In Over My Head: Online Dating

In Over My Head: Online Dating

I never would have dreamed twenty years ago that one day I would be dipping my toe into the waters of online dating. And actually I’ve dipped more than a toe—I’m up to my waist by now. In truth, I’m in over my head.

Twenty years ago my future was decided. I was coupled. A child was planned (although not yet conceived—that happened a couple years later). A house was bought. A dog was adopted. Domestic bliss had commenced.

But alas, life isn’t always so neat.

Twenty years hence, I was finally forced to face my deep unhappiness. My child was now on the cusp of adulthood and making plans for college, and the thought of an empty nest—and daily life without my child as a focus, a diversion, a buffer—filled me with dread and profound sadness. Was this the “empty nest” life I wanted to live? My answer was a resounding no, and I knew I could not do it anymore. I did not love, care or respect enough to continue to carry on the charade.

You see, the relationship had been marked by painful, damaging conflict for as long as we’d been together. I’m not talking garden-variety arguments here. I’m talking screaming matches, slammed doors, carefully chosen words meant to undermine, unbalance, and inflict pain, and frequent fights that took days, or even weeks, to get over. Some of them I have never gotten over. Each conflict hurt a little more than the last, and tore another tiny piece from my heart. We were two respectable, intelligent, caring people who loved each other, but neither of us could see the other’s best self. We simply were terrible for each other, and we always had been. My beautiful, tender heart was being annihilated, piece by tiny piece.

And so I ended it.

As a newly single person I knew I wasn’t ready for another serious relationship, but I also knew I was emotionally lonely. I wanted to start getting out there and meeting people. I wanted to find someone semi-special to spend time with while I figured out my future. But how would I possibly meet anyone? I was no longer twenty-five. At fifty-something, everyone would assume I was married, and anyone I encountered I would also assume was married. You can’t just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, are you single? Would you like to go out sometime?” Well, actually you can, but such an approach is just not my style as it invites rejection and embarrassment. I knew I wanted companionship, but what could I do?

“Online dating,” a friend told me. “Join a dating site, make a profile, and see what happens.”

I concurrently laughed and recoiled in horror. An online dating profile? Me? But I began contemplating the possibility. I researched different dating sites. I looked at other women’s profiles. I read articles about online dating at mid-life. I poked around the multitude of dating sites out there. I wrote sample profiles for myself. And then I took a deep breath and…I took the plunge.

I created a profile on one of the well-known sites. A week later I created another one on a different site. Things began to roll. My inbox quickly got bloated. I sifted through many “likes,” “smiles,” and “winks.” I read scores of decidedly weird or unimaginative messages. I wasn’t sure what to do. Was I obligated to answer every message I received, no matter how strange? “No,” a male friend and fellow online dater told me. “If they clearly haven’t read your profile, if they don’t have a picture on their profile, or they seem weird, just ignore them.” I took that advice to heart and I began to answer only the more genuine, intriguing messages. Soon I was chatting back and forth with several people who interested me. One morning I woke up and realized, I’m an online dater.

Now, more than a year later, I’m an online dating veteran. I’ve had a profile on nine different sites (although I’m down to two now). I’ve observed the ebbs and flows. I’ve encountered the fakes. I’ve been ghosted and breadcrumbed. I’ve been disgusted as well as charmed. And I’ve met several people in real life, on real dates. And…

Ultimately, it’s been a whole lotta nothin’.

Lots of anticipation, only to realize that those people who seemed so cool and attractive in their messages really weren’t in real life. Lots of dashed hopes. Too much disappointment.

My confidence, patience, and courage have taken a serious hit. I have become more distrusting, less hopeful, and uncharacteristically cynical. I don’t like that. And every day I ponder the question – Are there any kind, emotionally healthy, intelligent, honest people out there? I’m beginning to wonder.

And yet a new friend told me recently that she did online dating for five years before she found “The One.” Five years? Am I possibly that patient and intrepid? Ugh. I don’t know. But even so, I was encouraged that it worked out well for her, in spite of the fact that it took five years.

Right now I am just looking for someone I like and who likes me. Someone who wants to date casually, watch a movie, trade flirty texts with me once in a while, go out for dinner and drinks, talk. Someone who isn’t, in reality, married, or living with their mother, or fifty miles from me, or single parent to eight kids. I thought finding such a person would be easy. What I’ve found is that finding such a person is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Eventually, I want to find “The One,” just like my friend did. I am a romantic at heart and I still believe in true love. But I’m not sure I believe anymore that “The One” will be found online. In all honesty, I’m not sure where I will possibly find that person. In today’s world, we are all oddly connected and yet disconnected at the same time, which makes it difficult for any of our personal or professional connections to progress beyond the superficial.

My takeaway after sixteen months of online dating is that it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. It’s demoralizing. It’s unnatural. But my friend’s story proves that sometimes it does work out.

And so I am committed to sticking with it…for now. Stay tuned, and do let me know if you have any tips. I could use them.

Why Are You So Quiet?

Why Are You So Quiet?

“Why are you so quiet?”

I’ve been asked that question more times than I could possibly count. It’s a disconcerting question to be asked. You might as well ask me why the sky is blue, why some mammals live in the ocean, or why Pluto is no longer a planet. Those questions have answers, I’m sure, but they’re not questions I can answer on the fly—just like I can’t answer the question, “Why are you so quiet” when someone insists on asking me this.

And what would be the acceptable answer to this question, anyway? Perhaps, “I don’t like people very much.” Or maybe, “I have a really small vocabulary.” Or, “I’m not very bright so I can’t think of anything to say.”

While those would be funny responses, they aren’t true and they’d likely be met with an open-mouthed stare or the person running the other way. The short answer is: “Because I’m an introvert.”

While there are hundreds of articles out there about introversion, it remains one of the most misunderstood personality traits, even though introverts make up about thirty to fifty percent of the population, according to some studies. No, introverts are not anti-social. No, we don’t hate people. No, we’re not necessarily shy. No, we are not shrinking violets that you can walk all over. But yes, we are quiet by nature.

Why? The reason is really very simple. Introverts get their energy from focusing inside by being quiet, low-key, and yes, sometimes alone. Extraverts* get their energy from outside by interacting with other people. It’s a very basic difference, and not something intended to discomfort, confuse or anger people. But it seems to do any (or sometimes all) of these.

I listen. I process. I ponder. In short, I don’t speak unless I have something to contribute. If I have nothing to add, I am quiet. If I am overwhelmed, I am quiet. If I am wrestling with a problem, I am quiet. I don’t process by talking about something. I process by going inward. Thinking, writing, reading. This is just the way I am. This is the way I’ve always been.

And so I am misunderstood. Over the last fifty-some years I have realized that silence makes people uncomfortable. I have had people ask me if I am silently judging them. I have had people accuse me of thinking I’m better than they are and that’s why I don’t deign to speak to them. I have had people assume that I am arrogant. I have had people poke or prod me to try and get a response. I have been teased and bullied. All because I am quiet. And none of this has changed my introversion. Changing your basic personality is…well, pretty much impossible.

My question is – do I need to be loud to be acceptable? Do I need to voice my every thought? Why can’t we just appreciate and accept people as they are? Must we all be the same for everyone to be comfortable? That sounds very boring and homogeneous.

I have come to realize that people’s discomfort with my quiet nature is more about them and much less about me. What their underlying issues are I have no idea, but what I do know is that their discomfort is not my burden to carry. It’s theirs.

And so I have come to embrace and appreciate my own nature. Introverts have gifts to offer the world. Do you want someone who will listen—really listen—to you? Do you want a great problem-solver? Do you want someone who will consider all the angles and then offer some creative solutions? Do you want someone who will bring a sense of calm to any gathering? Do you want a keen observer? Find yourself an introvert, because these are the gifts of an introvert.

And the next time you feel compelled to ask someone “Why are you so quiet,” please…don’t.

*Try as I might, as the holder of a BA degree in English, a grammar and spelling geek, and a life-long writer, I cannot misspell “extravert.” The correct, original spelling is extravert, from the Latin “Extra,” meaning outside. “Intro” means inside. Thus, IntrOvert=inside, ExtrAvert=outside, which speaks to the natures of these two personality types. Why people started spelling it extrovert I will never understand. Then again, there are a lot of things about the world that I don’t understand.

Life Is Mysterious

The name of my blog is Life is Mysterious and that name appealed to me because life is mysterious.

When I was younger I thought I knew what my life would be. Graduation from high school, marriage six or seven years later, four kids within the ten years after that. But that’s not what happened at all. What has happened has been…well, mysterious. My life has followed its own path, and much of what has happened has been a mystery to me.

My own mysterious life has led me to ask the questions—Why do things happen the way they do? Are our actions predetermined? Why don’t we know what’s coming? How would we behave if we did know what’s coming?

Those are the questions I hope to tackle in this blog, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride. My topics will run the gamut. Anything going on in my life at any given moment, or anything that has captured my imagination, will be fair game. Some things will be silly, while most will be very serious, and things I have thought about…a lot.

Because ultimately, I am a thinker—a ponderer, if you will. Blame that on the preponderance of air signs in my chart: Sun in Libra and Mercury, Moon in Gemini. Air signs are thinkers, and we love nothing more than sharing our thoughts with others and then discussing. So stay tuned.