I didn’t tell anyone about the first date I had after Dave died, until after. I was afraid it would be an embarrassing disaster, so I made up an excuse and strolled out the door.
It turns out I didn’t do anything horrible at the date. I didn’t spill a glass of wine everywhere. (I’m not sure why I’m always worried about this particular thing when I don’t even usually drink wine.) I didn’t tell an accidentally gruesome story. I didn’t do anything prison-style.
All I did was get stood up.
The second date I went on after Dave died went much the same way. Without a word to friends anywhere, I walked out the door to go sit in a restaurant by myself. The third date went the same way.
After that, I looked at my Tinder profile with a fresh eye.
Unlike so many of my friends— I love dating websites. I would love to normalize the experience of sharing tidbits of our personality. Wouldn’t it be neat if, every so often, Facebook just asked you how you felt about cilantro? Or pineapple on pizza? Or your favorite Christmas movie? And then told you which of your friends was most compatible to your interests? Or provided a pie chart showing the findings?
I also like expressing myself through a series of photos. A single profile picture could never possibly describe me or my life.
I usually have a bit of a knack for that sort of thing. My studies, career, and hobbies align in this one area– the ability to be myself vibrantly online within the confines of a tiny space.
But obviously I did something wrong because being stood up thrice in a row seemed like bad odds. My profile was simple, in a nod to the reputation of Tinder.
It had said, “Felon. Widow. Blogger. The baggage is bright, but the weight doesn’t slow me down. I like people who know who their Muppet totem is. I like kindness, space sagas, possibly every type of soup ever, pretentious cheese trays, and tea.” I still like this. It tells the truth. It sets a gentle-hearted tone. It gives a few conversation starters and first date options.
There were some drawbacks. One, some men thought I was secretly coding “F.W.B.” — “Friends with Benefits”. Two, some men asked directly if the felony was related to the widowhood in the unfortunately obvious way. Three, and this was the kicker– a lot of men thought it was a joke.
In fact, they’d send me a message like “Skeeter” — and the conversation would blossom. Then I’d be invited to a place in Long Beach that has wonderful tea. I’d go because there are no wrong answers to the Muppet query. I’m happy to break bread with a Skeeter.
And then, because men on Tinder so often do their research after the date is secured, then they would Google me. They’d visit my Instagram. They’d go to the blog. And then they’d learn that I wasn’t joking.
I really did just get out of jail. I really did just lose my husband. But I was ready.
I didn’t talk about this part of the journey then, because I knew I’d be answering, a hundred times over– why now? You’re still grieving. You don’t have to rush into this.
The answer was simple, but it never sufficed. The truth is, even dead, the only opinion that mattered to me was Dave’s. And Dave would have wanted me to have what matters most to me. Companionship. Intimate companionship. And he was always saying that my ability to settle was my nemesis. I could hear him telling me that if I waited, I would convince myself that I did not need a love, and I would wall myself off from something that was meaningful to me.
I’m someone who has always been gifted with the treasure of many friendships, but I hold them differently than my partnerships. I’m not very physical with my friends. I remember in high school, a girlfriend telling Mamasaur, “Your daughter is not touchyfeely. She even hates hugs.” And mama replied, “Wait till she finds a partner. It will be different then.”
It was different then.
Everyone is built differently and companionship is a big part of my mechanism.
So I adjusted the Tinder profile, and tried again.
This time, I was stood up twice. Both, kindly, after, explained the reason. It was the issue I had guessed before. After the date was set, they did their research. They got in their head about the new widow thing. It seemed fine until they scrolled my Instagram and saw notes about my grief.
My grief wasn’t going anywhere in that moment and so I wasn’t about to delete posts that hallmarked it. To be honest, I didn’t want to date someone who couldn’t hold space for grief. I started to think of it as a blessing. This self-weeding of mankind. I was in a field of possibility and the lesser matches were plucking themselves away.
Put that way, I didn’t mind being stood up all the time.
As I continued on, I realized so many people responding fixated on the “blogger” aspect. They really thought I was going to go on a date and write a report on it, and I would just laugh. That’s not what I blog about.
What do you blog about then? they’d ask, and … I didn’t know.
I still don’t know the answer to that.
Life, I’d say. But not what I had for lunch. More about how we feed ourselves, how others feed us, how we are machines that need fuel, and little seeds that need watering. How we have rituals like naming our meals and giving them boundaries. How we shatter those boundaries at a whim, and is that an expression of the sacred, or a dissolution of it? What do I mean? I mean I had waffles for lunch and I’m not sure if I’ll be awake by dinner because of the sugar crash. So yes, sometimes I write about what I had for lunch, but not really.
Some men understood.
The first date I had after Dave died, the first date that actually happened, was with someone who heard a ramble like that and responded with a story about how sometimes he fills his pockets with skittles. How it feels like a rebellion.
“So you would write about why we need to fill ourselves with rebellion as much as we need to fill ourselves with vitamins, right?”
That night he showed up early. We talked for a few minutes, and then…
Then, I spilled his entire glass of wine in his lap.