on quitting online dating

“You should get on Tinder,” a well-intentioned friend instructed me over lunch. I made a face at him.

“No,” he continued. “It’s not a hookup site for singles in their 40s. That’s just how the younger kids use it.”

I was dubious, but he added stories about two friends who’d found significant others through the app. Why not try it?

You’ve seen the pictorial evidence of the manliness awaiting me. Men with bloodied faces cuddling dogs smaller than my cats. Men in costume, men in the nude, car selfies, gym shots. And the written part of the test wasn’t much better. “Looking for my partner in crime” was maybe the most-used cliche.  Married dudes were rampant. Open marriages more common than I knew.

When I “connected” six weeks ago with a tall, built man of European descent who liked to travel, surf and do triathlons, I was mildly interested. Our initial conversation focused around our favorite beaches: Costa Rica for him, Hawaii for me. We talked about wines, old world versus new.

“Perhaps I can take you out for a drink,” he suggested over Tinder text. I canceled the initial plans because my work load was too heavy. He was persistent and followed up. We had our first date on Wednesday last week.

I’ve been more excited about doctor’s appointments, honestly. Our date was capping off a busy day. I put two seconds of thought into my outfit. But when he walked in the door of the restaurant, we had immediate chemistry. We didn’t stop talking all night. It was refreshing. He asked to see me again, so we went out Friday. Saw each other the next night. Had dinner again on Wednesday, one week after the first date. I will admit there was a sleepover.

Then Friday morning I received this text message: Chelsea, you are smart and sexy but not who I’m looking for right now.

Hmm. Something didn’t feel right. My thoughts drifted back to the night before when my best friend had asked to see a picture of him. I was loathe to log on to Tinder, so we did a google search. He had zero online footprint. I was too deep in afterglow to be concerned at the time, but with greater thought after his dismissive text, I clearly recalled a conversation he initiated about how annoying it is when strangers “link in” with you. I mentioned I rarely use Facebook, but he said it’s good for communicating with friends abroad. Yet, the name he’d given me had no LinkedIn profile, no Facebook page. No “our team” presence for the software company he said he worked for. I wish my spidey senses had kicked in when I noticed a piece of mail on his counter addressed to a name that wasn’t his. I even glanced at it a few times, but hey, I accidentally get mail for my neighbors sometimes. Now I wonder if the sparsely furnished and undecorated apartment he brought me too is even his. The name he shared obviously is not.

I dodged a bullet. I thought I was protecting myself by texting my friends his full name and address, but he still could have been a serial killer or a rapist. Luckily, he was just a jerk, out for one thing. I deleted my Tinder profile.

I had thought nothing was harder than being set up on a date by a mutual friend with a vested interest in the outcome, but I’m reconsidering that position. From this day forward, I’m only dating men who come with a personal reference.

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try a little tinderness

A man, his pool and his pug
A man, his pool and his pug
Broad shoulders. Itty bitty man shorts.

I tend to come to Internet trends late. I initially rejected Facebook and more recently, divorced the site. I never followed a blog until I after I started my own. I avoided Twitter as long as I could, and I’m a self-diagnosed Instagram stalker, just posting enough photos to be legit but preferring to ogle at other people’s meals, outfits and sunsets.

“Try online dating,” my friends pushed. Love? Like I’m going to find that on the World Wide Web. But they coaxed, and I tested the waters.

Match.com was a disaster. Not only did I go on zero dates, but their algorithm is broken because I kept getting paired with men whose profiles declared my single biggest deal breaker: wants kids, definitely. But the final subscription-canceling straw came when one of my daily matches, the 10-12 carefully selected true love potentials I was thoughtfully sent everyday, was a 62-year old school bus driver.

“Hinge is the way to go,” a twentysomething told me. It sounded kind of dirty, but I gave it a go. I met a guy, respectable enough. Hinging on the boring side. We dabbled in dating before I admitted to myself we had no spark.

Of course, everyone brings up Tinder. But why would I sign up for the hook up site? That’s certainly not what I want, and if it were, I’d find other ways to meet eligible men.

“Tinder is different for people in their 40s,” I was assured. “I know a woman who met her boyfriend on Tinder,” one guy friend told me.

Fueled by wine and boredom, the other day, I joined. It literally took me all of 30 seconds to set up my account. Unlike Match and other dating sites, there is no long profile page to fill out. Just add some pictures and a 400-character description and voila. Immediately, I had hundreds of “matches” to swipe right or left. It took time to get the hang of it. I sadly left swiped the man pictured in front of his extensive wine cellar and my friend accidentally right swiped someone unacceptable who instantly became a match, leading to scrambling and un-matching.

I don’t think it’s 100 percent true that 40-somethings use Tinder for “real” dating, as evidenced by some of the profile photos I’ve seen. Readers, Nude Photo Exhibit A:

Lower half of photo cropped to protect the innocent.

The lack of a character description is telling. I’ve left swiped some handsome guys because they wrote nothing about themselves and I just don’t go for illiterate men. Nor am I interested in a “poly” relationship or to be an out-of-towner’s fling. I mean, it’s one thing if we meet at happy hour at Proof, but quite another if I have to prearrange sex on my iPhone.

I get it… you have to kiss a lot of frogs. And then maybe you find a prince. And he owns a hot tub.

Hot tub time machine
Hot tub time machine

behind door number three…

Remember that old TV show The Dating Game? I watched this precursor to The Bachelor/ette in syndication a few times back in the dark ages when we had four TV stations and my brother and I argued incessantly over who was going to get up to manually change the channel. (My children often wonder at these medieval times and how we ever survived. But I digress.)

Match reminds me a little of that old show. You never know who you’re going to find behind that cyber wink. Dearest reader, you’ve shared my shock over my ninety-four percent match with ZipperRipper and laughed at my near miss with WegmansLover. Now I’d like to introduce you to Friday’s gem:

FullSizeRender (2)

This eligible bachelor joins a handful of other profile pics so absurd I’ve put their screenshots in my personal Match Hall of Fame. And joining the rapidly expanding class of guys who need help choosing their online dating handle is UnrstrctdFreeAgnt, ClickHereToDate and FiftyShadesOfJoe. How about the dude who listed his desired age range in a woman as eighteen to fifty, only slightly worse than the guy who indicated his preference as thirty to fifty. I mean, come on… It’s very different to date an eighteen-year old than it is to date a thirty-year old than it is to date a fifty-year old. Maybe the errant verb here is to date. As my friend Shannon joked: Have a heartbeat? Have breasts? IM immediately! 

This is why I’m single. Not that I consider being single such a bad thing. I have a wonderful network of friends who share my passions. I have the Weekend Warriors to help with household projects beyond my abilities. And I get to do whatever I want without comparing schedules, arguing about budget or getting passive aggressively angry when the trash doesn’t get taken out. I know, I know (or at least I think I remember) there are wonderful aspects to being in a meaningful relationship. I committed to opening myself to the prospects of a romantic connection, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to settle for a man who is less than exceptional.

true love at last

In the last 48 hours, I found my true love.

Just kidding… deep, meaningful love only happens that fast on the Bachelor.

I continue to be astonished with the so-called matches that come my way. ZipperRipper aside, let’s talk for a minute about usernames. I know it’s potentially perilous that I actually incorporated my first name in mine. But “your name + s + waiting” is not a good user name. Nor is anything paired with awesome, handsome, sexy, foxy or the number 69 (even if it is your birth year). TriGuy appears in many different iterations, leading me to believe that the majority of single men in the DC metro area are triathletes. If that’s true, when do they have time to date?

The profile photos people choose to post amuse me too. This is the first impression you’re making on someone. I guess maybe the pink cowboy hat says everything I need to know about you, as does the pirate costume. The dude wearing camo looked intense, to say the least. I made that assessment before I noticed the subsequent picture of him emerged in open water wielding an automatic weapon like he was storming a beach. To scuba_addict I ask, “why are all your pictures taken underwater?” (That’s internal dialogue. I didn’t really strike up communication.) And it’s worth repeating: if all your pictures are obviously selfies, my conclusion is you don’t have friends. At least get a tourist on the Mall to snap your shot. Or someone from the office. Your sister, perhaps? A waiter?

Abundance of dad jeans aside, I’m not totally cynical. I’ve read some interesting profiles and even reached out to a few men who caught my attention. It might sound odd that this process makes me feel vulnerable given I write a blog where I’m open about some intense experiences, but I’m trying not to take rejection personally. Just as I’m making knee jerk reactions about people, so are they about me. “I mean really, what’s with the Dr Zhivago hat?” I’m sure more than one man has said under his breath. “A Boston Red Sox fan? Pass.”

I press ahead. At worst, I have new material to write about and at best, I make a friend or two.

I asked out the doctor…

For those early readers who followed my every back brace constrained move in the styling my back brace days, you’ll remember with great fondness my miracle doctor. Several of you actually suggested at the time that I date said doctor, with whom I always had a good (borderline flirty) rapport. I scoffed at such suggestions because it seemed too much like mixing business with pleasure. I mean, I needed him to fix my back. Plus, on the awkward side, this guy has seen me in a hospital gown, several times. He saw me in tears more than once too. He inserted really sharp needles into my back. And I’m pretty sure that in doing so, he’s already seen me at least partially naked. Not to mention this is the very doctor who made me wear a back brace for more than two months.

Almost a year has gone by since I’ve had an appointment with him. Randomly, we recently connected on LinkedIn. We had a little email exchange about whether or not I should purchase a Living Social coupon for flying trapeze lessons. (He advised not.) I sensed the same energy that we had in the examination room coming through over our emails. I started thinking about how it’s Month of Chelsea and one of my goals is to take more risks. I just published a short story. How hard could it be to ask out the back doctor?

So I did.

I received an email back from him a few days later. Of course a divorced doctor under 40 who doesn’t live with his mother just started seeing someone. I totally get it. You snooze, you lose in this town. That isn’t to say that I’m not still a tinge disappointed. But rather than be sad or feel rejected, I’m proud of myself for going after what I want instead of waiting around for someone else to give it to me.

That, my friends, is what Month of Chelsea is all about.