...And we are put on earth a little space, that we might learn to bear the beams of love.
As I stare down 40 there are a few experiences I was hoping to avoid or perhaps even bypass altogether: Learning to drive a manual car, travelling to India, a mortgage, and Internet Dating.
I had one attempt in my late 20's on Salon.com. It was all very circumspect a decade ago. You still kept it to yourself and pretended like you met this new person in an adorable RomCom scenario, possibly involving a spilled, cold drink. I chatted to a nice man, we met, smoked a joint, and I realized it was not something I wanted to pursue. My memory tells me I didn't even kiss him but, at 27, I was still desperately looking for validity in sex so I might be selectively forgetting an indiscriminate shag.
Nonetheless, the experience was not a brilliant one, as I never tried it again. I met my ex-husband when I was 30 and hoped that would put the full stop on singledom.
Flash forward to 2014 and Internet Dating is de rigueur. There are numerous sites as specific and/or shallow as people themselves. The latest is an App that encourages the user to play a human game of Snap with people in your general vicinity. After a few manic swipes I was contacted by one guy who told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I wasn't looking for sex it was a waste of time. Delete.
Still motivated to try new things, I signed up for a three day free trial on Match.com, which claims to be the world's largest dating site. I know several couples who have met thanks to its algorithms of the heart so I loaded a flattering selfie, whacked a softening Instagram filter on it, and proceeded to create my profile.
I was asked numerous questions, so specific about myself and a potential date, that it took me much longer than the Marry, Snog, Avoid App. Questions I don't think I had ever asked previous boyfriends until months after we had consummated the relationship, or possibly never: Do you want children? How often do you exercise? How would you describe your personal style? It was all very "this is me in a nutshell" (as per drop-down menu) but I think mine just came off as slightly cracked. I went ahead though, championed by the encouragement of single friends who thought it was great, and yet another lonely night in.
Within minutes of publishing my profile, my laptop began to pop and beep; winks, favorites, messages and banners. Followed by emails telling me all those things were happening- just in case I had missed the carnival inside my hard drive.
Random men were sending curt, misspelled messages indicating an interest. "Hey. U pretty" "Wassup- you want to meet??" "Hello. I like ur profile. Wher u from? I bet u smell good." On and on it went. Some slightly more eloquent and considered but after 48 hours I shut it down. I had spent way too much time managing the messages and 'winks' I had received and, even though I made a point of looking at each gentleman's profile, there was always something that made me pass: They didn't get the joke, they had 5 kids, way too eager, or the dreaded mirror selfie snapped in the gym.
I'm sure several really lovely men passed by me but it was way too much information to process. I was overwhelmed, slightly flattered by all the attention, but mostly it just made me feel sad. I felt a general human sadness for all the lonely people in the world and a more specific, egocentric sadness for myself and the marriage I once had.
The truth is I still love my ex-husband, despite our divorce, my relocation to London, and all the pain and suffering he has caused and I have accepted. Jane Eyre says at some point "...I loved him...I could not unlove him now..." and I do wonder if that ache ever truly goes away.
For now, I'll keep my head down and avoid any actual winks. Although I might just keep a glass of Chablis on the ready, you never know when you might literally bump into Mr. Right.