The Dating Files: Cold Case Resolution

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You have to tread carefully with a separated, newly widowed, or divorced man. I learned this the hard way. I don’t recommend engaging with a man in this state but sometimes the world and hormones conspire against you.

Sit back, relax (this is a long one), and have some ginger coconut fish soup while I share my story.

A few months ago, I signed up to attend a concert with one of my Meetup groups. The concert promised to be great but that was not my motivation. One of the attendees was a man I had gone out with…once…almost a year ago.

Flashback to May 2015: One evening I received a message from Mr. R, a man on OkCupid. Unlike the majority of emails I get from prospective dates, this one was witty, well written, and funny.

I quickly read Mr. R’s profile and was not disappointed. We had some of the same interests, a similar philosophy of life, and I found his pictures appealing. He wanted to talk. I thought he meant by phone…but he wanted to meet for coffee. And although I used to have a rule that I must talk to a man on the phone before meeting, that practice wasn’t always working for me. I could have a great phone conversation with a man but have zero in-person chemistry.

I told Mr. R I’d be open to meeting for coffee — even a cappuccino!

After some back and forth banter and fun messaging, we arranged to meet in a few days.

The day before our meeting, as prep for the date, I reread Mr. R’s profile. Only then did I notice that he was currently separated. He wrote, “but life goes on and I enjoy having a substantive woman in my life to share adventures and conversation.” As careful as I am about vetting my dates before I meet them, I had skipped right over this crucial piece of profile information.

I had two choices: write Mr. R to cancel our coffee date or go anyway for the experience of meeting a nice, attractive man with the remote possibility that one day it might turn into something.

I picked door #2. After all, I was on a mission to go out with lots of men to help me figure out what I was looking for. I needed to make up for lost dating years while in a relationship from age 19 to 58.

D (date) day arrived. It was a lovely sunny afternoon in May. As I walked up to Mr. R, who was standing outside at our meeting place, I registered that he looked like his pictures and that was good.

We walked to an outdoor café and began what turned into an unusually honest and intimate conversation for a first date. I didn’t expect that. During the first few minutes, I remember thinking, “Hmmm, I don’t know if this guy is for me.”

But something happened after 15 minutes. I can’t remember what turned it around for me. We clicked and started sharing personal details of our lives in an incredibly open way for total strangers. I told him I hadn’t realized he was separated when I agreed to meet. I had to guard my heart, I revealed, and said I had been burned previously when I dated a separated man and a second time when I dated a recent widower. Mr. R said he realized it isn’t right for him to be on a dating site given his status and that he planned to take his profile down. I don’t think he expected to feel such a strong connection with me. I suggested he join some Meetups to widen his social circle while he remained in marriage limbo.

We both knew “we” would not be a couple. And perhaps this fueled our connection and chemistry.

As further demonstration that the “fates” were conspiring against us, our time was limited. I had arranged to see a movie with a friend. With precious minutes ticking until I had to meet my friend, Mr. R and I went for a stroll through a nearby neighborhood and then I walked him to his car. We kissed along the way and at his car. No comment other than to say, I would rate him 100 as a kisser on a scale of 1 to 10. Damn.

I couldn’t tell you anything about the movie I saw a few minutes later.

The next day, Mr. R wrote a lovely and steamy email to reaffirm our connection but also to “fire himself” so my heart didn’t get engaged. We exchanged a few emails where he wavered briefly in his resolve to not pursue us; so then I fired him.

About a week later, after much thought, I tested the waters again and sought to clarify his marital future. We had another emotional and honest exchange of emails but it was clear that Mr. R had to remain fired.

In my farewell email, I noted that he had joined one of the Meetups I am in and he said we might run into each other at some point.

So I moved on, lived my life, and pursued the dating lifestyle. But I still thought about Mr. R. and couldn’t help but compare the guys I dated to him. Mr. R was definitely someone they had to measure up to – or not.

Over the next several months, I occasionally stalked Mr. R – keeping track of his attendance at Meetup events. There was a long stretch of time when I didn’t see his RSVP on any of the Meetups. I thought, “O.K., he’s back with his wife.”

But then he signed up for the concert I mentioned at the beginning of my story. I thought maybe something had shifted. Of course he could have emailed me if his marriage was really over.  I ignored that possibility since there were so many unknowns.  I decided to cast my fate to the wind (sometimes I like clichés). I sent in my yes RSVP for the same concert. Life is about taking chances (cliché strike two) and I wanted to see what would happen when we met.

It took me all day (if not physically then emotionally) to get ready for that evening’s concert. The group was meeting for a pre-concert dinner and Mr. R and I both signed up.

What was I thinking? This was hardly private and not the best venue for a second meeting.

I arrived at the restaurant a bit late but the very small group was still waiting for a table. And there he was – looking a bit older but very fit. I glanced at his left hand — wedding ring clearly visible. Sigh.

I greeted everyone and shook Mr. R’s hand too as if we had met at a previous group activity – not on a date. Dinner was in a very noisy part of the bar and it was hard to hear the conversation. Mr. R and I were seated at opposite ends of the small table but he managed to ask me a couple of questions as part of the general getting to know you vibe of the group. I observed him and his slightly different “social” personality versus the one I saw almost a year ago. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him.

As we left the restaurant and walked toward the concert venue, Mr. R and I lagged behind and had about 2 minutes of private conversation. “How are you?” he asked me. ‘I’m good,” I said.

When I inquired about him, he started to tell me about his current living situation and how he spent his days. “Are you still in limbo?” I asked.

“Well, Wendy and I reconciled though she still lives in San Diego.”

“So you have one of those,” I commented.

“What’s one of those?” he asked.

“Spouses living in different cities or even in different houses in the same city. Seems to be more common these days. It might even be considered trending,” I remarked.

Then the group caught up to us.

The concert was great but we didn’t have any more time to chat. In the rush of people after the event, we didn’t even say goodbye.

So that’s the end of the story. No great climax in this narrative. No surprise or happy ending. But when I type 30 at the end of this post, I think I can finally let Mr. R go.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.







Dating Rules, Kismet, and Timing

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A recent article in a Washington Post blog on the single life explored the issue of whether men with bad online profiles could in fact turn out to be great guys. The writer, Jessica Guzik, was frustrated by the fact that her dates with men who had appealing profiles were not working out. So she decided to try an experiment. She dated men with unappealing or quirky profiles that would normally prompt her to ignore them.

To her surprise, she met some great men – whose bad profiles did not match the real person. One man in an attempt to be different filled his profile with obscure references; another was more interested in meeting women in the wild and filled out a lackluster profile just to put himself out there. Her conclusion: don’t put so much credence in the profiles; instead “put more faith in the men behind them.”

Of course this is easier said than done but Ms. Guzik’s article triggered some thoughts of my own about profiles, timing, and dating rules. Will you join me in some of Mark Bittman’s watermelon gazpacho while I explain?

It seems that for every rule you make, the opposite of the rule can also be true. After some disaster first dates that had been preceded by texts and emails but not a phone call, I made a rule that I had to speak on the phone with a man before meeting him. This rule was golden for a while and it helped me avoid creepy guys who were full of themselves and those who had terribly grating voices.

If I had already agreed to a date but subsequently had a “bad” phone call with a guy, I’d cancel the date after the call. I let the man know I didn’t feel a connection during our conversation. This angered some guys – especially if I texted or emailed them with this news. But I believe it is better to nip an obviously going nowhere relationship in the bud rather than to suffer a fool or miss-match in an awkward meeting at a café or bar.

So I had the “always talk on the phone before a date” rule. But then, I encountered some men who were able to carry on such a fun and witty conversation by email or text, that I forgot the rule and agreed to meet. And more often than not, the date was wonderful. So it seems that meeting someone great is often a result of chance, or fate or kismet.

This doesn’t mean that the first date, even if it’s fantastic, will lead to a relationship. A couple of weeks ago I met Mr. D for coffee. This first date was preceded by only a few emails and texts (funny, witty, and creative ones though). We had incredible chemistry, honesty and intimacy almost from the start. It was as if we had our own version of The 36 Questions. But it turns out Mr. D was separated. It was in his profile but somehow in my pre-date excitement I had missed it.

I discovered this key piece of information right before leaving to meet him. I decided to go anyway since separated can mean separated for 8 years with a scheduled court date or separated 2 weeks ago and still moving out of the marital home (I have dated both of these guys).

It became clear at the end of the date that our timing was off (a perpetual problem in the dating life). This was Mr. D’s 3rd marriage (previously widowed and divorced) and he was struggling with the fact that he didn’t want to leave his 3rd wife’s grown children whom he had grown to dearly love. I know it all sounds messy but he was truly a fine guy.

When I told Mr. D I hadn’t realized he was separated and that I was looking for a relationship, he “fired himself.” But not until he kissed me and let’s just say this was a kiss worthy of a big-screen movie – possibly IMAX or even bigger. I can’t seem to stop thinking about him even though we were together for a grand total of 3 hours. Perhaps Mr. D will end up divorced and we’ll serendipitously meet again when the timing is right.

I have also encountered men with a great profile, who gave great phone (insert smile here), but we had zero or minus zero chemistry in person. As an added insult, these men did not resemble the old pictures they had posted.

Another issue is whether a good and long first phone conversation or date predicts anything. I’ve had very long (2 to 3 hours) late night phone conversations before meeting someone and long (up to 5 hours) first dates and then for one reason or another the fledgling relationship combusts. In one case, the guy was an alcoholic and we ended up in a phone fight after the first date. In the other case, following a 5-hour date, Mr. Q decided he wanted to date another woman at the same time he dated me. Apparently he scheduled me as the fall back and I didn’t hear from him for a week. Then, when his other “relationship” didn’t work out, he texted me to see if I wanted to talk. I was disenchanted at that point and had already moved on.

So many dating and relationship situations call for you to decide whether you’re going to trust your heart or your gut. A thought-provoking article in the Chicago Tribune describes the ongoing battles these two organs can have over your love interests. As the article points out, sometimes you just don’t want to listen to your gut tell you a man is not right for you…and the heart wins. See Mr. D above. Other times, it’s easy – and neither organ wants a particular piece of work otherwise known as an incompatible match.

I’m still looking for a rule-breaking, take my breath away encounter that is a win-win from both the heart and gut and appeases the timing gods. Until then, happy dating or not dating to all of us.