A funny thing happened next. I had mentioned in my match.com profile that I have a book review blog, because I like to read. I haven’t done much with that blog lately – concentration seems to have fallen off my skills list – but the blog is still there and I still check the stats every so often.
It’s kind of fun to check the stats, and see the strange random search terms that drive traffic. My most regular readers seem to be my best friend, my father, and my two ex-husbands. The Departed didn’t read the blog when we were under the same roof, but suddenly, it seems to be his news source of choice*.
There are a lot of hits on my blog on this day, though. Something like fifty, or more. Someone has gone through and actually read every single post on it.
Somebody who works at Date #3’s company.
I’m impressed. He is too. We spend a lot of time discussing this. How he found it. How he used to have a blog too but it’s gone now.
You read a lot, he says.
I think, I read three times as many books as I review. Not every book needs my added commentary. What am I really going to say about The Help that hasn’t already been said?
I say, Yes, I like to read.
Reading can be a way of avoiding reality, he says.
I think, It can also be a way of avoiding reality tv. I don’t really like tv, which I notice he watches an awful lot of while he’s instant messaging and emailing.
I guess, I reply.
He sends me a link to his flickr stream. On it, there’s a picture of him in a suit. He’s cute. I like that picture, and tell him so.
He starts counting down until our date, via IM. I get regular updates, all day long.
*Probably because there’s absolutely no new information on it at the moment.
The date finally arrives. He has chosen a winery up in Woodinville that I have trouble finding, as it’s not so much a winery as it is a wine store with a restaurant attached, located in a strip mall.
At least I think that’s what it is. I’ll never know for sure, because it’s closed when I get there, and he’s standing in the parking lot.
He’s tall and awkward and looks older than I thought he would. He tries to come up with a Plan B, and he’s clearly very stressed about the whole thing. I am to follow him in my car, which I do.
For an hour.
During which time he calls me on his cell and we talk.
I’m not sure what we talked about, because the whole time I’m thinking, well, hopefully all this driving is leading to someplace special, because as it currently stands, I’m paying a babysitter so I can follow someone’s car through the suburbs and use up all my cellular minutes. And have I mentioned the price of gassing up my tank?
We get there. What is it with this guy and strip malls? We talked about Mario Batali and Alton Brown on the phone. But here we are: A Chinese restaurant in a strip mall.
The dim sum here is awesome, he says.
Except they don’t serve dim sum in the evening, the waiter informs him.
The food is actually pretty good although I suspect I am being generous – I want to like him and I want him to know about this amazing, secret hole in the wall place – it doesn’t look like much but it’s awesome! Only a real foodie would know it.
We talk and talk and talk until the waiter is running the vacuum under our table.
In the parking lot, he gives me homemade peppermint ice cream and homemade caramels. I taste the ice cream right there and pronounce it good – which it is, although if I were to make it I would have more chunks of candy cane in it. I don’t say this.
He rambles on about why his homemade ice cream is better than what you buy in the store (no fillers).
Like the phone calls and IMs and emails, this evening will not end.
I need to go home.
I say, are you going to keep giving me recipes or kiss me goodnight already?
Oh, he says.
He puts his hands on either side of my face and kisses me so intensely that I completely forget where I am and who I’m kissing. I’ve got my arms around him and no idea how they got there.
Yeah, okay. I could do that again.
He texts me several times on the drive home.
We have conversations after the date, of course. Lots of them. There’s already another date planned but we fill up every spare moment until then with emails, IMs, phone calls. He sends so many texts that I’m thinking maybe I should have picked the unlimited text plan.
He’s making all kinds of future plans for us. He asks if I want to go on a trip to Mexico, and I say sure, I was in Cozumel once and I’ve always wanted to go back there.
He sends me links to Cabo, where he wants to go on vacation. I don’t really want to go to Cabo, but heck, if he’s buying, I might go. Certainly it’s not in my budget this year.
He’s got a pile of Groupons for things like a class on how to take a wine bottle, squish it, and turn it into a cheese board. And another one for an introductory canning class. There’s a beermaking class too but I don’t really like beer so we decide to skip that. One day, Groupon offers a deal on a local trampoline place. He buys it for us to take our kids to.
We’ve got a lot of plans.
Somewhere in between date #1 and date #2 – it’s kind of a blur – we have an IM exchange about who’s chasing who. Because, Date #3 says, it’s really great to have me chasing him.
Excuse me, what? I say. I’m not sure chasing is the word I’d use.
He says, Would it be so bad if you chased me?
No, I think, but it is bad if I do it in your mind.
I try to talk a bit and explain how it is but it’s almost impossible to get a word in edgewise. Every time I say something he keeps replying, sounding like he knows everything, like a pop psychology book.
He fills every available space with words.
I finally tell him to be quiet and let me finish.
He does, but as soon as I finish that one thought, the space is completely full again.
This post is linked up with Just Write.
He asks a lot of questions about my marriage, and vice versa, when I can get a word in edgewise. I tell him about my marriage but not the specifics of why and how it ended. It’s ugly and it’s hard.
It’s not that I haven’t told people, I have.
People flinch when I tell them. They try not to show it, but they always do.
I cannot stand the flinch.
So he asks and I avoid it. I tell him, it’s a horrible story. I will tell you eventually.
He goes on and on.
What could be so bad? I’ve heard it all before, he says.
My lawyer had never heard this one before, I tell him. Someone who has been a practicing divorce attorney for 20 years was shocked.
He goes on and on. We’re IMing via skype, and there’s word vomit on my screen. Really, I’ve heard it all, he says. Drug addiction, affairs, spousal rape, bigamy, bisexuality, etc, etc.
You have interesting friends, I say.
For our second date, Date #3 shows up in a suit. He knows how much I liked the picture of him in the suit. He’s cute in a suit, and far less nerdy looking in one too.
We drive into Seattle. His driving scares the crap out of me. His car is a hybrid American-made SUV, but it feels like the kind of car they’d be driving around Moscow if Brezhnev was still running the place. Or maybe Krushchev. He takes the turns really hard and there’s nothing for me to grip when me does.
We get to the restaurant and chat for a bit and then I decide to just tell him. He’s all talk and intensity and future plans and I think, maybe he should know exactly what he’s dealing with.
Over dinner, I tell him. I describe how I got into my second marriage and why, and what the marriage was like and how I was treated, and he’s all, is that all? That’s not so bad.
Over and over, he interjects with comments like this. Oh, is that all?
I’m not done yet, I say. I describe the last year, and he keeps saying, is that all?
And then I get to the end and he flinches and doesn’t know what to say.
He fumbles and avoids eye contact. Then he deflects with a comment that isn’t a joke, and he knows isn’t a joke, but he tried to make it seem funny with a half-hearted laugh.
And then he continues on like nothing happened.
I’m oddly relieved, because what I want, I mean more than anything, is to just erase those things. I want them to have never happened so that I can get on with my life and be happy and never have to see anyone flinch at me again.
We have a nice dinner and we head to the car, where he awkwardly makes moves on me me. I’ve never understood the whole kissing in the car thing – there’s a hand brake and a gear shift in the middle, it’s clumsy. Also, it’s December and it’s cold, and in 1960’s in the USSR, when this particular car was built, they hadn’t yet invented heated seats*.
He’s a little miffed. I tell him, kiss me somewhere else. I don’t like being kissed in cars.
I like kissing in cars, he says.
We get to the front door and I say, kiss me here, it’s much better here.
He gives me a peck and is on his way.
It is nothing like before.
*Which is why they lost the Cold War.
Date #3 has nothing to do on Christmas. I don’t understand how someone can have 354 Facebook friends and nothing to do on Christmas. I moved to Seattle in September of 2001 with no Facebook friends or Seattle friends and still I had plans that Christmas. I debate if I should invite him over.
I don’t think people should be alone on Christmas. I feel sorry for people who have to be alone on holidays.
I am troubled that I am dating someone who evokes feelings of pity in me.
I ask my father, who is also coming for Christmas, what he thinks. Invite him, he says.
He comes over on Christmas at around noon, but is weirdly silent. I try to talk to him, but he’s unresponsive. My father tries, too, but gets very little in response. The Child does okay with him, in the sense that the remote control helicopter she got for Christmas broke and Date #3 is able to fix it.
She thinks this is grand, because she’s been spending the morning in the front hall, attempting to fly said helicopter in a straight line up through the center of the chandelier. I have told her I’ll be very happy if she breaks the chandelier because I’ve always hated it and The Departed always told me that these sorts of things couldn’t be replaced except at great expense. My father tells me you just need the right kind of ladder – like the one in my backyard.
Give me a reason to get it replaced, I tell her.
We do our best, but it feels awkward and strained. Date #3 has finally run out of words.
When I leaves, I ask what the problem is. He makes excuses that even he does not believe.
He asks me, Have you gotten any counseling? For what happened.
No, I say.
You should go to counseling, he tells me.
Is that what you do all day long? I think. Counseling in Castleville? Because I can see your Facebook posts and when you’re not IM-ing me or texting me or keeping yourself abreast of reality TV while your son plays video games, you seem to spend a lot of time there.
I say, thanks, I’ll think about that.
A couple of eerily quiet days later, Date #3 calls me and says that he can’t see me again.
Why? I ask.
I just don’t think we’re a good match, he says.
I ask a few more questions, and am told that this is what his father has told him, this is what his friends have told him. I can’t decide whether to ask, “You mean all those friends who didn’t invite you over on Christmas?” or point out that he should really have opinions of his own at his age, and maybe he should seek counseling so that.
Mostly, I’m just annoyed that he fired me before I quit.
I am coming to the conclusion that Match.com just isn’t for me. Maybe what I need is a matchmaker. My friend Allie suggested It’s Just Lunch to me – a dating service that pre-screens prospective matches, and then sets you up at some mutually convenient time for lunch or coffee.
I google them and sure, enough, there’s a website with an online information request.
I fill it out and two days later, an extremely cheerful matchmaker calls me.
She tells me all about the service, which sounds great – mostly professionals (like myself), often people who in their 40s or thereabouts (like myself), college educated (like myself), and so on. People who aren’t looking just for a hookup, but for something with more depth. She asks me lots of questions, and each question is rapidly followed by another question – so rapidly, indeed, that it does not seem possible that she is making note of any of my responses.
I also ask a lot of questions, and all of the answers are just right. Example:
“I’m recently separated, but not divorced yet. Is that a problem?”
“Oh, men don’t generally care about that – it’s not a problem at all.”
I found it odd that this particular element was so unproblematic that she did not explore it with so much as one follow-up question.
But she was so chipper and the answers were so pleasing that I found myself easily swept along with the flow of the conversation.
Then I made an inquiry about the cost of the service.
Apparently, it’s much more than a service, and therefore, you can’t just sign up – you have to be carefully selected for membership following an in-person interview at their office. And, although the office is nowhere near me geographically, it is also no problem to arrange something that fits my schedule.
Right, but what does it cost, I ask.
$2100 for a one-year membership.
Great, I said. I’ll think about that.
No, I don’t want to schedule my interview right now. I’ll think about it.
I email Allie with an inquiry – had she used this crazy expensive service, and was it worth the money, assuming one had that much to spare?
She replied quickly: Uh, no. Wow, that’s a lot of money. Her friend had used it. she’d check with the friend.
While I waited for her to follow up, I googled It’s Just Lunch reviews, and discovered that – surprise – people were by and large quite unhappy with the service, the quality of the matches and – surprise – the price-to-value proposition. I looked at reviews for Seattle and reviews elsewhere in the country.
You don’t often see that kind of nationwide consistency, outside of, say, the fast food industry.
Allie gets back to me. It wasn’t It’s Just Lunch her friend used, she says, it was Table For Six. But the friend met her spouse through Plenty of Fish, just FYI.
Plenty of Fish, I note, is free.
A few weeks after I abandon the idea of It’s Just Lunch, they call again: Another hopelessly cheerful woman who says she is the area manager.
She wants to see if I had any concerns or questions about membership that she could answer.
No, I say, it’s just a bit too expensive at the moment.
She talks for a moment about the quality of their service for busy professionals such as myself. She wants to make sure this was communicated to me by the rep who originally spoke to me – whose boss she is, and who has stepped away from the office at the moment.
Yes, I say. She was very thorough. It’s just a bit too expensive at the moment.
I debate what I will say if she offers me a price cut for this valuable service … er, membership. But she doesn’t.
She wants to know when she should check back in with me, when I anticipate I might be ready to join. Assuming I pass muster at the interview, I guess.
I let her know that I’ll follow up when I’m ready.