online matchmaking

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* (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.

Double Dating With My Mother

I could chalk it up to the difficulty older Jewish men have when they try to navigate technology. Or, I can just admit I'm a loser on JDate. My evidence: although I've "Favorited" 16 matches, zero have returned the compliment.

"I thought you weren't interested in meeting men." It was my deceased mother elbowing herself past Tommy into my subconscious.

Her arrival was hardly a surprise. After all, rather than my late husband being invested in finding me a date, it was more likely to be my mother, Min, a beauty who died at the age of 67.

"Mom," I said to the apparition pulling up a chair next to me, " I don't want anyone moving in, but I think I'd enjoy dinner or a play with a nice guy my age."

"Well, I can tell you what your problem is," she said, "Your profile isn't sexy enough."

"Sexy isn't me. I'm trying to be honest."

"Honest, hah!" she said. "I see you've put your age at 70. Remember I was present at your birth and you're off by 5 years."

"No one admits their real age in online dating," I said. "I recall you telling me more than once you never wanted to get old."

In my mind's eye I could see my mother hesitate before responding. She would be using her right hand to sweep her hairdo upwards and a mirror to be certain her eye shadow, mascara, and red lipstick were in place.

"Well, if I would've known what good shape a woman could be in her '70s I might have stuck around. I have to admit you've kept your weight down."

A compliment from my mother! I preened in my office chair and brushed aside childhood memories of her fixated on my chubbiness rather than my brain.

"I see two matches answered your emails," she went on. "It's a shame you had to make the first move."

Ah, here's the familiar motherly dig. "That's not a problem for me, Mom, being aggressive. That's how I landed Tommy. I asked him out for our first date."

There was silence on the other end of our celestial chat. Although she died before Tommy and I met and married, I knew Mom would have had mixed feelings about my second husband. It wasn't the fact that he wasn't Jewish, but that he wasn't rich.

"Don't blame your mother for wanting an easier life for her daughter," she said, evidently overhearing my thoughts. "But I did appreciate how much he loved you."

I didn't want to keep Tommy in this scenario, so I quickly returned to my failure on JDate. "Did you notice, Mom, that no matter their age, all of my matches wanted someone between 50 and 65? "

"So," she said, stretching out the vowel, "you couldn't have dropped 10 years?"

I sighed. "Mom, that's just not me. I've come a long way and I'm proud of the woman I've become. I'm not that desperate to make myself over for some dude."

Now, a sigh from Min. "So, try it your way. Be honest. Don't say you're passionate, fun, adventurous in the bedroom."

I laughed. "So you've been reading my competition."

"Of course, it can get boring up here. It's a change of pace to read fantasies about ideal matches. My girlfriends and I had a good laugh."

"Were you laughing when one of the guys answered my email with the news he had already fallen in love with the second woman he met on JDate?" I said.

"See, you didn't move fast enough. You have to jump in as soon as you find someone interesting."

"I don't know, Mom. Did you also read that he was now spending all of his time with his new romance?"

"So, what's the problem?"

"I gagged when I saw that. I don't want anyone spending all of his time with me; it's suffocating. Like I said, dinner out, a movie, a play, that's all I'm thinking about, not him taking over my life."

"So, have it your way," she said. "I assume, with your record of zero and sixteen you're bowing out. No more online dating?"

"Not completely," I said. "It is kind of a fun game and my ego is strong enough to take the rejections. So next month, I'm going to the other side."

"Women!" she said. "Don't tell me you're going to become a lesbian."

"No, Mom, match dot com. I'm going to check out the Gentiles. Maybe they'll be more open to an adorable grey-haired woman in her mid-seventies."

"Try sixty-five and you may have a shot," she said.

Odd Number

There were five of us seated around the table -- circular, so much better than rectangle where an empty chair would’ve been haunting. Four dear friends, who didn't want me alone on my aborted 15-year wedding anniversary, treated me to dinner at a favorite neighborhood restaurant. It was the same spot Tommy and I, and this very same group, celebrated at each year.

 "So sweet," my daughters had said when they heard of our friends’ kind gesture. "Should we pick up the check like we've done before?"

“No,” I said. “Not this time.”

I remembered our grateful surprise at anniversary dinners the previous years. "Your meals are covered," the waiter said as he cleared the table. "Your daughters paid for it."

"Another round of drinks!" my friends joked. My husband and I, a stepfather to my generous girls, grasped hands and smiled. Misty eyes for both of us.

What was Tommy thinking? I wondered back then. Did he consider how much our lives had changed since our marriage all those years ago? I know that's where my thoughts flew. He had a bit of a vocabulary at dinner 2011, but occasionally, one of our friends turned to me with a blank look, hoping I could interpret my husband’s patchwork language.

By the time the six of us celebrated January 13, 2012, Tommy’s greedy aphasia had stolen all speech. My heart sank as he sat quietly while the rest of us debated our usual topics.

This year, 2013, I was the odd number at the table. I’ve only been a widow for just over two months, so the feeling of "third wheel" hasn't yet entered my brain. But, I remember how it nagged after my divorce from my first husband.

Initially, when he left our 30-year marriage that was often unhappy, I felt like a kid let out of school. I ate pizza on the couch, filled the house with overnight guests who often stayed for months, and hosted dinners that squeezed our dining room.

But after four years of this freedom, loneliness crept in. I missed being married. I wanted to be part of a couple again. I hated being the gal left at the wedding or bar mitzvah guarding the purses while couples danced.

I put an ad in the Chicago Reader (the pre-online matchmaking option), attended a few singles events, told my friends I wanted to be fixed up, and went on a series of dates that either ended the same evening or continued for several months.

And while none of these swains turned out to be “the one,” I did enjoy primping for an evening out and feeling like half a pair.

In the end, Tommy and I met through neither of the methods listed above, instead as the song suggests, “on the street where we lived.”  After our first date -- I had asked him out -- we became a couple. We each found what we wanted in a partner, and within two years married.

Although his friends say he fell head over heels when he met me, I think Tommy was a more content single than I was. His first marriage wasn’t nearly as long as mine and there were no children, so there appeared to be nothing he longed for or missed.

Unless it was someone to cherish, because that’s what my husband did from first date to last breath. As I’ve been rifling through dresser drawers in preparation for an eventual sale of our home, I’ve found stacks of yellow-lined notes bundled in rubber bands. Each bearing a sentiment from a love-struck middle-aged man who paused every day to let me know he felt as if he had won the lottery.

As for me, I reveled in being cherished by someone I loved. But just as much, I was thrilled to be part of a couple again, to be a married woman. When Tommy introduced me to his long-time friends, and when we double-dated with mine, all feelings of “third wheel” dissolved.

This time around, I’m not sure how long it will take for that sense of being the odd number will hit. Truthfully, I’m hoping it stays away for quite awhile. I’d rather savor the specialness I felt in my second marriage, where two was the perfect number.