Adventures on Match.com
In the winter of 2017, I signed on with Match.com. You may wonder: what possessed me? I had been a widow for over a year. Ours was a difficult marriage, yet John and I stayed together for over 36 years until death parted us. I was determined to keep my memories of him true. Even in my grief I held onto his irascible personality, his insistence on having his way in matters large and small, the sense that I was always trying to please him but seldom succeeding.
At the same time, I remembered our good times and struggled to get used to a world without him. Grief came in waves, sometimes knocking the breath from me. I missed being part of a couple.
In the Match profile I wrote, I emphasized what I was looking for: a companion for museums, films, dinner, and hiking. I sought a fellow reader, a man who appreciated the arts and nature. I was looking for what I had enjoyed about John, a true Renaissance man.
I am a writer with a busy life, a lot of friends, close family ties, and no financial worries—how fortunate I am. Why did I want another relationship with a man? Often my marriage had felt like a choke collar around my neck. At last I was on my own and free to please only myself. Freedom, freedom, freedom!
Still I went through Match photographs of men aged 65-72 and checked whether I liked their profiles. I teach writing and believe the way people write illuminates their personalities. I did close readings of what they had written about themselves. Men emailed me; I emailed them back. I sought a widower, a man who would understand great loss and its residue of grief that lingers forever.
After six months I tabulated my results. I went out with 17 guys. This number does not include the two men I still see, Pierre and Max. (All names have been changed.) I knew Pierre from before. When I saw his photo in my daily Matches, I called him, and we yucked about our similar situations. Since then Pierre and I have hiked the C&O Canal countless times and breakfasted at our favorite European café in Georgetown. We are both writers and readers of fiction, so we have a lot in common. Now Pierre is a close friend, and for that I credit Match.
Nor do the 17 guys include my darling Max. More about him later.
Over the course of 6 months, I went on 39 dates with the 17. 10 of those dates I spent with cute charming Rex. His dazzling array of fancy cars would wow most women. At our first meeting, he told me about his girl friend in Florida, where he spends half his time. Rex was honest; I’ll give him that and unlike anyone I had met. His world is one of casinos, strip clubs, and lap dances. Rex squeezed in time for me during weekdays and was good for a hike, a film, a late lunch. Not surprisingly, he isn’t a reader or art lover. From his life story, I gleaned he’s never been faithful to any woman. While Rex was with his Florida lady, he would text me, telling me he missed me. The consummate player, Rex would have been perfect if I sought to be part of an entourage or a harem. But I aspire to neither.
One of the many terrific things about Match: there’s no couples’ counseling. Hurray! If it doesn’t work out on the first date or the tenth, no need to go into the reasons why. I wished Rex the best and moved on.
The next runner-up in terms of dates was Tom, a high-powered professional I went out with six times. He was tall and lanky and sweet, always complimenting me on my appearance. Our second date was at the National Gallery’s restaurant where we sat for hours and talked. We met at movies and went to church, both of us interested in Presbyterianism. But Tom’s wife had died less than a year earlier. I told him he might not be ready for a relationship, but he assured me he was. He cried often, which I did not mind. I found his tears healing. I told him about the helpful counseling I received through the hospice, where John died. But Tom claimed to be too busy for this. Yet when he began to talk of his wife leaving him messages and his going to a medium to contact her, I had to bail.
Don had been an Air Force pilot and told me on our first meeting that he was “a gun guy.” I should have taken his words to heart. This is a problem with me. If I was attracted to the guy, my mind glazed over uncomfortable facts. I am not a gun person, so when Don lifted his polo shirt on our fifth date and showed me the gun strapped to his waist, I knew I never wanted to see him again. He assured me he had a permit for it. I found myself nodding. The next time I heard from him, I told him I had met someone and wished him the best.
Greg was a retired college administrator. I had been an appointment to the faculty of a university and imagined we had this in common. He was divorced and bitter, but so good-looking I overlooked his cynicism on our first two dates. We were on the Mall, eating lunch from a food truck when he went into a 20 minute rant about why he didn’t vote; the system was rigged; the apocalypse imminent, etc. Later he asked me to dinner at his condo and told me to come prepared to “stay the night.” He said the last woman who came to dinner had stayed three days. “You must be a really good cook,” I said. After he suggested some kinky things we could do, I decided that maybe the lady who came to dinner had been chained and only managed to get free after three days. I colored him creepy and walked away without wishing him the best.
The rest of the men I met were two-dates or one-offs. All seemed like nice guys, but I felt no chemistry with them, and I believe this feeling was mutual.
And then there is Max, my darling New Yorker. The irony about Max: he is the first man I met through Match. I could have stopped with him, but I didn’t know in February what I know now: Max is wonderful. We went out for a while then split up. This was my fault. By the time we got back together, I recognized how much we have in common. We both love art and classical music. A thoughtful museum exhibit and dinner to talk about what we saw is our perfect evening. I don’t know where we’re going, but we’re having fun.
Match.com and other online dating services are the way many people meet today. It’s not perfect. Too much rides on appearance. And in cyberspace people can pretend to be what they are not. One must be careful. Early meetings should be in public places and as brief as possible. Meeting for coffee is better than having lunch that can linger. I always paid my part or more of the check, not wanting to feel obligated or in anyone’s debt. The meeting process is a time suck and often disappointing. I felt like a miner panning for gold, but in the end I came up with two nuggets, finding both a friend and a lover.