Post. Wait. Delete. by Amy Braziller

conversation hearts email meMost Memorable: February 2014

Choose a picture, a flattering one, one that shows you smiling, hopeful. Choose from a vacation, one where your skin is tanned to a satisfied glow and your shirt accents your blue-green eyes. Remember the way you used to feel when wanted, when you believed—forever.  Make sure you still resemble the photograph, at least in terms of weight. Write a catchy, first line, one that doesn’t sound timid, dishonest, or ridiculous like Looking for Friends. Don’t appear too desperate. Too perky. Rejected. Show you like words. Be an eclectic spirit looking for others. Post your profile.

Wait. While you wait, look at other profiles. Look at education. Skip over large and thin body types. Search for city dwellers. Forget the smokers. Beware of those that have children. She had children. She left you after six and a half years. She discarded you.

When you receive your first email, stay open, even if you are wary because you initially dismissed her profile. She has children and lives in the suburbs. Name her Femme Burbs. Respond to her email one day later. Ask questions about her children. Don’t reveal your issues with children in previous relationships. Anticipate getting home, opening your inbox, and finding steady emails. Embrace the distraction. Find out how long she has been a flight attendant. Dream of the possibility of frequent flights and exotic travel. Go on a date for sushi at her favorite restaurant, which is downtown, closer to your home. Enjoy the date since it will be your last one with this attractive woman. Remember her suburban reality. Remind yourself of your past, failed relationships, of sacrificing your needs to your partner’s and her children.

Be naïve. You are on a mission to heal your bruised ego. View most profiles and responses to your profile as date-worthy. Hide your shock when your chat screen opens with a proposition for online sex from Ms. District Attorney. Hide your amusement at the irony of an oh so proper D.A. suggesting computer sex. Sit silent for a couple of minutes, even if it feels like five minutes. Consider whether your inner prude is surfacing. Put your fingers to the keyboard and type something neutral like, I wasn’t really looking for that right now. Let her apologize. Listen to her explain how most of her online correspondents seek those types of encounters. Let the awkwardness pass. Email her several days later.

Agree to meet for lunch, even if it is Christmas Eve, which you don’t celebrate, but have celebrated for the past sixteen years—your girlfriends’ holiday. Imagine meeting a smart professional, a nonconformist. Don’t show disappointment when she arrives at lunch sporting a bright red Christmas sweater and polyester black pants instead of an edgy, hip, black blouse and jeans. Learn that an outlandish and edgy, online persona doesn’t guarantee that reality in person. Watch her inhale a big sloppy hamburger without the care and grace of a first date. Politely say goodbye. Transform this date into a fine tale for your coupled friends who vicariously thrill from your online dating adventures.

Don’t let one dining debacle prevent you from rushing quickly into more foolish lunch dates. Make your motto accept all dating requests—after all, everyone is a potential match without any clear dating minimums. During a lunch date, become fascinated with crazy science tales. Name her Ms. Electric when she tells stories about her body’s power to harness electricity. Let your skeptometer panic. Eat quickly. Flee at the end of the date when she retrieves a rose from her truck that whispers, “I’m desperate.”

Test your motto and accept a coffee date with a military supporter. Ignore the likely political clash when your inner pacifist mouths Joan Baez lyrics. Remember to avoid political conversation. Converse with her about a mutual love for Sundays. When she tells you her ideal Sunday involves the Denver Broncos, show your intellectual superiority and lapse into a reverie about The New York Times. Slowly sip your coffee. Ask, “What’s it like to be in the military?” Don’t act surprised when she ends the date, excusing herself because she has errands to finish. Feel bruised. Feel dismissed. Get over it. Acknowledge your political leanings and military sentiments make a future with Former Military Butch impossible.

Recover in the evenings when dates fail. Find distractions. Watch movies while stoned on your couch. Avoid love stories. Await email from new potential dates, and when they arrive, which reassuringly they do, read eagerly, ferreting out the promise of possibility. Pop open your AOL chat. Search excitedly for online chat friends. Exchange tales of recent dates. When you find a newbie friend, ask her, “What are you reading?” If she replies, “I only like to read Xena comics,” switch to another chat screen and ask this seasoned online dater, “Should I date someone who only reads Xena?” Be each other’s advice counselors. Help each other navigate an online dating world that often appears hopeless.

Smile when Ms. Wyoming surfaces on your chat screen. Entertain her with your latest online dating adventures. Sympathize with her unrequited affair with a married woman in the emptiness of rural Wyoming. Move beyond discussing dating and relationships. Discuss favorite musicians, recent concerts, and music playing on your computers. Admit you’re thrilled when she cares enough to send mix-tapes to you in the mail. Let her turn you on to Eva Cassidy. Impulsively invite her to escape sleepy Wyoming and visit for a weekend. Panic several days before the date, after a phone conversation that lacks intellectual banter. Call the date off because you’re afraid she expects sex, and you don’t want that. Not with her. Revise your motto: Don’t date online chat friends.

Change tactics. Switch to phone conversations after several emails with a potential date. When you first talk, let her sultry voice attract you. Be respectful when she tells you she uses feng shui to beckon a partner, intentionally placing pairs of robes, pairs of pictures, pairs of toothbrushes, and pairs of items around the house. Respond with “that seems cool,” even though you think, “spare me.” Learn from her. She knows she desires a partner. Invite her to join you and a friend at a two-hour meditation training talk. Let your mutual interest in Shambhala philosophy be a potential for other shared values. Be hopeful. Don’t show disappointment when she arrives and looks too butch. Concede to a mistake immediately. Be polite. Wave goodbye at the end of the evening.

Don’t give up. After four months of dates, establish screening criteria. Commit to your own minimum dating requirements. No children. An address in the city. An emotional sense of self that therapy delivers. Buy pairs of tickets to concerts. Imagine you will have a date when the concert arrives. Meet someone new, online, who doesn’t have children, lives several blocks from your house, and is a social worker with a background in psychology. Ask her to the Lucinda Williams’ concert because she likes music, and you like that. Ask her to be your date, because she is an artist who creates New Mexican-inspired shadowboxes as living room decoration. Be intrigued. Ignore that all your dates with her end with awkward hugs and goodbyes. Go to the concert. Talk about the concert. Feel awkward. Say goodbye to Ms. Artist. Expand your dating criteria. Add good conversationalist.

Accept an invitation to an expensive Italian dinner with Ms. Dollars who appears to meet all your criteria. Freely converse over glasses of Chianti Riserva that she selects. Listen to her stories of extreme adventures, such as skiing black diamonds, mountain biking rugged terrain, and skydiving. Tell her about being a green, weenie skier who traverses across the widest expanse of the slope, avoiding any possibility of speed. Earn the prize of great conversationalist but no future dates. Don’t feel dismissed when she politely, by email, informs you she doesn’t envision a future of dating you. It’s not a total rejection. She loved talking with you.

Date more. Chat more. Be reassured that women want to meet you and find you attractive. Acknowledge you yearn for more than a good story to tell friends. Admit you have standards. Stop pretending online dating is just a distraction. Say it out loud. Change your motto to I want a girlfriend.

Smile when a new email arrives declaring your profile line (being as at home in pool halls as opera houses) hooked her. Words work. Write back. Let yourself be eager to hear more. Forget about her when she doesn’t answer. Meet more people online. Go on more dates. Don’t be pissy when she emails a month later, asking why you haven’t responded to her initial email. Tell her you answered her initial email immediately, sending it to the email address she provided—the one she never checks, the one created only for this online dating world. Add silly emoticons J. Remember she didn’t create a profile. She surfed the profiles looking for a potential match and found you.

Keep daily emails with her to safe subjects such as a mutual love of the Buena Vista Social Club, Mexico travels, and stories of the day. Switch to the telephone and discuss books you’re reading, politics, and NPR programs. Suggest meeting in person, even if she’s hesitant. Remember, you want a girlfriend, not an online dating friend.

Choose a 55-degree, sunny, mid-March day, approximately seven months after posting your profile. Meet for coffee. Let her choose the place—a coffee shop by a river. Downtown. Plan a late entrance of five minutes, so you can easily identify her based on the picture she emailed after your request. Don’t worry when several people seated outside resemble your recollection of her photograph. Don’t appear uncool and make a mistake. Go inside to purchase a drink and phone her. Look around to see who answers. She has dirty blonde hair and is wearing jeans and a light brown V-neck sweater. Apologize for being late. Get your coffee and go outside, directly to her table. Don’t tell her about your little phone trick.

Talk for hours, longer than any first date, longer than any of your online chats, coffee dates, or lunch dates. Discuss the dangers of idealizing life behind a white picket fence, whether online education cheats the intellectual rigors of the classroom, and adventures with whales in Mexico. Plan another date. And another. And then still others. Admit that you like her.

Say goodbye to further online distractions. Stop pretending you’re on a mission to heal your ego. Take a chance. Acknowledge whom you want matters. Nan is sophisticated, intellectually curious, and artistic. She knows that the world extends beyond several miles, beyond this country, beyond this continent. She lingers over words and desires the eclectic. Eliminate all dating mottos. Delete your profile.

amy braziller with ocean in backgroundAmy Braziller is a former punk rocker, sometimes banjo twanging foodie, and professor of English at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colo. Her writing muses and demons travel the spheres of flash fiction/nonfiction and personal essays. She is the co-author of The Bedford Book of Genres. Amy blogs about food, film, music, LGBT issues, writing and social media distractions at amybraziller.com

 

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  • Love the piece!

  • I very much enjoyed this style, pace, humor and pathos of this piece!

  • Jim

    Perfect.

  • Stephen W

    Awesome piece.

  • Hey! I LIKE Eva Cassidy. Skip the earlier releases. Go straight for “The Best of Eva Cassidy”, which skims the cream off all the early milk. My favorite is her take on Buffy St. Marie’s “Tall Trees in Georgia”, but I also love her versions of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” But everything on this CD is good in its own right.

  • A further question about composition: do you keep a journal? Did you write this from a journal? The richness of detail and the strictly linear progression of time suggest that. How else could you have remembered everything?