By Dana Gornall
I was just shy of 19 years old when I met my husband.
I married fairly young—naive and still unsure of who I was, I grew into myself throughout that marriage, but unfortunately, we didn’t grow alongside of each other; so after almost 20 years, we went separate ways. It was good to be on my own. I had my kids with me after the separation, but being alone and single felt right. I needed that time to figure out who I was, where I belonged and what I wanted.
People suggested I go out. They suggested I date or suggested people to date. I waved each comment away. And then one day my friend Andrew was telling me all about his adventures of online dating. Having signed up recently, he was telling me about the different women he had been in contact with and one he was going to be meeting soon.
“You should get out there,” Andrew’s message popped up on my screen in highlighted green words.
“Eh… I don’t know. Online dating? Seems so…” I stopped, not wanting to offend him. “It doesn’t seem like me.”
“You’re a busy mom. You’re introverted. You hardly get out. Dana, you need to do something or you are never going to meet anyone.”
I put the phone down and stared at the ceiling. It was a quiet night. My kids were at their dad’s over the weekend and I had gotten ready for bed. It was just me, my iPhone and my dog, Dash. I had to admit I was slightly lonely but, starting over with dating, meeting men—it all seemed so overwhelming. I’d had some flirty interaction with a few people and some “dates”…although I am not really sure they qualified as real dates. Those men really weren’t available for a real true relationship, at least not at that particular point in time. I wondered if that was part of the attraction for me. In some ways they were safe because I could flirt a little, and hang out with them a little, but there was no real chance of commitment. I didn’t have to change my life or adapt in any real way.
For the first time in my life I had control over what I did and when. I could stay up and read in bed as long as I wanted. I could wake up and go where I wanted and not feel the need to check in with anyone other than my kids.
But maybe Andrew had a point. A part of me wanted some adult conversation and companionship. I picked up my phone, plugged in the dating site and created a profile which involved answering a questionnaire that addressed my interests and hobbies and a little about me. For a moment I had a flashback of a 13 year old me filling out a teen quiz in my YM magazine. I submitted the answers, clicked off the site and turned the bedroom light off, rolling over onto my side. Chuckling to myself, I thought, “I’ll delete the thing tomorrow. This is silly.” And quickly fell to sleep.
The next morning I woke up like every other morning with my regular routine, and then in the quietness of the house I remembered the dating profile. Switching over to my email on my laptop there were a few messages, Feeling a bit of giddiness, I opened the dating app. Clicking on one of the profiles, I was disappointed to find that since I went with the free version of the app, I couldn’t see what any of the photos or what they looked like. I considered shelling out my credit card number to see the pics, but then thought better of it because really, I wasn’t taking any of this seriously and in no financial position to pay for a dating service.
Honestly, I was having trouble paying my gas bill let alone something as frivolous as this.
Turning back to the profile I looked at the first guy’s interests. “Scott” seemed rather normal and so we went back and forth answering canned questions and picking other canned questions for each other to answer. We did this back and forth a few times and even had the chance to write our own answers when suddenly the exchange timed out. It turns out that the free version had a limit to ho far you could go.I could no longer communicate with Scott unless I anted up with a credit card. Damn. Well, screw that. I clicked off the site.
But I got smarter. The next interaction I had I waited toward the very end of the questions and then added my email address in one of the answers. That worked perfectly the first time and before long we were emailing and then texting.
“Todd” seemed rather promising. He lived nearby. He went to yoga. He had two kids that were just a little younger than mine. We seemed to have similar interests except that he liked country music (possibly a deal breaker). Finally I gathered up the courage to ask Todd to send me a photo. I explained that I had the free version of the app and didn’t know what he looked like. Sitting in my car at a stop light the text came in. I opened it and saw what I swore to be my ex-husband staring back at me. It was his doppleganger. I almost dropped my phone. After processing the whole thing a little longer, I later responded that I couldn’t possibly meet him. It was just too…weird.
This game of Q & A, quiz taking, and timing things just right kept going on around all of my regular life. I was still “mom-ing.” Still working. Still trying to keep my head above water and the status quo still “quo,” and all the while keeping my dating app a secret. I was testing waters. Still playing. And still very unsure about the whole thing.
What was I looking for anyway? Would I really find someone to fall in love with? A part of me wanted that. A part of me still believed in the Cinderella-style, Sandra Bullock-esque rom-com happy ending. But there was also a huge part of me that felt like it was all bullshit. Romance wasn’t anything sustainable. I was just lonely. Love was really all just hormones spinning and zapping out of control. I liked being in control of my heart for the first time in a long tome and was it really worth opening it up to someone just to get it smashed to pieces yet again? Did I want to give away my power again?
Not really. Yet, I came back to that damn dating app again and again.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak