Category Archives: Excerpts

How to Sign Up for eHarmony by Accident

img_2839A sensible woman would give herself plenty of time to heal from her previous relationship before beginning to date again. But that whole sensible, measured, patient thing is just so hard for me.

Which is how I end up, kind of by accident, signing onto a dating website far too soon. I don’t mean to. I am under the impression that I can fill out the personality profile, find out some cool information about myself, and then wait a while before actually signing up.

Apparently that’s not how this website works.

The minute I hit “submit” on the personality quiz, the site starts generating matches for me. Within minutes, nine men can see my incomplete profile. This, of course, sends me into a complete panic. First of all, I have no intention of signing up just yet. I am not ready!

And second, I don’t have any fabulous profile pictures to post.

Can you tell I’m a Pisces?

Here I am, once again, swimming off in opposite directions. The wise Sally would have refrained from taking the personality quiz simply because it was connected to a dating site. The wise Sally wouldn’t have been anywhere near a dating site. The wise Sally would have spent the evening writing in her journal, soaking in a bubble bath and reflecting on her growth.

The impulsive Sally, however, has different plans.

After I stop panicking, I realize that there is an easy solution: I’ll just hide my profile until I’m ready to date again. I spend an hour poking around on the site before I come to the horrifying conclusion that I cannot hide here. And worse, I am starting to get messages.

Another hour and I know I need back up.

“Kira, I need your help.” The minute the Queen of All the Internet Dating answers the phone, I start talking.

“I accidentally signed up for eHarmony tonight and I don’t know how anything works. It is way different than Plenty of Fish!”

“Accidentally?” she laughs.

“It’s a long story. But you need to explain to me how to hide my profile.”

“On eHarmony? That, my friend, is a nearly impossible task.”

I groan. “Can you at least explain this place to me? What am I supposed to do after someone sends me questions? I answered them, but it looks like he’s sent more and I don’t know how to access them.”

“No, no, no,” she says. “After you answer his questions, you’re supposed to send him some questions. And, really, most people do that right away.”

“Oh no! I answered his questions an hour ago. I didn’t send him any back. Maybe I should send him a message and apologize.”

“No! You’d have to request personal communication and you don’t want to do that too soon.”

“This is so complicated! And what am I supposed to do with the ‘icebreakers’? I don’t understand what any of these things mean. Someone sent me one. And Kira, you should see him. I mean, he might be a lovely guy, but I have to be honest, I can’t imagine ever dating somebody so unkempt. You should see his hair. I can’t even describe how bad his hair is. It’s just the very worst comb-over you’ve ever seen.”

“Yeah,” Kira sighed, the weight of her dating years in her voice. “You know, the thing about a lot of men is that they just don’t get the concept of ‘League.’

“I’m not following…”

“You know. League. As in you and I are so not in the same league.”

“Ha! You should see that hair. It’s unbelievable.”

“Oh, honey. You don’t know what I’ve seen.”

“I know. I’m sorry. And I need your help! What am I supposed to with these guys? I don’t want to be mean. I sent ‘Bad Hair Man’ a smile. You know, polite. Not interested, thanks.”

“Oh no! This is not good! Sally, a smile is like a wink. It says ‘I like the look of you.’ Do not send any more smiles!”

“I am so bad at this!

“You’ll figure it out,” Kira laughs.

“And here’s one more question. Are these guys all using their real names? It’s so different than Plenty of Fish that way. It was always a laugh getting messages from The Chick Whisperer and Sexy Cougar Hunter. It’s not as much fun to get a message from Bob.”

“Yeah. It’s different. Most people use their own names.”

“Did you, when you started?”

“Uh. No.” Kira sounds a little uncomfortable.

“So what kind of a name did you use?” I am so bummed already that I can’t be Serendipity or Delicious.

Kira pauses before she answers me. “I don’t really know how to tell you this. When I first signed up, I was Sally.”

Now it’s my turn to pause. “What?”

“Yeah. Sorry. I didn’t want to use my own name and I kind of wanted to channel your good dating energy.”

I’m laughing by now. “So what you’re telling me is that I will be the second Sally from our little town to show up on this site in two years! What a coincidence!”

Kira is laughing too. “On the bright side, I’ll be able to screen all your dates.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we’re two professional women in our forties. We both live out this way and have kids. We’re both petite brunettes. Chances are that you will get paired up with some of the same guys I dated when I was there.”

“I’m trying to see how that is good.”

“There were some good guys. Just not right for me. You know what they say about one man’s junk.”

“No! Stop!” We’re both in hysterics.

“Listen,” Kira says. “My advice is just to keep a really low profile. Stay off the website. Don’t respond to anyone just yet. Unless they’re really cute of course.”


An excerpt from An Alphabet of Men

Dating to My Own Algorithms

img_3051It’s funny how quickly life changes. For the last two years, I’ve paid virtually no attention to anything in the media about dating. Now, once again, I read and listen to everything with rapt attention.

Last week, my friend Helen handed me a newspaper clipping about mid-life dating. The most important tip? Dye your hair. This is significant as Helen has opted to grow older gracefully and has let her hair turn naturally grey. It looks beautiful on her. Recently, a second friend also opted to go grey. On her, the grey is handsome. But all along, I have been vehemently resistant to the idea.

Turns out, it was the right thing. Because, seriously, how could I be back out on the dating scene without dark, glossy locks. My hair stylist’s livelihood is safe with women like me. Not only am I vain, but also, at some point I’d like to have sex again. With someone who is not 87.

Just before Valentine’s Day, I listen to a CBC Radio special on online dating. A month ago, I wouldn’t have paid any attention. Now that I’m single, however, I listen to every word, even taking a few notes throughout the program.

Here’s the most interesting thing I learn: apparently the online dating market is now so enormous that it can support all kinds of niche sites. There are dating sites for seniors, for lesbians, and my particular favourite, a dating site for Jewish mothers who are looking for matches for their sons and daughters.

I am not making this up. There really is a site called The J Moms, a place where Jewish parents post profiles of themselves and make connections with other like-minded Jewish families. Once the Jewish mothers establish a relationship, they trade profiles of their offspring. Presumably the offspring are aware that this is all happening.

I’m trying to imagine a prospect more terrifying than having my mother involved in my dating life. I can’t really think of anything.

So, since I’m not prepared to have my mother act as a matchmaker, I’ll have to trust in my own abilities to find a suitable man. I’ve done it before. I’m pretty sure I can do it again. And I can take heart in knowing that the dating sites are devising ever more complicated algorithms to match me with the man of my dreams.

I can attest to the fact that these algorithms work. The first time Griff and I broke up, I signed up for Plenty of Fish and put together a new profile. It took the site exactly two days to find me my perfect match. I recognized the photo of Griff right away.

It was one I’d taken of him.

Of course, I was quite indignant to discover that he was already dating again. How dare he! He should have been at home drinking scotch and listening to “Ain’t No Sunshine when She’s Gone.” And he definitely shouldn’t have been using a picture I took of him!

Eventually I remembered that I was on the same site, probably using photos he took of me. After having refused to speak to him for more than a month, I contacted him and we ended up back together.

But that’s not going to happen this time. I am not getting back together with Griff and I am not getting back on a dating website anytime soon. I’m hopeful, though, that when I’m ready, those algorithms will match me up with a man who I can love, a man who shares my interests and values; hopefully he’ll also be taller than me and not a homicidal maniac.

An excerpt from An Alphabet of Men

A is for Adam

fullsizeoutput_3b0I arrive a few minutes early to the coffee shop, feeling sick with anxiety. It’s pouring with rain outside and I’ve made a breathless sprint for shelter, mostly to preserve my hair, which I’ve painstakingly straightened. The clothes will dry. The make-up can be retouched. But the hair? Once it’s wet, all hope is lost. Really, I should have waited until May to start dating again.

I’ve spent hours agonizing over what to wear for this half-hour coffee date. I’ve decided on polished and professional, given that I’m meeting Adam after work, and so I’m wearing a cute blouse, a pencil skirt, and high-heeled boots. The plan is to look good in an effortless sort of way. Adam does not need to know about the agonizing. Nor does he need to know on this first date how truly vain I really am. I’m running my fingers through my still-dry locks when Adam walks in.

In person, he’s good looking, with a great smile, and a rugged build. He is not a tall man, but he has the most impressive set of biceps I’ve encountered in a while. He displays these biceps when he pulls up his sleeve to show me the tattoos on his arms: a Canadian flag, a set of stylized Hawaiian turtles, and a ’66 Mustang, just like the one in his garage. His arms are beautiful: in fact, he might be worth a second date just for his body. He’s funny too, and wealthy and adventurous. Really, what’s not to like?

I’m a little uncomfortable when he places his Porsche key fob on the table between us. It’s clear he wants me to notice it, to ask him about his car. I don’t. And then throughout the conversation, he drops multiple references to his wealth, describing his frequent holidays to Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean, places he escapes to when the island starts to feel too small for him. He even tells me how much he paid for the franchises he operates. He is under the impression that money is the way to a woman’s heart. And though I joke about being a trophy wife, the truth is that money just isn’t that important to me. The last man in my life had lots of money and at first I loved the way he showered me with gifts and drove me around in his expensive little convertible. But eventually, his preoccupation with accumulating more wealth became a source of tension between us.

Adam, of course, is unaware of this, and rattles on nervously, telling me about his expensive hobbies and many investments.

“So, yeah, that’s it, really. That’s me in a nutshell.” He looks uncomfortable. He’s fidgeting and having trouble keeping eye contact. I don’t know if it’s something about me that’s making him anxious or whether it’s just the whole first coffee date thing he’s struggling with. On paper, he’s a man with everything going for him. I’m not sure why he isn’t more relaxed and confident.

And I wonder how I’m coming across to him. I’m nervous too and seriously out of dating practice. I’ve forgotten how prepared I need to be, how ready I need to be to pick up the conversation. But even as I’m processing all this, I’m focussing on one key thing: he is not for me.

I know this with absolute certainty, and within fifteen minutes of meeting him. But I’m not disappointed. I’m relieved. It is so good to know that I haven’t lost my judgement, that I can trust my instincts, and trust I’m not going to end up in a relationship unless it’s just right.

And so in early March, I find myself penning my first Thanks but no thanks email:

Hi Adam,

Thank you so much for coffee today. I enjoyed your sense of humour and appreciated your honesty. And – I have to say – those are impressive biceps. Honestly, I’m surprised you’re still single. But I don’t think it’s going to work out for us. I’m an island girl, and I need someone who wants to be here, who isn’t trying to escape this place.

I wish you well, Adam.


Lawrence of the Five White Evils

img_3051One of my favourite stories is about Lawrence of the Five White Evils. Lawrence had a Zen-like aura, a laid-back, totally chill approach to life and to dating. At least that was what I had decided, based on his brief profile and the occasional messages he’d send, messages that would breeze into my inbox weeks apart.

“Hey! Sitting here sipping on some rosehip tea and breathing in the divine spirit of this amazing afternoon. Hope you’re having an equally sacred day.”

I’d get these messages after I’d rushed home from work, after I’d raced my three boys around from one after-school activity to the next, after I’d cooked dinner, cleaned the kitchen and put everyone to bed. It was hard to identify anything particularly sacred or divine in my day. But his messages kept floating in from time to time.

Then one day, he invited me out for coffee. Actually he suggested herbal tea.

“Hey! I’m going to be out in your neck of the woods tomorrow afternoon. Not sure if you’re around, but it would be great to meet you. Is there a quiet coffee shop somewhere out that way where we could grab a pot of tea?”

Normally, I didn’t meet a guy for coffee unless we’d been chatting regularly and I had a pretty good sense of who he was. I hardly knew anything about Lawrence except that he was deeply interested in holistic healing and was heading out soon to attend a month-long spiritual retreat. But there was something so laid back, so flaky, so harmless about Lawrence, that against my better judgment, I agreed to meet him.

He strolled into the coffee shop completely serene and completely oblivious, it seemed, to the fact that he’d already kept me waiting for ten minutes. I was already feeling deeply not serene. “Hey!” he drawled, a beatific smile spreading across his face. He dropped his lanky body down into an armchair across from me and gazed over at my latte. “You’ve got a drink already. I’ll just be a sec while I get some tea.”

I watched him head to the counter to order. He was dressed in all natural, probably organic, and very rumpled clothes, and he was wearing Birkenstocks. Now I love my Birkenstocks. Don’t get me wrong. But I had the distinct impression that he might only own earthy looking sandals. “He’s heading off on a spiritual retreat,” I reminded myself. “You’re just having coffee. Nobody says you have to marry the guy.”   (This last part, by the way, was one of my dating mantras: it’s just coffee; nobody says you have to marry the guy. I found that it was a very effective way to talk myself down and avoid bolting half way through a meeting).

As I watched Lawrence return to our corner of the coffee shop, a pot of tea and mug in hand, I took a deep breath, recovering from my pique at his tardiness. I smiled my most charming smile and said, “So tell me about your retreat. It sounds fascinating.”

Yep. I’ve got the bright and shiny coffee-date thing down cold.

So Lawrence told me about his retreat and his commitment to yoga and how he was meditating an hour every morning. I smiled and nodded, adding a brief comment here and there, well aware that retreats and hour-long daily yoga sessions were not ever going to be a part of my single-mother reality and wondering why I had agreed to meet a man who was clearly so unsuitable for me.

Taking my polite nods and comments as encouragement, Lawrence moved on from meditation to whole foods. It took me a while to notice that his serenity was, almost imperceptibly turning to quiet conviction. But as I reached for my latte, I saw his eyes narrow. “Most people do not understand at all about The Five White Evils,” he said, looking at my drink meaningfully. I felt myself sit up a little straighter, my dating hackles activated. I’m not really one for calling anything evil. Especially with those implied capital letters. His voice gained power, at first in a way that was a little embarrassing. “They don’t know how dangerous it is to consume milk,” he declared. As I put my latte back on the table, he continued. “Milk is poison,” he stated, his eyes bulging just a little.

Drawing away from him, I smiled gently and said in my calmest voice, “Everything in moderation, right?”

I don’t think he even heard me. “And white sugar,” he declared, “is even worse.” Now a vein on his neck was bulging and his voice was reaching an alarming volume. At this point, I’d pulled as far away from him as I could and was holding on to the arms of my chair. “People don’t understand the danger of consuming salt!” The quiet conviction was fast approaching hysterical fanaticism.

And I was pushing myself out of my chair, smiling in a way that I hoped would assure him that this whole conversation was really cool with me, but that I’d suddenly remembered a pressing prior engagement.

He didn’t seem to notice. “And white flour!” He was shouting now.

I’ve always regretted that I didn’t have the courage to stick around to find out what the Fifth White Evil was. Rice? Cauliflower? Cocaine? It’s been nagging at me for years.

So that was Lawrence, and if there is any wisdom for you to take away from my crazy coffee date, it’s this: screen your dates carefully, people! Screen your dates and always have a rock-solid excuse for why you can’t possibly see somebody a second time.

About two years after I met Lawrence of the Five White Evils for that ill-fated latte, he tracked me down through my work and sent me another breezy email. I promise you, I am not making any of this up.

“Hey! Sorry not to get back to you sooner, but I really had fun meeting you and wondered if you’d like to get together for another cup of tea?”

Two years later?

When I showed the message to my girlfriend, who had heard the story about Lawrence of the Five White Evils, she laughed, and then gave me some excellent advice: “Tell him you’re married and are expecting twins.”

Sometimes I’m all for a little White lie.