Requiem for Online Dating

Six months ago, a married friend urged me to join a dating site, more, I think, to fulfill her own fantasy of going out with a lot of different men than because of any perceived need of mine. She promised to help me weed through the site to find men who might be compatible, but still it took one entire sleepless night for me to make the decision to play her game. I’m not sure what I was afraid of — moving even further beyond my deceased life mate/soul mate perhaps. Or maybe accidentally falling in love again and tying my future to another person.

Although I wasn’t looking for a serious relationship, I was lonely. Thinking it would be fun to meet people, maybe go on a few dates, I signed up for a dating site and paid for a six-month subscription. I originally planned to pay for one month, but I didn’t want to sabotage myself by counting the cost.

At the beginning, I wrote charming messages to all the men my friend thought might be suitable, and even some the site found for me, though the site’s computers seemed to think I was looking for an inarticulate, overweight, tattooed smoker who rides a motorcycle. Um, no.

I suppose it’s understandable I got not a single response to my notes. Inadvertantly, I’d created a profile that guaranteed I wouldn’t catch any man’s attention — I told the truth about myself, used more than 95 words, didn’t downplay my intelligence, didn’t show cleavage, didn’t use words like “fun-loving” that could connote an eagerness for mattress games, and most of all, I didn’t lop years off my age. Eek. I must have seemed like their worst nightmare!

I eventually joined two free sites besides that first fee-based site, but the free ones garnered me no attention either. (In fact, those sites matched me with many of the same unsuitable men the first site did.)

Last night, my paid subscription ended, so I laid my profile to rest. I deleted my photos, deleted the description of myself, deleted my thoughts about what I was looking for in a man. Then I went through the whole rigmarole of deleting the profile. They promised that the profile would be permanently deleted from their site, but a while later, when I tried to sign in to make sure the profile really was gone, there it was along with a welcome back note. So I deleted it again.

The truth is, I am glad I didn’t find anyone to go out with. I am finding my wings, waiting to see if I can fly, and I don’t want to be held earthbound by anyone else’s expectations of me, no matter how potentially rewarding the relationship might be.

Goodbye, online dating. Goodbye, romance.

Hello to . . . whatever might come next.

***

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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Friday Night, Date Night

I signed up for an online dating site two or three months ago. It took one entire sleepless night to make the decision to do so. I’m not sure what I was afraid of — moving even further beyond my deceased life mate/soul mate perhaps. Or maybe falling in love again and tying my future to another person. (I’m not ready for that. I still need to find out what my life alone will bring.) Although I’m not looking for a serious relationship, I did think it would be fun to meet people, maybe go on a few dates, but the site turned out to be anticlimactic.

Inadvertantly, I’d created a profile that guaranteed I wouldn’t catch anyone’s attention — I told the truth about myself, used more than 95 words, didn’t downplay my intelligence, didn’t show cleavage, didn’t use words like “fun-loving” that could connote an eagerness for mattress games, and most of all, I didn’t lop years off my age.

Not surprisingly, nothing came of my fishing in the online dating pool. Not a single date. Not even a real message or connection, which I find strange. I frequently make connections over the internet. All sorts of interesting people find their way to me online. Many of my offline friends were once solely online friends. Many other online friends will one day become offline friends when we finally meet in person. And yet, on a site geared to bringing people together, I can’t make a single connection.

Still, I wanted a date, so last night I took myself out. Went to a fair. It wasn’t big as fairs go, but it had a Ferris wheel and that’s all I really wanted. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me go on the ride by myself. “It’s fair policy,” the ticket taker said. (I’m not sure how fair this fair policy is, since one of me is easily the equivalent of the the two children who climbed aboard at that momeFerris wheelnt.) As I turned away from the wheel, a young woman asked me, “Did he say you can’t go by yourself?” When I said yes, she looked disappointed and replied, “My daughter wants to go on the ride.” “Don’t you want to go with her?” I asked. She shook her head. I volunteered to partner up with her little girl. And she agreed.

So, we rode the Ferris wheel together, this little girl and I. We marveled at how beautiful the fair looked from the air and how small everyone seemed. She told me she was learning sign language and taught me how to say “I love you.” After thanking her for accompanying me and thanking the mother for letting her daughter chaperone me, I wandered around the grounds. Ate a caramel apple. Tossed pelota balls in a basket (all but one jumped right back out). Threw darts at balloons and won a stuffed frog.

I’ve always thought such games a waste of money — I could have bought a nicer frog for a fraction of the cost — but it wasn’t about the frog. It was about the experience. Immersing myself in a night of sponteneity.

On the way home, in the continued spirit of sponteneity, I stopped for an ice cream cone. (I can’t even remember the last time I did that.)

It was a great date. Maybe I’ll do it again some time.

***

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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Online Dating: Diane Lane I am Not

Until the last month or so, the only thing I ever knew about online dating sites and services was what I’d heard second or third hand and seen in movies. I thought you signed up, paid a fee, filled out a questionnaire, and they found a perfect match for you.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who presumed the same thing since such a scenario seemed to be a major plot point in the movie Sneakers. The collaborators needed to bypass a voice recognition security device, so they had Mary McDonnell pose as a computer date for Stephen Tobolowsky and record the necessary words. All goes well until Ben Kingsley discovers that Mary is supposed to be Stephen’s date. He says, disbelieving, “A computer matched her with him?” And so the story took a turn for the worse for the collaborators.

Now that I know the truth about computer dating — at least the sites I signed up for — the movie seems a bit less riveting.

To the extent that the computers are matching me with anyone (it doesn’t seem as if they are really finding matches, just notifying me of a random mix of people in my current geographical area), they seem to think I am looking for an inarticulate, overweight, tattooed smoker who rides a motorcycle. (Um, no.) The two characters in the movie were a much better match for each other than any I’ve been paired with. In fact, when I was watching the movie, I thought that very thing, that the two characters had a lot in common — both were educated, fastidious, articulate, and lived well.

Another movie that deals with online dating sites as a major plot mover is Must Love Dogs. Diane Lane seemed to find plenty of dates almost immediately, yet after five weeks, I haven’t managed to connect with a single person. Of course, she is Diane Lane, and I obviously am not. Also, the photo used for her profile was her high school photo, and pretzelsthat makes a big difference. As I wrote before, a woman’s desirability online peaks at 21. At 26, women have more online pursuers than men. By 48, men have twice as many online pursuers as women.

What started out as a sort of a leap into the future or maybe even just a fun dating game has fizzled into . . . nothing. One or two men did manage to tear themselves away from their motorcycles long enough to send impersonal replies, another two or three approached me and begged for my phone number and email address first thing as if they thought I were so desperate that I would pass out such information like pretzels at a singles bar. Such tactics might even work — apparently, a lot of people think the computers on the sites have more insight than they do, or the members are so psyched to go out that they go on a date with the first person who makes any sort of move.

I’m used to meeting people online who live on the other side of the mountains, the other side of the country, even the other side of the world, and it is a bit disconcerting to think I am making myself known to locals. Sometimes I wonder if anyone would recognize me if they saw me on the street, but I don’t think they would. So far, I’ve managed to remain invisible, both online and off.

***

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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Online Dating: Shopping For Men

You can shop for anything on the internet nowadays, even a relationship. In the pre-electronic days, you met someone, fell in love, and hoped that your lifestyles, wants, and needs would somehow mesh or that you’d be able to compromise enough to find a mutually satisfying life. With online dating, you can bypass all that and look for someone to fit your lifestyle.

massesThe problem with shopping for a relationship when you are no longer young is that not only do you already have a lifestyle that works for you, you also have a lot of baggage — family, children, pets, and especially highly individual and possibly eccentric opinions or preferences. These things are a problem even if you’re not looking for a serious relationship.

In my case, I don’t have much baggage except for my 97-year-old father, but I do have a lot of crotchets. I cannot tolerate smokers (I am allergic to smoke.) Unpleasant odors make me nauseous. I have never owned either a pair of high heels or jeans. (This normally wouldn’t be an issue, but a surprising number of men want women who are as comfortable in heels as they are in jeans.) And I’m not fond of dogs. (There, I said it. It’s probably un-American, but it’s the truth.)

Even more problematic are all my dichotomies. Like most women, I appreciate men who make me laugh, but I seldom find self-professed funny guys to be funny. I have no interest in discussing politics — most men who discuss such things seem naïve at best, boring at worst — and yet I like people who look beyond themselves.  I like people who can write or at least express themselves well, but I don’t necessarily like writers. (But of course, I would never correct bad grammar. A friend once sent a love letter to her fiancé oversees, and he returned it with corrections in red. They still got married, but it didn’t last long.) I like people who are intelligent and think of more than their motorcycles or other toys, but I don’t particularly want to have deep conversations with them. I don’t like perfectly toned people (I actually find six-packs unattractive, which isn’t a problem since so few men of my age — or any age — have them), but I don’t like huge bellies, either.

Worst of all, when I am with someone, I like to be the center of their attention (and make them the center of my attention). I don’t like competing with pets and children, phones and televisions. This might seem selfish of me, but it’s not much of a relationship if one of the people can’t find time to pay attention to the other. The problem is that it’s almost impossible any more to find people who can focus their attention, and I don’t want to waste a minute of my life dumbly watching my companion having a relationship with a smartphone.

I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m sitting here alone tonight, but the truth is, I’m way past the stage of wanting to compromise. One woman I know who joined a dating site at an advanced aged could only get dates if she downplayed her intelligence, lopped a few years off her age, and posted a younger photo of herself. (Sheesh. We haven’t come far at all if women still have to play the “stupid” game to keep from intimidating the men.)

I suppose, if I really wanted to meet someone, I could fudge my statistics, but I am what I am, or rather, what I am becoming, and there’s no reason to hide it.

Besides, I don’t particularly like shopping for anything on the internet.

***

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.

Online dating sites: Truth and Surmise

I signed up for an online dating site, not to look for a lifetime partner or even a serious relationship, but to see if I could meet people and maybe make friends. Although I am doing well 45 months after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I am still plagued by loneliness, and I thought it would be fun to have someone to go out with. There are so many things I haven’t done. During the early years with my deceased mate, we concentrated on building a business, and during the later years, we had to contend with ill his health and the ensuing financial restraints.

dancingMy wants are minor — maybe go bowling or dancing, play miniature golf, go on a picnic or for a drive to the beach (after we get to know each other! I’m not about to get in a car with someone I recently met online). I’m not looking for a deep thinker, a romantic partner, or someone to pamper me. Nor am I looking for someone whose lifestyle will mesh with mine — after all, I’m still looking after my almost 97-year-old father, and have an early curfew. (He doesn’t mind being alone during the day but is nervous about being alone at night.)

I went into the experience planning to do whatever I could to meet people. To that end, I sent about 50 charming messages to local men around my age who said interesting things on their profiles. I got two monosyllabic responses and one argumentative one. (I didn’t understand that. I only mentioned what was on his profile. How can he argue with what he himself had said?)

Even the men who posted on their profiles that they would respond to anyone who messaged them didn’t respond.

When I mentioned this experience to a friend, she sheepishly admitted that she too had joined a dating site, and even before she posted a photo or filled out any of the information, she was inundated with messages — from women. Turns out that she’d somehow signed up as a male.

This made me wonder about the ratio of women to men on such sites. By my lack of connections and my friend’s great number of messages and flirts (flirts are like “like”s on Facebook, but if you click “send a flirt,” the site sends messages that say you’re interested in that person), I assumed the ratio would be 10:1. Ten women to one man. In fact, the sites are fairly even in their numbers, with men slightly outnumbering women. At least that’s what the various sites profess. According to one comment I found on the article What Is the Ratio of Men to Women on Dating Sites?, the real ratio of men to women is 4:1, which is a closely guarded secret, because if men knew how much the dice is loaded against them they would not bother signing up. To keep the numbers balanced, some sites kept women on the books after their subscription had run out.

Further research indicates that some of the best-looking folks on the site are generated by the site itself, which makes sense, especially on the sites for older people. In their forties and fifties, men tend to look better than women, but after sixty, men seem to age much more quickly. I realize this is an unfair assessment, and might be false, but the truth is, the men who look as if they were around my age turn out to be ten to fifteen years younger. The ones my age look ten to fifteen years older, perhaps because of all that wind in their face because of motorcycle riding. (Almost all of the men whose profiles I checked out had a photo of themselves posed by a motorcycle. Figuring that turn about was fair play, I posted a photo of me and my car.)

Since men tend to be the ones to initiate a contact, supposedly women’s inboxes generally have more messages than men’s do. If this were true, you’d think the men would see my messages. But here’s another kicker: Most of the paid subscription sites let you sign up for free. You can set up a profile and even look at photos, but anything more than that, you have to pay for. Another friend signed up for the free version of the same site I am on to help me look for possible matches, and even with a blank profile (except for my age and location), she has several messages and flirts. We can only figure that these messages are generated by the site to pique her curiosity and get her to sign up.

The truth is, the sites do not indicate whether the people you see even subscribe to the site. I could be sending messages to a) people who don’t exist or b) people who can never see the messages since they didn’t pay.

Online dating is big business. As of June 18, 2013, online dating generates revenues of $1,049,000,000 each year. Yep. All those zeros. More than a billion dollars every year.

There are 54 million singles in the USA, and 40 million who have tried online dating. (40,000,001 if you include me.)

And here’s another truth according to Statistic Brain:

A woman’s desirability online peaks at 21
At 26, Women have more online pursuers than men
By 48, Men have twice as many online pursuers as Women

Which is probably why, on a site geared to people older than 50, you can sign up as young as 18.

To be honest, I don’t know what all this means. Some people do find love online. Most people probably don’t but won’t admit it. Who (besides me) is willing to tell the world that she signed up for a dating site and got not a single date? (I know four women my age who signed up. One went on a date, had fun, but the guy shied away afterward. Another woman got one date after six months, but when she talked to him on the phone, she ended up cancelling their date because she couldn’t stand him. Two others didn’t get any dates at all.)

I still have 158 days left on my paid subscription, so I’ll let you know what if anything happens in the next 5 months.

***

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.

Grief and Imagining the Unimaginable

My grief upsurge on Christmas took me by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. I already knew that grief doesn’t stay gone. I can be fine, even happy, ready to take charge of my life, but sometimes when I embrace the future I suddenly find myself falling back into grief because every step forward takes me further away from the one I love. And each of those steps has to be mourned.

I thought signing up for a dating site would be one of those steps, but although the decision was hard — it took one entire sleepless night — it didn’t bring me grief, perhaps because I’m not looking for a serious relationship. I did think it would be fun to meet people, maybe go on a few dates, but the site turned out to be anticlimactic. Nothing has come of my fishing in the online dating pool. Not a single date. Not even a real message or connection, which I find strange. I frequently make connections over the internet. All sorts of interesting people find their way to me online. Many of my offline friends were once solely online friends. Many other online friends will one day become offline friends when we finally meet in person. And yet, on a site geared to bringing people together, I can’t make a single connection.

Still, I don’t feel bad about spending the money. The important thing for me was to make the decision. I could never imagine myself doing such a thing as online dating, and that is why, in the end, I signed up. As William Arthur Ward wrote, “If you can imagine it, you can dream it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” It’s not so much that I want to dream about meeting someone. I just need to practice imagining the unimaginable so that perhaps someday I can dream a wondrous future for myself, or maybe even dream a better me.

I thought making the decision to join would be the tough part, but the most difficult thing has been making an effort to answer the site’s questions about what I am looking for in a friend/date. The questions remind me that I once had what I was looking for. Remind me that I’m taking one more step away from him and our life together. Remind me that I am alone.

And so it should have come as no surprise that grief visited me once again.

Eventually, perhaps, I will be so far away from him that any additional steps will cease to be a cause for mourning. But there will always be things to mourn. I talked to a woman today whose husband died eight years ago, and though she has a fulfilling life, she still has times of grief, especially around Christmas, his birthday, their anniversary.

I don’t mind anymore that grief doesn’t stay gone. In fact, I welcome the tears when they come because they connect me to a time that is rapidly receding from me. I worry that I’m forgetting him and our life together, forgetting the sound of his voice, forgetting even what he looked like, and grief helps me remember that once I loved immeasurably.

Even though we want to hurry through grief as fast as possible, grief is important. It helps us grow beyond who we are, helps stretch us beyond what we can accept. Maybe even helps us imagine the unimaginable.

Grief took me somewhere deep inside that I didn’t know existed. I never imagined there could be such pain. If there is something so awesomely painful as grief hiding in us, ready for the right catalyst to bring it to the surface, it seems to me there could be other unimaginable states — wondrous states — that need a catalyst to bring them out. This is the thought I hold on to, and who knows — it might even be true.

***

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.

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.

***

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!”

***

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.