(or: Looking for Love in all the Wrong Singles Groups Companion Ads Online Dating Sites)
“True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.”
– François de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
Dating. After my marriage ended, this was a whole new concept to me, having been with only one person since the age of 17 until we split when I was 30. I spent a year or two mourning the loss of a partner, and then, in 1977, BANG! I was ready-set-go to find a new one.
My first false start involved someone I met at (ironically) a wedding. I was smitten, but he – unfortunately for me – eventually went back to his first lady love. Here was a valuable lesson learned: Never date someone who is merely “separated” from their significant other.
“The fields of love are fraught with peril.”
– Who said that? Me! (1945- )
Okay, so the peril isn’t really found in the fields of love, it’s in the roads or laneways leading to it. But “the lanes of love” doesn’t hit quite the right note in spite of its lovely alliteration. In any case, such has been my love quest, fraught indeed, over the past thirty-something years.
After my 1977 misstep with the still-attached man, I tried joining a couple of singles groups. At the time, it was the only market – I mean venue – for unattached men and women to meet. I did seem to spark a dollop of interest in some men in these groups. The only problem was that they weren’t quite what I was looking for, since the idea of almost immediately hopping into bed with a stranger didn’t quite float my bod, er, boat. I won’t tax your patience with stories of my fending off these uncouth male specimens. Let’s just collectively go “tsk, tsk,” wag our fingers at them retroactively and move on.
At the time, I moved on to single dads, figuring we’d have a lot in common. But it turned out that, with the ones I met, that’s all we had in common.
Those disappointments led me to try a promising new strategy: newspaper ads. Back before the Internet, “Companions Wanted” ads in our major daily newspapers were very popular. I used to scour them every weekend… but to no avail.
Finally I decided to place my own ad. I whipped up a little piece that caught (I thought) my essence. Sense of humour – check; off-beat interests – check; deep thinker – check; seeking same – check.
This was fun! It was like ordering merchandise, hoping for the right fit. How exciting it was, seeing all the letters crammed in my post-office box, sorting them (“yes!” “no!” “maybe!”) and choosing the prize-winners that merited a reply.
Then I met a few of them. Well. It turned out that the written word is no substitute for meeting someone in person. Five feet, seven inches tall turned out to be five feet one. “I look like Jeff Bridges” – not so much. (By the way, I could never understand why someone would lie about his appearance, when you would meet and the truth would rear its, um, ugly head.) (By the way #2, any brickbats I throw towards men could of course be equally applicable to women, if the situation were reversed.)
You’ll know this isn’t the best way to meet a mate when, as you’re waiting in front of a resto to meet him, you’re thinking, “Please let that not be him, oh pleeeeaase…” You’ll know it’s not the best way when you’re chatting on the phone with him, and you hear him making groaning sounds that are something other than “So, what movie would you like to see?” You’ll know it’s not the best way when you meet him at a bistro, and, at the table, he yaks for fifteen minutes with one of the waiters – in a foreign language – and never introduces you.
One apparently perfect match ended after several months of dating when his dark side began to show through the cracks: narcissism, a complete lack of self-awareness, and no sense of humour whatsoever. He sulked while I watched a TV show at his house about a folksinger I loved… and he knew beforehand that I was planning to watch it, yet had insisted I come over there anyway. Sigh. His was one of the good replies to my ad.
“A girl can wait for the right man to come along, but in the meantime that still doesn’t mean she can’t have a wonderful time with all the wrong ones.”
– Cher (1946- )
Well, let’s see… apart from the bad choices I met through ads, I met some Mr. Not-Rights all on my very own: at a country bar, a film festival, and while indulging in my hobby at the time, BBSing. (BBSes, or Bulletin Board Systems, were sort of early-90s forerunners to online dating sites; they were more than that, though – I wrote about them in my blog post, Before the Internet.)
I cannot describe these dalliances to you, because my children might read this. Okay, my “children” are in their 40s, but hey, if they want to see their mom as a perennial sexless saint, let them, I say! What they don’t know, won’t hurt them, haha!
No, I admit that not one of those men was chosen with care. When I met them I was either: slightly tipsy; blinded by the lighting in the dives clubs; tipsy; deafened by the loud (disco!) music; or very tipsy.
I was also, I must confess, feeling somewhat desperate. I wanted a man in my life, darn it, and tried everything to find one. It never occurred to me that perhaps men can smell desperation, and, when they encounter it, will run the other way.
By the mid-90s – this was after an ill-fated four-year relationship with a guy 20 years younger – don’t ask – I decided I needed a break from my search. No more, at least for a while. I would focus on other things.
I threw myself into work and friendships. Amazingly, when I landed I didn’t hurt myself.
“True love cannot be found where it does not exist … ”
– Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)
And then… I started feeling lonesome for male companionship. And then, I discovered online dating sites in the early 2000s. This new medium for the lovelorn had now come into its own. I’ve tried my luck on a number of them over the years: Match.com, Lavalife, JDate, Mingle2, POF (Plenty of Fish), eHarmony and, most recently, Ourtime.
There are others I never joined which shall remain nameless, as some have a reputation for being rather racy. On the more mainstream sites mentioned above, you can choose what sort of relationship you want, e.g., casual, romantic or intimate. Are you looking for marriage? A serious relationship? Occasional dating? A one-nighter? You can be specific.
By now, in my search for Mr. Okay-Enough, I was getting a tad long in the tooth (in my 50s, since you ask). Not really a prime age for dating, but never mind! I was game! I liked the idea of constructing an attractive profile of myself and uploading the best selfie photos I could drum up. And I enjoyed (at first) the process of skimming through the scores of men’s profiles. It reminded me of the old days of newspaper ads, when I would wade through the letters like a queen choosing a courtier.
On dating sites, if you don’t feel up to emailing a person (anonymously via your ‘username’), you can get their attention with a virtual nudge, poke or hug. You can invite one to chat – or not, as your mood strikes.
Over time, it became clear to me that each site had its quirks, drawbacks and good points. Well, not all had good points… not good for me, that is.
For example, on certain sites it seemed that many men who would be appropriate for me age-wise were instead seeking much younger women. It always amazed me how a guy who seemed to be anything but a prize – as self-described on his profile – wanted to find a perfect woman twenty years (or more) his junior. So I dropped out of those sites, as I apparently had “aged out” of them.
In contrast, I’ve been on other sites where I often attracted boys – well, young men in their 20s or 30s! Maybe they wanted a teacher… or a mother… or a grandmother! But since I’m not looking for a student, son, or grandson…
There is a dating site that’s actually a cut above the others, in the sense that it attempts to have members delve below the surface of what they’re looking for in a relationship. I’m talking about eHarmony. My only problem with them was that the matches their algorithm found for me inevitably lived thousands of miles away from my city. Since I was not keen on long-distance dating or relocating, that didn’t work for me. It’s true that this was in their early years. It could be that more local people have signed up since then; but I have no energy left to go back and find out!
All in all, I did manage to wrangle a few dates from my online searches. And I made myself a rule: no alcohol at the first meeting (unlike my early years of dating), which could cloud my judgment. But my soulmate remained elusive.
What about giving singles groups another go? Well, the ratio of women to men is horrendous, and worsens the older I get. If you’re a guy, mind you, go for it!
Matchmakers? Too expensive for me, I’m afraid; my dental and optical bills are priorities.
I wish I could say that somewhere in the past four decades I met men who were polite and generous and considerate and respectful and calm and intelligent and solvent and not addicts etc., but unfortunately I can’t. If I had met one like that, I would probably be married to him by now (if he would’ve put up with me)!
But here’s the thing. I would rather be quasi-alone with my affectionate lapcat, family, good friends, writing, reading, work, movies, music, good TV shows and travel, than be with someone who has intolerable character flaws or lifestyle dealbreakers.
I have finally stopped looking for love out there; instead I seem to have found it where it was all along.
“True love doesn’t come to you; it has to be inside you.”
Julia Roberts (1967- )