Yogi: So what are you up to tonight Amelia?
Me: Oh, probably hanging with Frankie on the beach and then staying in for a movie.
Yogi: How long have you and Frankie been together?
Me: Seven years. It’s hard to believe. Time flies.
Yogi: Wow, the seven year itch . . .that’s quite a milestone in a marriage.
Me: (Totally mortified now realizing this yogi thinks my dog is my spouse and further realizing that I talk about my dog like he’s my spouse.) . . . um, yep.
This conversation nudges me, rather violently thrusts me, into the world of online dating. One of my dear friends, Sarah, met the love of her life and soon-to-be husband on a popular online dating site, so I think at least I can find a date or two. I visit lovetownusa.com (ok, not the real name of the website just in case there is really a lovetownusa.com and it’s a disreputable, vulgar “dating” service) and take the bazillion question survey that guarantees I will find the love of my life. Honestly, it takes me three weeks to complete it. Once I finish it, I have the lovely fortune of receiving my “unique personality profile.” In addition to including multiple blanket statements about all my fabulous qualities, it also lets me know about my following “growth edges”:
- Others might be afraid of your “new-fangled” thoughts. (Please send me a comment if anything on this blog appears “new-fangled.”)
- Some people may think you’re wound too tightly and may secretly want to see you lose control or relax a little bit. (Ok, maybe there is some merit to this one given I am a recovering perfectionist. However, I have thrown some very wild living room dance parties in my day . . . maybe I will actually invite others to join me at some point.)
- Some people may be threatened by your openness or find you too much to compete with. (Seriously, why would someone with three graduate degrees be too much to compete with? Did I mention I won a Nobel Prize?)
- People who spend most of their time on themselves may feel embarrassed around you. (Ok, this one means I am super nice. . .and I certainly hope narcissists feel embarrassed for talking about themselves too much around me.)
Yep, reading through these sparkling qualities certainly instills a sense of confidence as I create my profile and upload pictures for male “it will take less than three seconds to determine if you are worth clicking on” scrutiny. Yuck, yuck . . . vulnerability forms a lump in my throat . . . AND prevents me from activating this profile for three months. . . The many crazy book recommendations (e.g. Why Men Marry Bitches, Date Like a Man, and How to Get the Guy) and advice (e.g., don’t tell men what I do for a living, consider freezing my eggs) from well-intentioned folks certainly do not help either.
I decide to take a leap and activate my profile as the calendar speeds forward to “singles awareness day” (aka Valentine’s Day). I upload the lovetownusa.com app to my phone and make the brilliant decision to accept push notifications. Then . . . (insert crickets chirping) . . . absolutely nothing for two days. My worst fears confirmed . . . I am divorced and now undateable . . .I will grow into the elderly woman who dresses her dog in tutus and sunglasses and pushes him around in a dog carriage . . .at least I don’t have to worry about cleaning my apartment or making sure I own cute underwear . . . it’s all over now. . .
Then, I wake up to seven notifications on my phone . . . Jason sent you a smile, Rick, Richard, Ryan, Jeff, Jeffery and Geof want to get to know you better. Instead of jumping up and down like a squealing middle school girl, I feel utterly overwhelmed. I look at Jason’s profile and the thought of going through five more feels like drudgery. How do I keep these men straight in my head? Lovetownusa.com also has the lovely feature of showing you all the people who decided to look at your profile and NOT communicate with you. Why in the hell do I need to know this fact? What purpose does this serve? Enlighten me. I delete the app from my phone, go about my day, go to bed and wake up at 4am with a vulnerability hangover. Brene Brown, vulnerability and shame researcher, made this term famous in her second TED talk. According to dictionary.com, when something is vulnerable it is capable of being wounded or hurt. After going through an intensely painful divorce, entering the world of online dating renders me vulnerable. I call Sarah for support.
Me: I just earned an F in online dating.
Sarah: There are no grades in online dating, unless you found a dating site with which I am unfamiliar.
Me: Is there a way I can do this without being vulnerable? My head hurts. Do you have a cure for a vulnerability hangover?
Sarah: Yes, do that which you fear.
Me: You mean I actually have to communicate with some of these men?
Sarah: Yes or you can just hole up in your apartment with Frankie.
Me: Frankie is safer.
Sarah: True, but Frankie also licks his feet and his butt.
Me: Good point. I will respond to some of these men.
Sarah: You should also reach out to some of your matches.
Me: Seriously? This is so much work . . . I think I would rather go back to middle school and be a wallflower.
Sarah: Hang in there sweetie. I am really proud of you. It takes a ton of courage to step back out there again when you suffered a deep and excruciatingly painful heart break. Take it at your own pace.
Me: Thank you. I love you.
Sarah: Love you too.
I start responding to these men. Lovetownusa.com requires users to go through several levels of “piloted communication” before delving into the world of email. Slowly I find myself getting excited about some of the conversations, thinking I might meet some nice guys . . . it’s fun getting to know new people . . . until one just abruptly stops communicating with you! Unlike a totally normal and rational person, the recovering perfectionist in me tries to personalize my first “email drop.” I try to challenge her critical voice by coming up with perfectly plausible reasons why he stopped emailing me such as . . .
- He got trapped under a heavy object and is doing everything possible in his power to reach his computer to email me back.
- He was kidnapped by aliens.
- He hit his head and completely lost his memory.
- He contracted a flesh-eating virus.
- He witnessed a horrible crime and entered the witness protection program.
- He realized we may be distant cousins . . . two fair-skinned, red-headed, very attractive people . . .it could happen.
- He was killed in a zombie apocalypse.
- The possibilities are endless . . .
I also must cope with being asked on dates! In my neurotic online dating state, I neglect to contemplate what I might do if one of these guys actually asked me out. I initially respond by saying things like, “Thank you so much for your interest in my profile. It’s been fun getting to know you but I think I’m not the best fit for you. I think we’re in very different places right now” (i.e., I’m neurotic and you’re not). Or “I would love to keep getting to know you via email before connecting in person” (this response was often met with an email drop.)
I need a break from lovetownusa.com and decide to turn off new matches while I travel to Texas to attend Sarah’s engagement party. I keep communicating via email with three men and this load feels manageable. Communicating with two of the men feels like “work”; however, I have fun communicating with one of them. He invites me to meet up for drinks to which I agree, then I delay for a week with a lame excuse about a cold and work conflict. However, I realize curling up with Frankie on the couch, while comfy, has minimal power in decreasing my vulnerability hangover. The only cure is to . . . Go.On.The.Date!
In consultation with my fashionista co-worker, I decide on an outfit, get dressed, do the hair and make up thing, hop into my car and head to a swanky downtown bar to meet my date. I step into the elevator and push the button for the bar level, the door opens, I step out, and I see him at the bar. I walk up, extend my hand and say, “Hi, I’m Amelia.” . . . My vulnerability hangover begins to subside. . .
To Be Continued. . .(What can I say? I have to leave ya’ll hanging so you’ll come back to my blog.)