Hi, everyone. How’s 2017 treatin’ you? Yeah, I know. A lot of it is too much to bear. I find myself oscillating between outrage and despondency, lately, with an undercurrent of terror throughout. I’m working on being as kind as I can to everyone I meet, and being as active as I can in letting our politicians know how much we’re depending on them to not drive this ship any deeper onto the iceberg. I’ll admit that my timing of what I’m about to tell you is a bit odd, given the state of our Union right now. But what is Languishing if not odd? It’s a long story, and I totally understand if you’re too distraught to read. But there’s a cute photo at the end.
The day before the inauguration, I was out with my friends, Sara and Diana, and decided the time had come to finally put my okCupid profile online. I’d been working on it in the months before, but was pretty frightened to go live with it: as you know, Languishing’s life is full of teaching and parenting and dogs and root beer floats. Who has time for more than that? But I remember my friend Tyler saying years ago, at Chad and Rachel’s wedding, that online dating was really pretty great, and he thought everyone should try it. Plus, I was feeling a little, well, lonesome on my weekends without V. Finding myself a gentleman caller with whom to attend movies or have an occasional dinner seemed like an okay idea.
So on January 19, okCupid lit up with my adorable photos and a carefully worded introduction. They have a feature sort of like Tinder (the swipe left/right thing), so once it was live, we could look at the matches the site suggested for me.
My third match was the ex-Mr. Languishing.
How awkward, right? Plus I was having serious doubts about whatever algorithm was being used, since he and I clearly were not 81% compatible, or we wouldn’t’ve divorced each other. But we pressed on, read a few profiles, gasped at a few terrible photos, and enjoyed the rest of our evening.
That night I found I had about fifteen messages from interested fellas. Most of them said things like “Hi” or “Hello.” A few went further, with “Your pretty” or “Nice picture.” If I had hoped to attract poets, I clearly was failing. Several others got right to the point, including the charming “Hook up?” I looked through their profiles, responded to any that looked remotely interesting, and wondered what on earth I’d gotten myself into.
The next morning I had seven more messages. They included similar themes from the love letters the night before, but also included a couple guys who are in open marriages, and one 20 year old who looks young enough to be my son. One guy from the night before had written back to me. He listed “music” as all six of the things he couldn’t live without, so I asked him what he loved most right now. He said “I can’t answer that. But ask me what I hate, then we’ve got a discussion.” I was game, since he had written two complete sentences. So I said “Okay. What do you hate?” He wrote back “GnR. God, I hate them.” Okay. Way to open up the floodgates of communication, fella.
Now I know not everyone is a communication or writing instructor, but these guys were making it really, really difficult. One guy, who had answered 1200 of the questions (you don’t have to answer them all. In fact, I think the minimum is something like 20). He looked promising, with a big beard (Shut up. I have a type) and a wide smile. I wrote him a thoughtful, funny message, and he said “Wanna come over and fool around?” Um, no.
After the first two days it started to feel like I was volunteering for catcalling. A lot of the men on okCupid seemed to like my boobs, which, while flattering, wasn’t enough to get me companionship to the movies.
On the 21st, I got a brief, sweet message from someone who had clearly read my profile. He even quoted me back to myself, and his punctuation was perfect. His name was Dan. I looked at his profile photo, and thought he was kinda cute, for a non-bearded, not-my-type, kinda-looks-like-a-jock sort. He hadn’t answered many questions, though, and mentioned, among other things, that he enjoyed sex in his profile. While I appreciated his honesty, and actually enjoy sex myself, as far as I can remember, I was beginning to suspect sex was already foremost in the mind of every other guy who had written to me: I didn’t need someone who came right out and said it in his profile, for crying out loud. Why does no one say “I wanna take you to dinner and a movie”?
One guy played a long game and sent me a message four mornings in a row that said “Hi.” Then, despite me not having answered him at all, he mixed it up on the fifth morning and said “Sex.”
By this time, I was getting a little weary. If I tried to engage men in conversation, most of them just wrote like 14 year old boys. One guy sent me three different phone numbers where I could reach him, but two of them weren’t actually phone numbers: 45-87623987, for example. A man from Egypt told me he thought I was his soul mate. A guy in New Zealand called me a beautiful goddess. And a man in Italy asked if I liked to travel. Which is all very sweet, but none of this is getting me a date to the movies!
I reconvened with Sara. She said I was being too picky, and should write to the fellow from the 21st who had mentioned sex in his profile. “At least you know he can write a few sentences,” she pointed out. So on January 25, I wrote a short response. I said “Thanks for your thoughtful message. and for reading my profile. I read yours, too… Are you just here for sex?” He wrote back several hours later, with “In large part, yes. Does that interest you?” So I said “Not really. But best of luck to you!” And thought that was that. I was on my way to tell Sara she’d been wrong, when I got another message from Dan.”Thank you. I’d like to get to know you a little, anyway. I’m also just looking to meet interesting women.” Sara pointed out that while he had said “sex” in his profile, he’d also said “conversation.” The other 60 or so men who’d written to me had all had typical profiles (85% listed “cuddling” as a favorite activity), but could only message about sex. This guy had an unusually straightforward profile, but seemed to be coherent enough to at least hold a conversation. Still, I was feeling a bit superior, what with my not-only-looking-for-sex moral high ground. So I wrote back what I was certain would be our last message. I said “Sure. I’ve been divorced for two years, and I have a collection of various doll heads from which I occasionally make sculptures.”
You know, gentle readers, that both those things are true.
To my astonishment, he didn’t appear to blink an eye, and wrote to tell me that he’s written two novels and some poems….and I told him I have an MFA….and we talked about movies and gender studies. We didn’t talk about sex, but instead about all sorts of other things, albeit in a flirty manner; before I knew it, we’d scheduled to meet at a coffee shop in Moorhead. Monday the 30th, just five days after I first wrote to him, I waited nervously in Starbucks.
Those of you who’ve never done online dating, this is how it goes, people. I mean, you can keep writing to people online indefinitely, but the best use of online dating sites is to get out into the world, meet people face to face, and see if there’s a connection there. You can get some sense of a person through online chatting or talking on the phone, but it’s just best to meet. If there’s no chemistry, you haven’t wasted weeks or months building a dream date that doesn’t exist.
Lucky for me, he was right on time, he smelled really good, and I liked him instantly. I brought him a copy of As I Lay Dying, my favorite Faulkner novel. He brought me a copy of his first book. We were both shy and awkward, clearly a first date in a coffee shop full of college-aged people.
But we definitely clicked. Later, we exchanged a few kisses in my car, and planned to have a second date the following week. That date, too, was fun, and tender, and very good. I called my sister to tell her I’d met someone who thinks I’m beautiful and brilliant. “He obviously has mental health issues,” she said. Because she is my sister and she is mean, and thinks anyone who thinks I’m awesome must be a little crazy. He has two kids, younger than V, who stay with him every other weekend. He likes dogs.
Most evenings in between dates we chat online for at least an hour or two. Sometimes more. V knows I’m seeing a guy named Dan, but we are still months away from a “meet the kids” sort of date. Dating with kids is complicated, y’all. We are taking it slow, enjoying lovely moments together, getting to know each other.
I have no illusion of happily ever afters outside of Disney movies, nor do I pretend to know the future. But I am having so much fun getting to know this smart, funny, kind man. He makes me want to read poetry again, and listen to music I forgot I loved. We haven’t even been to the movies together yet, but I can hardly wait.