Our Time

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Our Time is super excited. "You have 110 new profile views and 15 new messages!" it writes, as enthusiastic as a prospector finding gold.

Although weeks earlier I had dropped my membership and checked "do not automatically renew," the online dating site continues to send me these cheery emails. I imagine it -- and JDate, another of my experiments -- somewhere in cyberspace clucking at my resistance.

"What's her problem?" I hear the OT yenta say. (Naturally, if I were going to use my imagination to conjure my pesterers, they wouldn't be coders using algorithms to find me a match. In my zany brain, the two sites are women wearing babushkas, like old-world matchmakers eager to arrange a shidduch between two lonely singles.)

"She thinks she's so high and mighty," sniffs the JDate version. "I fixed her up with four eligibles, each one a mensch, and did she appreciate? Vadyathink?" (Excuse the ethnic patter; but, I'm Jewish so it's allowed. Also, I can't seem to stop.)

Now, here's where my imagination takes another leap. Although these two figments are in cyberspace, and my mother, Min, is in heaven, I figure she can't resist getting in on a conversation where her daughter is the topic.

"Don't look at me," she says. "I tried, told her to be sexier and younger in her profile. But, did she listen to me? It's just like when she was a teenager and...."

"Min," the yentas interrupt. Evidently, they have easily accepted photo-shopping her into the picture and chat. "Please stick to the subject. It's the present day. Your 76-year-old daughter, who is not getting any younger, is the one we're trying to fix up. Forget about the past."

With that, and without validation for her vote, Mom fades out and we're left with OT and JDate.

"Obviously, we're using the wrong approach," OT says to JDate. "She's not buying our daily e-mails. She knows that if she clicks on them, she'll be asked to rejoin."

"We can't let her get away," JDate says. "We don't want to see our CityGirl go through life without a man."

OT laughs. "She was CityGirl with you? Hah! She was Tiny75 with me."

I allowed this silly scenario to enter my brain because I was also wondering why I had put the brakes on my search for a significant other. As the yentas indicated, I did go on dates with four eligible, honest, and wholesome males. Although sparks didn't ignite, based on this positive experience, why didn't I continue to seek a match?

The answer: I found another passion, one as all consuming, thrilling, and with the possibility of a life-changing outcome. If you are a steady reader of this blog (a shonda if you are not), you're up to speed on my decision to test-drive Los Angeles in November for a possible move to that city.

This current project contains all of the delicious elements I require. It: 1) alleviates boredom, 2) allows me to make a checklist, 3) encourages research; i.e. synagogues, civic groups, salons, and therapists, and 4) entertains friends and relatives who vicariously join in on my flights of fancy.

"She's delusional." It's one half of the matchmaking pair intruding on my rationale. "You know once Tiny75 gets to L.A., and sets everything up, I predict that within a year, she's going to need another challenge."

"Oh, you're so right," says JDate. "And then she'll write about it, just like she did about our sites, mocking our sincere desire to link pathetic singles."

"You know, I've often wondered if the only reason CityGirl visited us was to get story ideas," OT says. "I feel so used."

"There is some consolation," JDate continues. "She'll start writing about L.A. and although the first few blog posts will be rah-rah -- the sunshine, her new friends, her family..."

OT interrupted. "Oy, be prepared for her glowing reviews of her grandchildren. How smart! How handsome! How polite! I don't know if I can take it."

"But knowing Tiny75 -- who will soon be Sun-Wrinkled76 -- we won't have to wait long for her beefs to surface."

JDate erupts in giggles. Soon she is rollicking. "She'll be slamming the tall and skinny starlets sipping their lattes at her precious Intelligentsia."

"What about the 20-somethings working on their screenplays? I can't wait to read her critiques of them!"

"Hold on a minute," JDate says. "Those writers are likely to be Jewish, right? Maybe a few will have widowed grandfathers to match with our old girl? What could entice her back into the fold?"

"'Still drives' always works," OT says. "And, if we throw in 'at night;' she's hooked."

Full Disclosure

I got weary of all the peppy profile suggestions from online dating sites, which go something like this: What makes you happy? What do you most enjoy doing? What are some things you can't live without? Their upbeat eagerness -- likely penned by 20-somethings or techies in India -- was beginning to rile me.

So on my latest attempt, on a site called JPe*pleMeet.com (the asterisk is subbing for a Star of David, just in case you weren't hip to what "J" stands for), I decided to experiment and swipe starry-eyed for wry, impolite, and honest. Then, see if anyone would bite.

In the paragraph that asks for "A little about me..." I wrote:

"Full disclosure: I'm an early riser and fade in the afternoons. I exercise regularly but need someone to open jar lids. I gave up my car when moving downtown, so if you still drive, including "at night," you're my hero. Sorry if you're down in the dumps, but I'm looking for someone upbeat. You should be able to text. Please have a smart phone and know how to send messages. I love quality TV. If you haven't heard of Netflix, we're likely not a match. And if you don't have a sense of humor, we have nothing in common."

Also, in this third dating site that I've visited -- JDate and Our Time are the other two -- I made my desired age range 70 to 80, and location, Chicago. Despite my specified criterion, you can bet I'll get responses from 65-year-olds living in Denver, or 87-year-olds that "Like" my profile. Proof to me that most men don't read any of the physical descriptions beyond "athletic and toned." (Some jerks go so far as to warn us women not to message if we're overweight.)

While my "A little about me..." is on target, I omitted some other truths. But at some point, when I truly get burnt-out on these virtual experiences, I'll add: "I go to bed at 8 p.m., so if you're seeking a dance partner or a party girl, step away from the screen. I have a short attention span. If our lunch date lasts longer than one-and-a-half hours, I'll make an excuse to depart. It will either be boredom that sends me scurrying, or a need for an afternoon nap."

Based on my above bitchiness, you might assume I've had dreadful experiences with online dates. Au contraire. Through Our Time, I've gone out on four lunch and two dinner dates with quite pleasant men. They were all nice looking, well-dressed, smart, stable, sane, and impressively, all picked up the check for my meal.

Here's a little about them. But instead of disclosing their screen names, I'll call them by my labels.

The Libertarian was 72, possibly a hippie in his youth, and lived in a beautiful, homey condo overlooking Millennium Park. We had dinner at an Asian restaurant, and afterwards went to his place so I could attempt to set up his Apple TV. No hanky panky, and no spark for either of us. But we are Facebook friends.

I had two dates with the Chef, 85. The first was lunch at Gene & Georgetti's, and the second was a gourmet dinner at his luxurious condo. Both of us were very staid, the only heartbeats were for his cooking.

At 82, Mr. Fox Valley was a genial caregiver and widower. He was intrigued enough to drive the 30-or so miles to meet me for lunch in my neighborhood. He invited me to spend a weekend at his home, but when I froze, he quickly added, "I have two bedrooms." I considered a day trip, but after contemplating the folly of a city-to-whistle-stop relationship, I backed out. We remain friends.

The Professor was date number four, 72, a widower from Evanston. We met halfway at Cafe Selmarie in Lincoln Square. We talked ill spouses and bad deaths, computers, and families. We each expressed "had a nice time." I'm not sure who will make the next move.

Knowing you, dear reader, you're already combing my descriptions for your favorite and wondering why romance hasn't swooped up and blinded us. I have a theory: For the men, they're likely being pursued by a gaggle of grandmas and are taking their time to enjoy the attention and dates.

As for me, if you've read between the lines of "A little about me..." you'll see a very ambivalent dater who enjoys writing about matchmaking more than actually doing it. And then there's this: None were Tommy.

Tommy Has Boundaries

An email from Our Time, the online dating site, alerted me to a new message: "How about 2 p.m. at Meinle, the coffee shop at Addison and Southport?"

I was pleased to see these details from my latest match.  In an earlier email, I told him I was going to be on Southport for a 3:30 movie at the Music Box, and since he revealed he lived near Lakeview High School, I gave him the option of naming a place for our first meeting.

"Sounds good," I wrote back. Then, "I'm going to take a chance and give you my real name and phone number." I was aware this was a risk, but our previous messages signaled a safe bet. In those, I learned he was a former journalist and PR guy, kept fit, was divorced, traveled, and had two kids. On paper, he deserved a look-see.

I added: "I'd also appreciate your contact information. This way, we can do background checks and text if there are delays or cold feet."

A few hours passed as I prepared my wardrobe and kept busy with tasks to prevent obsessing about the meeting. Although I had had several dates with Our Time matches, and they turned out pleasant and interesting, I still became anxious about initial sightings. Those opening minutes always felt to me like a Broadway audition, where I'm probably all wrong for the part.

Soon it would be time to get dressed for my 2 p.m. coffee date, but I hadn't yet heard from Match6. Now I had a dilemma: Did he not read my online email requesting his contact information and would just show up at Meinle?

Or, had he read it, done due diligence to check me out and learn that I frequently write about my dates. Did that scare him off? Then, the phone rang. It was a 773 area code, but no caller I.D. It could've been a marketer, but I decided to answer it.

"Hello, is this Elaine?" From the sound of his voice, I knew I'd be exchanging my date wardrobe for everyday clothes.

"I know who you are," he said. "We've met. Tommy and I worked out at the Y together. He used to bring me his old golf magazines. Remember, I'd run into the two of you at Dapper's diner? Tommy introduced us; I remember you being nice."

Match6 told me his real name and I tried to picture him and place him in the setting he revealed. I couldn't get a sharp image, but think he was tall and good-looking. Despite his compliment, I knew our date was in jeopardy.

"I don't feel comfortable," he said. "I hope you understand. It's a little too close to home."

"Of course I understand," I said, but thought: S**t! Why did I give him my real name? If I had waited for our meeting to exchange details, Match6 might have thought me appealing enough to give loyalty a pass.

"Maybe we'll get together at some point," he said. "Trade war stories about online dating."

"That'd be great," I said, knowing it wouldn't happen.

With time on my hands, I pondered why I had sabotaged myself by prematurely revealing my identity. Soon enough, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my dearly departed, moving in my imagination from the past tense to the present.

"Hi Wifey," he said. Tommy was smiling, devilishly. "How's your dating life going?"

"It was you, Hubber, wasn't it? You put the idea in my head to out myself. You knew Match6 would look me up and get cold feet."

"I'm not confessing to anything," Tommy said. His smile grew broader and soon he was laughing.

It was wonderful to envision him joyous, but then I sobered. "Why didn't you want me to meet him? We could've had a date. Not marriage, as I've often promised, but a companion."

"Listen sweetheart," he said. "I know you're trying to find a boyfriend, but I have boundaries. The guy is my friend, off limits. It'll be easier for me if your fella is a stranger."

"OK," I said. "No one in your circle. No Y or golf buddies."

So, on my list of criteria for potential dates -- which already included "must love animals, be connected to his children, be under the age of 85" -- I added, "no one who's a pal of Tommy."

With that, I felt a soft kiss on my cheek. Then, my Hubber was gone.

All Dressed Up And...

Saturday, 5:20 p.m. In ten minutes I'd depart my apartment for the lobby where I'd use my cell phone to call Lyft for a pickup. My destination's address was memorized, ready to submit to the driver-- a Thai restaurant on Lawrence Ave. --where I'd meet, in person, a 77-year-old male from OurTime.com

            Before this, I had stood before my bedroom's full-length mirror and surveyed my image: pricey black-and-white Eileen Fisher tank top and unconstructed grey jacket over black Gap jeans, black Stuart Weitzman strap sandals. I gave my outfit two thumbs up.

            Along with my fashionable getup, I had enhanced my image by upgrading face and hair products. Instead of everyday Mac makeup, I used special occasion Sisley. Shampoo and conditioner got elevated, too. Kevin Murphy swapped for Bumble and bumble. The only part of my body that hadn't been creamed or painted was my nails. I hadn't had time for a professional manicure, so I removed chipped polish and applied a clear base coat. My bland nails would have to do.

            Then, the phone rang.

            "Just got in," said my date. "Can we postpone till seven?"

            "No," I said, my voice level, but geared for a rise. "That's too late. I'm ready now. I'm all dressed and about to call a ride for the restaurant."

            "I need to shower and change," he said, offering no reason or apology for the delay.

            "What's the earliest you can make it?"


            I'm thinking, should've listened to my gut. In our first phone conversation, he had admitted he wasn't in contact with his adult kids; that's usually a red flag. He also divulged he was bounced from his job. Flag number two. Why had I even made a date with this loser?

            "Listen," I said, already angry with myself for using my overpriced cosmetics for a date that grew cloudier as the conversation continued. "You knew you had plans for six; you even confirmed the day before. You should have made it your business to be on time. This doesn't feel good. Let's forget about it."

            "But, I have to clean up," he said. "You wouldn't want me to skip that." He was testy; as if I were the culprit.

            "Goodbye," I said, stabbing the cell phone's red icon to end the call.

            "Sorry," he got out before my line went dead.

            All dressed up and nowhere to go, so I started dialing to seek an alternate dinner plan. "Oh, sorry," said my neighbor, Diane. "I'm going to Plum Market, but you're welcome to come along."

            My friend Lisa responded, "Just got back in the house from gardening. Going to change and settle in. Any other time, I'd be on my way."

            "About to get in the car for an event in the suburbs," said my ex-husband, who has remained a good friend. Sorry this happened to you."

            "It's okay," I told each one. "I'm really happy to stay home. And, I'll have material for my blog. No great loss."

            Resigned to my revised evening, and relieved I hadn't sprung for a manicure, I changed from my snazzy garb into decades-old leggings and t-shirt. I poured my usual thimble-full of chardonnay, placed a dinner tray on my lap and watched another episode of "The West Wing" and then the pilot of the British series of "House of Cards."  Despite my face still in full makeup and my hair coiffed, I felt as settled and relaxed as a baby hippo in a puddle of soothing mud.

            Putting the deleted date behind me, the next day I returned to scroll the dating site's latest matches. I had already met two other men, and although I didn't fall in love with either one, or they with me, they were nice, dependable, and stable.

            The first two were Jewish (as was the dud), which sort of surprised me because I had chosen this site -- rather than the exclusive JDate -- so I could meet men of different races and religions. But somehow I decided that selecting a member of my tribe moved the game along quicker, like a roll of the dice that allowed your token to skip several stops and land in a prime spot on the board.

            Of course, every time I flipped past the Christians, I paused to muse. Tommy was gentile, and we had a compatible, loving 16-year-relationship and marriage. Why was I not willing to chance that again?

            So now, I'll shift strategy. My last experience with a clansman has sent me back to ecumenism. This time, though, I'll heed my boundaries and only make plans with a man close to his kids and gainfully employed or retired.

            I might even book a manicure.  

Playing the Field

Five whites, two Blacks: three Jews, four Catholics. Not the first line of a joke that ends with, "walk into a bar," but the eclectic roster of men, over the age of 70, whom OurTime.com suggests are my matches.

            Although I've often said I'm not eager to meet a new man -- either for companionship and especially not marriage -- it appears I lied, or changed my mind. Likely the latter, as I've been known to do that often in my roller coaster years.

             Who needs a man? I would toss at my daughters or friends who wondered/worried at my inclination to cuddle with Netflix rather than seek a male in my widowed life.

            Another excuse I have used for disdaining dating was that my second marriage to Tommy was so content, so stress-free (if you don't count the three years of caregiving before he died), that it'd likely be difficult to find someone as compatible as my dearly departed. "Low maintenance," was how I described him. And even when his aphasia and the trickling of dementia entered our union, he remained upbeat and sociable.

            But now, as I'm attempting to confront a few items in my life that I realize are fear-based; i.e. swimming and driving an unfamiliar car, it hit me that dating is numero tres on the list. Because Our Time is targeted to older singles, I thought I'd give this virtual gang another go.

            Fear of rejection certainly accompanies these searches, but fear of leaping into a relationship with the wrong guy is equally daunting. Because my two husbands sought after me, I didn't have to face rejection. My first, who I was married to for 30 years, chose me (until he didn't), and although I asked Tommy out for our firstdate, after that he wouldn't leave my side.

            In between those two marriages, during my six years of singleness, I grabbed onto guys that any clear-eyed person could've seen were absolutely wrong for me. But in my pathetic neediness, I chose to refurbish their personalities and foibles until each one shined like a matinee idol.

            I see a pattern in the romances I leapt into during that break: the men had an air of danger. Evidently, I had reverted to high school where the Tony's of my world triumphed over the Sheldon's. Ducktail haircuts, Lucky Strikes in their t-shirt pockets, ditching school; could anything have been more alluring to a good, little, Jewish girl?

            My relationship with the adult bad boy I chose in the space between wedlocks lasted for several years. He was such an antidote to my rigid, silent first marriage that I batted away warning signs as if they were foam rubber baseballs. So he drove too fast? So he smoked? So he smoked weed? So he channeled new age gurus? So his apartment was a mess? So he was a sloppy dresser? So he had intimate conversations with his harem of women friends?

            Get the picture?  Eventually, it was the last so that ended the idyll. Despite all of the cons that mounted like a child's tower of blocks, I was still attached and jealous of his bond with his bevy of gals. When challenged, he chose them rather than me. I whimpered for a bit, then realized I had dodged a bullet. (But, he often visits me in my dreams, which I consider a safer habitat than real life.)

            Now, in my current singleness, if I do receive responses from my Our Time United Nations, I'll likely reject some, and be rejected by others. There may be dates involved; evenings that include uncomfortable high heels (me), dreaded auditions and boring biographies (both) -- all while my mind is zeroing in on his comb-over, toupee, paunch, age spots, or other blots. (He is likely doing the same when it is my turn to drone. How can she be so short? Why does she tolerate those wrinkles? Hasn't she heard of hair dye?)

            I can handle those potential episodes. What I fear, I now realize, is that I haven't shucked enough neediness and am ripe for another wrong guy. Could a hunger for holding hands while strolling the river walk, or the scent of a freshly washed shirt while in a man's hug, and perhaps the chance to call someone "honey" shove me towards an unsuitable male?

            Guess I'll have to risk it to find out.