When I embarked on my newly single life, I realized that there was not a huge pool of 38-52 year old men just dying to date me. Well, maybe there was a pool, but it was a plastic one with pictures of sea lions and clowns and balloons on it and it was cracked and thrown into the corner of the back yard. And of those few men holding onto their tiny towels waiting for the replacement pool, maybe two of them were actually people I might like.
So I needed a new pool. And, like many women of my age (at the time 43), I joined Match.com. My friends were worried for me, assuming that all the insane people in the universe had also signed up for match and were out there ready to take my money, hurt me physically or psychically or just be schmucks.
"You are so exposed," they said. "Anyone can see you!"
And yeah, there I was, my face on my profile, my photos up there to show what I had to offer, my catchy phrases aimed to entice the men to write to me. Weird, and yet, here's the thing. I'm a writer working at home. I'm a professor at a college. My dating pool, as I said, was small. I tend to like to mother 22 year old males not date them, and 22 year old males were the only ones I saw on a regular basis, while at work. They all wore baggy pants and had baseball caps on. Thus--yes--bigger pool, stat. Also, I try not to date my students because I like my job. Enough said.
Thus commenced the process of vetting dates, my vet, his vet. Off to the coffee houses we went, staring at each other across the table, trying to figure out if there was that thing called chemistry. I do not know how to quantify chemistry, but you know within 1.3 minutes if it is there. Maybe more quickly than that. It settles over you if it's there--it completely makes the entire tableau a nuclear wasteland if it is not.
Coffee over, thank god! Coffee over, let's make another date. Coffee over, and I know I will never touch you in my entire life, but you are funny and nice, so okay, I'll go to that hockey game (man, big mistake). Off I went into my adventures. Once I stopped the process to date a man for four months, but the rest of the time, it was this process of "interviewing" dates, just as they were interviewing me. I was stood up once, sort of a good experience to have in a lifetime. Once. I went out with a man with whom I had chemistry and a fabulous time. Never saw him again. I met a few married men who were trying out infidelity under the guise of "dating." One 33 year old man insisted we have a date (I felt like I was talking to my son, and I'm sure he wondered when I was going to ask him about his report card). I dated a 60 year old man, who was nice, but we likewise seemed at different points in our lives. I met people who put up photos ten years old, and surprise! I had a hard time picking them out of the Starbucks' crowd. I emailed people, talked on the phone. I felt as though I were trying to find a very good job, and I treated it as such. Certainly, there were dark nights of the soul, when I was desperate to just stop the entire process. But I kept thinking, If not now, when?
And then on one date, I was standing on the corner of College and Shafter, having just been told by the waitress that the café was closing. I stood there in the slight rain, waiting for my date Michael, when another man came out of the restaurant and said, "Jessica?"
I turned to look at him and realized he was "Mark," a man who read a lot of Joyce, traveled to London, and whom I hadn't really wanted to meet.
"You are Jessica from match?" he asked.
I nodded, realizing that this was going to be weird because off the BART train escalator, I saw Michael coming toward me. His photos looked like him, but as he crossed the street, he veered away, and I realized I must be wrong.
"What about that Finnegan's Wake?" Mark said.
I have read the first page of Finnegan's Wake about 100 times and never managed to read page two. "Yeah," I said.
Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, and it was Michael, who--I later found out--had thought that the couple on the corner could not have contained me, his date.
"Michael," I said. "This is Mark."
They shook hands, and Michael and I walked down the street to find an open restaurant to have lunch and to let the rest of our lives begin. Fancy that. Chemistry from the first second.
Yesterday I had two occasions to think about this first date. The first occurred in the morning, when I spent two hours with my friend Mary, helping her post her own match.com ad. We wrote out her ideas and posted them, and we kissed the air and let her own hope be published on the internet. I am excited for her, and I also know that this will be work. A journey. A difficult, interesting, weird, and amazing one.
The second was the Redroom party--there I was seeing faces I'd only seen online before, knowing people from their words and photos and not their bodies and "chemistry." Suddenly, people had oomph, presence, being. It's a trip, watching that transmogrification occur in me, and them, as we meet. Poof! It's all real.
And that's the thing. We can start on the internet, online, but some day, you have to get down to the corner of College and Shafter and meet if it's going to be truly real. I love this medium so much, but being in a body gives us this other thing, this needed thing, and it was great to meet people, shake hands, finally truly know them.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org