Our Story Begins:
When A Widow Decides To Start Dating
Last year a friend tried to set me up on a blind date. Then, almost as an afterthought, the friend said “oh…and her name’s Andrea. That’s not weird, is it? Would that be weird?”
It was weird. Completely. How could it not be?
My wife of close to two decades was named Andrea. She passed away unexpectedly in 2011. I abruptly canceled the date.
It was after this camel-breaking straw that I decided to try online dating. I signed up for the two sites my friends said they had used and they’d been successful. Two are married and one is in a committed relationship. That, I thought, was pretty good odds.
Wow is all I can say. Wow…
Let me explain how out of my comfort zone I am right now. The last time I was actually single, Seinfeld and Friends were both on television. I didn’t have 1 kid let alone 4 of them…let alone raise them alone…let alone face the fact that they may not be very happy I’m dating at all. Add to this the myriad of worries I have…what happens when you go out, do you kiss her goodnight? I haven’t kissed anyone in so long…what if I’m terrible at this? What if they want to have sex?! That means more kissing again! What if they are freaked out by the fact that I have so many kids?! Dear God I hadn’t thought about sex. What if they don’t like that I have grey hair? OH MY GOD WHAT IF THEY WANT TO HAVE SEX?!
DEAR GOD WHAT IF THEY ACTUALLY SAY YES TO A DATE?!
Both sites push and push you to send messages. “Interested? Send her a message!” “Send her a comment on this picture!” “Wink” “Nod” “like”…for the love of God, it’s like Facebook on steroids but you don’t know who the hell the people are!
One site made me pick a list of questions and pushed for slow, steady, painstaking, guided communication. I didn’t really like the questions and if I wanted to ask about something about a woman’s profile or something was just eating at my curiosity I had to ask permission. It was like trying to navigate a ship but you’re looking at the compass upside-down.
One let me send messages and I would end with “would you like to have coffee or a drink?” I soon realized…that’s not how you do this. You email, flirt, act kind of confident, and hope to God someone emails back. One friend said he just emailed everybody and went out with everybody. I was floored because…I didn’t want to play the field. At one point I was talking to three women at once and it felt…wrong. That’s all I can say, it felt wrong. I found myself saying “well, she might not be so bad,” and realized…I don’t want “she’s not so bad.” It’s not fair to me and not fair to them, either.
Then the women told me a whole other perspective.
“There are twice as many women as men” is a myth, they said. I have had, in a few months’ time, 700 views of my profile. These women have had that many in a week. Some in a day! One had marriage proposals in the first week she was online. Men offer to buy them cars . . . which explained to me why so many women I saw had pictures of their “dream car I hope to have soon” on their profiles.
“Lots of noise,” is how one woman described it to me. Many of them have to hide their profiles for weeks at a time to sift through it all.
“You’re hot…let’s hook up,” is a common line, apparently. I can’t believe that even works.
“Have any naked pictures?” Seriously. On legit sites, not, say, Ashley Madison.
Into this tidal wave of misogyny I meandered. It’s like the anonymity of the net has broken down the walls of decorum. I read through the profiles and commented on funny, sarcastic and interesting things. I got no responses. Apparently a hundred others were making comments about the women’s boobs. For these women, emptying the inbox must the virtual equivalent of throwing the stack of papers in the air in frustration.
It overwhelms you, online dating. Women can get reminders of how bad the male species can be. I started to feel more rejection than when I was a gawky teenager. But I’m very, very new to this.
There’s also part of me that just wants to meet in-person and have that conversation, that connection.
But that still wouldn’t help me if I had to kiss her goodnight.
Are you dating and parenting and trying to figure it out, too? Have you had the same experiences? Different?
(Editor’s Note: This piece ran in its original format on 5/24/2015.)