About two years post-divorce I became visually impaired in a freak accident. I had so many doubts and fears about dating because I had no clue how men would react to dating a visually impaired woman. Was I damaged goods, or would men think that not seeing them so well was to their advantage? Nine months after the accident, after the healing and initial adjustment, I wanted to date.
So how does a woman who is selective but can't see so well and can't get out much find a potential dating partner? Well, I got the crazy idea of going on EHarmony (AKA EHellmony).
Why Internet dating? Two reasons. One, I have a long history of allegedly being intimidating and rarely getting approached when I am out. I have never been one to pursue and I don't have that stupid girly giggle or bubbliness or vacuous look that makes me seem so vulnerable and so nice. Two, I could see what people look like better in pictures blown up on my computer. That, along with some background information, would give me a better shot at weeding through the possibilities.
The daunting questionnaires took me two days to complete -- questions about education, religion, occupation, drinking, smoking, wanting kids and how important your partner matches you in those aspects. I thought they were going to ask for a mouth swab for DNA and a hair sample to test for other things it was so thorough.
I was confident that, given the detail, I would get some quality matches, even without recommendations. And I was so wrong. My matches were a joke. There are some who occasionally smoked (a no way for me, unless you are Johnny Depp). Many were what I like to call bubba's with pictures of their trucks, fishing with their camo hat on and even shooting guns. It also has this sidebar section for the match where it says some of the things you have in common to talk about. There were many matches where the things we had in common were that we liked cats and football. All those questions and I get men who like cats and football teams that I don't even like? How in the world did the EHellmony system spit these out?
I bombed on EHellmony because I would not really answer the guided questions and went straight to the giving out of my e-mail. That seemed to scare men off. My theory about the low response rate is that many of the people on EHellmony are not really serious about dating or they just don't have the nerve to pull the trigger. As my friend says, they have one hand on the keyboard and another on well, an appendage.
I also realized that I was bombing with people who had no clue I was legally blind. I chose not to put that in my profile and have it come up later with people with whom I began dialoguing. What I decided is that I would tell people after we had begun conversations on the phone and let it come up as a part of the getting-to-know you-phase. Like, "And oh, by the way, I can't see very well."
I went out with four guys. They all have nicknames. The "let me tell you about my dysfunctional family" guy (when he found out I was a psychologist). The drunken loser who left his wife while she was battling cancer. And the PTSD/masochist guy who wanted to engage in some rather bizarre sex acts. The fourth guy was the guy who said he wanted to marry me and dumped me after eight months.
So after the dumping, I was alone for about eight months -- no dates, no prospects. I ended up again on another Internet dating site, even though I had sworn them off. I lost a bet and ended up on Match.com. Damn me for my not welching on a bet policy.
I was on Match for about two months, even though I signed up for three. Match was a free for all with no screening. Even though you put up preferences they are largely ignored. My profile was a little snarky to begin with and got even snarkier as the e-mails got lamer and crazier.
I went out with seven guys on this round of Internet dating. This included "hot player" guy and Fifty Shades of Grey guy. It was a total bust. I came out the other end of the experience more discouraged than ever about the possibility of finding a life partner. I was disappointed about the lack of authenticity, honesty and general courtesy of the men on Match. I think my expectations were too high, or maybe it was that I had expectations.
I could have saved myself a lot of time and energy if I just would have taken the advice of my seven-year-old daughter, who laid out her requirements for a mommy-dating match.
"They have to be really cute -- like you -- and have a daughter."
"Why can't it be a boy?"
"No boys," she said. "It has to be a girl and she has to think I am pretty."
"What about if they do not have kids?" I ask.
"No way," she says. "I need a kid to play with and then we can all live together."
Facial hair was also an automatic out. "Yucky," she said, "They look like Abraham Lincoln."
When I asked her how I was going to find this person, she said, " Go on the Internet and order one."
"I tried that," I said.
Well, why can't you just pick out what you want and design a man?"
Hallelujah, what a concept.
In the end, I realized all Internet dating is blind dating. I could still see what I needed to see. And none of my dates cared that I was visually impaired. That is what I needed to learn.
Follow Lisabeth Saunders Medlock, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisabethmedlock