“You should get on eHarmony,” she said, whereupon I burst into flames. Laughter, I burst into laughter. But I may as well have burst into flames because dating might actually kill me.
The last time I had a date Ross Perot was running for president and Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back was playing on the radio, when I still had no back. Cell phones and the Internet were embryos in the belly of technology. A text was was an informational book. My profile was what I looked at in the side mirror. I didn’t have to lie down to zip up my pants. Tweezers were only used for my eyebrows. It was a simpler time.
“Where are you going to meet a man, if not on the Internet?” she asked. It’s a fair question, the answers to which are: not in bars (all respect to the transformative powers of beer goggles), not at work (awkward), not at the gym (what’s a gym?), not at the dog park (too much crotch sniffing), and not in the grocery store (in spite of what every romantic comedy wants you to believe, people don’t meet while fondling melons).
So is the Internet really all that’s left? My friend seemed to think so. She said she has fallen in love with someone she met on eHarmony and had “six nice dates” before that, not a serial killer in the bunch. I’m thrilled for her and I suppose those are compelling stats, especially the not-being-murdered-by-psycho part. She assured me that online dating no longer has the stigma it once had. She asked what I’m waiting for. She said, “You’re not getting any younger.” Ouch.
I suppose I am careening toward my twilight years, but how do you start going on dates with strangers? I’ve had two blind dates in my life and they were disasters. I wonder: Can you really trust people online? Isn’t there innate pressure to sound better, look better, BE better than you actually are, especially when you’re shopping for a date/mate? Will a man be forthright about billowing back hair? Will he admit to leaving toenail clippings on the couch? Will he claim to like literature and foreign films when what he really likes are comic books and zombie movies?
eHarmony’s website claims that they have a “bold, scientific approach” to online dating. I can’t figure out what’s bold about their methods, unless typing whatever crap you want is considered bold. And what science do they mean? Chemistry is science, of course, but chemistry between people happens in person. It’s about pheromones, hormones and, if you’re lucky, actual moans.
Then there’s making my own profile. Isn’t a dating profile tantamount to a sales pitch? How do I describe myself so that I seem compelling to potential suitors while still telling the truth? My belly jiggles merrily when I laugh, baby. I need prescription-strength deodorant when I tear up the dance floor, meow. I’m eligible for AARP discounts, tiger. You know you want a DISCOUNT.
Posting a picture is the worst part, though. Images are powerful and quick judgements are made on looks, especially online. (Don’t get me started on the superficiality of our culture and the pressure for women to look a certain way – I may never shut up.) I’ve not been beaten with an ugly stick or anything, but I am no longer the slender, pretty young thing I once was. I’m not a Heather Locklear kind of 50 year old…more like a blond Danny DeVito with better clothes. I exaggerate, but only slightly. I’m taller.
So what happens if I’m honest about myself on dating sites? What if my picture shows me just as I am? What if no one responds to my profile? Crickets. Self doubt. Hello, Photoshop?
Worse yet, what if someone does respond? The thought gives me hives and makes me tired. It seems like so much work, the preening and preparation, the desperate clawing through my closet for an outfit that hides my muffin top but accentuates my boobs. Can’t I go on dates in sweatpants? Are chin-to-toe Spanx a thing yet? What if I’ve forgotten how to be charming or how to flirt? What if he doesn’t like puns? (Um, deal breaker.) Is it socially acceptable to go the bathroom and hide until he leaves if it’s going all wrong? What if he hides in the bathroom to get away from me? Thinking about dating made me as wobbly as a Jell-O shots at a frat party.
I told my best friend about the online dating recommendation. She responded in the frank way that I adore: “Don’t start online dating, for fuck’s sake!” She reminded me that I’m still technically married and that I “worked very hard for this delicious freedom.” What’s the rush, she wondered.
What’s the rush indeed. I’m not that old. I want to relish this freedom that took me so long to achieve. I want to savor this time of clarity. Independence is important to me. Why do I need a man anyway? I don’t. Not for travel nor companionship, not for witty conversation, dinners, movies, changing tires, or trapping mice.
I must admit that occasionally I do get all gooey when I see a couple in love and feel nostalgic for the blushing, giggling, and whispering-of-sweet-nothings of courtship. (Even married people get nostalgic for this, right?) Sometimes, when I see a passionate kiss, my lips quiver to remind me that they can do more than whistle. Those feelings are real, but fleeting. I put them in the same category as owning a Maserati: luxurious but unnecessary. I’m simply not ready to dive into the deep end of the dating pool.
One day I will probably long for romantic love again, but not now. The love I have for my daughters, my incredible friends, my work, and for exploring the world are more than enough – in fact, it’s life making. One day I will want to have sex again, but not until I can stop laughing (or crying) at myself in the mirror when I emerge from the shower. Besides, I have a little friend in my nightstand that loves my jokes and thinks I look super hot in sweatpants.
The life I lead now is busy, rewarding, and exciting. I am, at last, the best version of me. I am happy.
So suck it, eHarmony.