I have a face made for online dating. It's not because I am so devilishly handsome that women would fall over themselves to meet me. On the contrary, with online dating I control the first look women will have of me. I decide which slightly blurry old photograph taken at just the right angle where I pass for attractive will be placed in my profile. This way a woman could get to know me before actually meeting me face-to-face. Why do I need this buffer? Well, if there is one thing I know about myself is that I can write funny e-mails and once I get someone laughing, I've won half the battle of winning them over.
Before online dating I had to meet women the old fashioned way: drinking and going to bars.
I have never been very good at meeting women, whether in a bar or on the street (not hookers). I don't have many success stories of ending up in a long-term relationship with a woman I met in a bar. I met my ex-wife in a bar (enough said). Maybe it was me, the way I presented myself. One Friday night I was standing at the bar at a local franchise restaurant and, after one or two beers, the bartender came up to me and asked me if I was alright. I assured him I was fine.
"Ok," he said, "just wanted to check. You look angry."
The next night I was in another bar and, after one or two beers, that bartender came up to me and asked me if I was okay. I assured him I was.
"Okay," he said, "just wanted to check. You look angry."
I would think a six-foot-two-inch man grinning wildly, alone, at the end of a bar would be more frightening than that same man just staring off in the distance sipping on a beer. Live and learn.
I did have a few barroom encounters that I thought would have ended better.
I will preface this first encounter by saying the following -- after my initial separation I had a very hard time concentrating or getting any sleep. This went on for quite a while, to the point where I needed some help. A doctor (bless her heart) to whom I just told my aforementioned problems reached into a drawer, handed me samples of Zoloft, and then wrote a prescription for additional supplies. While on Zoloft I had no anxiety whatsoever -- zero. I will credit Zoloft, and the beer I wasn't supposed to be drinking while taking them, with what happened next.
It was a random Saturday afternoon in Hoboken, New Jersey when I found myself standing alone in a bar. I looked over and saw a very pretty woman being bothered by the man that stood next to her. With each step back she took her unwanted companion matched it with his own step forward. I then did something I had only seen done in movies. Something I had never done before or since. I stepped in between her and her unwanted friend, slipped my arm around her waist and said, "There you are, I've been looking for you" and then guided her away.
Thank you, Zoloft.
The rest of the day flew by, we had great conversations, and we laughed -- a lot. She lived in Brooklyn but her family was originally from East Brunswick, New Jersey, which is not far from where I grew up. Just before she left with her friends I asked if she'd like to get together again and in response she gave me her number. The following Monday I called her from work.
"Hello?" she answered.
I told her who I was and she quickly replied, "Can I call you right back?"
That was twelve years ago -- I'm almost ready to give up hope that she will return my call (almost).
Jump ahead a few years from that first encounter and again I was in a crowded bar, Zoloft-free now, with my friend, Kevin. He looked over my right shoulder as we talked and then told me that a woman across the bar kept looking at me. I laughed it off but he insisted that she was. I quickly turned and scanned the crowd (I am so smooth) and found the woman on the other side of the bar. A man stood next to her, who leaned in close, and talked to her -- continuously. She looked bored and after a few seconds I saw that she turned her eyes away from him and looked directly at me. She then repeated the routine: she listened, she listened, she looked.
This was new.
A short time later she left her companion and moved toward the restrooms but instead of taking the less obstructed route she cut through the most crowded part of the bar and then squeezed past me.
"She did that on purpose," Kevin said and I astonishingly agreed.
On her return trip she squeezed past me again and as we stood eye-to-eye her right hand appeared and she handed me her business card - -all without saying a word. She then returned to her companion but continued the flirtatious glances in my direction.
The next day (too soon?) I called the number on her card, but it went directly to voice mail. I told my female co-workers what happened, and asked them if I should call her again since she didn't reply. They unanimously agreed that I should not call her again, that I should wait for her to return my call. So, of course, I called again and left another message on her voicemail.
Maybe she was on the phone with the girl from Hoboken, but I never heard from her.
I'm not sure why women would give me their numbers, even unsolicited on my part, and then never return my calls. Was it a game, give out your number and then see which idiots would actually call you? Is there a bell near their phones that they ring, like bartenders receiving tips, to let the room know that they caught another one?
So back to online dating I went. But, just to be safe, if in the future you happen upon a slightly blurry man who, given the right angle could pass for attractive, and he's grinning wildly to himself while sipping a beer -- that will be me.
Sometimes it feels like the foundation of your social life is so strong that you no longer find the opportunity to meet new and exciting people. Throw a barbecue or party in which guests bring a friend that no one in the group knows. Alternatively, tag along with a friend the next time their office has a company picnic or function -- this is a great way to meet somebody who you know is responsible enough to hold down a career and who you can 'check out' with an acquainted friend before you agree to a date.
There's no longer a stigma about a woman learning to golf or a man taking a Pilates class, though such activities are still gender lopsided enough one way or the other to open up the dating options for the minority sex. In time you'll be able to go to a local public course and complete someone else's foursome, or cap off an exercise class by going for coffee with some of your fellow students -- both of which will give you the opportunity to meet a host of new people (most likely of the opposite sex). Just make sure you're doing something you want to do -- it would be a shame to begin a relationship under false pretenses.
Organizations such as "Habitat For Humanity" allow you to come into contact with people of all ages and from all walks of life, all of whom have strong, respectable values. And it's not just a great chance to meet a prospective date -- volunteering attracts interesting, good-natured people who themselves are excited to meet new faces and make friends.
Book clubs are great places to meet well-read, like-minded adults -- you can usually find one by calling your local library. Similarly, wine clubs, outdoors clubs and gardening clubs are good options as well depending on your interests. Joining a club allows you to grow as an individual and sets up the opportunity for you to meet someone who shares a common interest.
Singles over 50 are flocking to the online dating world more than any other demographic. It would be a shame to let 20th century prejudices about online dating spoil the opportunities that could await you with a membership. The perception that dating sites attract eccentrics or shut-ins is a dying one, but if you need convincing, just see for yourself the array of adults turning to sites like "Match" and "eHarmony" to help them begin meaningful relationships with interesting people. Here are the top five most popular dating sites for Post50s.
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