In the privacy of my studio apartment in San Jose, I stared at men’s photos, read what they had to say about themselves, and ruthlessly weeded them out. “Fresh meat” like me was matched with scores of men in the first month of online dating and my subscription to eharmony.com.
Maybe even more than for some other newcomers, given how non-discriminatory I declared myself to be. Any race or nationality is fine by me, I had said. Height is unimportant, too, as are location, education level, and age.
That didn’t last long. I “closed” the match with a 5’7″ man of Arab descent the same day I received it. Ditto the 77 year old who reminded me of my Grandpa Ed and the retired salesman with no college. Facing one’s prejudices is humbling, especially for us mouthy political liberals. But not humbling enough to make me consider meeting these guys for a cup of coffee.
It cut both ways. Men my age often closed matches, too, before we’d even begun to communicate. I figured they were holding out for someone younger, per the opinion of my friend, Katie, a sixty-something veteran of online dating.
“Men can find partners who are ten, twenty years younger. We don’t get as much as a wink from a lot of guys our own age,” she said.
Not that any of us is honest about why we’re not interested in the matches appearing in our inbox each morning. From the list of possible rejections provided by eharmony, we pick innocuous ones like “I’m pursuing another relationship” or “I think the distance between us is too great.” Even from a total stranger, it stings to receive “I’d rather not say” or “Other” as the reason for lack of pursuit.
The first man to follow up on a match was Larry, a 69-year old psychologist. Experienced on eharmony, he considered the next steps in the process to be a waste of time (a series of questions to both, e.g. “Your idea of a romantic get-away would be a week (a) in Paris, (b) in a cottage by the sea, (c) white water rafting, or (d) in the mountains.”). I agreed with him. So we went directly to open communication. And man, did he communicate. Weeks of torrential longing, heavy on what he wanted to do if he ever got his hands on me, and psychobabble so intense that it made me scoff before finally scaring me off.
My book scared off the next man after a month of emails(I wrote about him in a 7/24/2009 post). My house in Mexico gave another man pause, after we’d written back and forth for several weeks and met for dinner in San Francisco.
“I’m too embarrassed to invite you to my house after checking out the photos of yours,” he said. Turns out he lived in semi-finished rooms, was about to declare bankruptcy for the second time in his career as an architect, and had suffered a stroke not long before. “Nurse with a purse” flashed through my mind, and I put an end to us. With brutal speed, via email. I’m ashamed of myself for that cowardice.
I learned a valuable lesson from these first encounters: Don’t spend a lot of time with email banter, and do as my friend Priscilla advised.
“Show and tell sooner rather than later,” she said. “Show your house in Mexico(www.quintaelena.com) and talk about your book. Let these men know who you are. See how they react. If they can’t deal with a house and a happy marriage, they shouldn’t be dealing with you.”
In November, after a handful of coffee and dinner dates, my subscription expired. I was undaunted, however. Trying my wings had been fun. But eharmony was too restrictive, I thought.
“You can shop for yourself on match.com,” said friend Katie. “Plus there are twice as many subscribers.”
Another one hundred fifty dollars and I was ready for round two.