Monday, February 06, 2006

Benefit of doubt for a divorcee

Knowing that Yahoo! Personals would cut off their free response option mid-January, I put myself on for one last attempt. Frankly, I've grown very wary of Internet dating. I know it works for a lot of people, but it's not for me. I know myself well enough to say that I'm not good about engaging with people I don't know. E-mail is fairly easy for most people. I don't think it's a good way to determine how personable someone truly is. I lose incentive to keep up the communications quickly. I did even with my last boyfriend within three weeks.

I got a handful of responses. Depressingly, most were over 40 (I'm 34) and several were divorced. I also received communications from two people who were clearly outside of the type of person I wanted to meet as described in my profile. I am still a firm believer that if I state my requirements, I'm serious about it and am not going to pay attention to people outside of that. I would never write it into my profile, but the fact is if you're white you'd better be damned good looking, sharp, and a good guy for me to want to respond. It's biased, I know, but it's my personal preference.

So I tried writing two men, both of whom are divorced. They seemed fine but as I said I was really bad about keeping up the correspondence. Joe looks like a decent guy, but the confidence he tried to convey in his writing came across to me as a little creepy. He kept reassuring me what a great guy I'd find him to be if I'd write back. Am I overanalyzing when I say that it feels a little desperate and weird to tout yourself to a stranger? So I just never wrote back. Maybe I'm being rash but there have to be some rules about proper conversation.

The second guy was a little dry but he sounded okay. When it was clear I was going to drag my feet, he suggested meeting for coffee. That's an easier way for me to get over the hump though I always dread meeting guys since it's so random. We agreed to meet on Friday night at a local Peet's.

I arrived a bit early and simply enjoyed my book. When he finally arrived, he wasn't sure if it was me. He had a goofy smile on his face which to me said, "wow, I can't believe how cool she looks," but in a stunned way. I just didn't like the look of him. There's something about big, round faces that's not attractive to me. He bought us coffee and we sat down. The conversation was slow going, I knew within 10 minutes that I just wanted to go home.

I tried my best to keep an open mind, really I did. We talked a little about his job, or lack thereof. You see, he's on leave. His friend wrote him a letter for the insurance company explaining that he is mentally unable to cope due to his divorce. I had no idea it was this recent. He laughed about how much fun he was having and maybe would try to find a way to extend his absence. Besides travel he mentioned taking several courses for professional and personal development. Unfortunately, he mentioned a class on forgiveness and added "because I need to learn how to forgive my ex." He said it with such sarcasm and an uncomfortable laugh that I had to hide my discomfort.

The small talk was fine, but it was like when you have to play nice with a random stranger. It's not like there was one particular topic where we both became invested or mutually excited. That's what makes you want to know more about someone. In this situation, I was more just trying to keep the conversation going and move from topic to topic to keep it interesting.

He liked talking about his time off. It was clear he was feeling a bit awkward and had not dated in a long time. I felt sorry for the guy, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be friends with him. He's just not someone I could imagine knowing outside of a business relationship. I'm sure he had a bad time with the divorce, but that doesn't mean you show your pleasure in avoiding emergency spousal support. It just made me feel creepy. Why would I want to date someone who's going to treat others like that? (Of course, maybe I'd do the same thing in his shoes if I hated someone enough, but you still don't volunteer that kind of information to a stranger.)

As soon as I saw the employees cleaning up the shop, I alert the divorcee that we probably had to get going. I added that I probably need to go and meet up with a friend for dinner. He was caught off guard by this and commented that he was just about to ask where I wanted to go for dinner. As we walked towards me car, he started asking me questions about who I was meeting up with, do they live nearby, and where I was going. Well, I wasn't exactly interested in sharing that information. I feared he'd try and invite himself or something.

What a relief to get out of there. Eeck. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but he's not ready to be dating people.

To make matters more awkward he e-mailed me soon after the date. He explained that he sensed things might have not been ideal and asked if there were things he should not have mentioned. He wanted my feedback on what he did wrong. This is strange, I mean I don't want to tell him who to be. He needs more friends. He also asked if I would consider him to be a dinner pal if not a date. I tried to be polite but he tried pestering me for more information and for more dates and that's just annoying. When someone says thank you and good luck, that's it. I think for me the clingy desperate plea is just very unattractive. I tried to give the benefit of the doubt to this guy because I didn't want to stereotype divorced people as bad, but this experience only ended reinforcing my fear of attempting to engage in a relationship with any of them. The baggage seems the same as any serious breakup, but somehow the obstacles end up being much larger than expected.

As my cousin and I agree, I feel sorry for the guy but given there are so many other priorities in my life, I don't have time for charity dating.

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