I guess you could call my first experience with “internet dating” entertaining. It was so entertaining, in fact, I lasted less than 24 hours on the site! Here’s what happened.
I woke up the first morning after signing up to an inbox full of messages from men. Strangers. And before I could even read the first one, the IM window popped open and a man was there talking to me, live, online.
I didn’t know WHAT to do but through trial and error, quite a bit of error, I figured it out. The man was a lot more computer savvy than I was (or he’d been single a lot longer!) because every time I typed something, I accidentally canceled the chat session, but the man gamely contacted me again and opened a new window. I typed my apologies, tried again, and eventually learned how to IM to some degree.
What I remember most about that conversation was sitting in front of my computer screen and laughing out loud. The sound of real laughter, coming out of my mouth, was a shock to me. I realized it had been a long time since I’d laughed and truly meant it. The man had a GREAT sense of humor. I think my laughter was a shock to the whole family. A few of my children who were in the house when I was chatting with the man, came into the room to see why I was making that noise they hadn’t heard, for real, for quite some time.
The man told me a little about himself, asked me about myself, asked for my phone number (I didn’t know what to do about that either, I wasn’t expecting that) and when I hesitated, he gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. He also asked me out. He told me there was a huge, bi-annual singles dance at a local university that night, and he was game to take me if I felt ready to go to it. I told him I wasn’t sure what I was ready for. He was understanding about that, told me to call him that night if I changed my mind, and we left it at that.
Meanwhile, my sister and her friends from high school were in town and getting together for dinner that night. They’d invited me to join them and my sister arrived to pick me up. As soon as I got in the car, she asked me what I’d been up to.
My heart stopped. Not only had I done something totally impusively, planning to keep it a secret (but that got ruined by my inability to even load my own picture onto the website, so my teenage son now knew) and now I was going to have to tell my sister! I knew she was seriously going to doubt my sanity.
I said, “You will die at what I’ve done. You’re not going to believe it, and you’re going to think I’m insane.”
She looked at me with some degree of trepidation and said, “Uh-oh. Tell me what you’ve been up to.”
So I did. “I signed up on an online singles site.”
Her reaction wasn’t what I’d been expecting. She screamed, clapped her hands and was clearly enthusiastic about it. She told me, “Andrea, I’ve been thinking the whole 1 1/2 hour drive up here how I could persuade you to sign up online! I really think it’s what you should do. I’ve thought it for awhile and have just been waiting for the right time to broach that subject with you. All of my single friends are online. They tell me it’s how you meet people these days. I am so glad you did that!”
I still needed reassurance. “So you don’t think I’m a lunatic, then?”
She assured me she didn’t think I was. And we drove to dinner.
I hadn’t seen her friends since approximately 1988, and there I was, walking in to meet them for the first time in years after living through some of the biggest humiliations I’d never imagined existed–at least not in my life. I was a little apprehensive about what questions they might ask (I was still thinking secrecy was the only option I had to go on to rebuild a “normal” life) but I should have known better. Like all childhood friends, they were exactly the same. Open, friendly, caring…and no one asked me about anything I didn’t volunteer or want to talk about. (In fact, I found out later one friend didn’t know anything about my situation. She was confused about some of the comments I had made but never even asked for clarification.) All of them very good women.
At some point in the conversation, my sister told them about my online experience and the potential date I had that night. They all told me I should go. So with four cheerleaders in my corner, I picked up the phone, called the man and asked, “Is it too late to change my mind?”
He was kind, said it wasn’t a problem at all, and told me he’d pick me up at 9:45 p.m. I hung up the phone and thought, not for the first time that day, “What have I done?”
I also wondered about lots of other things: what was I going to wear, was I crazy to meet a stranger, would I be safe? But my sister assured me she had a good feeling about the whole thing, and the man, and we were going to follow through with it. We raced home after dinner so I could get ready for my first date in decades.
It was a surreal experience to be getting ready for a date, a date with a stranger no less, for the first time since 1989. Thank goodness I had help–my sister AND my teenage daughter–helping me select the right outfit, talking to me while I did my hair, choosing my jewelry, debating with me about what shoes to wear, etc… In some ways, it was the 80s again. (Well, the 80s plus one. I NEVER imagined I’d be getting ready for a date with the assistance of a daughter!)
And before I knew it, I had a text that the man was outside waiting for me. (I’d asked him not to come to the door as I had children.) I walked out to face the consequence of my decision. Nothing like walking out the door to go on a date…with four sets of eyes of your children watching…and your sister watching…and I was pretty sure the neighbors were too!
He stepped out of the car, introduced himself and shook my hand, opened my door for me, and we headed off to a singles dance!