Yawn. Loud slurp of coffee. I shuffle to the living room, flop down on the couch. For twenty minutes, I stare at a wall. Then I pad over to my computer to check my email.
There it is: the weekly list of my ideal matches.
I’m on Match.com. Three times a week, I receive emails alerting me to potentially ideal mates, whose pictures are displayed in a photo gallery. I look forward to these emails. They never bring results; the men either spell fun with two n’s, fixate on beaches at sunset, or have body hair is thick enough to hide a sandwich. Still, the emails buoy my hope that there are decent, available—and, most importantly, geographically convenient—men out there.
Eager, I click on “Your Newest Matches.”
It catches my eye immediately. I feel a jolt, then zero in. It’s an all too familiar picture of my ex-boyfriend, Matt. If memory serves (and oh, how it does), the shot was taken at my grandmother’s funeral. We’d been standing arm in arm. If you look closely, you can still see the shadow of my hand on Matt’s shoulder.
The rest of me is cropped out.
I’m bothered by this, but not for reasons you’d expect. I don’t care that Matt is dating, or that he’s exploited my grandmother’s funeral for his own ends. She’d been no ray of sunshine. Plus, I’m certain the story will be a hit at parties.
No, my problem lies not with jealousy or resentment. It lies with being so violently blindsided in my own living room.
One minute I’m yawning and checking my email; the next I’m gaping at the erasure of my existence.
I’ve been expunged from my own fucking computer screen, before even finishing my coffee.My Next Big Thing | Meeting New Year’s With Resolve →
Match.com wasn’t going well. After dating Phillip (“But He Could Write”) I met a gorgeous painter who had nothing interesting to say, a successful entrepreneur addicted to reality TV, and a Harley-Davidson guy looking for a woman to spend weekends on the back of his bike. Admittedly, the motorcycle had momentary appeal. Then I considered my knees, back and ass. Ego prevented me from saying anything, but the biker seemed to sense it. The next time I saw him, he was holding hands with a golden-curled, creamy-complected nymph wearing a fringed leather jacket.
Once again, my thoughts returned to the editor.
Ah, the editor. Jake. I’d stumbled upon his profile (and two thousand others) six months earlier. In his pictures, he sported a jauntily angled fedora and a T-shirt that read, “My imaginary friend thinks you have mental problems.” Some women might have found this accusatory. Not me. Imaginary friends always like me; and if Jake’s assumed I was a wackadoo from the start, I’d have no call to admit, explain or justify anything.
Heady stuff, it was. And that was the least of my attraction.
Check out Jake’s first line: “I’m not simple. But the most interesting people never are. I’m full of contradictions and dimensions, and you should be, too.”
Contradictions? Dimensions? I had so many, they were coming out my ass! In a cute way, I liked to think, but the fact remained. I’d rather be attacked by a shark than clipped by a crab. I like both chocolate and ice cream, but not chocolate ice cream. I hate technology, but separated from my phone, I grope for a Xanax.
If this wasn’t compatibility, I didn’t know what was.
Jake continued: “I can’t tell you exactly what I’m looking for — in life, in a love, in a breakfast buffet. Maybe I had a clear idea when I was younger, but I’m smarter now.”
I was intrigued. Jake went on: “I’d never given any special thought to English muffins until I bit into the perfect one at breakfast on vacation in Jamaica some years back. But I knew on the first crunch. And to think, I’d been looking for a bagel that morning, but there weren’t any.”
This was the man I wanted to meet. Needed to meet. But I’d emailed him six months earlier and he hadn’t responded.
Dare I write him again?
I’d look like a stalker; that was a given. But it was a half year later, and Jake’s words were still fresh in my mind. He was probably still out there, questing for a bagel, while I, his English muffin, mooned over his profile, nooks and crannies at the ready. If I didn’t give it another shot, I’d spend my life despising myself, Match.com, and any food with a hole at its center.
I wrote Jake a note. The subject line read, “Taking a risk.” I swore I wasn’t a stalker. Assured him that I’d never, in the whole of my Match.com history, contacted anyone twice. Promised him that if he didn’t reply, I’d never write him again. “But,” I said, “your profile is written with an intelligence and sincerity that sets it apart. All these months, you’ve stuck in my mind.”
This time, Jake responded. His subject line read, “Thanks for taking a risk.” He remembered my email. He said he’d found it interesting and amusing. “I apologize,” he wrote. “I think I heard from you after several disappointing dates and was avoiding Match altogether. I kept meaning to answer, but somehow never got around to it.”
So. It wasn’t that Jake had been buried under hundreds of scintillating emails from gorgeous, witty women whose dimensions out-cuted mine.
He’d been struggling with Match, too.
I decided to tell Jake that I was writing a book. I did this with the unbounded exuberance particular to one who’s in way over her head but has no clue of it. After corresponding for awhile, we made plans to meet for coffee. The day before, I emailed him my cell phone number, should he be running late, caught in a tornado, or just wanting to bail. I assumed he’d do the same.
Jake’s and my date couldn’t have been better. When Jake set eyes on me, his eyes lit up and he smiled happily. I was immediately drawn to him; it felt like being caught in a horizontal, gravitational pull. The rest of the world faded into nonexistence. Jake and I talked easily, bantered, laughed. Bitched about disastrous dates, getting older, and the obscene cost of lattes. Through it all, I felt a tingly warmth from head to toe. When the awkwardness of parting came to pass, Jake reached for my hand, lifted it to his lips and kissed it.
My heart melted.
Driving away, I considered Jake’s reluctance to give me his cell number. It made perfect sense. I’d been a potential cyber-stalker who, additionally, had crowed, “I’m writing a book!” to a seasoned editor. His imaginary friend had probably told him to stay the hell away from me.
That night, Jake emailed me his cell number and an aerial view of his house, along with a map of its whereabouts. And an open invitation to stalk him.
That was three years ago. Today, I’m Jake’s English muffin.But He Could Write | Dear Santa. . . →
Match.com. Its melange of exhilarating possibilities and inevitable misadventures fascinated me. Of course it did: My first impression of potential suitors was through the written word. Shocked, I was, to discover otherwise desirable men proclaiming, “We’ll have funn together!,” “I love to go out dansing,” and “Familly is very impotent to me.” One actually urged women to “stop on buy.” I wanted to believe these were typos, but further down the page, there they were again. On the flip side, two well-crafted sentences from an unemployed dog groomer living at home could turn my insides to jelly.
Before long I feared I’d end up with a serial killer who could do wondrous things with a comma.
Phillip could write. Our correspondence, rich with engaging banter and interesting self-revelations, was a boon to my flagging spirit. As were Phillip’s financial status and geographical convenience. By the time I was to see him in person, my hopes had reached galactic heights.
Phillip’s and my first date exceeded my greatest hopes. After meeting for cappucino, we drove to Harriman state park. Hand in hand, we meandered around a secluded lake. Later, over a sushi dinner, we explored our likes and intolerances, passions and dreams. By the time I returned home from what had turned out to be a twelve-hour date, I wondered if I’d found the one.
Given my avoidance of commitment, this thought was most unusual. Thus, as I discovered Phillip’s oddities, I resisted assigning them meaning. I labeled my irritations as petty and channeled them into the remote corner of my brain where I stored instructions on cleaning my oven.
Phillip had everything I wanted in a man. He was sensitive, attentive, attractive. Plus, he was absolutely smitten with me. It was my plan to fall in love with him.
The problem was, it wasn’t happening.
For one, Phillip posed questions, then answered them himself in outline form. “Why do I stay with this company?” he’d ask. “A. I like the job. B. They pay me well. C. It’s an easy commute.” Every time he did this, I wished I was home alone, eating M&M’s.
Phillip was also big into hand-holding. Initially, I viewed this as sweet. But as time wore on, I began to mourn the use of my hand. There were times I needed it: to scratch my nose, adjust my bra, chop a vegetable. Exasperated by the chronic unavailability of a crucial body part, I escaped into sleep, frequently dreaming that I’d grown the appendages of an octopus. As an octopus, I had firm, round breasts, bright blue eyes and an unlimited gift card to Barnes and Noble.
These dreams fueled my hope for the relationship.
Adding to my mounting dismay, Phillip wasn’t just convinced we’d met through divine intervention. He was determined to sway me into agreement. He attempted this by pointing out our commonalities, no matter how minute. We both loved horseradish, he reminded me. And jigsaw puzzles and being outdoors. We shared ambivalence toward Hillary Clinton; that was key to a healthy relationship. “See?” Phillip would ask, moving in for yet another embrace. “The signs are everywhere. We’re meant for each other.”
Along similar lines, Phillip often marveled at the near-perfect match of our gray eyes. The downside of this being that his were hazel. Either he didn’t know his own eye color, was trying to win me over with a falsehood, or some overlap of the two.
My acid reflux began acting up.
There’s more, of course. Phillip — God bless his soul — insisted that I was perfect. Stellar as a partner and sublime overall.
I scoffed at this. Never had I won an award, given CPR or volunteered in a soup kitchen. Rather, I bitched about parking, sampled ringtones and fucked ceaselessly with my hair. I left dishes in the sink, bought ill-fitting shoes on Ebay, got testy on lines. These were my trademark characteristics. But the few that Phillip would acknowledge, he insisted were endearing.
Six weeks after meeting this man, I was a psychotic, guilt-ridden mass of suppressed volatility.
The thing was, between get-togethers, Phillip and I communicated largely through email. His word choices were fresh, creative. His opinions were beautifully articulated. His grammar was perfect. He didn’t rely too heavily on adjectives. Never did he misspell a word.
Had we limited our relationship to emails, perhaps Phillip would have been the one.Contraband | Matched →