My ad­ven­tures in the some­times great, of­ten gross, al­ways weird world of on­line dat­ing

My mid-life ad­ven­tures in the some­times great, of­ten gross, al­ways weird world of on­line dat­ing

Toronto Life - - Contents - By Ali­son Pick

No­body sets out to start dat­ing in mid­dle age. And yet that’s ex­actly where I found my­self af­ter my mar­riage ended in 2014. I had no idea how to find a new part­ner. I had al­ways met peo­ple at par­ties or at school or through mu­tual friends. Sud­denly I was com­pelled to en­ter the circus that was on­line dat­ing. I ad­mit: I was cu­ri­ous. How did peo­ple present them­selves on the In­ter­net, and how would I do the same? I wanted a man who knew him­self, ideally with kids, who was ready to get se­ri­ous. I was writ­ing a novel, Strangers With the Same Dream—I wanted some­one I could ded­i­cate it to.

My friends told me Tin­der was the way to go. I down­loaded the app to my phone and be­gan swip­ing gid­dily, like a child with a new toy. There were men draped over the hoods of their cars, men flex­ing their mus­cles in front of bath­room mir­rors, men pos­ing with bull­dogs or boa con­stric­tors. Fi­nally, Tin­der pre­sented a can­di­date with a kind smile and a witty de­scrip­tion. I swiped right. Stars! Con­fetti! I felt a rush of en­dor­phins—we were a match. He texted, I wrote back, and then I did what any sane Tin­der dater does: I looked him up on Facebook. I barely made a dent in his photo his­tory be­fore my heart sank: there he was on a beach with a beau­ti­ful wo­man, his arm around her shoul­ders.

“She said yes!” the cap­tion read, fol­lowed by a flurry of con­grat­u­la­tions. I texted him: “Mazel tov on your en­gage­ment!” “Thanks,” he wrote. “How are you, gor­geous?” My mouth fell open. I thought of his fi­ancée, beam­ing at the idea of her hap­pily-ever-af­ter. I shook with rage and deleted the match. Later, I saw him on an­other site, us­ing a false name.

I be­came more cau­tious, swip­ing no to nearly ev­ery guy who popped up. Still, my in­box over­flowed with ev­ery­thing from bor­ing non­starters to overt so­lic­i­ta­tions by men with boot fetishes who wanted me for my Fluevogs. I was get­ting dis­cour­aged. I turned my fo­cus back to my book, seek­ing so­lace in my writ­ing.

The day I fin­ished my draft, my phone kept ping­ing while I was try­ing to work. I gave up and looked. It was a photo of some­thing beige and gnarled. Some kind of root veg­etable? A yam? Nope: it was a pe­nis. The veg­e­tal erec­tion was fol­lowed by snaps of a man’s hairy chest. And the sin­gle line: “Suck my balls.” I screamed, then put my head down on my desk and cried. I wasn’t ready to give up and delete the app, but my Tin­der ac­tiv­ity grew more te­dious, more du­ti­ful, like I was swip­ing the kitchen counter.

I did meet a few nice men, guys who were smart and ac­com­plished. It turned out peo­ple in their 40s were more in­ter­est­ing than the ones I’d met in my 20s—the last time I’d dated. Many of us had kids and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing emo­tional ma­tu­rity they bring.

One day, a man’s face popped up on my screen. He was hand­some, but that wasn’t what made me swipe right. I had learned to value what peo­ple wrote more than how they looked. He de­scribed him­self as happy, funny and fully evolved (or nearly), and I laughed at the sly ac­knowl­edg­ment that as 40-some­things we are bet­ter than we once were, but still far from per­fect. He texted right away and was funny, as ad­ver­tised, as well as hon­est and self-aware. He was a labour lawyer, re­cently sep­a­rated, and said he was look­ing for a real re­la­tion­ship. I had fallen prey to good tex­ters who turned out to be duds in the flesh, so I was wary, but will­ing. We de­cided to meet for din­ner at a Mid­dle Eastern res­tau­rant in my neigh­bour­hood. When I ar­rived he was al­ready there, seated, and I felt a calm hap­pi­ness spread through my body. I smiled and waved to him across the res­tau­rant like I was greet­ing an old friend. I don’t re­mem­ber what we talked about, only that there was an im­me­di­ate com­fort be­tween us. It was Fe­bru­ary, and at the end of the date we stood out­side on the freez­ing cold street. I had been on lots of first dates and ex­pe­ri­enced plenty of first kisses, but he was the first per­son to hug me as well. We stood on the side­walk with our arms wrapped around each other while the traf­fic whizzed by.

Things moved quickly af­ter that. We inked in a month’s worth of dates. By the time spring rolled around, we were ex­clu­sive. Then came the bliss­ful act of delet­ing my Tin­der ac­count.

The ma­jor draw­back of In­ter­net dat­ing is that it’s im­pos­si­ble to ren­der the com­plex truth of a life in a small box on a screen. And yet some­how tech­nol­ogy, for all its mad­den­ing qual­i­ties, had worked its magic, land­ing me a part­ner I never would have met in real life. De­spite the lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges of two sets of kids and two busy lives, the chem­istry we had be­tween us at the be­gin­ning has re­mained. It still seems strange that we met this way, both of us up late at night, peer­ing into our screens like they were pools of wa­ter, as though if we looked deeply enough we might find our fu­tures. I of­ten think about how easy it would have been to swipe the wrong way. I would never have known what I missed. Against all odds, the In­ter­net led me to a per­son I adore. Strangers With the Same Dream has just been pub­lished. It’s ded­i­cated to him.

It seems strange that we met this way, both of us up late at night, peer­ing into our screens like they were pools of wa­ter

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.