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Here are my thoughts on online dating
Old topic, new take.
Hello, all. This is more personal and longer than my usual post, but there’s no better place to share it than here. Read and send me a note afterward, even if it’s just to say hi.
I wished there was a way to filter out men named Michael from the offerings on online dating apps. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against men named Michael. I love the name, actually, love it enough to have given up on going back to my country 23 years ago to marry a Michael. He and I were together for most of my life in the United States.
That Michael died five years ago, exactly a month from the day we learned that the fierce, relentless pain on the left side of his back was a manifestation of advanced pancreatic cancer. Imagine how disorienting it would be for me to go on a date with a man named Michael, or to introduce a boyfriend named Michael to my teenaged child, or to say, “I love you, Mike,” knowing these words were said tenderly countless times to a man who is no longer here.
I created an online dating profile some weeks ago after much insistence from good friends who have had success in forging meaningful connections this way. One of them, a successful public relations executive, told me that the boyfriend she found on one of these apps after a painful marriage and bitter divorce restored her faith in the existence of healthy relationships. Three of these friends married men they met online.
I’m not at all thinking about marriage. I do crave companionship, though. As my profile says, I’m looking for a “short-term relationship, open to long.” Another way to read it is that I’m taking it easy.
I embraced the task of crafting my profile as a monumental step on my grief journey. I see it as a big bright marker representing my peaceful acceptance of the fact that though absence will always have a space within me, it doesn’t have to define me. I’m proud of myself for not being angry anymore, and not being sad all the time, and not experiencing even an ounce of guilt when l look in the mirror and tell myself, “You deserve to be loved again.”
I’m ready to go on some dates, have some fun, but I can’t go out with a man named Michael. But here is the problem: Michael was the No. 1 most common name baby name in the 1970s and 1980s, optimal birth decades for someone like me, a child of 1973. In fact, Michael was the most popular name in 44 of the last 100 years in the United States.
I’m surrounded by Michaels, IRL and OLD (for the uninformed, that means online dating). There’s no escaping them among the pursuers and potential matches I come across every time I drop by, scroll and swipe, wondering if there is in fact a needle in this haystack.
The ecosystem of online dating is interesting, to say the least, even for a novice like me. There must be thousands of men looking for women on this particular app I downloaded yet the very first “like” I got was from a Mike. I read the name and, immediately hit the “x” on the lower left corner of the screen. Mike or Michael, you are not for me.
I have been “liked” by a man whose profile picture showed him wearing a pink bunny; I can’t blame him for not being original. I also received a sweet and properly spelled text message from a graphic novel writer who asked if I wanted to go out with him for “a kissing audition” and declared, “You’re wildly attractive, dude.” Since I’m not an actor or a dude, I decided it would be best to unmatch.
Then, there was the man I’d met in person at a dinner party, one of several familiar faces I’ve encountered on the app. (I wonder how many men I know have come across my profile). He is a good friend of a good friend whose plan to sit us side by side at the dinner table were spoiled by a stranger who moved more quickly and wedged herself between us.
I chose to match with him online — here is a chance to connect, I thought. He has not made a move.
I’m a writer, but I admit that I don’t have the cleverest online dating bio. I’m more used to writing professional bios, the kind that’s used to introduce me to audiences, virtual and otherwise, that are much bigger than one. I also made a newbie mistake and published my profile before my carefully selected pictures had been uploaded. Within the span of no more than a few minutes, I received the exact same message from two men: “Pics?”
I rushed to fix the situation, playing right into the superficiality of platforms that, I’m convinced, exist only to keep you hooked to them by dangling the promise that while Person A seems like a potentially good match, there must be a better choice out there.
Maybe that’s why the senior communications director from the West Village disappeared after inviting me out on a date. Or maybe it’s because he looked me up online, found out I’m a widow and decided that’s not the kind of baggage he’s willing to carry.
Widowhood isn’t contagious, by the way. It isn’t a handicap. Widowhood has made me stronger, more self-aware and more confident. And, no, I’m not looking to replace what I had. Life after loss is about reinvention. It’s an awesome opportunity to start again.
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