Responding to their Ads: On-line Encounters Only
When the time came to look for love after my divorce, I realized that I don’t meet any men at work since I am a high school English teacher. So I headed to the internet. After all, a cousin had met her husband on JDate, and a colleague had met her husband on Yahoo Personals, and stories kept coming about people who met their true love on-line.
I went to the CL site for my area, and under Personals clicked on “Men Seeking Women.” Since I had already determined that I was looking for men in my age range, I didn’t have many ads to read, since most postings were by men in their twenties and thirties. After skipping over (after a cursory reading, I admit) the postings by men who were looking for sundry aspects of non-traditional sex roles and activities, I came upon the posting by an artist from Ireland. It seemed interesting, and I figured that a creative person would be sensitive and intelligent. So I emailed him, and the dialogue began.
Things looked good; we seemed to be interested in what the other had to say. That is until I read his response to my question about his marital status: “Pulled a 12 year stint in NYC with the same female. Fathered a young son, 6 years ago.” What was that? Would I be a “female” or a “stint” with this man? Could a caring man actually say that he “fathered a child”? Without any qualms, I decided to not contact Artist man again. But, I guess I had intrigued him (lucky me). His 6pm email to the unanswered 9am email asked if I wanted to meet for a beer. My response was, “Don't think so. I have to say, your responses to the personal questions were kind of cold. What’s a ‘stint’ with a woman?” To which he promptly replied, “Oh, I have been concentrating on deadlines. Good luck to you.” Obviously, he should stick to work. After momentarily considering a response, I decided to let it go, what could I possibly teach a man who sees people as two-dimensional objects?
Back to CL. Unfortunately, “seeking like spirit – 45” wasn’t interested in a “46-year old mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer, and teacher,” so he never got back to me. Nothing I can do to change those things, nothing that I figured was offensive except, maybe, my age?
Onward. Next was Harry* who, how shall I put it, put me off with his “pic.” As I scrutinized his picture I kept trying to imagine wanting to kiss him. And I couldn’t. So I didn’t get back to him. As a sign of what goes around comes around, I did not get to see Springsteen with John or to a basketball game with Steven because, well, they didn’t like my pic. I tried to ease my ache by telling myself that they probably wanted someone younger, but I have to say to be rejected online for my looks is tough. It’s not like at a bar or a party where you don’t go up to the people who you are not attracted to or to whom you can with a simple expression let them know that you are not interested. Oh the pain, oh the angst, oh the bluntness of it all. I know, I know, I rejected Harry because he didn’t appeal to me, but ‘tis easier to reject than to be rejected. It started sinking in that meeting men online was not going to be as easy as I had initially thought. There is a lot of culling going on with so many people to choose from. Realizing that you have been tossed so readily is hard to take.
The desperation grew. How could it be so hard I kept wondering? I tried with “Looking for LTR for My Ex-Husband—50” but the ex-wife decided that I was not worthy of her ex-hubby. Then there was the “atypical ad” where all of the words, but one, began with an “a.” Okay, a bit corny, but I am an English teacher and such attention to language interested me. I was pretty blunt with him, even letting on that my thighs are not my favorite part of my body. But, alas, honesty got me nowhere.
“You seem like a pretty wonderful person. Sadly for me, the way you described yourself doesn’t sound like what I’m looking for physically. So with the physical incompatibility, you living in suburbs, not living alone, being a mother, being in your 40’s… all by themselves may be ok but together they present too many cons to justify anything other than pen-pals.”
Could he find anything else to say to reject me? And he didn’t even know that I have BAGGAGE from my marriage.
After that, the were rejections flying: my pic not loved, or their pics not loved. That is until Mark, a recently divorced man with two children. When Mark wrote that he would be the happiest man in the world if he could have a horse, I once again sat opposite the computer and pondered. Now I was confronted with a middle-aged man who felt that he would be fulfilled by a horse. I had my horse phase (when I was in my early teens), but the idea that a horse would make me happy now was so absurd that I figured we would not be compatible. But rather than let his email fade into the night, I felt that I should reply. “I think I'll pass. Good luck to you in this new chapter.” Alright, not a great response, but I at least did not ignore him. He then emailed me asking me:
Was there something wrong with asking you if you were busy? I wasn’t propositioning you. More confusion. I really don't understand women today, but I’m new at this and will keep trying.
I should have just let it go, but I felt that I needed to inform this man how women think.
We’re still the same women you knew twenty years ago, in the same way that you are the same man you were twenty years ago. No, I did not see your email as a proposition but asking out for a date, which is fine—nice even. I just had the sense, from our emails, that our interests are different. Nothing deeper than that.
That didn’t seem insensitive to me, it said what I felt and said it in a nice way—I thought. But not, apparently, to Mark:
Thank goodness I've grown and I'm not that same man I was 20 years ago. Back then, if someone didn't interest me, I'd say "I think I'll pass". Today I would probably respond with the things I like to do to see if there might be something in common.
Why does he think that he should be the one to decide if there might be a connection between us? Why couldn’t he accept that I had realized that it wouldn’t work and take that at face value? And I certainly did not like that he was telling me how to respond to him, and that he would have responded in a better way. The main reason that I had divorced my husband was because he was trying to control me; this email made me see how insidious that controlling urge was in some people. (I want to say ‘men’ here, but I have a friend whose wife is quite the controller.) Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive, but that is where my life has led me, but still, isn’t that the advantage of emailing, you can delete the people who you fear will simply lead you to repeat past errors?
Ah. Then there was H. Mile who for one day emailed me ten times, and then abandoned ship at about five pm. Maybe things were boring at the office that day and I was a diversion. Who knows? Oh, and then Alan was in my inbox. I didn’t find him particularly interesting or attractive, but felt a great need to go on another date, and since he didn’t do anything too offensive, we made plans. But a day before our date Alan emailed: “I have met someone and we decided this weekend to be exclusive as we have the same basic desires and dreams. I'm sorry. Good luck with your search.” Thanks Alan. His response made me feel the pressure, the pressure of all of those men and women looking for love on CL—now.
Things seemed to change when I began a wonderful exchange with Chris, who told me that he smiled when he saw that he had received an email from me, and that they would go down in the annals of Craig’s Listian lore for their eloquence and humor. Alas, they came to an abrupt end after our one and only phone call. When he asked, “Where’s your ex?” I replied, truthfully, unfortunately, “In the house, he won’t leave and we haven’t been able to sell it yet.” I could feel the tenor of the conversation change. So, instead of meeting a man I seemed to finally click with, I was alone again, still. These men don’t seem to like baggage or complications, but what is a 47-year-old woman who has lived life to do?
But I had not given up hope of finding love on CL until Terrence’s email. When I didn’t get back to him when he expected me to, he emailed me:
I knew you were going to have an excuse, which is so typical of women. God, what scares you women so much from telling a man he’s not your type? Such cowards. You always dodge, duck and make up excuses. So what? So you don’t like my looks? Big deal? I will just find another woman who does. You have nothing that every other woman doesn’t have.
God, I wish you women would one day be honest.
I decided it was break time. I had enough exposure to the vagaries of men's personalities for a while. This whole meeting via email seemed like such a good idea (easy even!) in the beginning, but the unfiltered entry into some of these men's minds was so off-putting that the bluntness of a bar was beginning to appeal to me.
But maybe “Ready to Meet Someone New – 44” is different?
* All email names have been changed.
I’d love to hear your experiences with on-line dating.