Tag Archives: coffee date

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.

Sally