I relate this anecdote to my best girlfriend, Chris. “Isn’t that sweet? Seven years old and she’s trying to find me a husband.”
“Are you going to try it?” asks Chris.
Online dating? Me? Pfffffft. That’s for the socially inept, the chronically unattractive, the desperate — not me.
On a cold March night, one year post-divorce, I am dateless and mateless. I’m 40 and desperate. I play "Words With Friends" on Facebook and pretend it’s a legitimate social life.
A Match.com ad appears on my screen. Photos of guys who look like catalog models cascade down my screen. “Available!” and “Look for free!” the copy teases. I double-click.
My Match preview is discouraging. The catalog models are nowhere to be found. The men I do find convince me I’m not exactly a man magnet. I’m allergic to the outdoors and sports. I’m not a Motorcycle Mama — I prefer a bike that I have to pedal. I read books because I want to; I write because I love it. And I hate beer. I just might be undateable.
I join anyway.
My first group of “top matches” arrives in my inbox the next morning. Several have copious facial hair — yuck. Others have usernames like Brewman69 and TrailerTrash1. Double and triple yuck.
After two weeks, I finally get a match I’m excited about. He’s 43, a music teacher, a part-time pro athlete and father of one. In other words, he’s mature, artistic, cultured, physically fit, disciplined and good with kids. He’s clean-shaven and he doesn’t drink alcohol, ever. Perfect.
We arrange a lunch date for the following Friday. I’m 10 minutes early, but Greg is already waiting for me outside the restaurant. Ding-ding. He opens the door, pulls out my chair, helps me out of my jacket. Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.
It’s 1 p.m. — lunchtime rush. I wear hearing aids. In a crowded, chaotic environment, they’re amplifiers for every background noise — whispered words or blaring bells; any conversation I actually want to hear is drowned out. To hear Greg over the rave in my ears, I have to lean across the table so my boobs are on my plate and stare at his lips. What nice lips they are, too. Elvis lips. His sleepy, sensual, green eyes are hypnotic.
Greg is training for competition, so he’s eating a salad and drinking ice water. I abashedly chew my triple-cheese-and-bacon burger and sip my pop. It isn’t even diet. I hate diet.
Despite the din, we manage to talk about our kids, our jobs (or lack thereof, in my case) and music. It seems like minutes, but at exactly an hour, Greg’s phone beeps and he jumps up.
“Gotta go," he says. "Errands to run before my next student.”
My stomach sinks. I haven’t had nearly enough time to gauge our compatibility.
“Can we go someplace quieter? Talk some more?” I venture. Where did that come from? I hope I don’t sound desperate.
“Sorry. I want to get to TJ Maxx before my next lesson. They have bracelets on sale.”
Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m being rebuffed for discount-store jewelry?
Despite his big hurry to snag a bracelet bargain, Greg walks me to my car, hugs me and says, “I’m gonna give you a kiss.” I give him my cheek. I’m not lip-kissing anyone I’ve known for exactly an hour, especially if that someone would rather shop for man jewelry than spend time with me.
He opens my car door for me. “I really want to see you again. I’ll be calling you,” he says.
Six days later, he hasn’t called. “He’s training,” Chris says. “He’ll call. Just be patient.”
Yeah, right. Chris once sent a text to a guy that said, “I’m sorry your fingers are broken and you can’t call. Hope they heal soon.”
Once Greg and I agreed on a date, I automatically rejected other Match suitors with a standard e-mail: “Thank you for your interest, but I’ve decided to go with a candidate who more closely fits my qualifications. Good luck.”
While I’m waiting for Greg’s call, I get a Match message from a man I don’t immediately reject. Marty’s older than I’d like and he has more kids than I’d like. But I decide to wait before sending the "no thank you" e-mail.
Greg never calls. He e-mails. He says he loves that I’m skinny, but he’s dated so many great girls recently that he’s struggling to narrow his choices. He hopes I’m cool with that.
I immediately compose a reply — to Marty. I’m thrilled when he asks me to dinner.
— By Kelly O'Toole, Tribune community columnist