For those of you following the chronology of my life on this blog, I’m going to skip ahead. You can’t do that when you’re actually in your life, though sometimes we wish we could. Zora Neale Hurston once said, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I guess I’m leaving out a chunk of years that asked questions. Some of them were tough. They’re all in the book.
I’m skipping to 1999. I was finding my way in a new life, one I hadn’t prepared for. I found I could finally check off the box “Divorced or Separated” when filling out paperwork without a little knot forming in my chest. I now had an ex-husband, and women seemed to be lining up for a chance to date him. I considered it God’s way of saying “Gotcha!” if my ex-husband became the most eligible bachelor in America, and I turned into an agoraphobic. And, dateless and alone, I defaulted to bowls of Rocky Road and game shows on TV. What if I ballooned up 600 lbs and made people go to 7Eleven and buy me cookies and frozen pizza because I couldn’t fit through the door anymore?
Realizing that wasn’t the life I wanted, I called my best friend and said, “You know this online dating thing everyone’s doing?”
Her exact words were, “Don’t do it!”
At first I wasn’t in love with the idea either, but I didn’t see any other way to find my second husband. I was sure he was out there, somewhere, and my job was to uncover him. And really, time was a-wastin’. If I wasn’t proactive, my dating window would slam shut soon. Then the best I could hope for would be one of those unions in my 80s in the nursing home with a sweet little man with shriveled-up testicles making me tea in the afternoon and getting me confused with his first wife.
I could already see the start of my Bitchy Resting Face showing up in photographs when I didn’t realize the camera was on me. Stuff was happening.I really needed to get a move on.
Online dating had developed into an industry while I was married and going to PTA meetings. I was happy it had emerged as an alternative to bars and anything that had the word “single” attached to it. I liked that online dating was so organized and apparently brimming with men of all shapes, sizes, and denominations. It spoke to my strength — leading with a well-chosen paragraph and following up with some clever rejoinders before I had to ever get out of my pajamas.
The rest would figure itself out. I was to be able to say, “I’m still in my 40s!” and I went around saying it as much as I could. But in a few months that would not be the case and I’d have to find something else to say, something equally optimistic. Because turning 50 sounded — well, 50 sounded — ancient.
Choosing intriguing profiles on my computer screen, and then meeting men in restaurants so they could get a load of my charm. What could go wrong?