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Miriam Novogrodsky Headshot

Online Dating: A Particular Sort of Hell

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I pulled my back out on a date with the a-hole from "Bridesmaids." You know, the Jon Hamm character?

A perfect storm of vanity and self-consciousness converged on a bench, when I tried to make my bare legs (100 percent humidity had me in shorts) look their best. I alternated between crossing them (bad for my back) and tucking an ankle under one buttock (really bad for my back). Additionally, while I was working so hard to not have the "date" notice my thigh cellulite, I answered his leading questions with stultifying honesty, thus draining any potential spark from the situation.

I said "work" when he asked what I was thinking about.

I  said "soon" when he asked when I needed to be home.

I said "no" when he asked if I was a good girlfriend. Not for him anyway.

After all my Internet dating, I took some time off.  I did more yoga, wrote more blogs, parented, taught creative writing, started a book group, failed at Weight Watchers, made some new friends and in general, became an even more well-rounded and informed person. A perfect catch brimming over with information and inner peace, I decided to try online hell again. And that's how the a-hole from "Bridesmaids" and  I ended up staring each other down -- I, looking for soulfulness. He, for an ounce of hotness.

We disappointed each other from the get go and even though I knew that was true, I hung on through dinner and too many beers, which for me, is one.

Why, you ask, did I put myself out into the world of online trolling? I know, I know. Even the psychic said I didn't need to, that the angels would bring my love to me.  Being a control freak, I wanted to help out my angels in case they got busy with something urgent -- in other words, exactly anything other than my love life.

Now that I am more highly evolved than the last time I catted about on the Internet, I spent time processing the importance of the "Bridesmaids" date. Why did I feel yucky about myself despite my date's attention? Maybe because his attention wasn't really attention? Maybe because what I thought was a two-sided conversation was me, twisting my lower back while listening so carefully I could tell you where the guy went to high school, how many siblings he has, when his father died, how many women he has been in love with, why he didn't go to college, where he thinks the country is going (nowhere good) and what position he played in football, basketball and soccer. In high school.

I wasn't part of a conversation. I was a witness. And I participated and agreed to the non-conversation-conversation, by sitting through the damn thing. According to the Four Agreements (remember that cult classic?) we can't assume the intentions of another. I agree. I can't assume that the "Bridesmaids" a-hole meant to create an uncomfortable scenario starring himself. But I know, for sure, that the situation made me feel off kilter.

The complicated truth is that interactions affect us. Period.  All the "we create our reality and nobody can make us feel shitty about ourselves, but ourselves" aphorisms are helpful guideposts. But what passes between two people in conversation -- if we validate each others' lives, if we respect each others' insecurities and most importantly, if we laugh at each others jokes -- is important. Conversation, by definition, is a volley between two people. Not a list of accomplishments of one to another. We can sense much. Certainly the ability to interact rather than act, right away. Well into the first beer. Maybe even right after hello.

We people dating mid-life, we're like old shoes. We buff up okay but our stains and worn down heels show up fast. And when shoes are worn in, they're worn in. There's not much one can do to an old pair of shoes. They either fit, or they don't.