Agonizing Decisions that Take Us Nowhere

Sometimes the most agonizing decisions — decisions that are supposed to take us in a new direction — end up taking us nowhere at all, and we wonder why the decision was so difficult.

As I mentioned before, a friend talked me into joining an online dating site. I didn’t want to do it — I’m not ready for any sort of serious relationship, and maybe never will be. I’m still getting to know this new “alone” me. She pointed out that I dialoguedidn’t have to sign up to meet a new life mate, but could specify “friendship.” That seemed reasonable. I am always interested in making new friends. And since I spend so much time alone, I especially appreciate having people to do things with.

Still, it took an entire sleepless night three weeks ago to make the decision. And it was the sleeplessness that in the end made me realize I should take the step. If the decision was so unimaginable that I couldn’t get my mind around it, I figured it would be good for me to make that leap. I know what is imaginable. I’ve imagined it. But a whole world lies beyond my imaginings, and to get where I need to go (a place that is as yet undefined since it lies in the realm of the unimagined), I need to do the unimaginable.

So, I signed up. Spent a lot of time working on my profile. Told my current truth as well as I knew it and as charmingly as I could. In one of the sections I wrote:

I am happy, kind, confident, intelligent. I smile a lot, laugh easily, seldom get angry, and appreciate those same qualities in others. More than anything, I love learning, meeting new people, sampling new foods, trying new activities. The desert fascinates me, so I spend a lot of time hiking in the nearby knolls.

I’ve lived a quiet life — mostly reading, crafts, watching movies, writing. Now I’m interested in being more active and trying out all the things I haven’t had a chance to do before — dancing, bowling, miniature golf, hiking, archery, whatever comes to mind. I’d like to lead a more adventuresome life in a non-perilous sort of way. Even going to lunch somewhere I’ve never been could be such an adventure. What would make all this more fun is to have someone to be adventuresome with.

I’d planned to blog about my encounters, both online and offline, in case there were other older people out there taking a hesitant dip into the dating pool, but there have been no encounters. I figured the site would be like a social networking site, where people messaged each other, trying to get a dialogue going, but nothing is going on except that several dozen people have checked out my profile. Like a middle school dance, the boys seem to be milling around, checking out the girls, while the girls just stand there, trying not to be caught checking out the boys but hoping someone will notice them.

Since I’m not one to just stand around and wait (at least, not anymore), I’ve written dozens of messages, but no one responded. It’s possible the men on the site aren’t computer savvy and don’t know how to respond. It’s possible they aren’t interested. It’s possible they are waiting for inspiration or waiting to fall in love with a photo. I have no idea since no one is talking.

To be honest, I’m okay with this. I don’t particularly want to date, don’t want to flirt with the possibility of falling in love. I do feel silly, though, about spending a sleepless night, steeling myself to make what turned out to be such a non-momentous decision, but perhaps the decision was the important step, and what has come after is trivial.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Look Out Life, Here I Come!

I gave up dating when I was nineteen. It was too much like trying to slog my way through a pool of molasses without any of the sweetness to make the experience palatable. I remember once the boy took me to a nice restaurant, and then sat there like a lump. Perhaps he figured that since he was paying for the meal I had to entertain him, but if I said something, his eyes would glaze over or he’d shift his gaze away to look at anything but me. If I asked a question about him, he’d respond in as few words as possible, then lapse into shifty silence again. It was like dropping a pebble into the sand. No ripples of conversation. Just a few dull words plunked on the table between us. If it was only him this happened with, I might not have been so quick to exit the dating scene, but it was typical of ripplesall my dates. Which was okay. I didn’t want to fall in love, didn’t want to spend my life with anyone, didn’t want to be tied down.

Because of this dating experience, my meeting Jeff — the man I would spend thirty-four years of my life with — came as a total shock. I stopped into his health food store one day and happened to drop a few verbal pebbles. He took those pebbles, skimmed them across the space between us, creating ripples galore. Then he tossed more pebbles into the conversational waters while I was skimming those pebbles back to him. All those ripples caused a tide pool that kept me connected to him until he died. (I was an hour late for work that day we met, and when I told my boss and co-workers why, they laughed, thinking I was making a joke since they knew my history with the opposite sex.)

For the past few months, a friend has been trying to talk me into joining an online dating site, and I finally succumbed. I don’t want another lifelong relationship. I don’t even want to fall in love. But it would be nice to have someone to do things with. Go out to lunch once in a while. Maybe go bowling or to the beach. Something.

My friend has been finding matches for me, so I’ve been writing to her choices as well as the site’s matches. Only three people responded, and oh, man. Talk about regressing back to adolescence. Conversational pebbles plunking into the sand. No ripples. Just dead end thuds.

Don’t people know how to converse, in person or online? It’s simple. I say/write something, expressing an interest in you, then you say/write something, expressing an interest in me.

I wrote charming notes to dozens of prospects, referring to things they posted on their profiles and ending with a pertinent question to get the conversational ripples going. The three who responded answered the question in monosyllables, and that was it. When I responded to their response, I got even fewer syllables. No show of interest in me or in anything, actually.

One of the three claimed to be funny, to love jokes and all kinds of humor. I thought we might have a few laughs, but he found my attempt at humor insulting, and I found him pedantic. One guy claimed to love words, but when I offered a bit of word play and the link to a cool word site, he merely thanked me. Plunk.

I thought this would be hard because of my not being ready, but it’s hard in a way I never even imagined. Like reliving adolescence. Still, I didn’t really expect anything from the site. Signing up was mostly a symbolic way of throwing myself into the future. A way of saying, “Look out life, here I come!”

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.