When you're busy having your children, you're too tired to self-reflect or feel anything other than exhausted and blissful at times, and overwhelmed at others. Watching a 20-year relationship crumble over the course of a few years and owning that failure also makes it impossible to reach calm contentment.
But, at long last, I am here. Life is pretty good. I can spend my weekends completely alone, and not fall into "the lonely funk." With that said, I also often fill my kid-free time with friends and fun, and that's great too.
So, it seemed really the ideal time to jump back into trying to date. My last relationship had ended about six months prior, and I took the time to just "be" for awhile. I truly did not want to date over that time at all. And, now, suddenly, I realized that I was ready to get back out there.
Diving into a free online dating site was necessary, because I was trying to keep focus on the financial strides that I've made in learning how to budget for myself. And, I'd had many friends try one particular site with fairly good luck. So, why not? Right?
What I have learned from this past month is that free online dating sites are a wacky, weird place. Scary at times even. And, you have to be smart, as a woman out there. Online dating "street" smarts develop quickly, fortunately.
My first batch of online messages that came in on the site were peppered with the cheesy lines that I expected. "Hey, sexy thang..." and "Your eyes speak to me" were among the eye roll inducing messages that I got, and to which I never replied. I am sorry, but I am not interested in a quick hookup, and the fastest way to make me delete your messages is with a cheesy line. Right now, my favorite profile summary line that I've seen simply contained the word, "Merp."
Yes, "merp" summarizes online dating and meeting people blindly for me. It's very "merpish." (Go look it up on Urban Dictionary if you aren't up on this term.)
But, what I did not expect from the early messages were the large percentage of ones from very young men--some of which looked not much older than my own 13-year-old son. Some tried to fake being older, with profiles saying they were 38, when clearly they were maybe 22 at best. Others were very direct with their requests,"I'm into older women. Do you like younger guys?" At first, it was funny. After getting a huge amount of these, I actually became somewhat disturbed.
So, there was that eye-opening bit of loveliness. As a mother of a teen son, I am now educated about this world and I can have a very frank discussion with my son about what NOT to do online.
But, also? Having dated someone seven years younger than me right after divorce, I learned some things about about younger men and have some certainty that, for the most part, I am not interested in going that much younger than 40 for a potential date/future partner. Falling for someone who doesn't yet know who they are or where they want to be in life, can be a painful experience, when you are are in a different place in your life.
But, what do the 40s bring to the table in terms of potential dates?
Well, it turns out they bring a whole lot of baggage. Baggage of every shape and size, in every possible pattern and color. Pardon my crassness when I say, holy HELL, is dating in the 40s complicated!
First, there are the flakes.. I have had more great conversations with guys over the dating site, to then have them just disappear randomly. Guys make a great joke or tell you how great you are, then just completely vanish. After speaking with a single guy friend of mine, I know that this phenomenon isn't just a man thing. Women are equally flaky and do the same thing, apparently.
I have to wonder if there is a bit of the "Seinfeld syndrome" going on out there, in single and 40's dating-land. I was huge fan of this show, but now that I am single, I almost think buying the box set and going back and watching each episode would be very eye-opening with my new perspective on life as a single. One thing that I do remember was that the characters on this show were all single, and each seemed to find something wrong with every person they tried to date.
I have to watch my own self with this as well:
"Well, he seems nice, but he keeps misspelling 'too' and 'to.' Can I, as a writer, really date this person?"I really am not that critical of a person, and I have said these things. But, the problem with online dating is that you are bombarded with a ton of profiles. How else do you single out the ones you are interested in, if you do not become somewhat critical and choosy?"
"Seriously, he has a bathroom mirror smart phone photo on his profile? I can't work with that."
"Shirtless photo? Um, no." (Same for the Ed Hardy tee, dude.)
I have also learned the importance of a phone call before you meet someone. However, you have to hold off on giving out your number too soon as well, to weed out the "playas." In fact, one of my errands today will be to buy a cheap prepaid phone, to avoid that whole dilemma in the future.
The worst part of it all, is never knowing if you're playing the online dating game with the right set of rules. There are so many different opinions out there. Case in point:
- Women should play hard to get, as men like a challenge and you will weed out the time wasters if you do. After all, if he really likes you, he will pursue you.
- You need to be approachable, because men can't tell if you are interested otherwise. Be friendly and interested, always. Remember you are competing with some really desperate/man-chasing types, so you have to give the guy SOME hint that you are interested.
I have other stories that I could tell on this online dating experience, and I probably will share more soon. But, for now, I can say that my heart does go out to anyone who finds themselves older, single, and trying to "mingle." Because it is a weird world out there.
I realized that, the best I can hope for, is to rely on my solid gut instinct and hope that God continues to watch over me as I commute on the online dating freeways. There are bound to be some jams and frustrating detours along the way. Some times where I just laugh at the absurdity of it all. Most of all, I have to focus on the thankfulness that I feel to be in a place emotionally where I can now roll with things and see where they take me--without fear of ending up stranded in a ditch and down.
So, bring it, single guys. Let me see that baggage and see if it mixes with my own!
To be continued...