Natalie is a 44-year-old software engineer. She says “I’m a mix-and-match kind of girl, with a thing for vintage. My style is a bit witchy and a bit gypsy, but femme and flirty always.” Natalie says “When my friends describe me, ‘hilarious’ gets used a lot. I’m outgoing and lots of fun. I have a wild sense of humour and I love to make people laugh.” She says “I’m a big reader, and I write fiction too. I do a lot of walking to stay in shape, and I’ve been exploring mindfulness and meditation for the last few years, which has really helped to centre me.” She adds “I didn’t have my act together, emotionally, for years. I’m working on it. I have a more positive mindset now.”
I went into online dating thinking that any man I might date has to have an inner life and self-awareness. This is a biggie. I want a man who can deal with his emotions. He has to be smart and educated. He needs to be able to laugh and make a joke.
Oscar reached out to me on a dating site. He was cute, and seemed like a good guy. We exchanged a few messages and then had a phone conversation, in which he was nice, but not impressive or exciting. I tried to find commonalities, because at that point I was trying not to be too picky.
We agreed to meet somewhere in my part of town. I suggested a little sushi restaurant that I liked. On the date, Oscar arrived dressed like a lot of men do for these things: badly, like he reached into his closet without looking. One of my complaints about men in general is that they don’t make enough of an effort. Not on their profiles, not with their photos, not with the first impression. I know they’re as tired as women are of being single, but seriously, don’t show up looking like crap!
Oscar wasn’t into the food at the restaurant, so we left to go to a pub down the street. There were sports playing on the big screens, so for a while Oscar didn’t try to make conversation, as he was watching the game. After a while, we ordered some food and started talking a bit more. His general vibe seemed to be Another Middle-Aged Male Confused By His Divorce. We talked about politics and our families, which was nice, but there wasn’t a lot of “there” there. I figured that this date was going nowhere fast.
At some point Oscar realized he had something caught in his teeth. He started picking and digging at it with his finger in a really obvious way. He kept at it, and wouldn’t give it up, and seemed really frustrated. Finally, to my amazement, he picked up the disposable bar coaster with a beer ad on it, and somehow used it to dislodge whatever was in there. He then crunched the coaster up and put it back on the table. Offhandedly, he said “Sorry about that.”
Even if we had been married for 30 years, that move would have been unacceptable to me. A lot of guys, at least in my age group and older, had been married for years, and then they found themselves single and absolutely unprepared for it. Oscar really didn’t seem to understand that he was on a date with me, not out with someone auditioning to be his next wife, with whom he can settle back into whatever routine he used to have.
I couldn’t see the date improving from there. Honestly, good manners are too important to me. The date ended in a friendly way. Oscar offered to drive me home, but I was desperate to be alone in the fresh air and done with this debacle, so I walked. I knew I would never see him again.
He was a good guy who meant well, and my experiences and research indicate that this is average, normal behaviour for a lot of single men. It wouldn’t be hard for them to put in a bit more effort, which could dramatically improve things.
I like to treat dating like a project, with a strategy that evolves as you learn. The lesson I learned with Oscar is not to lower my standards for anyone, not to go on a lot of dates, and to “qualify” men online and on the phone before I agree to meet them. The ones who are too impatient for that don’t have the EQ I’m looking for. After the date with Oscar, I thought . . . I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep giving guys “a chance.” I have to find a better way to date.