made us better students of love, children of mistakes, children of all the maybes.
I am one of those maybe’s. Maybe if I had made better choices, maybe if I had second sight, maybe if I had listened to what other people had told me. But in the end, only one thing matters.
A broken heart, is an open heart.