On a Saturday afternoon I was on the internet, shopping for things I didn't need. A screen popped up: match. I did not know how to meet men. I didn't go to bars, I was paralysed with shyness and almost all my friends were married or gay. The internet seemed a good place to start. As I read the profiles, I recognised some very angry people. They sounded like me, or like the me I didn't want to acknowledge.
I would have to be careful. I started slow. Anyone with even a passing resemblance to Stig, I immediately deleted. Then there was an email from Ed, a doctor of psychology. This was important to me because I thought it appropriate to date men as educated as myself. There's no box to check for that on match. Of course he did. Our talk was relatively serious, in contrast to our emails, which were funny. His sense of humour seemed limited by his… person. And what usually happens is, after a month of sleeping together, I find a way to extricate myself from the relationship.
And it's painful. Because even if the woman says she's just interested in something casual, she gets hurt. I think a woman's interest in a man grows once they're sleeping together, whereas a man stays interested for about a month, then he stops. There's actually hormonal evidence to substantiate this scenario. This guy was every woman's worst nightmare. He was using scientific research and probably US government grant money to justify being a jerk. We could do that tonight, if you like.
Or, rather, he looked like a caricature of innocence. Following my aborted rendezvous with Ed, I met Angel, a banker, who arrived 20 minutes late at a coffee shop. He appeared sweaty and dishevelled, his face covered with tiny lacerations. Hank, a securities analyst, took nondescript and made it a superlative. Lunch went reasonably well, and Hank was dull but showed no obvious signs of self-mutilation, so we decided we'd meet the next night.
That evening he called and said he'd been fired. I invited a total stranger to my apartment. Besides being fired, he told me about his prostate troubles, gastrointestinal difficulties and recent gum surgery. His ex-wife had left him for another man. It was like having dinner with Eeyore, if Eeyore had been constipated, couldn't pee and had gingivitis.
By the end of the evening, I was ready to leave him, too. In summer , two years into divorce proceedings, with no end in sight and legal fees mounting, I met a businessman named Nigel through a neighbour who described him as "good-looking" and intelligent. Consider "good-looking" a subjective adjective. We met at a lovely Italian restaurant. Immediately, he asked if I liked poetry and pulled out what he called his "favourite" book of poems: The Poetry Of Richard Milhous Nixon.
It contained, in poetry form, excerpts from the Watergate tapes. I was relieved. I thought, he has a sense of humour — this might work out. It was the last funny thing he said or did for two months. I decided to have sex with him. Maybe he would redeem himself. And I was not thinking clearly. Luckily, sex turned out to be the clincher. After removing his shirt, I got the distinct impression that Nigel had not bathed.
This turns some women on. I am not one of them. After Nigel, I decided to try match. There were so many issues I did not want to deal with. I did not want to face the fact that Ruthann would soon go to university, leaving me to live alone for the first time in my life. I did not want to consider why I'd stayed married for 20 years to a man I did not like. And now here I was, dating men I found unappealing, hoping they would like me. Once again thinking that the right relationship could fix my life.
It never occurred to me to ask myself, how do I fix this? In late September, I received a match. He told me about himself in a way that was articulate, funny. We met in early October. We talked for three and a half hours; he told me he'd lost his wife after a long illness. Still we managed to laugh. I'd finally found someone I liked. I emailed, saying what a wonderful time I'd had, offering to make dinner. I did not take his advice.
I wish I had. Alex had disaster written all over him. It had been six months since his wife died; for complex reasons, he had only begun to grieve. He treated me as a temporary player in his life, introducing me as his "date" after we'd been together for five months.
He grabbed me in public, as if he were a schoolboy, sliding his hand under my skirt when he thought no one was looking. When I objected, he withdrew behind a wall. After an argument, he told me, "I don't love you, and I never will. After six months, I asked if he would be available to have dinner for my birthday. I heard the sound exactly as he intended it.
In August, at the age of 88, Mum fell into a creek while playing golf. We felt quite lucky she did not lose consciousness and drown. I had her transferred to my hospital, where surgeons operated to stabilise her neck. My sisters and I decided to move her into a retirement home. We needed to get her used to the idea, but the surgery had left her demented. My normally sweet mother had transformed into a harridan.
I thought, if this is the future, the future looks grim indeed. I slid into a depression that held on to me tight. Had it not been for my daughters, I might have let go. My despair felt interminable. I knew something had to change. I could not continue doing what I'd been doing.
I told work that I wanted back into the partnership track, to be full time. I made plans to travel. I quit match. I became comfortable staying home on Saturday nights by myself. Responsibilities accumulated, friendships multiplied; the lack of a relationship in my life seemed almost unnoticeable. After four or five months, several friends offered to fix me up. I hesitated.
Then one told me about a dating service she'd used. It's not cheap, she said, but when people have to go through an interview and shell out money, they're more likely to be serious about wanting a relationship. Charles was the fifth man I met through Dating Alliance. I felt unaccountably nervous — doubtful that I'd like him, afraid that I would.
I'd met so many weird men by that point. He was originally from the Netherlands and owned a manufacturing company. He spoke several languages. He was tall, maybe 6ft 5in, bald, with a skinny, white, handlebar moustache, and he looked every day of Perhaps older. He asked if I'd join him for dinner. When we left the restaurant, a homeless man walked up to Charles, who took out his wallet and handed him some money. I heard him murmur, "You're not going to drink all this, are you?
I wasn't attracted to him. He was controlling, probably narcissistic, one more of the same old same old. Then again, I just wanted to date. Have some fun. So I said OK. He asked me out that Friday night. We walked to a sushi place. I was exhausted. Conversation felt like work, and I'd already spent 12 hours in the operating room. After, we walked back to my apartment. We were discussing the upcoming election, standing in the kitchen, then wandered into the living room.
We sat on the sofa, facing each other. Suddenly he yanked me towards him, put his mouth on mine, roughly, holding my neck tightly. I turned my head. I wanted to get a breath that didn't include him, didn't include his scent, but for that moment, I must have relaxed and the tension must have lessened imperceptibly. It was enough. He flipped on top of me and yanked my trousers down. I said again, "Stop. I thought, if I fought him, he might hurt me more, so I said, enunciating clearly, as if to a child, "Charles, if you do this, I will never see you again.
Is that what you want? Afterwards, I opened the door, he walked out, and I quickly locked it behind him. I felt the numbness of shock. She blatantly replied that she always wanted to settle abroad and we can fall in love after tying the knot. I matched with a good-looking, tall guy online and we decided to meet him after talking for a few hours.
When I actually saw him, I could not recognise him. He had edited his photographs way too much and looked completely different. He had a paunch in reality but his photographs told a different story of a man who flaunted his six-pack abs!
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