Just Say No

It was a kinder gentler time, back in the pre-I.D. era. I was breezing along pretty well I thought. I was alone, but I was also at peace. Then my daughter came in telling me about some guy she had met online. All my antennae went up and the alarm bells were clanging so loudly I am surprised I could still hear her tell me I should put a profile out there. I was warning her about the danger of axe murderers and scalawags the whole time we were deciding what my user name should be. She snapped a picture with her cell phone and, bam, just like that, I had entered the Internet Dating Zone, known now (to me) as the IDZ. My email began to hum with flirts and messages from guys who looked like I was the first woman they had communicated with since they got out of prison. I hid my profile.

I still got email notifications, though, and in a few days curiosity got the better of me and I “unhid” the profile and opened a message from a nice looking gent sitting on a boat. He said I sounded interesting, and he apparently had done little to no time behind bars, so I agreed to meet him for coffee. He was nice, tall, well- spoken and he treated me like a lady. It was some time since I had been anything close to wooed. My former husband thought a date was sitting inside the McDonald’s instead of going through the drive-through, so I am probably easily impressed. After an equally nice lunch the next day, he asked me if he could cook for me the following Friday. With much trepidation, I said yes. We still hadn’t sorted out the whole prison thing. I didn’t think it was something I should ask on the first date.

On Friday, I told my daughter everything I knew about the man, so she would have some idea where the police should start the investigation if I didn’t come back, then I drove to his house. He had big band music playing – not my favorite thing, but soooo much better than Hank Snow – and offered me a glass of wine. I accepted, noted his house was attractive, orderly, and contained no obvious weaponry, and began to relax. We talked, had a lovely dinner (I had last been cooked for in 1989), and went back into the living room. Before I could sink back into the overstuffed leather chair, he decided to play space invaders – my space. He pulled me right up to him, inches from his face. His hands behaved; he made no improper moves, but there I was, able to clearly see the nostril hairs and wanting nothing more than to be either back in that chair or in my car on the way home. So I said, “I really need to move back,” and he released me. We talked some more and he decided I needed to meet someone who would be willing to take the time to build a relationship. Well, duh! I thought that was what dating was. I agreed, and we talked to each other a few times as friends and then he moved back to California, where dating rules are apparently much more lax.

For my part, I went straightaway and hid my profile. Then along came a really interesting email notification, and I caved again. This time, we skipped the coffee and went straight to lunch, whereupon the nice gentleman pulled out my chair and proceeded to tell me how cheaply he could take me out using coupons and specials. After a scintillating discussion about the merits of shopping in bulk at Sam’s Club, I went back to work. And hid my profile.

A couple of weeks later —yes, that’s right — I checked out another one, and this time emailed back and forth with a very witty man. I would have loved to stay pen pals with him, but he wanted to go out. He was kind, funny, and interesting, but after a few dates, it occurred to me he might be interested in developing a relationship. The more I thought about it, the more reasonable I thought the assumption was that people on a dating site were looking for someone to date – regularly. I panicked. And hid my profile. For a year.

A month ago, I was on Facebook and an ad for Our Time popped up. It was a weak moment. My sister had met a lovely man online, and a good friend a little older than me had just met the man of her dreams. I succumbed. The parolees came out of the woodwork, but since this site wasn’t free, I was determined to keep my profile active, at least for the month I had paid for. I deleted the ones that looked like they had just walked out of “Deliverance.” I ignored the ones that expounded on the deep inner joy engendered by cold beer, Nascar, and football. I met a couple of really nice guys with whom I had very little in common, but at least they were regular folks who didn’t catch nutria for sport or anything. I was regretting the thirty bucks spent on the subscription. I could have had a pedicure with that. But I still had a week and a half paid for, so I stuck it out.

Then I talked to a very intelligent fellow who took me to nice places and never once bragged about how cheaply he could get by. I had a genuinely good time, but by the third date, I began to see serious differences in how we saw life. At the end of the last date, I think he was irritated by something. My daughter had dropped my teenage granddaughters at my house as she had to work, so I didn’t ask him in. I did offer a goodnight kiss. Prior to this, he had been quite interested in a proper goodnight. In fact, he was interested in a much more involved goodnight than I was ready to comply with. This time, however, I got a perfunctory air kiss. “What the hell was that?” I wondered, and decided not only was that the end of the line for him, it was also time I stepped back out of the IDZ. God and the Universe could supply a companion if there was ever meant to be one. I quit.

I had some notifications on my email, so I went to the Our Time website. I had four new messages. I debated for a minute, then repeating over and over, “Just say No,” I hid my profile and closed my account without checking the messages. I may have to join Daters Anonymous to keep up my resolve, but I decided this is the end of Internet dating for me. It may be wonderful for some people, but to me it felt like horse trading. When I raised horses, I put them online with pictures that showed them off to advantage and spoke in glowing terms of all their sterling qualities. That’s pretty much what you do with yourself on a dating site.

I thought briefly of posting a picture taken first thing in the morning, with hair standing out all over my head and mascara smudged under my eyes. I could add a paragraph about my propensity to emerge from the bedroom with a mustache, cowboy hat, and Red Ryder BB gun, saying in my best Wyatt Earp impersonation, “Tell ‘em I’m comin’. And hell’s comin’ with me.” If they still want a date after that, there may be hope.

But no, I’ll just leave things alone and let nature take its course. I am not unhappy with my life. It’s just that sometimes it would be nice to have a significant other. Hmmm. Maybe e-Harmony? No! Just say no. Just say no, Just…say. . .