About a month after my second interaction with It’s Just Lunch, the original girl called, and left a voicemail. She used my first name a lot in the message.
She left a voicemail the next day, too.
And the day after that.
And the day after that.
And the following Monday.
I had worried about stalkers when I re-entered the dating world. It never occurred to me I’d be stalked by a dating service.
Match.com is clearly not working out for me, so I begin casting about for other ideas. Where do people go to meet, you know, normal people?
The answer, I am told repeatedly: Meetup.com. Everyone has “heard good things about it.”
The site has the immediate advantage of being free, so I poke around a bit – explore. There are lots of groups for every interest imaginable, and people post get-togethers. I discard many of the singles groups – I never had luck in bars and parties before: My game isn’t that good.
I need an interest, so I pick one: books.
Sure enough, there’s a book group, right in my ‘hood. Better yet, they seem to read books I would actually want to read, not those designed-for-ladies-book-club books that come complete with Book Club Discussion Topics at the end.
Next meeting: next week.
Book: A biography of Teddy Roosevelt.
Meeting leader: Bachelor #1.
Did Bachelor #3 depress the snot out of you? I know, me too. I was kind of sad he was gone, until about a month later when I finally caught up with all the thoughts I would have thought if I’d had time and it finally dawned on me … Wow, what a massive time suck.
At the time, though, I was trying to fill the giant black hole The Departed left behind, that I found myself staring at uncomfortably whenever I was alone, with constant, frenetic activity – the mad rush of people I needed to see who I hadn’t seen in too long, and things I suddenly remembered after seven years that I wanted to do.
I couldn’t concentrate on any of it. All I could focus on was the hole. I needed to fill it.
I got on Skype with my father and we talked about Bachelor #3, who he was not impressed with. He said, look, you need a transition guy … Someone to practice with. But that could be anyone, and don’t get attached.
I don’t know how to explain to him the problem with me and transition guys: I don’t know when to get rid of them and I end up marrying them instead. That never ends well.
He says, don’t worry, you just need to give me veto power.
Fine, I say.
Great, he says. So what else is there on match?
You have to look for yourself, I tell him. Lots of guys. People. At least I think they’re people.
He discovers quickly that he can’t see very much on match without having an account, and so he sets about setting up a stealth account – what with having a wife and all – and providing just enough info that he can see things on match, but not enough that he has to pay or his wife could find him.
I’m paging through listings, and wondering how many of them are other people’s stealth accounts. He’s setting up his account, banging his head against the paywall, and cussing.
Is The Departed on match? he asks.
Huh. Good question. I change my search parameters and look for him. I don’t find him but I do find a bunch of other guys, and send off winks.
Nobody gets emails from me on match anymore, except just quick, short, one-or-two liners, if there is something in particular that I want to comment on in their profile. Mostly, I just save myself the effort, and send winks.
My father’s account is finally set up. He gets several emails almost immediately.
Nigerian princesses, I tell him.
Right, I guessed that, he says.
I search; he searches. When he finds an interesting profile, he sends it to me. I look, and wink. He attempts to veto a number of my selections; but if I like them enough, I just wink anyway.
I find a Mormon guy with an interest in genealogy. Mormons are nice, says my father. We’ve never had one in the family. I wink.
I find a Jewish doctor with three sons. Jewish doctors are nice, says my father, but what are you going to do with three sons? You need time for you. I wink anyway.
This isn’t how normal fathers and daughters spend their time, says my father.
Normal is overrated, I say.
I find a profile with the headline: I am unusual and so are you. I wink.
After winking at easily half of Seattle’s college-educated, (hopefully) single, (hopefully) male population, I call it a day. A couple of them will (hopefully) get back to me.
New Year’s Eve rolls around. I thought I had a date with Bachelor #3, but find myself suddenly plan-free, with some organic, grass-fed, free-range short ribs in the fridge. What would Mario Batali do?
He’d slow cook the ribs and serve them with a side of polenta. I’m pretty sure he’d get laid pretty easily too, ad I doubt he’d worry about what the ribs were going to do to his waistline, but neither of those things is an option for me.
So I invite a friend over to join me for the short ribs part.
A couple of emails turn up. Mr. Mormon replies to my message. Mr. Unusual replies to my wink. I try to remember how many messages and winks I sent out to get those two replies.
Then I try to forget how many messages and winks were involved.
Mr. Mormon is chatty. I had emailed him because he mentioned both genealogy and being a movie buff in his profile, both interests of mine. It turns out he wasn’t actually into genealogy, but rather programming some genealogy-related software. He’s not a Mormon anymore, he says, but rather an ex-Mormon – he had some issues with the church and left it, which contributed to the breakup of his marriage. But he has a good relationship with his ex – like everyone on match*. Also, not looking to jump into anything serious.
As far as movies go:
I actually prefer to collect DVDs over going to the theater, so my collection is up over 1100 titles.
1100 DVDs? Haven’t you heard of Netflix?
Mr. Ex-Mormon is anxious to get to the meeting-for-coffee part, so we schedule a Starbucks.
*Generic Match.com profile: Wine tasting, yoga, hiking, great cook, good relationship with ex, wants to move slow, meet for coffee/drink.
I meet Mr. Ex-Mormon, and instantly realize: It’s not happening. This Guy.
And now I’m going to sit for an hour and have coffee and feign interest while introspecting about how shallow I don’t think I am, but apparently, really must be.
He starts off by anxiously asking if he can pay for my coffee, and is overly thrilled when I agree to this.
I take charge of the conversation. I inquire about his genealogy software project, because if it’s interesting, then I might learn something new – heck, maybe I’ll even like the guy.
I’m open-minded and flexible, I tell myself. It could happen.
He starts describing this database type thing he built with a friend. It’s not a research tool; rather, it’s a data validation tool: It helps the genealogist determine, when they have a data conflict, which sources should be accorded more weight – to decide what is correct. It sounds interesting, but since I’ve done a lot of work with records, I know there is a hierarchy of information: source documents that state relationships; cited histories; family tradition; unsourced family trees on the internets.
Genealogy on the Internets 101: There are a lot more unsourced, unverifiable family trees than there are solid, primary proofs.
The gist of his project was, as the user collects their data, they enter each fact in to the software along with the source.
Is there a source catalog? Or a ranking system – like you choose a source type, such as a will or probate record, and it automatically assigns a validity weighting? This is a great idea, I think.
No, he says. How it works is, the user enters a source, and the more times a fact is entered with any source, the more validity it is assumed to have.
Right, I think. I inquire further, and come at it from a couple of different directions.
And no matter which angle I look, all I can see is how fundamentally flawed the premise is: “The more people say it, the more true it must be.”
We pitched it to Ancestry, he says. Met the higher ups and did a big presentation.
How’d that go? I ask.
They weren’t impressed, he said.
Huh, I reply. So, tell me about your family. You have three kids.
Yes, he says. The kids seem to be older, and mostly forgettable. Except the youngest one: the one that got kicked out of school, and, with nothing to do except be home-schooled by the ex, got his fifteen year old girlfriend pregnant.
So, tell me about your work, I say. You’re on a consulting basis?
Yes, he says. Last year was kind of rough, I was kind of underemployed. But now I’m in a contract position, I’m pretty happy with it.
Will it become permanent? I ask. Would you want it to?
Oh no, he says. I don’t like to be a regular employee. It makes me very uneasy, with the direct deposit, taking money out of your paycheck for taxes and retirement plans and health care you might not even want.
I gotta go, I say. Time to pick up The Child.
He jumps up. Will you have dinner with me one evening?
Oh crap. I can’t do this. He’s really a very nice person but … there are too many buts.
Okay, I say. I just don’t have the heart to disappoint.
He lights up.
The next day, there’s an email from Mr. ex-Mormon. Subject: Thanks and dinner.
I quite enjoyed getting to know you a little yesterday. I only lament that we didn’t get to talk about your work or movies.
I know you’re busy, but I would like to buy you dinner. If you haven’t yet been to the best Italian on the entire East side, I could take you to xyz. Or if you want to be fancy wined and dined, the absolute best steak in the world is on the menu at abc.
My week is already all scheduled up except for Sunday. Would that work for you?
I feel ill. He wants to take me out for a fancy dinner that I am quite sure he can’t afford. I do not dislike him in any way. I have no wish to be unkind, or rude.
I ask my father. Tell him, he says.
Upon further reflection, I prefer not to pursue this. I enjoyed meeting you and wish you all the best.
OK, thanks for the reply. Good luck to you too!
If you’re interested in staying connected professionally, send me a linkedin connect invite.
Below this is a link to his Linked In profile.
I cannot imagine any scenario in which I might find this connection useful professionally. I do actually spend some time thinking about this.
I had thought, given how many people on match say they want to “go slow,” “take time getting to know someone,” or any of the other permutations of this language, that I might meet someone who was interesting and, if there was no attraction, would be fun to do things with as a friend.
No, I won’t. Nobody signs up for any of these online services looking for anything other than a relationship.
There are easier ways to make friends, and it’s becoming clear I must find them.
One morning, looking through Match.com on my iPad, someone came up on my search who utterly creeped me out – so much so that I tried to click the little button that permanently prevents that person from appearing in my search.
Instead, I clicked the little button that says “Wink.”
Imagine my thrill and delight when, in spite of my futile efforts to cancel, I got the following message, “It’s Official! CreepyGuy666 knows you’re interested!”
Great. I can’t decide whether I will be thrilled or offended if this guy doesn’t respond to my wink.
The following day – no hesitation, apparently – I get a message from match.com letting me know that CreepyGuy666 isn’t interested, and telling me not to be discouraged, and helpfully suggesting some match.com members I might have better luck with.
The answer is: thrilled.
I get an email back from my wink to Mr I Am Unusual. His message is pleasant, if brief; he makes a light joke indicating he’s actually read my profile (bonus points!), asks about my New Year’s Eve plans, and ends with a breezy,
“The name’s Nic, by the way.”
Right, OK. You spell your name in an unusual way. How … unique. But still, he’s nice looking and has a sense of humor and I’m writing to Bachelor #4 at the same time so I don’t really give either of them too much thought. I’ve got this whole thing figured out, by now – we’ll get together for coffee and I’ll decide fairly quickly.
I notice something about Mr. Unusual that I hadn’t when I sent over my initial wink – he lives in Seattle proper, which is to say, he’s on the other side of the bridge from me, which is somewhat inconvenient for the initial “Let’s have coffee” thing. In the long run, if he’s worth spending time with, he’s worth crossing a bridge for. And if he doesn’t feel the same way, well – he’s not worth spending my time with.
But we’re not at that point yet – we’re trading emails. New Year’s comes and goes, so we share what we did, and each carefully end our emails with a question of some sort – offering the other the chance to respond. It feels a bit disjointed, but then again, the whole match.com thing feels kind of weird, and pressured, and stilted, so I don’t hold it against him and nor do I take it personally.
Mr Unusual’s profile pictures, although nice-looking, are kind of odd and obviously professional – but not the usual professional corporate resume or brochure pictures. In one of them there’s water splashing around him like he’s in a shark tank. In another he’s posed in a suit in front of some Jimi Hendrix thing. Another reminds me of a 1930’s Chesterfield ad.
None of them look like the same person. I inquire about the unique photos – what’s that about?
There is a simple story about my unusual pictures, but in all honesty, it’s hard to explain without sounding like a jerk. I don’t like to toot my own horn, so I might like to explain it in person. If you’re game. Maybe meet for coffee or a drink this week?
Nicely played, I think. Smooth, says my father. Except there’s one small problem – the bridge, which makes getting together for a quick drink kind of … a hassle. But I realize that The Child is scheduled to take her middle school entrance exams on the other side of the bridge – just not “this week.” So I offer up the option of him coming to my side of the bridge one evening (while she’s in rehearsal), or I can meet him for coffee on the 14th – when I happen to be in his neighborhood anyway.
He replies: Great, let’s pencil in the 14th.
Great, I reply, see you then.
So Mr. Unusual wants to “pencil it in,” which immediately rubs me the wrong way, because in my experience, that particular turn of phrase means “I’m penciling in several different things for that day and will only ink in the best of my options.”
Then I think, maybe that’s not what that phrase means and I’m just overreacting based on one bad experience a long time ago, involving an attorney I dated very, very briefly. He was handsome and charming and seemed only to write in pencil.
So I google the phrase. Apparently, I am actually being generous with my assessment: the internet tells me this is what you say when you make plans you have no intention of following through with. Only nobody says this anymore, because nobody uses filofaxes anymore: they put stuff into their iphones and then delete the things they don’t feel like doing.
Being a cad is much tidier than in olden times.
Mr Unusual, I think, nobody pencils me in, because first of all, I’m worthy of ink, and second of all, you are not a Luddite. Put it in your iPhone. Delete me at your own risk.
And then it dawns on me: He’s given me no information with which to follow through on this penciled-in coffee date. Everyone else has given me a full name and phone number at this stage. I have a first name and precious little else. Not even a direct email.
I hear a sound: A gauntlet has been thrown.
So, I know a few things about Mr. Unusual, apart from the fact that he’s a man who makes plans he has no intention of following through on. First, he lives in Seattle. Second, he has an unusually spelled first name.
One of my hobbies is genealogy, and here’s a fun little fact: people with names like Zipporah are a hell of a lot easier to find than people with names like Mary.
I go to Facebook. I enter his first name in quotes to restrict results to the unusual spelling of “Mic.” I restrict the location to Seattle.
Oh, look, a 1930’s Chesterfield ad picture.
Same guy. It took me about thirty seconds to find him.
But he’s fairly smart, and he’s mostly got his Facebook page locked down, except for a few photos. I leaf through them. He doesn’t appear to be married. He has a young son, which he had mentioned in his match profile – a cute little boy.
And then there’s a picture of him being interviewed on Fox News. There’s a Viagra logo on the screen, which he makes a joke about and some of his five hundred Facebook friends make further jokes about.
Married was one reason to be secretive, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue here. This is someone who maybe has a bit more to protect – maybe some justification for not giving out too much information?
Since I now have his full name, I just go ahead and google it, and much to my surprise, I get dozens of hits: A website, an Amazon author page, and some interviews on YouTube, among other things.
It turns out that Mr Unusual is a business consultant with a bunch of patents and a published book on his list of accomplishments.
I watch a couple of the videos. He’s well-spoken, well-dressed, and confident – all the things The Departed was not, but more to the point, the kind of person I always pictured myself with, but never seem to end up with. I guess my first husband was like that, on the surface, and it’s true, we looked lovely together in pictures. You can’t see narcissistic personality disorder in pictures.
I like this guy. I email a link to my father, and he likes the guy too. Confident, he says. Intelligent, I say. I’m not nervous, either, because I think: I can hold my own with this guy. I’m a Vice President at an investment bank. I read financial press and investment reports and deal with Harvard MBA’s all day long. And we have similar interests – fine dining and travel.
This, I think, is a good match.