In the past few years since I started this blog, I’ve written a few posts that diss online dating.
“I have three friends who are now married who met on JDate!” people had said to me. “It’s not for me,” I stated emphatically enough to bring the conversation to a close.
I have several friends who met that way too. Match.com, eHarmony, OkCupid (which I dubbed “OKStupid” during the two weeks I was on it). But I wanted to believe I could meet someone the organic way, where the element of discovery could exist. Where I could wake up one morning and realize, wait, I think I have feelings for this person. Where the decision, or the turn in the emotional road, could feel like it was my doing. I wanted to meet a partner through mutual friends, at dinners or industry parties, or via existing friendships with men that developed over time, with the absence of pressure or the flagrant “Do I like him?” question on a first date.
My last three relationships since my divorce did indeed happen that way. But did they last?
Would I be writing this if they had?
I got on JDate last year, in between my cub breakups, but my heart wasn’t in it. Looking back, I’m guessing that I didn’t want to swallow the bitter pill and ask the question, as a busy divorcee in the city, “has it really come down to this?”
But last month, for whatever reason, I decided to get back on that horse (see obvious metaphor below), and messaged a few interesting looking fellas who I might not have considered two years ago. Men that weren’t my “typical types,” read: in their forties, divorced with kids, who live outside of Manhattan.
I even decided to meet one of them for a coffee (sober) on a Saturday morning (hungover).
Okay, so as a blogger, I’ve been (correctly) warned by many of you who read and comment, that I should not blog about my dates, so I’m not going to. But I can’t resist a good story (so forgive some omissions).
I went on a few dates with this gentleman, and was unsure. I wasn’t hit by some bolt of lightening. I almost canceled our third date because I was working too hard, my schedule was packed, and he didn’t fit the usual checklist I follow. But he was (thankfully) persistent. He tolerated my indecision, and the six hours it took me to respond to some texts.
And then he invited me to the most unusual kind of date: a horseback ride in the country.
I had to fill out five pages of paperwork: waivers, emergency contact info, and then figure out how to use my fax machine. “What kind of guy makes me do homework for a date?” crossed my mind, but I told myself to chill out and be open. I figured that if anything, it would be an adventure, and a chance to get out of the city at the end of a long week.
He picked me up at the train station and when we arrived at the Farm, we both burst out laughing. In front of us was a large muddy corral (at least I’d like to think it was just mud), with horses walking in circles around an instructor. This was no horseback riding trail – this was horseback riding lessons, in forty degree weather, on a Friday night.
We were handed hats with shower cap linings to put over our heads, and then I was handed my horse, Buddy. “Buddy is a narcoleptic,” the trainer said. “So he might fall asleep on you.”
My date was told to hold my horse by his holster and lead him – he didn’t even get his own horse. He started telling Buddy some bad jokes, in order to keep him awake. I was laughing so hard I wasn’t listening to the instructor, who then yelled to me from across the corral: “You’re not paying attention! I said sit up in your saddle!”
My date and I exchanged glances that meant: “Let’s get out of here.”
He walked Buddy and I over to the instructor and without a hesitation said, “We are leaving. What should we do with the horse?’
I’m not going to talk about the rest of the evening here, but what I do want to convey is that sometimes, the things we least expect, or think we don't want to do, turn out to be the best things for us. Sometimes, if we just open ourselves up and allow ourselves to be surprised - rather than close ourselves off and fall into the comfort of what we’ve always known – the unexpected can develop.
As of this morning, I was going to end the post here. But then today, I decided to go to lunch and read like I always do, but at a café I’ve never been to. As I was sitting and reading the NYT (“Modern Love” of course), an older distinguished couple sat next to me. The man looked like a famous character actor: pin striped suit, bald head, and big bushy mustache. He was drinking a glass of wine with his pasta, and the elegant woman across from him looked like a Parisian designer.
I couldn’t help but smile at them, and then the man turned to me and nodded, asked if I lived in NY (he had a thick Italian accent), and after some small talk, he put his fork down and said, “You are creative. And strong. It is in your face. A man who doesn’t know what he wants, is not for you.”
I was speechless (a rare moment).
He pointed to the seat across from me, “This is why you don’t have a boyfriend sitting here,” he said. “And here,” gesturing to the empty booth beside me. “But is okay. You had one six months ago, but he was not for you and you toss him away.”
His wife told me how he likes to tell people that life is like mixing water with wine… that young people don’t realize that. But as you grow older, you realize you have to be flexible. That you can’t expect things to be one way, and if you are open to it being otherwise, you blossom.
I had to turn away at that moment to write this exchange down in my journal, and told them to enjoy their meal. I didn’t want to disturb them, but I also realized I had a gem of a story on my hands.
When they got the check, the man leaned over the table towards me, shook my hand, held it and said, “You have a good future. Believe in your future.”
As they turned to leave, my hand was on my heart, overcome by emotion.
I wanted to tell them that just this week, or perhaps in the country – with life and laughter coursing through me - that I had decided to do just that. I had decided to get back on that horse (even though he was sleeping), and welcome that exact possibility.