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Diddling around the edges of online dating

I folded myself into the cradle of my gray-blue recliner with my laptop resting on a pillow on my thighs. I developed a ritual. Open the curtains, open the shades, settle in with my hot cup of coffee, and begin scrolling. 

For months after posting my dating profile, I picked through online profiles of potential companions without ever “liking” one. I felt a swell of anxiety every time I thought about taking the next step with any of these men. These were people with wants and needs…just like mine. Was I ready to consider a reciprocal relationship?

Letting go of my husband

I had spent the last 4 years caring for my husband as his disease progressed. I made sure that he was fed, bathed, and loved. Robert had been difficult to corral. An extremely social person, he was happiest when he was out in the neighborhood, greeting neighbors and making new acquaintances (or the same ones as yesterday, but new to him today). 

For the most part, people were kind and understanding of his altered mental state, but some were not. bvFTD is typified by inappropriate social behavior and lack of judgment. Robert exhibited these traits in abundance. I could not keep up. Now he was living at Daylight Assisted Living and Memory Care, and his social interactions were circumscribed by the handful of aides assigned to him on their daily rounds. 

My welfare was another matter

What Robert was unable to provide, and what I was desperate to enjoy, were moments of quiet reflection just the two of us sitting in parallel enjoying a sunset, marveling in concert. I would have enjoyed an earnest conversation about our kids and our dreams for their futures.

And intellectual connection. I would have been overjoyed if we’d been able to have a productive discussion about our finances. Oh, a laugh would have been so spectacular; a window thrown open to the colorful world outside the drab grey box I lived in. But laughter is born of surprise. There were no surprises in my life. Hemmed in by solitary duty and worry, I was lonely. 

Anxiety is not an attractive attribute. I knew instinctively, that if I presented myself as I felt, there would be no takers. So I faltered in my quest to reach out. Not at all confident that I could hold up my end of a conversation, I declined to “like” anyone. I tagged profiles for “careful consideration” and the next morning, I’d unsave them and start my search anew. 

Assessing the “likes”

The few likes coming my way are sort of beside the point, but I’ll digress for a moment and lament the fact that most people don’t read. My profile included a note that I don’t drink, but don’t mind if my companion occasionally imbibes. Apparently, this is translated as “I’d like to watch you drink in a dark bar all day.” I was invited to join one man at Jesse’s Hot Roof Bar tucked into the corner of a remote highway turn-off. There is no there there. Only booze and a drunken car ride home. Another offered to share the delights of a BLT at The Mules Rage Bar and Grill while we watched hockey on the over-the-bar TV.

I guess when you’re a heavy drinker, you don’t understand what it means to be sober. Drunken, slurry diatribes are one of my least favorite conversational adventures. Who cares what you’re going on about tonight? You won’t remember your rant in the morning anyway.

Or how about the guy who insists he’ll seem more interesting than he is by changing his profile name from Lewis to Theo? Seriously? Did you think I’d never find out? (This happened. I replied to a note of interest from Theo, only to hear back from Lewis. Which is it, dude?)

I must be doing this wrong

Surely people knew a better way to approach online dating.

I reached out to Marissa-Kate, a friend who’d had some luck meeting sincere, approachable men. How did she handle likes? Did she wait until the men reached out to her? Did she pin only those men who passed muster after several days of consideration? 

“Just like away!” she said. “You might not meet the companion you’re after, but you might just make a good friend.”

She made it all sound so simple! 

I took her advice and leaped out of my comfort zone. After a few false starts, I stumbled upon Will. He was a retired teacher who had spent much of his career working with at-risk kids. He did good in the world. Just like Robert. He was a reader! Just like me. He wasn’t interested in drama, and neither was I. Life is too short to waste it on manufactured upheaval.

I was terrified to reach out, but we finally arranged to speak on the phone. A few stomach flips into the call, I could feel my stress easing. He seemed like a decent, thoughtful man. We made plans to meet for coffee. Coffee turned into breakfast and a stroll around downtown. He didn’t knock my socks off, but there was a kind of serenity that enveloped our initial exchanges. It was easy to talk to him. But was our connection real?

Several weeks later, I told him, quite sincerely, “I’m not sure I like you or the idea of you.” 

Did I like Will, the person, or did I like the idea of having a companion? The distinction was important. I didn’t want to mislead either of us.

To be continued…

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