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 them. 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 in. 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 →
I’m crazy for books. Always have been. They carried me through a childhood absent of Zoloft, a marriage short on success, and more bad haircuts than I care to recall. I coped with none of these well, but here I am, still breathing. Without books to pull me through, I probably would have ended up pumping gas, sans an ability to pump gas, scraping pennies together for a bi-annual latte.
At one point, I accumulated more books than I could accommodate, forcing me to sell “Anna Karenina” back to my local used bookstore. How this pained me! Despite my torturous, if periodic, boredom, I’d battled through Anna’s interminable pages just to know, in the depths of my puny soul, that I’d done it. Because, damnit, I had. (For the record, I have no interest in the lives of Russian farmers. Nor will I ever.)
Match.com wasn’t going well. After dating Phillip (“But He Could Write”) I met a gorgeous painter who had absolutely nothing 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 didn’t eat a lot of donuts, but the ones I did, I relished. I was loathe to sacrifice them to a cause with no redeeming social value. So 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, it’s 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.
All this happened in the days before I knew of queries, proposals, or building a platform. Thus, when I told Jake I was writing a book, it was with the unbounded exuberance particular to one who’s in way over her head but has no clue of it.
After a brief correspondence, Jake and I 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 disasterous 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. . . →