There's something in my spam e-mail almost every day from one online dating site or another. I have no interest in or need for dating sites at this point in my life...but there was a time when I did, almost eight years ago. Spam doesn't work for me, but online dating actually did.
It was nearly three years after my divorce before I was ready to try dating again. Those three years had given me ample opportunity to think about what I wanted to find in a partner and what mattered in a relationship. There were the big things, of course: compatible worldviews and values, intelligence, compassion, and, for me, sense of humor. But then there were any number of smaller things I felt would make day-to-day relating more enjoyable, such as similar frames of pop-culture reference and tastes in entertainment.
In order for those secondary attributes to mesh well, a guy would have to be...well, a geek. But how would I find that geeky guy? I was technically a single mom, but my son was in university 2000 miles away, so I wasn’t meeting other parents at kid-related functions, and my dog hadn’t introduced me to much except occasional casual conversations with neighbors. I had an 80-mile round-trip daily work commute--alone, in my car, because I live in the Greater Los Angeles area and that’s pretty much how we get around. And aside from the job and the dog, I didn’t get out much; I was a bookworm who had never been a bar person.
I thought the odds were good that, being a geek, Geeky Guy was probably online--but where should I look for him? The online equivalent of a personal ad made me uncomfortable; I wasn't interested in randomly skimming photos and sketchy profiles. If I was going to try online dating, I wanted to get more out of it than that, so I shelled out the big bucks for eHarmony.com’s “compatibility assessment” and a one-year membership. They promised a method more like that of a matchmaker, making introductions based on analyzing the detailed personality profiles each member submitted. I liked the idea of someone doing that screening for me.
The “introduction” e-mails began coming within a couple of days of my joining. Some didn't go anywhere, but a few moved forward into the next stages of eHarmony's "guided communication" process; by the time I entered the "open communication" stage with one of them, I felt like we were clicking, at least in writing. Less than two weeks after we were introduced, we met in person for a weekend lunch date.
Even though we lived in neighboring towns at the time, chances are that without an online matchmaker, Tall Paul and I wouldn't have met at all. More recently divorced than I was, he'd only joined the site for three months initially, and had extended his membership just a week or two before I signed up; even with eHarmony, we could have missed each other if he hadn't done that!
Paul described himself as a "dork," but other things I knew about him didn't really jibe with my experience of dorks. He was creative--a trained artist/illustrator and developing photographer (no pun intended, although a weakness for them is one of the many things we share), working as a graphic designer--as opposed to scientific, he was into cars and motorcycles, and with his beard and earring, he definitely didn't look the part. He didn't even need glasses, due to having recently had LASIK surgery on his eyes. I questioned his nerd bona-fides, but looked forward to meeting him in person just the same.
Our Sunday lunch date lasted all afternoon, and we talked about all sorts of things, catching each other's references right and left. After a few more dates, I knew for sure--the guy's nerd credibility was established. He wasn't a techie, but he loved his technology, especially if it was made by Apple; he knew his way around a comic-book store; his music and movie libraries were both extensive, and we knew and liked many of the same things in both of those spheres; our senses of humor were warped in the same direction. He may not have looked the part, but he not only affirmed his nerdiness, he fully embraced it. On my second date with Paul, I told him I was "a geek's dream girl" during a conversation about how many seasons' worth of The Simpsons each of us owned on DVD (I had him beat). I may have been overselling a little, but luckily for me, he seemed to be buying it.
I probably shouldn’t assume my experience is universal, but my feeling is that when you’re already past forty when you meet a might-be-special person, the heart and mind come to agreement on things pretty quickly; where you’d caution a younger person to take things slow, the midlifer doesn’t have time to waste. We moved in together after six months, and exactly a year after that--on October 21, 2006--we were married. It’s a second marriage for us both, and our wedding ceremony included our respective children in forging a new family. We hit it off so easily, and so well, that it feels like we've known each other all our lives and sometimes I forget that we met online just seven and a half years ago.