Finding a partner, husband, wife, lover, companion is sometimes an arduous task. Oddly, like many things it seems, the harder you try the more difficult it gets, until you throw your arms up in drama and despair, while swearing to the universe and god almighty that you will be single for the remainder of your days! Nowadays plenty of soul- mate seekers have taken to the internet to find a partner. It’s become acceptable. Before the internet, you’d often be the object of scoffing and joking about newspaper dating services and advertising for a love partner, that is, if you were brave enough to admit it. I met my loves and husbands the old-fashioned way for the most part, at the bar! “Cut me some slack.” I met the first husband through a mutual friend and bars were not a part of my scene back then.
An exceptionally colorful female friend of mine was quite busy using newspaper dating services one spring back in the 90s. This was the era of response by mail, not internet. I remember a bunch of us “tuned-up” women sitting around a hot tub on opening fishing weekend reading the assortment of replies she’d gotten back from men and scrutinizing their photos. If they’d known a crew of crusty fisherwomen would be peering critically at their pics through half-focused eyes, reading their letters, making snarky comments all the while......they’d have sworn themselves to solitude beforehand, I am sure.
It was about three years later when I found myself setting up an account in the Duluth News Tribune online dating service. Yes, I did.... (but don’t tell anyone). I think it took those three years to decide it was really okay to go about dating in this manner, despite some friends telling me I’d end up “prime cuts” in a rusty freezer in some serial killer’s mobile home.
I was ready to just try this! I’d been living in the same small mining town with the same old faces and I just couldn’t see any possibilities for romance. It’s like opening the refrigerator and seeing a chunk of SPAM when you want a pork chop. Now I was running the meat market!
So when I set up my newspaper dating account I described myself as a “Jill of All Trades...” I thought it a clever and honest representation of myself. No addresses or traceable information would be given out to persons interested in my ad. Responses came to an account that only I had access to. I could give out my telephone number when I was darned ready and extremely convinced it was safe to do so.
I recall visiting by phone with the first romance interest. After pleasantries and conversation, I gave him my number and it was decided we’d meet at Perkin’s Restaurant in Duluth two days later. Give me some credit...I did wait the two days. On the drive to Perkins that day I remember thinking it’d be awkward sitting and chewing in front of a stranger. I questioned why first dates are often set up with eating involved? Would he be watching my mouth, seeing if I licked my lips? I was sure I’d have an anxiety attack and break out in the sweats...trying to inconspicuously flip the rivulets of warm sodium off my brow before they plopped into my taco salad. Maybe a salad wasn’t the way to go, I thought...SO much chewing and green remnants too easily attaching to my teeth. Bad, bad visuals. I got myself so worked up...“What if he’s creepy, has horrid teeth, oh I’m such a loser, why did I do this? I’m turning around and heading back home immediately.”
I got out of my car and walked to the restaurant entrance...confidently pulling open the glass door and inconspicuously moving to the area behind the pie counter. There were two men waiting ahead of me. The one directly in front of me was rugged and handsome...definitely not SPAM or a pork chop. He was more like Sir Loin. “Could I be so lucky?” I thought. My eyes then drifted to the short, stout man standing next to him, eyes traveling down and then up, literally sliding off the top of the dark hair that was obviously saturated with Brylcreem... “a little dab will do ya!” So why smear a pint on your head? It quickly became more concerning as I noted he wore a black satin baseball jacket with light blue polyester pants. The ones that used to have that one-quarter inch topstitching in contrasting thread at the seams. Under the bells of the pant bottoms were nerdy white socks and spiffy shiny black loafers. “LORD, let it not be him!” My eyes grew larger as my appetite dwindled and then he turned and looked at me.
I diverted my glance to a nearby newspaper rack, probably the Duluth News Tribune, the paper that had lured me to this moment of delusion. Now I would surely be punished for dabbling in the darkened depths of “ONLINE DATING..where you’ll end up dead, quartered in a rusty freezer.”
The King-of-Bryl then spoke, “Are you waiting for someone, too, by chance?”
“Who, me? No I’m not,” I should have replied and bought a pie, then bolted. I took the damn high road. I felt obligated to suffer through this ordeal, so we sat in a booth with nothing to look at but each other. I got the sweats, he saw me chew, we had some things in common but it wasn’t enough. He was not SPAM but not Sir Loin either. We thanked each other and he said he might call again but didn’t (aw shucks.....snark, snark). I knew after this I would have to take more time in my screening process. I’d spent money driving to Duluth and bought a new jacket, too. Investments in adventure.
The second candidate was a fellow who lived somewhere in the area south of Superior. “Here we go, “said my friends...” he’s the one with the rusty freezer in a mobile home.” “Ladies, relax.” We corresponded a bit, he had a motorcycle and liked basketball. I don’t care about motorcycles or basketball, but I gave him my number. Disturbed woman. He called one Sunday evening and the aggravation is still in my memory. It’s always such an intrusion to be disturbed during Masterpiece Theater, but I took the call. I was attempting to focus on the conversation, but the quivering-dry raspy sound of his insecure voice, coupled with the trembling paper of his scripted conversation....ruled out the slightest possibility of a date.
This doesn’t get better.
The last candidate in this particular series also got me to give him a telephone number. He was a resident of northern Wisconsin and said his home overlooked the Apostle Islands. I thought, “That sounds really beautiful, perhaps he owns an orchard or something near Bayfield.” As we visited, he disclosed he was living on an old mink farm and had no plumbing, but had hopes of upgrading when he could afford it. He was a Star Wars fan too and sent me a nice card by mail. I eased it from the envelope, appreciating the effort of his correspondence. The green flesh, hairy ears and bulbous eyes of the character Yoda was the cover graphic. On the front of the card were four large words, YODA ONE FOR ME! I lightly gasped, thinking it a clever text, then pictured myself living on a smelly mink farm with a guy that resembled Yoda, while sitting in the outhouse overlooking the Apostle Islands. I set the card down and decided it was time to stop the pursuit of newspaper and online romance for a bit. I further instructed myself...the best pursuit is to be friends and if something else happens after that..so be it.
I’ve not ever been one to wait or, as I say, “to sit on the bench.” Some would argue that it is good to be alone. I agree that it can be, but I’ve never been very good at doing it and can’t shame myself for trying to live a happy life. Efforts at online dating didn’t prove to be a success for me but I’m extremely glad I didn’t end up in a rusty freezer, or mending blue polyester slacks with quarter-inch topstitching, or in an outhouse on a mink farm gazing out upon the Apostle Islands.
Scarlet Lynn Stone can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org