Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dating Under Capitalism

Yesterday I was mad enough to talk to a human being at Match.com, the company. This was because they didn't register that I had resigned my subscription and automatically renewed me for another month with a charge to my credit card. I wanted to bite someone, and I don't mean erotically. My mood was not improved by having spent a very long time the day before trying to find out why XM Radio put a $211 charge on my American Express card when I don't have an account there and have never used XM Radio. Three times I called, waited long periods for a human, and was disconnected as soon as the human put me on hold to investigate. Can you take my number and call me back if we're disconnected? I asked the third time. No, they don't do that, sorry.

Now, Match did not fight my accusation that they hadn't processed my cancellation; on the contrary, the human was all good cheer, chirped out a casual apology, and immediately offered me a 30% discount if I'd extend the sub another month. It was clear they do this all the time, which makes me wonder if they are just as casual about processing the cancellations -- how many subscribers don't call to fight it and just pony up?

I accepted the discount, so now I am officially dating another month. Why did I accept? Because it was a good deal (30% off!), and some primitive cluster of cells in my amygdala gets pleasantly agitated and salivates when I think I'm getting a good deal. So now I'm dating the capitalist way: the company is making money on me for another month that I didn't intend for them, and in return I'm getting a product I'd decided I didn't want, which will be of dubious value when I get it. Hooray!

But at least they're not polluting the ocean or ripping off homebuyers. And I don't have to decide what to do about dating for another month.

I was so taken up with this that I completely forgot to call man-with-funny-hat until it was too late. So that's tonight for sure, unless I need to spend my evening wrestling with another corporation.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Everything's Coming Up...Dandelions

The above phrase is from a letter I received yesterday from a dear friend, so apologies to H., but it resonates, so I had to steal it. There is no dating news except that I'm scheduled tonight for still one more..(sigh)...phone call to a man whose picture shows him wearing a really odd hat. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember another thing about him, and I might just be too unmotivated to re-look up the pathetically few facts (that is, clues) that his profile provides before the call.

Then too, I did find a couple of interesting fellows online and wrote to them, with no results at all so far. That's it.

This leads to the existential question, Do I want to go on with this? Most people who date online are clear about what they want in general: someone they can love, or at least like, to travel with and sleep with and go places about town with. Share the wonders of life with, and so on. A relationship. They don't need to ask why they want that; it's a universal desire, almost an entitlement. Or at least a prize they feel they deserve, and can earn, by being themselves...or maybe a somewhat more pleasing presentation of themselves. And since so many want it, and are looking for each other, it should be easy.

It is easy for some people. Of the handful of people I know who met their partners online, most did it rather quickly, for example the colleague who gave me the idea to Broaden my Scope. So what does it say about me that I've been practicing this (off and on) for years and have never actually met anyone I would remotely consider spending a lot of time with? You get a choice: A. I'm neurotic and unconsciously reject perfectly nice men because at heart I don't feel I deserve to be happy, or B. The pickings are really, really slim by the time you get to my age, and I'm a woman of taste and distinction. If I choose B, I can hear the sneers -- oh sure. So let's try to put it another way.

Actually, I like most people. I can fall easily into conversation with random strangers at Starbucks, or the guy who fixes my cable (if you're my Facebook friend, you know what I mean), or the person sitting next to me on a committee. People and their unique ways of seeing and being in the world are interesting to me. On the other hand, the idea of spending most of my free time with someone, not to mention overnights with someone, ramps up the stakes so that your Perfectly Nice Man is not going to do it for me. If P.N.M. is going to take away my hard-won ability to be alone when I want to be, or do what I want to do, he'd better be giving back an awful lot in the way of emotional and/or other kinds of pleasure. There's got to be gold in them thar hills, or I'm not hiking up there. Show me a glint, at least.

Is this High Standards or is this Self-Defeating Behavior? I've been debating this amongst my selves for years. When I feel lonely, isolated and jealous of the benefits of companionship that others have (even though I would never choose their companions), I think the latter. But then I undertake the search and the needle sways toward the former. (See Choice A or B above).

Whichever it is, the fact is that I felt cut-off and left-out at the beginning of the summer, when I started this dating project. At this moment, for whatever reason, I no longer feel lonely, or needy, or hungry for a man in my life. This isn't because I'm content; I'm never content. But right now what I'm hungry for is more life, not a perfectly nice man-in-my-life.

All this is by way of trying to decide what to do next. So far, no clue.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Romantic Spontaneity

Well, so much for my romanticized sense that breaking the silly rules and rigid scripts of first dates would be fun and stimulating. Also so much for my brilliant idea that seeing a movie I want to see anyway would make a first meeting more efficient. (Romantic efficiency: how's that for an oxymoron?) The latter doesn't work because no one would meet you in the lobby and go right to the movie; no, you have to have coffee first, which means meeting an hour or more before the movie starts. The documentary started at 5:20, I met up with J/aka-L at 4:10, we sat down for coffee at 4:20, and by 4:30 I knew this was a mistake and I was stuck.

J/L greeted me with the non-encouraging words, "Hmm. You look very different from your picture."
Here's what followed:

Me: "Really? You're the second man to tell me that. This is so odd. What's different?"
Him: "Never mind."
Me: "No, I'm concerned, I want to know. You must mean I look older or fatter in real life? It's obviously not a difference that's flattering to me."
Him: "We shouldn't be discussing this. You're an attractive woman. Never mind. It was just one of the pictures, really."
Me: "Can you just tell me which of the three pictures I don't look like? So I can take that one down? Because I don't want men to think I'm deliberately deceiving them. I honestly thought they all looked like me."
Him: "We shouldn't discuss this."

Okay, probably true, but may I remind you (and him) that he brought it up, approximately .01 seconds after meeting me? This was not a good start.

I tried again: Let's discuss something else. It was attractive that he is a passionate environmentalist, organizes and does volunteer work (he's not employed at the moment, so has lots of time), and is knowledgeable and ethical about all this in ways that I am not. So I tried to get him to talk about that. BP? Nope. His vegetarianism? Nothing new or interesting there. Recycling plastic bottles? I recalled how I tried for years to be virtuous by reusing plastic bottles, only to learn that it's practically fatal to reuse plastic bottles. He was not amused. Then I attempted to engage him in an ethical argument about killing mice; is it right to put our own repugnance before mouse suffering? (I personally love that sort of thing.) He wouldn't discuss.

Finally, finally, it was time to see the movie, the documentary on the life of Joan Rivers, called A Piece of Work, which I enjoyed very much. I would have loved to talk about the interesting parts of the movie, e.g. the line between what's funny and what's off-limits to laughter and why, but let me tell you, that wasn't happening. Did you enjoy the movie? I asked. No, he said. That was it. Yet he wanted to extend the date, walk around the Village, and seemed let down when I said I had to go home. A different way than he was going.

A very sweet man, a nice man, but we live on different planets as far as sensibility goes. I sincerely hope he finds a fellow non-verbal environmentalist.

Here's another one of my dating ironies: he didn't look at all like his attractive picture either. And I think his listed height of 5'6" was a hopeful exaggeration. But unlike him and the first guy who told me I don't resemble my picture, I never would say so.

Ah, Match.com. I resigned my membership in a fit of disgust about ten days ago. Yesterday I checked to see exactly when the subscription was up, and it seems they never processed my resignation, which means I will be automatically billed for another month. There goes the decision about whether to continue or not. I plan to protest, but if I have to stay, I think I'm going to be Narrowing the Scope from now on. To geniuses who are drop-dead gorgeous, and witty, and have British accents. But are not gay.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Comedy Tonight

I went into denial until a phone call at 9:15 pm reminded me that I'd promised to call L, aka J, last night. Didn't want to, of course, but it wasn't bad. I apologized for the late hour, and he was sweet about it. Said he was eating cole slaw; there's something so Brooklyn about that. I don't mean gentrified Brooklyn (which is in fact where he lives), but Old Brooklyn, where I grew up. His accent and mannerisms were familiar, but in a good way.

On the down side, he's very short and is unemployed, but he endeared himself to me by volunteering to go to the movies with me tonight even without the requisite first chat in person. So we're back to that plan, meeting in the Village to have coffee and see the new Joan Rivers documentary. I like documentaries and I like comedy, so I'm pleased. Secretly I'm even more pleased that I won't be wasting time, because I was going to see it anyway. There's nothing better than being efficient.

So, comedy tonight.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More On Gaydar

Just got an email from J/L, inviting me to call him tonight. I'd rather do a lot of things I can think of, but I'm going to force myself. Result will be posted tomorrow.

The subject of my bad gaydar reminds me of a time early in my acquaintance with my good friend G.R., many years ago when I began teaching. I didn't know him well but he'd graciously offered me a ride home from work with a colleague of ours. In the car, the colleague asked G.R. how Sylvia liked the new country house; G.R. replied that she liked it a lot, was having a great time in the country. It was actually quite a while before I discovered that Sylvia was not G.R.'s wife but his cat, and that in fact G.R.'s spouse was named Bill. That's how I am. No gaydar.

I lied when I said I'd make the decision about going on with this blog and dating online by the next post. Here it is and I haven't decided after all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The World Still Turns

Last post I wrote about my reaction to reading Harlequin-type romances, which I'm doing in preparation for a new chapter in my book on romance. My response to these novels involved a certain churning of the stomach at the narcissism of women who identify with a heroine so over-the-top in desirability, where love is a kind of hyperbole of language and image, a vision perfectly in harmony with the reader's innermost desire to be The One and meet The One. Ick.

But in fact this imaginary landscape is just a lamer, cheaper reflection of those other images of perfection we see everywhere around us in magazines and TV and movies, the whole media ball of wax. And who am I to be snooty about women's pleasure in these distilled fantasies of desirability when no one has loved and believed in romance more than I have? This makes me wonder (to go back to my friend DK's question) what I'm looking for in dating online, anyway. Is it a reasonable, workable companionship, something resembling a friendship with some good-enough sex thrown in? Or am I secretly hoping the emotional rush of romance will "happen", combining the two into a relationship that is romantic?

Apparently it won't, on Match. My last contact, now that my Match sub is almost run out, was L, who lives in Brooklyn and likes movies. ("L my name is Lover, and I live on Long Island, and I like Ladies"). I had admired L because he had responded so forthrightly when I contacted him, asking me to go to the movies with him. Not a conventional first date, and that's why I liked him (he's also pretty cute). But then this idea got postponed for one reason or another. The last two weeks were intense, what with the new baby, my youngest grandson, being overdue, and then born, and then in the NICU for three days. When it was all finally settled happily, I contacted L again and asked cheerfully if he were ready to go see that movie.

No, he thinks it's not a good idea to see a movie for a first date. In fact, we should talk on the phone before deciding to meet at all. Oh. Here we go again. And in fact, he's going away for a week and I can call him next weekend. And I will, but I confess to disappointment in L's sense of spontaneity and willingness to throw out the rulebook. Yes, yes, I know it's better this way. I once had a fix-up date with a fairly well-known writer that took place at a movie, and it was pretty weird. On the other hand, I think that was because we didn't much like each other (a couple of years later I saw an article about him in the New York Times that mentioned his recent marriage to a younger woman).

This week I went to a lecture on Tony Kushner for the hell of it -- since I teach his plays, it seemed good to hear more about him. Next to me sat a man not too different in age, and clearly alone, and quite attractive. We fell into conversation, and I perked up when I heard his Australian accent (I'm a sucker for the Brits and their colonies). Now, I've heard for decades that going places you're actually interested in and casually conversing with strangers is a far better way to meet men that the online dating show. So I put on my most beguiling smile and was prepared to be casual but interested when he said that as a gay man, he particularly appreciated Kushner's work. Yeah, well, great gaydar I do not have. I noticed afterward that there were an unusual number of men sitting by themselves. Duh.

Just noticed that Letter L above (fearless film lover from Brooklyn) was called J in an earlier post. So much for my alphabetical skills. But I like the jump-rope rhyme above, and probably no one is reading this anyway, and so to heck with it, J will now be called J/L.

Will I join another dating site, or say goodbye to my summer project before the summer is halfway done? I promise to decide by the next post.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

As the World Turns

Well, Mr. Cranky from NJ never returned my call, so apparently I annoyed him too. I'm not sorry; there's got to be more to life than putting up with someone's irritability. It's only in Harlequin romances (which I'm reading way, way too many of for a chapter in my book) that the hero's boorish, rude behavior signals that he is a softie underneath who is ripe for falling in love with just the right woman, namely the heroine, stand-in for the reader. It's amusing to read these books in quantities and see how preoccupied they are with the supposed mind of the hero as he is utterly captivated by our heroine...fighting her power over him with all his masculine bravado, but helpless before her incredible beauty, charm and yes, intelligence (we're told the heroine is intelligent, though what's obsessively described is physical beauty). Meanwhile the reader gets to gaze on the satisfying spectacle of the hot, powerful male reduced to jello, not just by her sexual appeal but her ability to permanently engage his emotions. That is clearly most of the pleasure of the text.

Except to me, wondering how I could be reading this stuff for what seems like eons, and still not even halfway through the slog. First, there's a degree of female narcissism in the above, a greedy need for attention and approval from the male, that turns my stomach, and second, nothing in my actual experience has ever matched up to this compelling motif. In real life, rude and dominating men turn out to be...you guessed it, rude and dominating.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thinking Day

Today I'm thinking about the way my behavior in this dating game has been responsive to the inner tides of my psyche. First I surge with pent-up needs or resentments or fears, and then these recede, so that my initial reactions feel suspect and foreign to me. And then too my responses to men have been shaped by the opinions of others, and of course my expectations of what romance should be like, or the way I hope men will act.

For example, when I was told I was too narrow in my search, I started hopefully trying to find men in new places; when I talked to The Adventurer, I imagined what he wanted and decided I didn't fit that, and then switched gears and felt bad when I was told I was wrong to reject him; when I emailed with The Philosopher after meeting, I had in mind the romantic idea that he would like me equally from the get-go, and felt resentment that he didn't, spoiling that one. There is context upon context for every single interaction, from the first glimpse of someone's profile, to the email that follows, to the way a phone call or meeting is interpreted. It's all so multi-layered and complex that it's a wonder people ever get together with others at all, and nothing like seeing a stranger across a crowded room...and boom.

Ads for Match.com on TV loudly proclaim that nowadays, one in five relationships begin online. I suppose it could be true (I wonder how they know this?) -- maybe this is the New Normal. But if it is, it sure doesn't feel in the least romantic. My favorite sociologist, Eva Illouz, whose work I'm reading in preparation for the book I'm writing this summer, points out that we supposedly define romance by its spontaneity; we speak of romantic love as an "unexpected epiphany" having to do with recognition of the uniqueness of the mysterious Other. She says online dating is a significant break with this old definition, because it presents us with limited information from which we have to make an informed guess...similar to the way a consumer chooses to try a product after seeing advertising. It also supplies a formal script and a repetitive vocabulary for describing the self that's supposed to be unique. So in the end "love" (or rather, dating) is both rationalized and "instrumentalized", that is, people are super-aware of trying to get a good deal for themselves in a process that is supposed to be driven by "pure" and overwhelming emotion.

But Eva, how many actual "romances", especially those that lead to marriage, really ARE driven by that sort of passion? Isn't marriage subliminally based on our perception of a good deal in any case?

Another point of hers I think is brilliant is that we are hyper-conscious of our place in the online dating market because the most individualized feature -- sometimes the ONLY unique feature -- in these repetitive profiles is the picture, and we know our photo is being judged against thousands of others readily accessible by a click. Ouch. No wonder it's so stressful. She has a way of saying (in academese) exactly what I've been experiencing. I know a lot of people would be turned off by her sociolgical jargon, but I need that objectivity and intellectual structure to get past my emotionality on this subject. That's why when I feel low and blue about this process, thinking about it helps a lot. Let's hear it for thinking!

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I sent out a few more tentative hellos to guys here and there, and one who responded -- let's call him K -- was visiting the city today and suggested we meet. All I know about him is that he lives somewhere in New Jersey and is cranky. In fact, when I asked him for his cell phone so I could set up a time, he snapped (if you can snap by email) that he had already given it to me in a previous email. Well, excuse me. Then I called him to say I couldn't make it till later in the afternoon, and the conversation wasn't encouraging. He didn't seem glad to hear from me, and his impatient voice was off-putting. So here we go again. Am I making snap (not to pun) judgements again, based on almost no information, or am I right to behave intuitively? Do I need Mr. Cranky from Somewhere, NJ? I only reached out to him because I was told I hadn't been tolerant enough; now I wonder where to draw that line. The more I am aware of the layers of my decision-making, the more confused I get.

So much simpler to see the stranger across the room. Who conveniently falls for you too, in equal amounts, and is of course available. Or if you want to switch from song to story, you can add an obstacle or objection (mutual misunderstanding, engagement to the "wrong" person, pride or prejudice, etc.) that is overcome after some exciting tension is resolved.

And my month's sub at Match is coming to an end in a few days. I have to decide whether to renew for another month, or try somewhere else, or give up for the summer. Right at this moment, I can tell you that the Little Engine That Could is almost out of steam. I'm getting pretty cranky myself.

We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The news about my newborn grandson has been good, while the action on Match has been ebbing. Right now I'm about to go visit my other children and grandchildren out of town for the weekend, so there will be no posts for a few days. I sent J, the Brooklyn movie-lover, a note telling him I'll be away and will get in touch next week -- no reply. And I reached out to a few new possibilities, but no response there either. Two of them looked vaguely familiar, which could mean that route has been traveled before to no avail.

But I've gotten interesting responses from others about my experiences with The Philosopher and The Adventurer (aka Letter-I, last post). Apparently I really blew it with The Philosopher, because I showed insecurity in my email -- by giving him, as one commentator put it, Too Much Information -- when I told him I "hadn't been sure he wanted to see me again" and so was pleased to hear from him. And then his lukewarm answer about "giving it another time or two" pressed my buttons, meaning dug at my fear of being in the one-down position of wanting what the guy doesn't. Voices of reason tell me that bringing up the topic is too much emotional pressure, too much sharing. Some men are reserved and don't want to be overwhelmed with a woman's need to be reassured. Plus I might have been so charming on Date #2 and #3 that he might have liked me better and I'd never have known about his doubts after Date #1. Or not. But that's the chance you take.

That makes sense, so I regret the way I handled it. My soft spots were showing like those slips women wore in the Fifties. As for The Adventurer, my good friend DK tells me it wouldn't have killed me to get my butt on one of those hikes that Letter-I likes to take, to give it the proverbial chance. And I agree, except...I just don't want to. It's not just my laziness and lack of time. Not only did Letter-I talk exclusively about himself, the usual turn-off (he was curious about me once, asking how much time I would have...for him), but he was just so clear that he had a strict agenda of his own, rigorous companionship in his daily travels.

So what do you want from this, if you're not going to give it a chance? asked DK reasonably. Good thing I have reasonable people in my life to ask me unanswerable rational questions. In the same way that I complain about the way this online dating process makes romance into work, complete with resumes and interviews, figuring out what I want in advance feels weird and unromantic. What DO I want? Love, liking, sex, company, pleasure, spontaneity, reliability....actually I'd take one or two of those. And it's truly amazing how difficult any of these desires is to fulfill.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It Takes All Kinds

You may have guessed from the title that this is about a character, one I have called I (that is, the letter I in my alphabetical series).

First, a digression, but an important one. Last Sunday my new grandson was born, unfortunately with breathing problems, and was promptly put in the NICU (that's Newborn Intensive Care Unit, for those of you lucky enough not to know). We were told it wasn't very serious, but he had wires and beeping things coming out from various parts of him, so it was stressful and scary. It really put the love-and-dating quest into perspective, and took away my appetite for anything but news about him. Now he's doing better and is scheduled to come home tomorrow, hopefully to lead a normal newborn life of nursing, crying and staring around blankly, so back to The Dating Game.

Letter-I had one of the longest and most detailed profiles I've ever seen. He's done a good deal of traveling, and he appears to have listed every place he's visited on the globe. Plus he just came from somewhere down South and has a tremendous lust for seeing the many sights of New York, all of which were also listed, and he is a marvel of athleticism in a variety of sports, which were listed too. It was exhausting to read, but he was dashingly handsome in his picture, sporting a bicycle helmet.

Still, I wasn't sure I wanted to contact him because in the picture he has a rough-hewn, super-masculine face, and I formed an image of him from the above facts and the picture that amounted to a macho, dominating guy. I am presently allergic to the same, but I put a toe in the water nevertheless. He responded right away, ready to have fun with me in exhaustive detail. It dawned on me that what he is dying for, being alone in a new city, is a companion in his hyper-energetic travels. He also said he doesn't read newspapers. All this led me to say that we might be very different people, but how about we talk. He replied immediately, sounding upset that I thought we were different: hadn't he described himself in detail? And I liked him enough to initiate contact, why did I think we were different now?

I usually avoid phone calls like the bubonic plague, as you know if you've been reading this blog, but I wanted to reassure him that I wasn't crticizing him, since he seemed so defensive. To my surprise, the vision I'd had of him as Macho Adventure Man didn't at all match his voice, which was soft, boyish and melodic. He was sweet, but it was clear to me that I was right, he wants a woman who will accompany him in his (apparently) 24 hour a day adventures. And that ain't me, babe. I explained carefully, so as not to bruise his feelings, that I actually prefer to sit around and read than bike the length of the Hudson or climb the Shawangunk Ridge. When I could get him off the phone, I suggested we think it over. I thought that was the end of it, because that's considered a graceful exit line.

But no. The next morning there was a two-sentence follow-up email from Letter-I, solemn and earnest: how much time did I devote to my job? Was I off for the summer? I felt like I was being interviewed for a position, those niggling last questions before you're made the offer or declined. I answered, out of politeness, but Letter-I then wrote a last regretful note: "I guess I have to accept the fact that I really want someone who has the time and freedom as I have to travel and just do things together. If I were a long-time resident here with an established group of friends, that could make a difference. but that is not the case. So I think we should just wish each other good luck with the search and move on." I had already moved on, but oddly, I think Letter-I and I might very well have had a ton of fun together. If I did not have to write a book on deadline this summer, and if I were not the lazy layabout that I am, that is.

Maybe next summer I'll look for Letter-I on the dating sites again.

Next up: J, from Brooklyn, fearless film lover extraordinaire.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Salmon Turns Out to Be Herring

I'm feeling better about The Philosopher, now that I have some perspective on it. I can't help suspecting the problem for him was physical attraction, possibly due to my age. My only evidence for the latter is that he listed women 35 and over in his search; this is a bit unusual for men of 65, because it implies they think women 30 years younger will respond to them. Twenty years younger is common as grass, but not 30. Now, I'm a bit spoiled in my dealings with men; in all modesty, they usually like me, unless it's obvious to both of us that it's not going to happen. The button that The Philosopher pushed is my fear that this appeal I've had for men is changing as I grow older. And I can't help noticing that I keep growing older.

But I was cheered by the thought that I had three more starters at the firing line coming up. That is, I had written to about six more gentlemen, and several who seemed promising answered. Today was H, a therapist who lives and works on the Upper East Side. Since he also has a Masters in literature, he had the commonality thing going for him again. We had made a date for coffee today by email before talking, and had only a brief conversation to confirm the time and place. But the brief conversation was disconcerting. He dithered, asked questions I had already answered, sounded aged and fragile. Oh dear. I wasn't looking forward to this, but it seemed rude to cancel, so I went. I was glad I had decided not to repeat the lunch syndrome, which was getting expensive and fattening.

It was actually worse than anticipated: I won't use the word "torture" out of respect for victims of war, but I will say that I kept wondering how soon I could escape without hurting his feelings. And he had walked all the way from the East Side to my own area on the West Side, so I felt I had to pay him back for his ergs of exercise. It started badly when I saw him -- his looks sort of matched his telephone voice. Then there was a lot of fussing about where we'd sit. It had to be the back of the cafe, there couldn't be noise, we had to locate where the music was coming from so we could avoid it. Except there was no music. When we finally sat I discovered the reason for all this: there was a hearing aid in one ear.

I felt bad that I had attributed the fussing to his personality instead of to a handicap (though it would have been better if he had simply told me about his deafness), but in fact it turned out that it wasn't just his condition. (I have noticed that life is often like this, haven't you?) He actually was an irritating person. It seemed to me that his deafness was both physical fact and apt metaphor. He spoke about uninteresting things in an uninteresting way, and I couldn't even get him to tell his life story, which usually keeps my attention as a last resort. For an hour he asked a zillion questions and then cut me off immediately every single time I tried to answer. I couldn't help wondering how he operates as a therapist. And obviously a successful one, as he supports an office in a wealthy area of the Upper East Side. I felt I was in a Woody Allen movie, like the one where Marshall McLuhan appears to explain the film Woody is waiting to see. I wanted Freud to materialize and tell me what exactly H's patients see in him.

Don't get me wrong, he was a nice guy. And I've rarely been so motivated to leave for the library to get to work, so I'll give him that. Plus the full-body eye-sweep he gave me at the farewell reminded me that The Philosopher had done nothing of the sort, either at meeting or parting, and that's more evidence for the latter's lack of physical attraction to me. I must remember to take that as a sign: look for the ever-common full-body eye-sweep, and if not there, do not push.

Next is the letter I, who seems to be quite a character, and J, from Brooklyn, who is more promising. But I'm starting to have serious doubts about the promises that dating profiles make. And profiles are all you have to go on before you sample the products, unfortunately. So they are pretty much in the same relation to what you are going to get as those greener-than-thou ads for British Petroleum are to what really happens in the ocean.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Interesting Stuff

Interesting: To my pleasant surprise, last night I received a follow-up email from The Philosopher. This just shows, I thought, that I was misinterpreting his reserve as reluctance. I wrote back in a jolly tone, mentioning (carefully) that I was pleased to hear from him, as I wasn't sure when we parted that he wanted to go further. "I can usually tell when a man likes me," I wrote, "But in your case, I really couldn't, for whatever reason." Again, the speech act: just one more reassurance, please. You do like me, right?

His rather stunning (to me) reply: "To tell the truth, I wasn't sure." He added that when I hugged him goodbye and joked that we really must meet again because of all we have in common, he then thought, okay, "taking another step or two would be fine." This set me back on my heels. So my intuition had been right after all.

I replied: "Ah, well, I thought I picked up a certain distance. I appreciate your honesty. And I'm a candid person, you can tell. So I'll tell you frankly: if you were not sure you wanted to see me again after we had lunch, that puts a different spin on it. I really don't want to see someone, even casually, who isn't into me, so to speak. Attraction has got to be mutual or it's not fun. Anyway, I'm the one now feeling ambivalent. I think that's called irony."

He answered right away: "So, are we done?"

I tried to explain: "No, I'm on the fence, but I don't want to court anyone who has a lukewarm response to me. I'm not likely to get any prettier or nicer the next time or two you see me."

I couldn't help hoping this would be one of those romantic narratives where the man realizes the value of the woman he has taken for granted, and pursues her after all. I always hope that, because I'm essentially a romantic, though a cynical one. And no, I haven't heard back. I suspect he's "done." No doubt this was too much for him, and you might think this was my fault. I might even agree.

Did I handle this well? I'm torn between feeling I'm right to be self-protective and accusing myself of overreacting. On the one hand, it doesn't augur well that someone gives me "a time or two" to evoke a more enthusiastic response from him. Something about the way he put this sounded like he was doing me a favor. Or is that my paranoia? Would a more rational woman have avoided these questions and just pursued the opportunity?

It's hard to be objective, as always. I know one thing for sure: I dread hoping for more with someone who essentially isn't attracted to me or is half-hearted about me -- been there, have seen the results. Having a good deal in common isn't necessary and it isn't enough. And when I think about that lunch with him, I have to ask myself whether I was really so attracted to him -- or just relieved to be lunching with a man who could hold an intelligent conversation and did not talk about himself exclusively (though mostly). He wasn't Adonis, he wasn't particularly interesting and he wasn't at all amusing. He was just eminently suitable.

Is it self-respect to want more, or am I neurotic for holding out for more in a very bad romantic market?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Date with a Philosopher

I had a date with someone I liked today: a philosopher who teaches at a university in the city. He was sane, smart, pleasant-looking, well-spoken, carried on a reasonably interactive conversation, lives in my general neighborhood, and had so much in common with me that it would be criminal not to pursue it. We are both writing books this summer, and talked about that. Yes, I could see myself doing more of this.

The downside: he didn't smile at my jokes or show much humor at all -- quite serious. You could say that comes from being a philosopher, but to the contrary, those I've known have been a laugh a minute, or at least appreciate the absurdities of life. At one point I asked if women make assumptions about him because he teaches philosophy, and told him that many men lamely joke, when they hear I teach English, that well, they'd better watch their grammar in front of me, apparently not realizing that 1,000 others have said the exact same thing. But he didn't give me the I-know-what-you-mean smile I can usually count on from other teachers. In general there was little affect. I don't know what this says about him, or his reaction to me.

Then too, when we parted there was no indication at all that he was flirting with me or wanted to go any further. Impulsively I said that we really should get together again, based on all our many commonalities, in my semi-ironic tone that is a cover for anxiety. He seemed distant, murmured something I didn't quite get. That made me fear I'd been pushy, so I added, "Um, I mean if you want to, I don't want to push you if you don't..." and he snipped, "It's okay, I can take care of myself". I suppose he meant that he won't go out with me if he doesn't want to. That's rational, but not what I wanted (or as a linguist would say, not what my speech act was really about). Of course I was looking for reassurance. Duh. And you'd think by now I'd have figured out that when I push for reassurance from men, I almost never get it.

So maybe I should have let him take the reins on suggesting we meet again. But then, why does it always have to be the man who must suggest this?

Well, he's not the only fish in the sea, apparently: there is a tentative date with another good-sized salmon lined up for Saturday, and two more in the pipeline. I notice I'm starting to put on pounds from all this date-eating. At the end of this blog I may wind up with no man and a thicker waistline.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Scope Narrows

Today I had lunch with B, who had beeen too busy to see me the last two weeks. He's the one whose wife is in a nursing home. A lovely man, unfortunately not in the physical sense. I'd forgotten that he's 75 years old, and he appeared even older to me.

We talked about politics, about which we mostly agree, but it was the usual: he was eager to tell me his opinions on current events, not to hear my own apercues. This doesn't bother me when someone knows more than I do, or has fascinating things to say, but alas, not in B's case. I'm quite sure that a single man will never read this blog, but if he did, I'd like to tell him that the secret to capturing a woman is to ask her questions and actually listen to the answers. It really isn't all that hard to do.

So then I asked about B's life (he was totally uninterested in mine). He's been married over 40 years, and his wife was an unusual woman. Though she didn't go to college, she rose from secretary to a high-level position at a financial firm, making tons of money before she became ill. I was way more interested in her than I was in B himself. He told me the wrenching story of her degenerative illness, and while I was touched, I did feel the randomness of it: I don't know this person and I'm hearing these intimate details -- why?

B seems well-off; he lives in a pricey zip code in Manhattan, and has a house in the most expensive part of the Hamptons. Yet he accepted my offer to pay for my lunch, which came to ten dollars (I had an appetizer). I know many men are sensitive about being exploited (see Rushed Lifestyle Man) and complain about women's expectations of being treated to meals, so I'm fine with any way of doing it. I always pay for myself unless someone insists, but with the house in the Hamptons, I confess I thought he'd insist. Oh well. I can afford ten dollars too.

One interesting moment in his tale: when he proposed marriage to his wife, she broke down and told him the awful truth that she was seven years older than he was. He emphasized this as though she had been withholding the news that she had infectious plague. He immediately withdrew the marriage proposal in the face of this horror: when I'm 43, he reported thinking, she'll be fifty! Of course this made me feel about 100. Some time later he realized he missed her and they did get married, but apparently her advanced age bothered him for decades. I pointed out that he is eleven years older than I am, did that bother him? No? Wasn't that a double standard? He looked mightily confused, but came back with: I just go by what pleases me. If a woman doesn't like my age, she's free to withdraw.

Though I liked B, I can't see hanging out with him. And one reason is that he feels too old for me. Put that in your irony pipe and smoke it.

Coming up next: three big fish swim near my net; meeting one tomorrow, one Saturday, and one not yet pinned down. And these are salmon, not little herrings.

And I've made a new resolution: I am disavowing the Broad Scope Principle.

Though the fava bean tortellini appetizer at Nice Matin was fabulous.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Comedy Tonight

Well, I met the odd-sounding A, the man from Brooklyn who took my phone virginity when I started this weeks ago. I wasn't looking forward to it, you may remember, since we didn't exactly have crackling electricity on the phone. But to my surprise, I had a great time and found him fascinating. What a life! He's been a psychologist, antique dealer, and best of all, for a long time, comedy club owner. He seems to know or have opinions on everyone in the comedy business, and said interesting things about stand-up comedy and how it's done. This was unexpected, because it didn't appear in his profile (probably because he no longer has the club) and I so rarely meet anyone, much less date anyone, who shares this interest of mine in comedy and humor. He also loves movies and I do too. So I had a great time. And a nice guy.

The bad news: he said he's 68 but looks much older to me. He flunked the test of whether I'd sleep with him for cash. And though sweet, he was mostly encased in his own little world and made little attempt to enter mine. Not that he's unique in that respect. There's simply no way, alas.

Near the end of dinner (I paid for myself, to his obvious relief), he mentioned that he is forming a group of film lovers to watch old movies every other Friday evening in his screening room at home (he owns a building). I said I'd like to join, may I? He became frosty and said he was inviting only couples, no singles. I must have looked surprised, because he added that lots of single friends of friends want to come, and he doesn't want a bunch of new people in his house. We parted without the usual blather about getting in touch. Turn-off was mutual, I suppose. But fun, at least. I'm grateful for that.

More news: turns out that G, who blew me off with what I assumed was an excuse (hurt leg) on Sunday morning, wants to try again next week. Probably nice guy, but I think my zeal for the Broad Scope principle is diminishing. I don't think the men's clothing business is going to afford the same amusement that the comedy club stories did. Yes, I am aware how snobbish that sounds. But true.

However, I found more suckers, I mean possibilities, on Match today, and emailed about six of them. We'll see if any reply. I might do better hanging around hardware stores, as someone once seriously advised me (it's supposedly where the men are).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blown Off vs Blown Away

Somehow I managed to get myself committed to three dates in the next four days. This may sound exciting, except that I don't much want to see any of them, except maybe B, the guy from the Upper East Side whose wife is in a nursing home and is efficient on the phone. I'm beginning to appreciate that quality enormously.

Of the other two, tomorrow is A, the very first guy I spoke to, who sounded, if you remember, rather odd, and the remaining one is G, who contacted me recently. G has a pleasant face, sent a flattering email suggesting dinner at a place of my choice, and best of all, volunteered to come somewhere near my neighborhood, contrasting nicely with C, who clearly thought meeting me in Manhattan was an imposition. So in spite of misgivings, I impulsively set up a meet-and-greet for today.

The misgivings about G were based on his work history -- he's a businessman, has owned a men's suit store, and done other business-y things. I've never yet dated a businessman (or scientist, for that matter) who has the same sensibilities I do. But in the spirit of Broadening the Scope, I suspend my disbelief.

Except it turns out that G did not invite me to dinner. After numerous confusing emails involving a link I sent him to a cool restaurant where we could have a glass of wine and tapas, it turns out that wasn't what he meant at all. This was revealed when he asked "what kind of place" I had suggested, even though I'd sent him the website so he'd see the address. "It's a restaurant where can have a glass of wine and tapas," I wrote. He wrote back, "But I said I'd take you to a diner. I want to go to a diner." Had he said that? I found the email he'd sent, and sure enough, it said, "I'd like to meet you and take you to a dinner, you choose the place." Now, I did think that dinner at 2 pm (the time he wanted) was peculiar, but hey, what ISN'T peculiar about this whole process? Besides, I wasn't up for dinner with a complete stranger myself, so I didn't think about it. After we got past this misunderstanding, we agreed we'd just meet halfway and look for a place he considers sufficiently diner-like. That was yesterday.

This morning, bright and early, he called to say that he'd "hurt his leg somehow" and would remake the date next week. I can't say how glad I was.

I'm detailing this trivial event because it illustrates an important principle in this online dating business, if not in life. How do we come to judgements about people (not to mention situations) with little actual knowledge? It's becoming more and more clear to me that we pick out a few details with which we have associations or previously held opinions, and then put together an imaginary narrative in which these details are signs that it will all work out fine. Or else fill in the mostly blank parts by reading the little information we have as warnings of impending doom. Interestingly, there are two books on the New York Times bestseller list today that argue 1) we should go with our guts in making decisions, and 2) we should not go with our guts in making decisions. And they sell because this question is terribly confusing in real life. People want someone to tell them, once and for all: how do I know?

So with G, I see now that I said yes to the immediate date because his relatively pleasant looks compared well with the ugliness of most available men I've been seeing online, like, say, F; because G's willingness to travel from his neighborhood closer to mine contrasted nicely with the humiliating reluctance of C; and last, because of his flattery, evidence of good taste in women. But then the email exchange revealed that he can't spell, that he couldn't read a link to a restaurant, and that it's important to him to meet a woman in a diner (why? because women will expect him to pay for a meal in a restaurant? because it's too much a commitment of time?). All this adds up in my little mind to not-my-kind-of-guy. Plus, remembering that he sells men's clothing, my cultural snobbery takes over and kills it completely. Hey, I'm an educated, cultured, intellectual woman!

But is this a character defect of mine, or just pragmatism? You can't date everyone, even with the Broad Scope principle. The fact is that people, old, young, gay, straight, and everywhere, tend to couple with others just like them, except in the occasional movie. You don't want to keep correcting the spelling of d-i-n-e-r in your head when you do that for a living.

Except -- and in real life there's always an "except" -- one of those men previously referred to whom I truly loved was completely wrong on paper, had only a year of college, lived the kind of life I would never go near. Yes, in the end it probably did us in, but what a ride we had. He had other, wildly attractive qualities that 99%of the men whose resumes are compatible with mine don't have. So take that, rational decision-maker.

It's just that the above doesn't really help me to know what to do in this situation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Few Fishies Swim On By

Today I corresponded with two fellows in their mid-70's, ten years older than I am.

One -- I'll call him E -- lives far away in the wilds of the Jersey woodlands, or something like that. He reads sports magazines, considers himself pure country, and is looking for a "real lady." For some reason he decided I fit that bill, so he contacted me. I checked his profile: he's not bad-looking, but he seems to spend most of his time fishing and he hates the city. The truth is E could be fun, but I'm not going fishing with him anytime soon, and it sounds like coming to visit me would be torturous for him. So I said no. Too bad. It's one of those cases where in spite of nothing in common, we could have had a whale of a time for a while, to continue the fish metaphor. But I suspect this is mostly in my imagination, just as he had a fantasy of his own about me as a "real lady", based on no evidence at all.

The other fellow, F, looked almost as good as Rushed Lifestyle Man on paper, except older and less attractive than R.L.M, who was barely decent. In fact, if I am to be honest (as Simon Cowell used to say), F seems downright ugly and overweight in his profile picture. But the guy has the professions going for him: he's in psychology and teaches in grad school. So I wrote one of my come-hither letters, and he responded right away. Yes, I have an appealing profile, but he's "seeing someone more or less regularly. Good luck." That means Hasta la Vista.

This was food for another meditation about men and women and age and looks. Every man who has a high-status profession, no matter how repulsive or how old, seems to make out like a bandit, while high-status me, ten years younger than E and (excuse me for saying so) a lot better looking, lies gasping on the shore (to further squeeze the fishy metaphor). I'm not sure if this makes me hate men, or the women who choose them, or the whole sex-gender-age system. But damn, it's hard to hate a system: so abstract. Therefore -- irrationally, I admit -- I hate F instead. Don't worry, no actual men were harmed in the course of this emotion.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Short Updates, But No New Actual Dates

News of the Day:
1. Email from A, the somewhat odd-sounding first guy I talked to. I thought he'd gone into the ether (and I wasn't regretting it), but he has emerged to suggest we make a date for "a mixed drink or coffee." In the spirit of Widening My Scope, I agreed.

2. None of the six new guys I wrote to last week responded to me. Not one.

3. I changed my profile picture, because the first words out of C, the only one I've met so far, were that I don't look anything like my picture. Also, he claimed my face is too far away in the picture to get a good look. Since I haven't heard back from him either, I wonder if he was disappointed in my looks on meeting me. Providing more face on the profile could prevent that -- I'd rather have no date than one where I am a letdown. But it's sort of humiliating to do this. After all, though C was not bad-looking for age 66, he not a beauty either. Yet he could have high standards, since he told me that his most recent girlfriend was twenty years younger than he. This is what they call the double standard, folks, and there's nothing that makes me madder. And don't tell me about evolution and how men must have younger women to spread their genes. I don't care. Unearned privilege in general, any kind, makes me want to eat my arm.

4. An email from my alma mater advertised an alumni speed dating event, and I thought, "Well, why not? That might be interesting and fun." The link said, "Are you interested in meeting fellow alums for romance? Sign up for our speed-dating event, ages 20-40!" Sigh. Double sigh.

5. I had a session with a personal trainer yesterday (comes free with joining my gym for the summer) and after we talked about my "goals", he informed me that I'm "starting from a very good platform." I wasn't sure what he was saying, since I'd told him that I'm totally out of shape and have less muscle tone than a Cabbage Patch doll. It turned out he meant that I have a good body for my age, no big weight issues or horrid lumps in the wrong places. Well, a girl has to hang onto something while being battered by Match.com. At least I have a good platform.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Caught One

Yes, I am a Match virgin no longer (a virgin for this time around, that is; I'm like those women who wear white at their second weddings): I met my first "date" (what an odd word, conjuring up Fifties-style outings in a car to a place with a jukebox, or maybe a drive-in). That would be C, a very nice man of reasonable good looks and pleasant humor. He was not the Conversation Dominator I dread, nor was he boring. We had a lovely conversation for the 45 minutes we had carved out for this occasion, scouting such perennial favorites as when, who and why we married and divorced, the progeny that resulted, where they live and what they do, and of course those we have loved since then and why that didn't work out so much (psychological depth excluded). We also delved extensively into his stereo system (fabulous) and mine (a wreck), a topic of great interest to him because he loves classical music. I got some great advice about how to replace my turntable.

As you can probably infer by now, because you are so psychologically astute, we got along well but there were no fireworks lighting up the sky. On the other hand, as the psychotherapeutic police are always telling me, one should not expect fireworks. Or even strong attraction. After all, you can't know someone from meeting for 45 minutes (you betcha). So I will just say that I liked him, in a reasonable and cautious kind of way, more than I thought I would. This got a considerable boost when we stood up for the perfunctory hug goodbye and I realized that he is tall and slim; I could hug that with some pleasure.

So that was nice, even without visions of skipping through meadows. On the downside, though, I didn't get a strong sense that he liked me a lot, or intends to follow up. Deduct points for this: one wants to be liked. The first words he said, in fact, were that I look nothing like my picture; he claimed this was neither good nor bad (I asked), but the neutrality itself goes with the tone of the whole meeting. The upside is that I'd be fine with seeing him again and also fine with not seeing him again. No sadness and disappointment, as with Rushed Lifestyle Guy.

Also, B called to confirm our meeting next week -- he's the one who's too busy to meet before then. I sort of like his manner on the phone. He doesn't try to be entertaining or impress, just get the job done, which is fine with me. We spoke for about 30 seconds: lunch or coffee? Lunch. Where? I'll get back to you by next week. Good, looking forward to it. Bye for now.

My friend G. points out in an email that it's "all a crapshoot anyway. Our very individual existence is a biological accident, so how can there be any method in the pursuit of love?" He recommends meeting without knowing anything about the candidate and just flopping into bed. I see what he means: it makes more sense to rationalize sex, where, let's be honest, the picture tells you 90% of what you want to know, and the other 10% is available in the first five minutes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Fish on the Hook

Before we turn to fishing, I want to note that the artist Louise Bourgeois died yesterday at age 98. There will be a lot written about her and her art, but how many can say they dated her son? Me, that's who. And met him online, too.

He was a very nice man, and a major hoot. Quirky, interesting, completely in his own world, scattered in his attention. He brought with him as Exhibit A a book he'd written with his deceased wife, full of beautiful photographs they'd taken of adobe dwellings in Africa and Asia (at least that's my memory of it -- it was years ago). It quickly became clear that he had lost the great love of his life, the woman who had sustained him, and he was longing for someone as much like her as possible. I've run into this before with widowers who had been happy in their marriage. We got along just fine, and as we hugged goodbye before he stepped into the car driven by a friend who was his personal assistant, he claimed that he would call me, but we both understood I wasn't going to be the next Mrs. Bourgeois. Still, I didn't feel it was a wasted afternoon, as I usually do. If only they could all be like that.

On to the fish: This is C, the man from Westchester, who is going to be in Grand Central Station anyway this afternoon, so is squeezing me in for a cup of coffee. I know almost nothing about him except that he's not fond of driving to Manhattan, though he has the advantage of not turning me off with his phone conversation. However, that could be because we bypassed the phone and arranged this by email. We'll see. Your faithful reporter will let you know whether this particular fishie will be thrown back into the sea or might be a candidate for further tasting.