I realize that many atrocities and misdeeds have been committed with the best of intentions, and I know all about the road to hell from my own marriage and divorce, but could anyone really object? I paid my own way, wrote my own profiles, posted honest photos and my real age. My intent was love, companionship, and understanding. Who would have guessed that I would enjoy meeting so many people, that there would be a throng of humanity in each of them that I loved, and that I wouldn’t want to date any of them. Is it unfair that I never want a second date?
My friend from second grade thinks online dating is a bad idea. She worries that someone will follow me home or stalk me. I have been stalked before, so I am listening, but I’m not sure if she’s seen too many movies, or I have become too que sera sera. I try to be careful. I don’t give out my phone number. I tell men that I won’t share it until we got out at least two times—and you know what they say about that snowball in hell.
Since my divorce, I have only honestly wanted to date one man. You might have guessed that I met him “off line.” I was still wearing the scars of my divorce like a bright letter of wrongdoing across my chest. He was an unexpected glimmer of hope on a windy afternoon. I’ll call him Finley because it’s an approachable name that rings true to his smooth ease and friendliness (How could anyone be so at ease?). Our boys were participating in a special soccer clinic, and I was holding the clipboard of forms, somehow, quite accidentally left with the responsibility to make sure everything went well. He came up and asked if I was in charge. I laughed for that had clearly not been the case for many years.
I met Finley only twice. The first time it was windy, and we were both freezing. One of his sons was climbing on him and he managed to playfully slide him over his shoulder like a choreographed dance. He told me that he’d spent most of the morning skiing, well, snowboarding with his boys. He laughed when he described the majority of time as adjusting the boys’ bindings. It was the same laugh that he gave when he realized that he had warmer clothes in his car and when he offered to find something for me. I said I thought I probably had something in my car as well, so we both went to look. He came back wearing a Sherpa Laplander knit hat and big sweater. It was then that he asked me something about my son, and I admitted that I was divorced.
I saw a moment of hesitation before he told me that he was in the process of getting divorced. “Early days” he called it.
“Don’t do it.” The words burst out.
“That wasn’t exactly what I was hoping you’d say.” He paused. “I was hoping you’d say, ‘It get’s easier.’”
“I’m sorry. It does get easier, I think, but it’s awful not to put your kids to bed at night.”
Without hesitation “I can’t imagine that.”
Finley and I met only twice, so what is my problem? Little things: his beautiful hands, his delight in his children, his concern for how his older son was going to take the news of divorce, his offer to get something warm for me . . . And maybe it is also all the things my ex was not: present, at ease, happy to sit with me and watch our children . . .
On Easter, I went to the second to last practice, and Finley wasn’t there. My ex didn’t want to support soccer, so my son could only attend half of the sessions. And I never saw Finley again. I do not believe in love at first sight, fate, serendipity, or divine providence, but I would make an exception. I struggle around the notion of manifest destiny, and my hidden romantic tendencies come out most frequently in attempts to capture the world in writing.
My friend from second grade probably didn’t peg my mother as the stalking type, but it turned out she was. Without my knowledge, she tracked Finley down. It was a strange and boundary-less act of devotion, and she was alarmingly successful. The Internet has changed privacy for everyone.
When my mother started searching, she had Finley’s first name and knew that he had identical twins who played soccer. There are over 100,000 people living in our city, and she found him. The funny thing was that she searched for identical twins on the wrong soccer team. When she found twins of the right age, she took their last name, and put it with his first name, and like magic, found him. From this small piece of information, it was easy for her to find his workplace, address, phone number, and a touching video that he posted about his sister.
Strangely, the twins she found weren’t his, but they did have the same last name. How weird is that? In my craziest romantic moments, I think of it as the kind of fate that exists in movies. Then I remind myself that I don’t believe in fate, and if it were fate, I would have run into him by now. Right?
In my less rationale moments, I imagine a Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan sort of trip across the country because she likes the sound of Tom Hanks’ voice over the radio and something resonates, or a John Cusack kind of search in Serendipity for the copy of Love in the Time of Cholera in which Kate Beckinsale has written her number.
Why do I think this man is so lovely? How is attraction explained? I swear I would have sniffed him out at a pheromone party (http://www.pheromoneparties.com/) for everything about him drew me in.
My brother-in-law wonders about the algorithm that goes into matching people to people on dating sites. I wonder in different ways. Could anything be less romantic than an equation for love or compatibility? Do I by virtue of X or personality trait X always like X?
It is the year I returned to my high school reunion only to find that no one knew me. It made sense. I had believed in the art of invisibility and been told that I wasn’t good at connecting to people—and in some ways this played out in my personal experience. I was quickly excused (brushed off) as too shy to be remembered by kind attendees. My biggest crush looked blank when I introduced myself. “We ran Cross Country together . . . I was on your raft.” Nothing. The problem was clearly mine.
I left with my good friend who said that I had to write a book, that my distance from people had a kind of purpose to it that had to do with attention to detail and taking everything in; it may also have had to do with falling in love but not the online kind.
My therapist thinks that online dating is a simple statistical equation. Why would I expect it to be easy to meet someone I liked and wanted to date? This is easy to say when you don’t have to go on first dates and be touched and hurt and drawn in by peoples’ stories and life in general.
And while my therapist keeps telling me I need to have better boundaries with people, I don’t think he would approve of my violating another person’s boundaries, using the information my mother found, dashing out into the night with the hope that Finley really is my soul mate.
(originally posted by everyhappilyafter)