The Doyen of Dating by Pamela Hertzog

In 2006, my 25-year marriage came to an end and I joined the ranks of the divorced. Soon, I felt ready to test the dating waters. Having heard many success stories with the happy ending of finding true love, I took the requisite personality tests and created my bio on several online websites. I also joined a dinner club where six or eight singles met for a nice dinner at chef-type establishments around town. In addition, I paid for the matchmaking service that had paired my best friend with her Mr. Knight-in-Shining-Armor.

We met at Applebee’s, driving separately because that’s what safe girls do.

None of these panned out. What I experienced was a wild assortment of one-off dates without a second, and some tasty dinners with the group, but zero individual interest. I don’t recall the names of any of my dates, but I do remember how they described themselves, because it never matched up when I met them in person. The pièce de résistance, the date of all dates, was an Asian-American rocket scientist and former engineer at Northrop-Grumman who was working as a mental health nurse on a psych floor. He held a 2nd degree black belt in Shotokan, drove a Harley, and liked to save articles cut from the newspaper. Wow! All these fascinating features in one person and he wanted to meet me for drinks! Since I had come out of a marriage where communication was poor, I suggested we write out a list of questions for each other. It also implied that we were going to treat each other civilly and respectfully while addressing each item on the list. Agreed. Check.

We met at Applebee’s, driving separately because that’s what safe girls do. I recognized him in the parking lot, standing by his souped-up pickup truck – showin’ off his goods, evidently! ‘Yup, I got a big one,’ I imagined him thinking, evaluating what he’d gotten himself into as he watched me walk over. In the bar, it was drinks and appetizers – well, tea for me, because that’s what girls do in order to stay safe.

We exchanged lists and I found his questions 1 to 5 unremarkable: Pam or Pamela? Can you be open and honest? Can you have difficult discussions without raising your voice? What are your hobbies? Tell me about your spirituality. Then, number 6: Do you maintain a low BMI? Red flag alert! Apparently, I am color-blind, so I breezed along to question 7 and here, I quote, because I saved the graph paper it was written on for some future time when I might want to write a painfully humorous, self-deprecating essay about this experience: ‘Sex! I am putting this section in here because in the last month and a half on this dating site, I have talked to many women and 30-40% express no desire to have sex again. Do you enjoy sex? Do you experience orgasm (singular or multiple)? Has your sex drive lowered with age? What weekly frequency is good for you?’

I would describe myself as a consummate conversationalist, quick on the uptake, witty, and humorous, and yet I only reacted many hours later. Why didn’t I make a scene at the restaurant, coming up with a response like this: ‘Question 7 is soooo interesting! Would you mind terribly if I replied with a few queries of my own? How long are you able to maintain an erection? Do you naturally engorge, or do you require a lot of patience from your partner and/or a mechanical device? Can you guarantee you will be able to fulfill me? How long are you able to postpone your ejaculation to make sure I climax first? Do you consider foreplay a chore? Do you have BPH, dysuria, ED, enlarged prostate, male-urge incontinence or noctoria? What is your blood pressure? Do you regularly take Viagra? Would you use a penile pump if needed? If your partner is not able to meet your weekly requirements, are you willing to take matters into your own hands? Would you ever guilt your partner out for not meeting your needs? Are you addicted to pornography? Are you a looker? Do you constantly compare your partner to unrealistic body parameters, such as are portrayed in the Victoria’s Secret catalog, for example? When do the men in your family linage typically go through andropause?’

I’m a triple-M. I don’t mean bra size, although some of the fellas would like that. I’m middle-aged, mouthy, with a Master’s. I’m too highbrow for some of the Billy-Bobs out there who are lookin’ for a little lady to be their subservient caretaker. Guys who say they are my age online are looking for women twenty years younger. Really? You’re this old, never married, yet want kids? Does not compute. But for the spry gentleman ten to fifteen years older, apparently I am one hot mama! Yeah, I get likes, smiles, or clicks from them as well as guys in their twenties. Ew! The latter must think I’m so hard up for sex, I might use them to take the edge off, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

To help other women navigate the confusing and complicated world of online dating, I’ve compiled a vocabulary list from personal research. After performing linguistic analysis of grammar and word choice, I analyzed patterns to help me determine what these men were really saying:

  • ‘I’m looking for a girl’ = I’m the boss
  •  ‘Passionate’ = I take Viagra
  • ‘Must be patient’ = I don’t take it
  • ‘Cuddling is important’ = I can’t get it up via pharmaceutical or mechanical means
  • ‘I work out daily, fitness is important to me’ = I take testosterone and steroids
  • ‘I am 66 and seeking younger women who are into exercise and fit my very, very active and energetic lifestyle’ = see Viagra above
  • ‘I have nine cats, some indoors, some out’ = please watch Hoarders on cable
  • ‘Good food, good sex. There, I said it’ = I’m a jerk, an arrogant prick. (There, I said it.)
  • ‘Here are the ten things I must have’ with references to Dolly Parton = boob-fixated
  • ‘I’ll tell you later’ = hiding something.

If a cover letter is the sales document in a job search, then your online bio is the same. What we need are honest and realistic descriptions. I’d like to know who you are, not what you want. More of what you believe and value, less of what you expect or deserve. Please omit all the vacation homes, boats, Harleys, ATVs, Sea-Doos or Ski-Doos you are proud to own. In return, here’s my honest bio: ‘Divorced Christian lady seeks mutually supportive, monogamous relationship with a man. Must be kind, empathetic, have good listening skills and high EQ (if you don’t know what that is, read no further). Needs to be tolerant of my hobbies of sewing and reading. Also, as a creative writer, expect to feature as a character in my essays. Other fellas have noted my beautiful blue eyes, great smile, and sense of humor. I am non-athletic, but enjoy 10-minute walks, bowling, and skee-ball. Previously on anti-depressants, but praise God, I’ve been healed. Now I only have a knee replacement, arthritic ankle, some hip pain and occasional urinary incontinence. I double dare you to date me.’

The Doyen of Dating wishes to leave you with the following three pieces of advice: it’s always your prerogative to pick up your purse and leave a date immediately; beware if the dating bio lists characteristics too carefully curated to be believable; and, in online dating, the little blue pill is doing all the talking.