At 49 years old and almost twelve months after my first date I was beginning to feel a little disheartened. I’d met men who looked plain, average and even handsome on the outside – but most were quite ugly on the inside. There was no way to tell the men who really had the qualities they boasted in their dating profile from those who just knew the script for enticing a woman onto a date.
We always met at a cafe or restaurant and talked over a cup of tea or a meal. Some were very polite, good speakers, good listeners and wonderful company. The rest were an unusual bunch who lacked self awareness or manners or they were just dating for intimacy. That last reason annoyed me most because I wrote on my profile that I didn’t want that sort of casual relationship.
Another startling point was that the profiles of many men in their 50s stated they were seeking a slim, athletic, outgoing, intelligent female who was financially independent and aged between 25 and 50 years old. I read these profiles wondering why a young woman of 25 years would be interested in a 50 year old, overweight, pasty-faced, homely man whose photographs often featured the gentleman wearing track pants and bare feet. The thing that really annoyed me was that these men were looking for women half their age, but not a single year over their age. Maybe I misunderstood, but these facts left me feeling a little repulsed.
In the space of 10 months I had dated men who were tall, short, wealthy, poor, religious, bigoted, racist, heavy, thin, generous, stingy, respectful, disrespectful, gentle, rough, fit, unfit, a glutton and an alcoholic. All of them were average to good looking and none of them were right for me.
Reflecting on these dates led me to decide it was time to meet somebody who was out of the square. Beauty comes from within and I suddenly decided that I wanted to date a man who would normally be overlooked. This thought drove me to look for a man who is not so good looking on the outside.
Later that day I contacted a man who I will name Lurch, because he had all the looks and characteristics of Lurch from the Addams Family on TV. My Lurch was tall, awkward, unappealing to look at, terrible at conversation and dressed in old baggy jeans that hung from his bony hips and a t-shirt with “Wimbledon 1984” printed on front – and was entirely paper thin and torn. These were more like gardening clothes than something you’d wear on a first date but clothes are the covering of the person – not the person. I was struggling to find anything appealing about this man at all but that was okay.
True to his profile, Lurch was 6’4” tall, quite thin, pale skin with acne scars from ear to ear and from forehead to chest, blue eyes, clean teeth and a gentle voice.
Like all my first dates, we hugged hello but it wasn’t an ordinary hug. For our greeting he maintained the two foot gap between us, bending forward at his hips, leaning his head and shoulders against mine. His elbows were bent, enabling his palms to grasp my shoulders and his hands quivered in the form of a little pat on the back of my shoulders – in the same way I’d pat a golden retriever. This distant, head and shoulders hug wasn’t a show of respect for my body space – he was being awkward. Always positive, I decided this was okay because people settle in to touching as relationships blossom. This may be a sign that he likes to take things slowly, which was a welcome change from the octopus I had dated the week before. The octopus put a very firm, warm, unwelcome gift into my hand as we hugged goodbye. (I’ll always wonder how how he got it out so fast.) In comparison, Lurch’s distance might be a good sign.
The waiter and I swiftly wove our way through the tables and chairs to our seat and I sat down, suprised that Lurch was quite a long way behind us. I watched him move through the room and noticed immediately that he walked in a very unusual way. He held his arms stiffly by his side. Each step he took was extremely small, perhaps moving forward 12 inches at a time and his shoes hardly left the floor… it was more of a shuffle. When he moved through a gap he shrugged his shoulders up and opened his hands, pressing them tightly to the front of his thighs. I’ve never seen anybody walk in a more awkward way. Finally, he stood beside our table, nodded, smiled, tugged down on his threadbare t-shirt, tugged up on his loose denim jeans and sat down (which was more like a controlled slide down into the seat).
Interpreting his awkward movements as nerves, I took it upon myself to start the conversation off by asking him how his day has been so far? He nodded as he gulped down a full glass of water – he didn’t elaborate on the nod. That was his response. After a long pause I began telling him what I’d done over the course of the morning and what I like about this particular restaurant. He hadn’t looked me in the eye the whole time. A few minutes had passed and he had checked his watch… twice. This guy was difficult to get to know, but I was determined I’d break through the exterior to see who was inside there.
I asked if he had been using online dating for very long. His reply was different to any I’d heard before. He said, “I’ve dated a lot of women on there but I don’t like any of them enough to have a second date. Did you know, men online are only after sex? They take you out on a date and they want free sex.”
I asked, “Is that what you’re after?”
Lurch replied, “No, of course not!”
I don’t like generalizations so I told him about a man I dated last summer who didn’t want a sexual relationship. He wanted friendship and companionship – but no sex.
Lurch shook his head as he laughed and boomed, “Well it shows how GAY that one was!”
I didn’t appreciate his assumption or his laughter, in fact these comments showed me just how ugly Lurch was on the inside. We discussed his job, how frugal he is at home because he wants to retire young and that he doesn’t want to be in retirement alone so he’s now “looking for a woman”.
I looked at my watch… twice. After finishing my cup of tea I thanked him for his company and said I had to go. Before saying goodbye he checked that I’d be paying for my own drinks and I confirmed that, yes, I’ll be paying for my own cup of tea. He stood up and, again, tugged his jeans up, then pulled down his t shirt and his thumb went through the very thin fabric. Something inside me said not to feel sorry for Lurch now. I paid for my drink on my way out and didn’t look back to see whether he was making his way out of the restaurant like the Tin Man.
Two days later my phone rang and it was Lurch, asking me if I’d like to go out for another date. This question really surprised me because that was the most awkward date I’d ever been on – yet I was apparently the first person he ever wanted a second date with. My response was honest – I told him we are worlds apart in our values, explaining why I was offended at his attitude towards gay people, I didn’t like the fact he tried to scare me into dating him by saying everyone else is out there for free sex and that I didn’t feel a single moment where we gelled. Not one.
He was disappointed and I learned another lesson. Ugly on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean beautiful on the inside. From this point on I decided to take people as I find them because some things just can’t be planned.