Push the Button
Sometimes, this was said sympathetically, with a gentle head nod, other times, it felt vaguely dismissive.
I’d always been against the idea. Dating already felt like a meat-market to me. The thought of posting pictures and marketing copy intended to encourage impersonal romantic advances felt a little slimy.
Whenever I say “I’ll never” about something, it seems that God takes note. Perhaps this was how I found myself signing up for eHarmony, early this year. I was newly broken up and I was done being single. I pulled the trigger.
I chose pictures and wrote about myself. I dug deep, trying to encapsulate myself in questions about the people I most admired, my three greatest priorities, how my friends would describe me.
Honestly, it was kind of fun.
Then, the waiting.
At first I was inundated with matches. I would wake up in the morning and check my phone, looking at the pictures, ruling people out, or not.
Nothing was really happening, but it sort of felt like it was. There were butterflies, some excitement, all of the wondering if someone would decide that he wanted to meet in person.
eHarmony themselves didn’t hurt, each email came with a cutesy little tagline telling me that the love of my life was just around the corner.
It was all very encouraging.
I was in California, on vacation, when I started talking with him. He was going to school a short distance away, and we went through all of the steps of guided communication before we jumped head-first into the secure email server.
Emailing turned into texting, and soon we had our first phone conversation. I was nervous out of my mind, as we did. We laughed and tried to tell each other not to be nervous.
We started talking about when we could meet.
He drove two hours in the snow to meet me at Olive Garden.
I have mixed feelings about Olive Garden, there are lots of memories there for me, good ones, and bad.
This is a bad memory.
It was still snowing when I pulled up. I recognized him from his picture. But pictures do not move, they don’t account for differences in weather, for emotion. I love pictures, but they are not a good way to showcase a person. They are not enough on which to build attraction.
I was so nervous, I could barely eat.
He was so nervous, apparently, that he could barely talk. I carried the conversation, since I wasn’t eating. I have no idea what we talked about now, food mostly, I guess.
We finished dinner and moved on to the next part of the evening: miniature golf.
I have had many extremely awkward moments in my life. They are attracted to me magnetically. I have come to accept this as both a blessing and a curse. This game of miniature golf is an example of a curse.
In my experience with miniature golf, the intent is to play so that you have something to do while you talk. This man was not playing the same game. 18 holes of discussing the game, considering the pros and cons of a certain shot, mentioning the decor and giving me the occasional kudos for a nice putt.
As I was beginning to think about the lovely prospect of getting in my car and driving away, he turned to me. “Let’s play another round,” he said.
I thought about the long drive in the snow he had made, and would make again, soon. I thought that I might as well play another round of golf.
We started the course again. It had been empty the first time, and now, we were preceded by a teenage couple. I struggled to keep my eyes off them. They were talking and laughing and having a great time. They were doing it right.
We made it through the rest of the holes and I declined a third round.
He gave me a side-hug before I got in my car. I wished him safe travels and drove off into the snow.
He texted me, the next day, to ask how my day had been. I responded with an email. It was difficult to write. I was so unused to saying no (this year has taught me a lot about that), I let him down as gently as I could, appealing to his vision, hoping that he had seen the nothing there was between us.
Later that spring, friends hatched a plan to introduce me to a mutual friend. As soon as I met him, I knew his face. I excused myself and slid into the bathroom to check my app. He had been my first eHarmony match.
It seemed meant to be. eHarmony (and my friends) thought so. We laughed and talked and hit it off. There was none of the awkwardness of the former meeting. He asked me out that evening and we made a date.
We were perfect for each other. I mentioned the eHarmony connection (which he hadn’t noticed) and we laughed about it. There was only one problem: there was a constant knot in my stomach.
I would talk to friends about how excited I was as dates multiplied. I was excited, but it was a nervous excitement. I kept trying to “pull myself together.” It seemed so clear that we should be together.
Finally, sitting in his car, we decided that we couldn’t continue. I confessed my discomfort, he confessed his own turmoil. We had both been trying so hard to make it work, make it fit. But it didn’t.
The cheapest option was to sign up for a year. For a long time, I wasn’t getting emails, the matches had stopped coming. I forget about it, from time to time.
But Christmas is coming.
The lonely among us are answering those questions about whether or not there is a special someone in their life. People are asking, casually, if they’ve considered dating online. I’m getting emails all the time, these days. New, hopeful matches. They don’t know that I’ve checked out.
For me, it was the trump card in my pocket. I always wondered if all I had to do was go online, literally push a button and meet a great guy. I’ve had friends meet spouses online, I’ve watched beautiful stories unfold, and I’ve heard the horror stories, far more awkward (or tragic) than mine. It wasn’t the vehicle that God used for me, and I’m a little relieved.
If I’d met someone this way, I might have been tempted to say: “why didn’t I try this sooner?” I might have thought that I’d done it myself.
There is a mystery about love. I collect love stories, and if we’re at a party, this holiday season, I’ll probably ask you about yours. I’m learning that no two stories (like people) are alike. The details set each one apart. Some bits are funny, some are sad, or complicated, others filled with bliss. Most often, the story surprises, in hindsight.
I’m glad I bit the bullet, conquered my fear and created a profile. And, as Christmas approaches, I’m looking forward to the first person who asks: “So, have you considered dating online?”