The one you throw away after divorce
By: Charlotte Perkins
After my divorce, I started looking around for a boyfriend. I had no qualms about going online. I liked the efficiency of it. Years ago, in the pre-Web age, I used New York Magazine‘s personals column to find myself a nice doctor out on Long Island. Never mind that he turned out to have commitment issues.
This time around, now living on the opposite coast, I wasn’t looking for commitment—just someone to hang out with, go to the movies, have dinner . . . that sort of thing.
Making a mystery-date dream list was fun. As a suburbanite, it was important to me that he live in San Francisco. I’d been hovering on the edge of that gorgeous city far too long. He should also be cute, but not too cute. Two years earlier, my good-looking husband had flown the coop with his good-looking (much younger) girlfriend. The new potential suitor needed to be a man who read books and wouldn’t find my literary life a bore. As an afterthought, I decided to ask for emotional stability.
My newly single friend Mabel and I chose pseudonyms for our online profiles. I’m southern and chose a handle involving the magnolia tree. Mabel is British. She wanted to use the name, British Rose, but it was already taken, so we dropped the vowels and came up with BRTHRSE. Mabel said that this sounded too much like BERTS HORSE, and in a fit of doubt, she refused to go forward. I was on my own. I developed a profile calling for a cute San Francisco man who possessed literary excellence and a steady core. Sturm and Drang need not apply, I cautioned.
Right away, a couple of cuties popped up on the screen, one with a boat and one with good hair. I sent them winks and links that allowed them to view my closed profile. No answer, oh dear. I went back to the pond and came up with another–an adorable fellow named Edmund. The twinkle in his eyes leapt right off the screen. His smile was sweet and Mona Lisa mysterious. Oddly, Edmond listed personal contact information in code on his profile page. “Solve this puzzle,” he explained “and you, You! Will have my private e-mail address.” Why didn’t he just write it out, I wondered?
But then, NPR’s Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! came to mind. I imagined Karl Kasell’s voice on the line. Two could play this game! I mailed Edmund a warm note with my photo and profile. I presented my personal e-mail in code too, something like, “Hey I Dig That Twinkly Look You Got There, Oh Single Man.” Wasn’t I clever? I wasn’t sure what the point was, but wasn’t I clever anyway? Soon enough, we were on the phone.
He sounded British, but not quite. I was schoolgirl giggly, nervously anticipating my first date in years. Still, I was uncomfortable with the faux Brit sound coming across the line. “If you aren’t a Brit, then what’s with the accent?” I asked. It was Edmund who giggled nervously this time. He’d lived in London, he said. He had family there.
“Oh, and why the coded e-mail address on your profile site?” I inquired.
“Skips the fee,” he explained. “Anyone can post for free. It’s connecting through the site that costs you. If you give out your personal information in code, then you’re able to keep your profile up and meet dates at no charge. Quite a coup!”
Hmmm. Yes, but wasn’t that cheating?
We talked about meeting. Someplace halfway between San Francisco and Palo Alto would be fair. Freshly divorced, I was all about being fair. I suggested Margaret O’Leary’s. It sounds like an Irish Pub, but it’s really a sweater shop. (Did I mention that one of my criteria was to date a man who liked to shop?)
Edmund responded enthusiastically. “I adore Margaret O’Leary boutiques!” he said. He only wished they made sweaters for men. I forgot all about the fake British accent and the Yahoo scam. Margaret O’Leary it was! But, just to be safe, I decided to wear tall shoes.
Edmund had declared himself 5 feet 9 inches in his profile. I suspected he was shorter as men often exaggerate their height. I wore my four-inch platforms. If I didn’t like him, I could plead too tall. I packed flats in my purse. If I liked him, I’d change my shoes.
And there he was, only two days later, on Primrose Road, standing in front of Margaret O’Leary’s big, plate-glass window looking boyishly adorable in his own Anglo-design: a gray wool sweater, Levis and clogs. Yes, chunky, black Danskos that gave him a two- inch lift. He was definitely shorter than he claimed, but his eyes twinkled and he smiled his wonderful smile–the one that never stopped warming my heart. He cocked his head to the side, “Miss Perkins, I presume?”
We walked around the corner to lunch. I darted into the ladies room and switched my shoes. When I returned to our table Edmund was surveying the menu. “Why don’t we split something,” he suggested. “How about the salmon?”
“Split it?” I asked.
“Yes, we can split the salmon and then later on we can split the bill.”
“Well, OK,” I agreed. That would be equable. That would be fair.
To be continued…
Tell us: Have you tried online dating? Is it more socially acceptable to find love online after a divorce?