Whenever possible, I attend a monthly storytelling group here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories. Each month it has a theme, and this month’s was “The Hardest Thing to Say”. I decided to tell a story about how hard it has been to remain dignified and polite in the world of internet dating.
You can hear that story below, but for those of you who don’t have that ability, I’m attaching the text I rehearsed. For once I stayed pretty faithful to it.
This is the fifth story I’ve told in front of an audience. It’s always such a rush! If you’d like to hear all my stories, go here.
I once stayed in a very unsatisfying relationship for 16 years because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. I am nothing if not polite.
That, and I was terrified of being alone, and wanted a steady date for all major holidays. I think he stayed with me because he had no idea what love looked like, and didn’t think he deserved better. That relationship died a long, slow, death, and it taught me what I don’t want.
Then I met Chuck, and for the 4 years before he passed away, I had met my match. We were emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, passionately, and hilariously compatible.
That relationship taught me what I deserve.
So here I am, ready to try again, but with my screwed up work schedule, it’s hard to meet people. So I joined a dating website. Yeah, it’s come to that.
And at first, what a rush! 60 guys viewed my profile in the first day! I started to think that maybe I’d actually get laid before Christmas! Yay! But then I realized that none of them contacted me, so that was more like 60 rejections in the first day. Ouch.
So I decided to stop looking at the guys who were looking at me and just look through profiles, find ones that intrigued me, and then reach out to them. I did see some that looked interesting, and I sent them messages. And most of them ignored me completely. How rude!
Which is when I decided that even if being polite did not serve me well in the past, I would still strive to take the high road. Anyone who took the time to actually read my profile and send me a message would always get a response from me of some kind, even if it was only to politely say, “Thanks for contacting me. I don’t think we’d be a good match, but I wish you the very best of luck in your search.”
The high road turned out to be harder than I thought.
One guy contacted me out of the blue with a graphic description of what he’d like to do to me. I gave him my stock polite no thanks, and he said that he had a Ph.D., was a counselor for many years, and it was obvious that I have a generalized anxiety disorder that prohibits me from socializing with anyone. Seriously, thank God for the block feature!
Another was sweet and attractive, and told me I was beautiful but he was also 20 years my senior. He understood when I passed on his, er, pass. But the last thing he said to me was, “That’s a pity, because I was hoping to fall in love one last time.” That still brings tears to my eyes.
I did have a few dates. One turned out to be on the sex offender’s database, due to a “complete misunderstanding” of course. (Isn’t it always a complete misunderstanding?) Another spent 5 minutes trying to get the legs of our dinner table back into the pre-established dents in the carpet.
One guy who contacted me asked me why I didn’t think we’d be a good match, so I told him that I found all the cleavage shots of scantily clad women on his profile to be a bit off-putting. To that he responded that I was obviously flat chested ( I know, right?) and not into real men.
Okay, this was all starting to feel a little bit like abuse. And it caused me to learn something about myself: I do have my limits. I responded, “REAL MEN don’t objectify women. REAL MEN don’t go from zero to hostile after a little bit of polite rejection from a total stranger. And… YOU PROBABLY LIVE WITH YOUR MOTHER!”
Not my proudest moment, to be sure. But it felt soooo good.
So much for the high road. I told myself that I’d try to do better next time, because believe it or not, I haven’t given up hope. And I have made a few friends along the way. And I am a polite person and I don’t want to lose that quality in this process.
Then just the other day I was tested yet again. I got a message from a guy who called himself BootySmoocher. He said, “Yes, I know I’ve chosen a strange name, but it’s because I like to give r** jobs. Would you like to discuss it over coffee?”
As I stared at the screen, I said to myself, “Take the high road. Take the high road.” Plus, shooting him down would be too easy. So I took a deep cleansing breath and responded, “Thanks for contacting me, BootySmoocher, but as a general rule, I don’t rim on the first date. Good luck with…uh…that, though.”