Nancy de Plume re­ports from the dat­ing trenches (and yes, it’s an alias).

North & South - - In This Issue -

Nancy de Plume re­ports from the dat­ing trenches – and it’s not pretty.

Fol­low­ing a se­ries of dud dal­liances in my 30s and 40s, and find­ing my­self closer to 50 and sin­gle, it re­cently dawned on me that to meet some­one, I’d need to be more proac­tive. Be­cause I’d be de­lighted to meet a nice fella, some­one to go on ad­ven­tures with, to cook din­ner with, some­one whose day’s de­tails I’d want to hear about, just as they’d be keen to know about my tri­umphs and dis­ap­point­ments.

But meet­ing this myth­i­cal man, who can fix a bike punc­ture and prune a fruit tree, who wants to kayak around New Zealand and keep chick­ens, who prefers good books over All Blacks – I just don’t know where to find him.

I’ve never felt com­fort­able with the prospect of Tin­der; for some rea­son it doesn’t light my fire, and the chaps on Find­some­one haven’t kin­dled much of any­thing, ei­ther. I sus­pect I’m too shy to se­ri­ously ad­ver­tise my­self on the in­ter­net. Or per­haps I was put off by a friend’s Tin­der tale.

Log­ging on in deep­est South­land, my chum was matched with a man in In­ver­cargill who was very keen for my friend to come to his house – an in­ter­net dat­ing no-no. So my friend asked for the ini­tial meet­ing to take place some­where pub­lic, where­upon it tran­spired Tin­der-man was on home de­ten­tion and couldn’t go any fur­ther than his front door.

To as­sist my ro­man­tic en­deav­ours, a few friends have tried to help. An ed­i­tor I write for sug­gested a man in her mar­ket­ing team might tickle my fancy. Mod­er­ately well- oiled

fol­low­ing a Christ­mas party, she went home and emailed us both, no frills. The mes­sage said: “Mark meet Nancy, Nancy meet Mark” (not our real names), and that was all.

He emailed. I replied. His mes­sages were ini­tially a tri­fle ef­fu­sive, ner­vous per­haps. I let it slide. We mi­grated to text mes­sages, he started writ­ing novel­las. I barely had time to read them, let alone re­ply. I was al­ready find­ing it all a bit heavy-handed when his idea of a first in­ter­sec­tion was tak­ing one of his four (FOUR!) chil­dren on a three-hour (THREE!) drive to de­liver one of his brood to his sis­ter’s for the hol­i­days, then re­turn to Auck­land sans child.

Clearly the man was out of his mind. Even some­one as in­ex­pe­ri­enced at dat­ing as me knows the first face-to-face is held some­where ca­sual and close to home where both par­ties have a clear exit. This fel­low also made it clear he’d had a good Google of me, which is kind of creepy. Even if that is what people do these days, shouldn’t he have kept that to him­self? Need­less to say, I never found time for cof­fee. Or a six-hour road trip.

Another man was al­most my kind of guy, aside from hav­ing lopped the bet­ter part of a decade off his age. Slowly, over a num­ber of weeks, his age crept up to the point where he was el­i­gi­ble for su­per­an­nu­a­tion. Plus he would share ev­ery sin­gle de­tail of his day with me – it’s true, I do ask lots of ques­tions – but when it came time for re­cip­ro­ca­tion, when any nor­mal per­son would say, “And you?”, he’d yawn and say, “Oh, but I’m so tired.” Pre­sum­ably tuck­ered out from talk­ing about him­self. He’d then tell me it was time for him to hit the hay, for he had another big, im­por­tant day ahead – in case I missed how ter­ri­bly big and im­por­tant he was.

And my day – even if I’d found a cure for cancer and been to the moon – none of that would war­rant a foot­note.

Clearly it was time to take the bull by the horns, metaphor­i­cally speak­ing, at least. I’d just turned 47, spring had sprung, al­beit rather wetly, and I de­cided to Google in­tro­duc­tion agen­cies in my neck of the woods. An ap­point­ment was made with the match­maker’s as­sis­tant.

At our meet­ing in a cafe, the young woman in­quired about my height, date of birth, re­li­gion, hob­bies. She also asked where I’d trav­elled. When I told her I’d lived in New York, Lon­don and Turkey, she asked, had I ever been to Straya? I think she meant Aus­tralia. Why yes, I have, I replied. Next, she asked about “spe­cific vi­o­lence” – which I quickly re­alised was Pa­cific Is­lands. Yes, in­deed, those too.

Yet there were no ques­tions that could pos­si­bly have any bear­ing on nu­ance, none that might un­cover a per­son’s life philoso­phies or so­cial pol­i­tics. How about ask­ing what ra­dio sta­tions a per­son lis­tens to? Or say, “Global warm­ing: true or false?”

In­stead, she asked, “What would you like in a man?” Good­ness, but there’s a ques­tion. How spe­cific should I get, I won­dered. For some rea­son, I started by say­ing I’d like a fel­low who didn’t fol­low sport too closely. I’m all for play­ing sport, but sit­ting around watch­ing it, scream­ing at the TV, that’s just not my cup of tea.

Aside per­haps from ten­nis and bits of the Olympics, wouldn’t people rather be do­ing some­thing? And if the out­come of a rugby game deeply af­fected his mood, he def­i­nitely wasn’t for me. She laughed ner­vously and said she’d never heard that be­fore. Then she told a story about be­ing at a wed­ding in Amer­ica where the DJ had never heard of the All Blacks. Or the haka. She clearly hadn’t un­der­stood the point I was mak­ing. And the more we slid lightly over my life, the more I re­alised she couldn’t pos­si­bly know me. The chances of her hav­ing got the mea­sure of a man with the same lim­ited set of ba­nal ques­tions seemed highly un­likely, too.

But I still hoped to meet some­one spe­cial, some­one I’d never cross paths with un­der my own steam, so we went through the pa­per­work. It would cost $550 for the first three in­tro­duc­tions, af­ter which time I could sign up for more if those first three hadn’t met with suc­cess.

I also learnt a fair bit about the match­maker’s as­sis­tant. It’s true, I’m quite nosy, prob­a­bly be­cause people are in­ter­est­ing. In the course of our ex­change, she told me she did reiki, which is a form of heal­ing I con­sider non­sense, on a par with home­opa­thy. She also said she was hap­pily set­tled with a new chap, whom she’d met the old-fash­ioned way, and what’s more, she could feel her as-yet un­con­ceived daugh­ter around her.

Clearly we were from dif­fer­ent tribes, but I still thought it was worth fol­low­ing through – af­ter all, noth­ing ven­tured, noth­ing gained. As we pre­pared to leave, she said she’d never met a per­son like me be­fore. Her own words. I didn’t know whether to be flat­tered or con­cerned.

Driv­ing home, I be­gan to feel less con­fi­dent about the match­mak­ing en­deav­our. What’s more, the woman who does the match­ing isn’t even the woman I met with – so based on the bare bones of my an­swers to those su­per­fi­cial ques­tions, some­one else was go­ing to do the pair­ing up.

Re­ally, all it boiled down to was a game of ro­mance roulette. So, back at my desk, I emailed the owner of the com­pany to say I wouldn’t be tak­ing things fur­ther.

Hap­pily, I’m fine on my own, and as much as I think it’d be fun to fall in love, I don’t pine for ro­mance. I have good friends, a rea­son­able so­cial life and a li­brary card, so at least I can read about love.

In the mean­time, it’s back to the draw­ing board – who knows, per­haps I’ll meet some­one there. +

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