My best friend got married in June to a very wonderful man she met on eHarmony. This meant that amid wedding plans, there was lots of encouragement for me to give it a shot (again). Unfortunately, while writing my maid of honor toast and, probably, drinking a beer, I began to think that maybe she was right and I should sign up for eHarmony. So I did.
My first indication that things on eHarmony had already gone awry was within a few days.
And then there was this.
But I’m not here to talk about my horrible matches directly (of which there are plenty). I’m here to talk about my horrible matches indirectly.
After only talking to one man who got weird, possibly a little serial-killery, and who only ate turkey bacon and then being matched with a devout Jehovah’s Witness in another state, I decided to call customer service. This is more difficult than you’d think because this is what happens when you try to find a customer service number on the eHarmony website.
After skirting eHarmony’s avoidance of providing customer service by googling for the number, I made the phone call (844-544-3179, if you’re looking for it). My conversation with the “customer service rep” went something like this.
Me: Hey, I don’t like the people I’m being matched with and the last straw is that you matched me with a Jehovah’s Witness in another state. Not only would be not be a good match, we would fucking hate each other. This basically shows me that you’ve run out of people to match me with.
CSR: Well, let’s take a look at your settings. It looks like you say you can be matched with Christians.
Me: Yes, that’s because “Christian” is a very vague term and it doesn’t mean much to most people, and I’m not sure you’d have anybody left to match me with if I uncheck that box.
My proposal was that eHarmony would not offer me a refund, but instead shut down my account, and not take any more money. They said “no.”
CSR: Well, we can shut down your profile, but you’ll have to make the other two payments first.
Me: So let me get this straight: You want me to pay the same price but for less service?
CSR: Well, we have to collect the remaining payments before we make any changes to your account and profile.
Me: Ok, well, I guess I’ll just entertain myself by sending screenshots of ridiculous profiles to my friends for a few months longer.
I have now paid my three easy payments, and eHarmony is routinely warning me that my time with them is drawing to a close. I will be released from this bondage on December 17, 2015.
Of my last 100 matches, 84 of them have been outside of my preference settings which I think are roughly equal to my real life odds. Of the 16 matches that were within my preferences, 100% of them were of zero interest to me.
I’m pretty sure eHarmony’s algorithm is basically, throw ’em what we’ve got, much like the real world.
Friends, learn from my mistakes, don’t give eHarmony money to do what visiting church or what visiting that weird guy at work’s mom’s basement could do for you. Just don’t.
The immense danger of relationships is that they bring out both our best and worst selves. At best, we give with abandon. At worst, frightened of our own vulnerability, we disregard the emotions of our partner in ways that we wouldn’t a friend or an acquaintance.
It seems a cruel joke, both inevitable and horrible, that we find it so difficult to treat the people we care about the most with the dignity they so much deserve.
This more than anything else makes me want to be alone. The energy it takes to be wrestle with my own resistance to vulnerability and fear of being hurt combined with the energy it takes to protect the vulnerability of another and to protect myself from the defensiveness and offensiveness that vulnerability might incur in another is exhausting.
It is amazing how much hurt and tumult can be bound into one relationship.
Most recently I quickly was branded as an overreacting, crazy lover of drama. I was the target of misdirected anger. Many times I have been shut down and shut out. I have caused multiple men to go cold, to find themselves bored and too comfortable. I have been withdrawn from. I’ve been cheated on and left without being informed.
Frankly, I’m tired.
I’m tired of protecting myself in and from my most intimate relationships. I’m tired of giving without replenishment. I’m tired of having to get stronger just because I’m not dead.
I know that I’m not perfect, that I can be rough around the edges and stubborn.
But I also know that I deserve to be cared for in the way I care for others. I know that I deserve to be listened to and valued as a whole person, imperfections and all.
Unfortunately, when I look back over all of the many comings and goings, the math doesn’t really add up to a positive number. I’m too old and too cynical to ever believe that if I keep adding up wrongs, I’ll eventually make a right.
The thought that perhaps long-term or relationships with much depth are just not for me has returned and stayed longer each time it arrives.
This thought is often accompanied by the notion that my solitude may be a blessing because it frees me to focus my energy on more productive and more fulfilling things than the double-edged sword of relationships.
Until I can both love myself and love another and also be loved in return, I will choose myself and solitude every time. Unfortunately, this seems an impossibly high bar, so it is likely that I will and should make myself at home with a solitary life.
Both the details of being single and living on the Northside are kind of irrelevant to these stories. I just wanted to use that title.
No one has actually inquired if I’m single. In fact, one special gent insisted that I was not single, no matter how vehemently I (or anyone else) denied it, but we’ll get to that later. The fact that it occurs on the northside is also pretty irrelevant, as there tend to be drunk fools almost anywhere.
The only way the title is actually relevant is that all of the words contained within it are factually accurate. I was inadvertently single. I was on the northside.
Drunk fools #1 and #2:
One recent night, two drunk men approached my roommate and me. After some very drunk chatting, the chatter-upper of my roommate reaches across her to grab my left arm upon which I have a tattoo of the moon blowing stars around my arm. He looks at my tattoo, then at me and asks very seriously, “Are you a Vice Lord?”
To which I chuckled, “Do I look like I’m a Vice Lord?”
At this point, I turned to his friend, my chatter-upper, and ask, “Is that a line?…. Is that a good line?”
He just shook his head with that kind of slow-motion headshake that one reserves for the very saddest of sad things.
I don’t know if the headshake was because I’m so not a gangster or if the headshake was because chatter-upper/drunk fool #2 was in the middle of passionately telling me about how a visit to Augie’s ‘would change my life.’
Frankly, I’m more sold by Augie’s attempts to secure a reality show than drunk fool #2’s pitch.
Drunk fool #3 and his unfortunate big brother:
The bar was pretty empty, so I suspect that drunk fool #3 approached us primarily out of lack of options.
I was able to convince drunk fool #3 to abandon his shitty beer for something slightly more beer-like. Grain Belt, I think. He claimed it tasted like earwax.
I never got a satisfactory answer about why he was so familiar with taste of earwax.
Eventually, my roommate and I got suckered into playing pool. Drunk fool #3 was my partner, and though I had warned him that I suck at pool, we played.
Sure enough, I sucked. But drunk fool #3’s positivity couldn’t be stifled. Every shitty shot earned a high-five and praise.
I give him an “A” for positive bullshit. If we could have won based on that alone, we certainly would have. His big brother and my roommate kicked our asses pretty thoroughly with actual pool talent.
Drunk fool #4:
Ballsy but misguided, drunk fool #4 sat down at the booth with a friend and I, whilst my roomie ran off to sing “Baby Got Back.” Regardless the intensity of denial, he proceeded to insist that my roommate and I were a couple. That was all very entertaining until he looked at the both of us and decided that “she’s the man.”
I’m like, “So let me get this straight: In this hypothetical relationship you’ve concocted for us, you’ve looked at the both of us and decided she’s the butch one?”
To which he replied, “Yes.”
The sad part is that I was genuinely offended by this.
As I stood up to walk away, he says, “I lust you.”
“Huh?” I responded, because not only did he not know how to use the word properly, it’s just how roughly 75% of the conversation had gone.
Then he said louder, “I lust you. Lust. You know this word?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I’m an English teacher. I know words sometimes.”
Anticlimactic end: Then I walked away and went to smoke with my “lesbian lover.”
Honestly, I feel like a fool making such public declarations of having found love and then retracting them like a middle-class housewife with buyer’s remorse.
Also, honestly, this is not a retraction of love. It is a retraction of presence and not of my own. Everything I said about this love is still true. I would have spent a lifetime enjoying the better and wrestling with the “for worse,” but he has chosen to leave.
For the third time in a row, my lover has gone numb and has ceased to feel anything about me, so I probably should be more accustomed to the dull ache of indifference. But I am not.
I am obliterated, and I am exhausted.
I used to think I had a problem with men loving me. I don’t.
I have a problem with men loving me continuously and at the same time as I am willing (and able) to love them.
The typical trajectory – lasting from a few dates to a year – includes this:
Man really enjoys my presence. We laugh a lot.
Man gets scared because the novelty wears off and/or he’s afraid of commitment.
Three to twelve months later (longer for a few), he realizes that the same thing happens in all relationships, but when it does he’s in a relationship with a far shittier person.
He comes back. I get text messages, emails, etc.
The further complication is this: Healing requires scarring, and scarring does not really invite wounds in the same place. Instead, I repeat the cycle with fresh wounds really close to existing scars which is, perhaps, why I always expect a different outcome.
I have grown tired of prodigal lovers.
My first internet date was with a pudgy, balding, ginger who I’ll call “Mr. Applebees” because despite the fact that he lives in a city with a great deal of good food, Applebees was his favorite restaurant.
He re-emerged with via email.
I responded by sending him a link to Sex and the Pity.
I was trying to tell him something.
Fuck You: Chapter 1 has periodically re-emerged even from his re-emergence which is an odd thing because our four “dates” consisted of this:
1) We talked and he asked to go out “sometime.” I informed him that “sometime” meant that night or in six weeks after I have back surgery and settle down on the narcotics. He came to a bar I liked and then insisted that we ditch it for a bar he liked.
2) A month after surgery, he came over to hang out with my invalid ass, and I made him watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 with me. He was not amused.
3) Whilst I was still recovering, we go out. We have some drinks and then climb to the top of an abandoned granary in Minneapolis with a group of his friends. I go home and read my back surgery manual. It says “avoid stairs.” I took extra narcotics that night.
4) A few years later, I was an idiot and flew to Arizona. We have drinks. He ignores me for the rest of my weekend. I went hiking and to a Bluegrass festival.
Fuck You: Chapter 2 has also texted. I responded with a link to this post. He misidentified himself as Fuck You: Chapter 3.
Fuck You: Chapter 3’s reinterest was as short-lived as his initial interest.
The alcoholic finalist for you’re pretty cool has unsuccessfully attempted a reappearance or two. Fortunately, he became far less attractive, when I realized how much he drank and how rarely he did not. Also, he said these words, “Hydration is a myth.” True story.
The other finalist – a resident of Nebraska – disappeared as quickly as he reappeared. In shame, I assume. I’ve learned that booty calls that cross state boundaries are ill-advised. Stupid, even.
Mr. elicitor of stabbery knows better than to try to really re-emerge, but he has since learned that sometimes love (much like war) is, well, boring, and that’s okay. Because I still think he’s a decent person, I’ll spare him the full Sex and the Pity treatment.
And others who have escaped previous comment on Sex and the Pity occasionally emerge .
The man who became exceptionally awkward when I commented on his use of the word “retarded” as a synonym for “stupid.”
And one who should have most certainly been included for leaving me for an “almost twenty-one year-old.” He finally came back saying all the things I told him upon the exit he neglected to inform me about. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” “She just wanted my money,” and my personal favorite, “You are the best woman I’ve ever been with, certainly the smartest.”
Yes, but not smart enough to avoid it in the first place…
This is all to say that attempts at mutual love have been a long and laborious journey – much like travel through Nebraska – it all pretty much looks the same, and that makes me sad.
Now, I am doing my best walk through the pain, to acknowledge it but not avoid it.
I am not allowing myself distraction with people who will make me feel wanted but whom I will ultimately hurt.
I talk big about being happy alone.
At this moment, I am not, and the ugly truth is that I have rarely been alone for any extended period of time because I break my contentment with a fresh start on the same old trajectory.
So I am working at being alone.
I suppose my current discipline is a step of faith that I can and will be content in my solitude, but for now it is merely discipline.
I am stepping gingerly through the minefield of my heart, reactivating the tripped mines.
It is a healing of sorts, I guess. A wholeness that only scars can bring.
Six months in: the love of my life is still the love of my life.
I have never been more confident about that.
Every little thing that matters, every red flag that ever waved before is white.
It’s miraculous, in that I never before believed that I would not have to sacrifice parts to myself to love and be loved.
And he loves me. Perfectly. Because he knows me better than any person on earth. Perhaps, at times, better than I know myself, and he STILL loves me.
That is not to say that our road has been smooth. There have been challenges that we deserve honorary years for.
My heart is learning to be whole (a condition to which it is wholly unaccustomed). I am also learning that I am my own formidable foe, perfectly willing to get in the way of my own happiness.
But there is also this: Our challenges are just that. Challenges.
My love challenges me to become a better, stronger, more open, more authentic person through our relationship (as opposed to learning those things by having survived the relationship).
And he challenges me by doing it himself – by loving authentically, by being open in the face of insecurity, and by choosing always to grow rather than escape.
Loving him is at the same time the easiest and most difficult thing I have ever done.
Easy, because we fit each other so perfectly. Difficult, because he challenges me to face parts of myself that I have never loved thoroughly enough to encounter, parts of myself that, in the past, were more trying to confront than being alone. Again.
Loving him is difficult.
Loving him is wonderful.
Loving him is what I’ve been looking for.
A couple months ago I had a revelation that the only reason I was even attempting to still date was because I had paid for a service, and I didn’t want that to go to waste. It took a long time for it to dawn on my that not wasting money was a very stupid reason to keep putting myself through the same bullshit – lather, rinse, repeat. So I made a deal with myself that I would take a last stab in the dark and then quit.
Stab status: Fail.
My journey toward contentment must have caused a great disturbance in the force as men from my past seemed to gather and decide it was time to reemerge into my text message inbox and psyche. I’ll spare you the whole story of who and why and wherefore I might have met them. Instead, I will share some fun-nuggets (ironically, made out of shit).
All names have been changed to arbitrary characters or blurred to protect the ignorant from friends who would consider punching them in the face.
Fuck You: Chapter 1 (Abridged)
Once upon a time (in November of last year) I traveled across the country to visit a man for a long weekend. During this long weekend, I saw this man one time for about three hours. He backed out of plans twice. I flew home and was forgotten at the airport. I took an expensive cab ride home. The end?
No, of course not.
Prince Charming: 12.11, 9:15 pm – hi… I miss u.
Me: I don’t really see how that’s possible. You hardly saw me.
Prince Charming: 12.11, 9:46 pm – i know, but…. I like u. wish u would have stayed longer.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot?
But wait, there’s more!
He hit up the facebook inbox.
And then, the facebook wall.
Fuck You: Chapter 2
The first disappearance of Idiot A.
5.08, 2:20 am – Hi there…it’s late.
5.08, 2:30 am – …you wouldn’t happen to be up now would ya?
5.09, 2:37 am – Journey rules!
5.13, 3:32 am – Hello.
5.13, 3:33 am – I. Need. To. Get. Outta. Here.
5.13, 4:42 am – Nighnught
5.13, 3:20 pm – Sorry about the post-work celebratory texting. I think my final went swimmingly.
The second coming of Idiot A.
6.12, 2:49 am – So…I really miss hanging out with you. I realize yr probably done or need a better explanation, which I’d share if you’d like….calculas is kicking my ass.
6.12, 11:40 am – I know “busy” doesn’t really cut it (even though I was with finals and then a family trip to TN) but I really would like to! I like the cut of your jib, kid, ya got moxy.
The third disappearance of Idiot A.
8.31, 10:41 pm – Hey pretty stranger. How ya been?
After silence – 8.31, 10:58 pm – You present a valid point. Sorry to bother you. Just wondered how you were.
8.31, 11:35 pm – …at the risk of sounding redundant, I think it would be really great to study with you sometime. I just think you’re pretty cool and would rather there not be bad blood and/or weirdness…
The appearance of Idiot B: Played by myself
9.1 – Idiot B actually hung out with this dude again. Haven’t heard from him since and would be willing to make bets that I won’t for at least thirty days.
Fuck You: Chapter 3 (Abridged)
Me: Might I ask why the sudden re-interest?
Dude: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been hitting on you pretty hardcore for a while now.
Me: I don’t know if I would say “hardcore” unless by “hardcore” you mean that you talk to me when I happen to be in your general vicinity.
Me: No, but really why are you back now?
Wait for it…
Dude: Your hips. (He goes on to explain why he likes my hips and others like or unlike them.)
At this point I was kind of waiting for him to go on with other reasons – maybe something related to a quality that I have more control over or more pride in, but, apparently, that was it.
Unsolicited advice: If you are struggling to name some good qualities of mine, ask me. I’ve known and liked myself for most of my life.
After this evening of “bliss,” he was really interested for about a week which roughly mirrored his first period of intense interest. After that he no longer seemed to acknowledge my existence while in the same place (except once), which, apparently, is the opposite of hitting on me “pretty hardcore.”
Finalists for the “You’re Pretty Cool” Category:
Bachelor #1: Drinks too much.
Bachelor #2: Lives in another state.
It came to me one evening when I was out to dinner with my coworkers and the conversation turned to the misadventures in our romantic relationships and dating lives – mostly mine, unfortunately. Our conversation started to sound like some sort of Sex in the City episode – only funny and it didn’t make me want to gouge my brain out with a spork. I thought, I should write about this shit.
And that’s how it began.
This, it occurred to me, may be why I have been collecting screen shots of profiles that I encounter in the online dating world and store them in a folder lovingly and aptly named “Hot Mess”. If my dating life pays off in no other satisfying way, this will, at least, grant me and some blog-following types some entertainment.
The people pulled from my “Hot Mess” folder will remain anonymous to protect the identities of the stupid, the uninteresting, and the unable to punctuate.