Now what? 21st Century Dating: Volume 1

relationships

Not recommended for first dates.  Funny, but you better have serious game.  Awesome once you know the girl though.

So once the crying is over, the anger and sadness have subsided, and you start to feel acceptance, you start to wonder one thing.  Now what?  This is the point where you start picking yourself back up.  Being someone who is obsessed once I have decided to put my mind to something, I have started to wonder: now what do I do?  I know I will have setbacks, but I want to go back to living my life.  I want to find some happiness.

The easy stuff is to repair the damage I did to myself while going through 8 years of Cancer with Felecci.  I want to feel better and have more self-confidence.  So goal one is to work on me.  Eat better, check.  Exercise, check.  I’m down somewhere between 20-30 pounds.  The easy weight is off and the real work is now beginning.  I still have more work to do, but I have some advantages now.   Time, patience, and no distractions.  I am happy with where I am verse where I was for now.

The emotional damage is a work in progress.  I will always love my late wife and I will not compromise on this.  But I know she is dead and she isn’t coming back.  The best of her will live on in my actions.  Her kindness, her quiet determination (as opposed to my bull in a china shop determination), and the way she treated other people.  I know I will have setbacks from unexpected situations.  But I think I will be able to handle them.  If not, there are two very large support groups that will help sort shit out with me.

We had a great marriage, so I have no lingering problems left unresolved.  She died of Cancer through no fault of hers.  In my eyes, we were successful with the time we had.  My marriage to her has made me a better man, and the next woman to get me will be getting a better version of me than she got.

I have no delusions that my marriage was perfect and that I will never find true love again.  I thought that while she was dying, but I have had years to realize the error of my ways.  The right woman will appreciate and understand this part of my life.  The wrong one will judge it and feel threatened by it.  Can’t do anything about that though.  This will be something for the other woman to accept or reject.  My part in accepting this is complete.

I don’t have kids, so there is no concerns to take care of anyone else but myself.  For those with kids, a widower needs to also consider their child’s mental health and what happens if the single parent falls ill.  This greatly complicates life in general, and when to decide to begin dating.

So that leaves going on dates with new people.  The most difficult thing a widower had to do in terms of reconnecting with the outside world (after getting their kids into some sort of stable life situation) is to decide to re-enter the dating pool.  To overcome the guilt and feel hopeful is not easy.

There is no timetable on it, but almost everyone will have some opinion about your decision anyway.  Only you have to live it though, so their opinions are meaningless.  Those that love you will support you, those that judge you will soon need to be removed from your life.  Unless you have kids, no one deserves or needs to have it explained to them.  I believe I am entering that phase of this now.

As I start to explore what that means, I developed a question: what the fuck have all of you non-widowers been doing to the dating scene over the past 18 years?  Seriously, you have literally managed to fuck up everything that was already screwed up and make it worse.  Did I miss a meeting?

It’s worse than I imagined, and it is this way because it plays into everything we say we don’t want but follow anyway.  We are doing what we would normally do, but we are doing it from our couch with rapid speed.  And those of us not used to it; we have a lot of learning to do.

For example, I’m an introvert to people I don’t know.  I didn’t meet my wife till I was in an environment that I was comfortable and excelled in: college.  All of my best qualities were on display daily, my awkwardness a non-factor because I was able to just be myself and kick ass.  I attracted smart/geeky girls who liked my sarcasm and ability to break down overly complex lesson plans into simple concepts.  Smart/geeky girls are abundant in college.

I was in pretty good shape at the time and while I am not Brad Pitt, I think I do ok when it comes to looks.  However, if it wasn’t for my ability to show my intelligence to these girls, not one of them would have taken an interest in me.  It was the combination that encompasses me that made it possible, not any one attribute.

It was her smile and personality that got me too.  Sure she was smart and pretty.  But that smile with those eyes.  I melted when I first made eye contact and smiled back at her.  It took me a while to get the guts to talk to her.  She was so welcoming and sweet though.  Always a weakness of mine.

When we started dating, I don’t know if I heard her say more than 3 sentences at once the first few months.  She was terribly difficult to get to talk and open up.  She was intimidated by me and her command of English.  Even though she knew 3 languages and I only knew 1, and I am far from being considered a linguist.  But our chemistry was through the roof.  And over time it grew.

And as I got comfortable with her and she started talking to me she was every bit as smart as me – maybe smarter in some areas.  She just didn’t have some of the interests I did.  She had zero opinion about politics.  She didn’t like macroeconomics, but who the fuck does besides me and economists?  But she was intelligent and thoughtful.  And our barriers eventually broke down and the rest is history.

Go ahead, try to listen to an economist.  Even though I love this guy and his work, the middle of his book put me to sleep.

So I have started to dip my toe to see what the hell I am getting myself into.  A test-drive if you will.  I am messaging here and there but mostly just trying to see how this works and how to craft a profile that fits my personality.  I have very low expectations, but already there is one glaring problem.  Modern dating online is the exact polar opposite of what I am good at.

Take for example tonight’s focus: the profile pictures.  Truly the only real thing you MUST get right is having good profile pictures with online dating.  There is a science to it; I shit you not people have written volumes of data on strategies – STRATEGIES – to getting your picture noticed.  Google it.

Now if you are Brad Pitt, you can take any glamor shot from Fight Club and you are going to need to hire someone to sort through your inbox.  However, if you are a mere mortal and don’t know how to navigate this then it’s going to be an uphill climb.  Your personality, social status, dreams, whatever are being interpreted from a few pictures.  Can you tell from a picture that instead of visiting the Tower of London, I was caring for my dying wife?  Nope, I just look lame.

And for women I talked to for a comparison, this is even worse.  Oh my god you can’t ask for a more objectified medium for them to have to navigate through unless they were in the Miss America pageant.  Sure, if you are thin or athletic and pretty you can post anything and get attention, but almost any girl is going to get attention with some care to their pictures.

The problem is the type of attention women are getting.  The stories I hear are all basically involved dick pics and guys trying to hook up with the occasional guy worth seeing.  I have no idea how they sort the hookups from those looking for a relationship because there is no way to tell from text messages unless the guy is being obvious.

Also, everyone’s profile picture collage reminds me of the credits to Aqua Teen Hunger Force.  All the crap they do in the credits is a lie.   In the end, everyone is sitting on the couch watching Game of Thrones or going to hang out in the same social scenes they go to every weekend with the occasional switch up.  Maybe 10% of us lead the interesting lives we want to, the rest of us have fucking rent and bills to pay and maybe kids to raise.

Seriously, they never do any of that shit.  Oh btw, you may lose brain cells by watching this.  You have been warned.

Those who make enough to go on vacation once or twice a year to someplace amazing are still not in the locations they are posting for the other 50 weeks out of the year.  But that is the front they are showing potential matches.  That is what they are telling us they are looking for.  In short, we are looking for the romantic ideal.  The moonshot.  And we are basing our very first interaction with someone on it.  We are picky as fuck and we judge anyone who isn’t keeping up without even acknowledging it.

And for those not keeping up with their profile picture game?  You are struggling to get anything more than hookup messages from people you don’t want to fuck in the first place, much less get into a relationship with.  Don’t look at me in that tone of voice, it’s not personal.  Most people decide if you are fuckable within the first 5 seconds of meeting you, and this is nigh impossible to reverse in an online setting unless you can get them to the coffee/bar date and talk with them.

It’s simple attraction and we all do it.  We shouldn’t be shy to admit it but we are.  Feelings are involved and we take what other people think to heart because we tend to think it about ourselves too.  But are we willing to change the things about ourselves that we want to change?  Shouldn’t doing it for ourselves be more important than doing it so others like you?

Instead, we look for acceptance in others and get heartbroken when we don’t find it.  And in this new medium for seeking dates, our tolerance for imperfections is nill because the next choice is a swipe away.  Those of us who never need to settle are overwhelmed by choice, others who would be great dates are left digging through the mud looking for a keeper.

In the end, I know for a fact that there is someone for everyone.  More than one actually. We are really easy to sort into a finite number of buckets if we all break down what we are looking for verse what we must have.  We just aren’t that complicated.  We all have certain quirks, but we all tend to want certain templates that we consider our ideal life.  And we have certain templates that are the ideal match.

No one ever has it all, but our expectations start out there.  If you could honestly lay out what you want in a person based on attractiveness, morals, goals, and personality I bet you would go gaga over any random asshole pulled out of the right bucket if it hit all of the points.  So why are we just looking at the profile picture and expecting that to tell us everything we need to know?  I just am not sure if the existing online dating platforms are doing a good job of sorting us correctly.

Even if you have the looks and the camera loves you, how are you going to tell you are drawing from the right bucket?  How do you guard against disqualifying someone that might be better than you think?  How do you sort through everyone if you look for everything with a fine tooth comb?  Is settling for someone that isn’t perfect really not how every fucking marriage ever got off the ground in the first place?

IN CLOSING

So what do you think?  I am curious if my initial impression resonates with you or if you had a different experience?  Maybe you are better looking than I am and this is just harder for average people?  Or maybe this is the game we all have to play now in order to find our chapter two?  Tell me your thoughts if you dare in the comments.  FOR SCIENCE!

5 Comments

  1. OMG. You just verbalized what I’ve thought, but did not have the skills to write, (learned my lesson about plagiarism as a college Freshman when I got an F on a paper about Dr. Schweitzer). You have genius skills at expressing the angst surrounding this unholy topic and I just wish you would use them to write a BOOK!
    You’d think at my age I’d no longer be interested, it I found out I was when I met a gentleman, quite by accident and he insisted upon taking me to dinner and finding out why I was ALONE at a resort in Santa Barbara. I was there to help an old friend prepare for the memorial for her murdered son. My husband had passed 9 months earlier after a protracted, anguished, undiagnosed illness during which I took total care of him. I felt like I had PTSD and didn’t think I’d ever be happy again, but wished to be so.

    I so appreciate your honesty. Being convent raised, some of the stuff on some of the widow sites strikes me as shocking or shockingly hilarious or inappropriate. So what. Just an old lady’s opinion. Keep writing/it’s tonic for someone like me!

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  2. Another thing I find fascinating is how easy it is to fall into the patterns we all claim to hate. Are we really just shallow and don’t know what we want, or do we apply too much judgment based on pictures or initially meeting someone? I think even I am not immune to it. I don’t know why though. I don’t want to be, but objectively I find myself falling into it if I don’t catch myself.

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  3. Online dating is strange, that’s for sure. It is very objectifying and you can get flooded with dozens of weird and creepy messages on a regular basis. I know a couple of people who have found meaningful relationships through online dating, but it seems like that’s a pretty rare situation from my experience at least. I think meeting someone face-to-face and getting to know who they are is much preferable to all of these apps.

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  4. I think people are just too god damned judgemental these days. I’m not a beauty pageant winner but I’m normal and look decent I think. But the amount of people who figured I looked good enough to sleep with but not take home to mom was disheartening. The perils of a POF world.

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    1. Yea I think women and men approach it differently, but there are definitely clear patterns of behavior. It actually sounds like a great thesis for a doctorate in psychology. Too bad that isn’t my field =).

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