The Mathematics and Magic to Online Romance

Heart online.

Here are some of my dating numbers:

2 1/2 years since my last relationship

2 online dating sites where I have active profiles

3 months & 10 days with my profiles online

45 e-mail/message “conversations” with potential dates

3 phone calls with potential dates

10 dates

2 second dates

2 previous relationships started with online dating sites

?? potential relationships this round

These are my numbers. This is my math. This is me looking for one. I’m even using a dating site that prescribes a mathematical equation based on answers to questions asked and how they match up with other people’s answers. While I love math and algebra, that’s only part of the equation. There’s also the personal and the magical.

For those who have long been coupled, online dating may sound like death row, but for me, a shy curmudgeon, it is the key to open the door. I have fallen in love with people I first met online and went on to have successful and real long-term relationships with them. Some folks use online dating to develop online relationships. I use online dating sites to meet people in person. I would rather meet someone and have all the interactions unfold in the chair next to me: the awkward pauses, the eye contact, the hug or handshake at the end of the date, the butterflies in the stomach. The other interactions come about as well. The date where the guy practically sprints out the door, he’s so anxious to end the interaction, but too polite he wouldn’t say that to me. The delights of a long date–the beer which led to dinner which led to a walk in the park and a long, intimate conversation, which then led to nothing, no replies to my e-mail or phone call.

I love the democracy of online dating. People who approach me because of my online profile are not necessarily the people who would cross a room full of strangers for me. The people I have messaged are not necessarily the ones I would cross a room for either. But then again, I don’t know that I would cross a room for anyone. I might admire someone from afar and imagine a wonderful conversation, but that’s just a one-sided fantasy. With online dating, I might notice someone because of their picture, but also because they list bluegrass as their favorite type of music. Yes, there can be dishonesty, but mostly because people are lonely and eager to meet someone. If anything, I’m brutally honest in my self-description, because I would rather avoid someone who would reject me because of my weight or my solitary tendencies. I have some confidence, but I also have insecurities and I express that. I would hate for someone to meet me and think I’m nothing like my online profile.

I’m not Carrie Bradshaw, I’m not Bridget Jones. I don’t lament that there are no real men left in the world. It’s untrue. Everyone I have met, so far, has been nice. Not necessarily a match for a long-term partnership, but I definitely have had a crush in this short time. This shows me I can connect. That doesn’t mean I don’t have contingency and safety plans. I always have an exit strategy and just like a kid going on a field trip, someone knows where I am and my estimated schedule. I meet in very public places and take long, diverted routes to drive home, in case someone unwanted might follow. I listen to my gut instinct. I stood up a guy because I had a bad feeling and sent him a chicken message afterwards. I’m sorry for the hurt feelings, but you have to follow your inner voice. While I’m all about meeting in favorite public spaces, I never meet in my neighborhood. I keep my backyard for myself and expand my public places to share with others.

For anyone who says there aren’t people out there, I would say they need to look closer. We have to consider our expectations and we have to think about what we bring to the experience for the other person. Dating is good practice at being human. It’s an exercise in humanity and it can be work . I ask questions to draw people out of their shell. They ask questions to draw me out of my shell. Sometimes it’s a conversation, sometimes it feels like a job interview, stilted and embarrassing, but all the way through, it’s part of the experience. I am turned on to new books, movies, and interests because of the people I have met. I learn to ask questions and I become a better listener. I consider other viewpoints and experiences. I learn about new places. Last week after meeting a date at the Tattered Cover, my favorite bookstore in Denver, we walked down the street to a very cool pub for a beer. Now I have a new place to go for brewskies when I’m in Denver! A prospective date led me to discover a wonderful little bookstore and coffee shop, the Trident Bookstore & Cafe, with an amazing stage and patio in the back. It’s now one of my favorite places in Boulder.

I hope to meet some new friends and I wish to fall in love. I want to meet my lifelong partner. Where it leads, we’ll see, but it’s exciting to be on the journey. It’s an adventure and part of building a life. On the way, I will have some ups and downs, some good beers, some good coffee, some good hikes, some clumsy conversations.  At the end, it’s still one plus one that equals two. I hope to be part of a pair, but I’ll be okay if I stay solo.

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