un-Hinged: A Seven Day Adventure with Online Dating

Many years ago, after answering a personal ad from the newspaper, I was stood up at a diner, left to wonder if the person just didn’t show or were sitting in their car deciding when they saw me that they didn’t want to pursue it.

My first big girl relationship was in college. I remember telling each other “This is it, you’re the one.” Barf. Until he left me to date a high school girl. I was crushed. It would be a really long time before I loved again without a shield on my heart.

My first marriage was to my best friend, too young to have the perspective that, although he loved me to pieces, to me he was just that, a friend. He was safe. Plus, I had so much growing to do and he was happy where he was.

Afterwards, I found myself either rejecting guys who only found me appealing because I was not their wife or dating ones who were still in love with the girl who had cheated on them and ultimately wanted the guy back once they saw he’d moved on.

I did marry for love the second time around although, in retrospect, I consciously found comfort in how much he loathed his ex-wife. We were a power couple on paper, so good at the mechanics of a relationship. He did the bills, I ironed his shirts. Running errands together on Saturdays and watching certain TV shows was our quality time. Again, I felt safe, able to love — without having to be particularly vulnerable.

Since he grew up in a Cleaver-like household and my family rivals the Osbournes in reality TV material, we both assumed he would be the better parent. But, when the time came, he treated parenthood like having direct reports. On the other hand, I took to heart the huge responsibility that had been entrusted to me and allowed myself to love them unconditionally with every part of my being. There was no more safe space. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was to teach them to be strong and independent so that one day they would, with my blessing, leave me. Looking over my shoulder, baby in my arms, I also now knew that my hollow marriage did not fit this newly found open heart paradigm.

After the breakup, it would be a few years before I would start dating. The personal ads of yesteryear were so different: small selection, short ads with abbreviations like DWF, no pictures. Today, online dating provides a forum for people to represent themselves however they wish, truth be damned, all from the comfort of their couch.

On Match I encountered a bunch of men who weren’t necessarily looking for relationships but rather perpetually looking to see what’s out there. And there were the men who were looking to mindlessly jump into a new relationship even though the ink on their divorce papers was not quite dry. [Before you annihilate me in the comments section, I am sure there are women with the same ill begotten intentions.]

One guy pursued me relentlessly. He was a wordsmith, soulful and intense although admittedly sometimes his deep ramblings were incomprehensible to me. Maybe it was because I liked the attention. Maybe because I hadn’t gotten laid in a while. But I fell for him fast and hard. Turned out he is a total womanizer. He uses all sorts of online platforms to keep a steady stream of women in his life. Always trolling for a new high to feed his fragile ego. He pursued me long after I told him to leave and, at first, I took the bait in the name of what I thought was love but guys like him keep sending out feelers looking for the weak one in the herd. I learned it was up to me to set boundaries to keep unhinged people like him out of my life.

There was another huge takeaway though — I had fully opened my heart, had it broken and … huh … I lived. I could take chances in the future on a big love. I no longer needed to be afraid. I just had to make better choices, haha.

My most recent relationship lasted about four years. There were a lot of sweet moments and I thought we could go the distance. The intense pain I felt in the aftermath of the breakup confirmed that I had indeed been able to love him with my whole heart. I have no regrets.

I honestly do not mind being alone. No longer am I subject to disapproval about my disdain for slasher films or that I put ketchup on eggs. It is easier to eat healthy and stay fit. I don’t have to share the remote.

My last kid, independent and strong, will be leaving for college in the fall and lately I’ve been reminiscing about the good parts of being in a relationship beyond the obvious physical touch: knowing someone so well you can sometimes communicate with just a look, them still loving you even after they have held your hair while you heave up bad sushi, the strong support from a mere hand hold as one of you buries a parent.

I adamantly resisted diving back into the online dating pool. As a soon to be empty nester, I am pursuing a career change and researching a move. Is now the right time to start dating? But is there ever a right time? Regardless, the fact is I do not meet a lot of viable, available men.

When I heard an ad for Hinge, it was like they were speaking directly to me suggesting that there are other people who want to be in actual relationships not indefinitely dipsy-doodle online. The company’s goal is for you to find someone once and for all then delete the app forever. Could there be someone out there that I could grow with rather than grow out of? It was worth finding out.

The profile consists of the usual name, rank and serial number plus 6 pictures and 3 answered questions. The questions you can pick to answer are large ranging plus you can give more insight into yourself by captioning the pictures. I like how they encouraged me to not just use head shots but also fun candids to portray how you “really” look in your natural habitat.

I was playful in both setting up my profile and in my responses. I am multi-faceted and chose to make friendly connections with different types of guys even if nothing romantic resulted. After all, there is no pressure when going in with the attitude of not needing to find a match. I believe I found a good balance between finding good potentials for me and carefully considering those who reached out to me.

I have a male friend who has “successfully” used online dating for years. He has had a steady stream of smart, personable, relationship-ready women to date. I, on the other hand, encountered men who were emotionally and/or geographically unavailable.

Bachelor #1:

General in Navy who posted pic of himself in fatigues and his assault rifle. I don’t have a type but definitely lean towards guys of either Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent. Profile said he lives in Brooklyn. Turns out he’s in Syria on a peacemaking mission (why is he on a dating app if he is deployed?). Went crazy if I took longer than 30 seconds to reply and was convinced I was blowing him off because I could not handle our “age difference” (<1 year!).

Bachelor #2:

Super intelligent and exotically handsome. Our first conversations were about PhD programs. I definitely like to be stimulated first through my mind. But the conversation quickly turned to tantric sex and him not liking girls to call them his boyfriend because he doesn’t like to be ‘possessed’. Not for me.

Bachelor #3:

Profile says he is from Lebanon. When I asked if that was in NJ, he responded that he is stationed on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and normally lives in CA. He couldn’t understand why I found the distance off putting.

Bachelor #4:

The conversation started snarky (another turn-on for me) and progressed into some deep sharing. We agreed there was a mutual connection. I gave him my number. Next day he got angry because, in telling my friend about him, I accidentally texted the reply to him. I really didn’t say much about him in the text but I had mentioned his son which apparently poked a stick into an emotional sore spot. Despite my pleas to talk it through over the phone, he insisted on only texting about it. We worked past it and seemed to be getting closer but, since I firmly believe texting should be reserved for non-emotion related communications, I suggested we arrange a short meeting face to face. He dug his heels in claiming to be monumentally busy at work (dude, who isn’t?). Since he still did not even want to speak on the phone, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being catfished and pulled away, disappointed.

Bachelor #5:

With the sting still in my heart from Bachelor #4, I tried one last time. Profile says he lives in my time zone but when my clock said 9:45 he abruptly says, “my daughter says I have to go to bed now since it’s almost midnight”. Concerning on multiple levels.

Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Seven days after I released my profile, I did delete Hinge forever. Nothing against the platform, I found it to be superior to other ones I have tried and would definitely recommend it.

Note: Bachelor #4 resurfaced a few times but only via text. When pressed, he finally admitted that his profile pictures were actually of a guy from the internet and, although anything but a prince, he lives in Nigeria.

I am back to focusing on my transitions. Maybe this experience was the Universe telling me the time just isn’t right now. Maybe I am not yet ready to meet the person who will be compatible with who I will be a year from now. No matter what, I trust in the process, heart wide open; confident that they would not opt to just stay in the car.