Monday, March 3, 2014

Fruit Leather: a 7-months-later online dating update

This weekend there were tornado warnings in my area. Given the last month's difficulties on the home front, I braced myself for the worst. 

"Pray for me," I texted my family. "My bungalow may fly off the hill this weekend."

And so I spent much of my weekend inside waiting for the tornado and listening to the rain on my window panes whilst eating chocolate in bed. I figured if my house was going to fly away, I'd at least be as comfortable as possible while I waited. 

[Side note: if you are going to eat chocolate while lying in bed, be prepared to find flecks of melted chocolate on your person throughout the day.]

One of the benefits of my storm-forced lounging is all the time it's allowed me to reflect on recent life events, particularly the online dating adventures of the last seven months — adventures which will come to a close when my subscription ends next month.

Yes, folks, I am hanging up my online dating hat, for now at least. But not without having had some good experiences and learned some helpful lessons. Because, as it turns out, online dating is not as horrible as I thought it would be. 

In fact, my first experience with online dating has been surprisingly fruitful — in the dating sense, not the marital sense. So before you, my loving readers, get your hopes up for me, just know that the fruit eventually withered up and died. But hey, when life gives you dried fruit, turn it into fruit leather. There’s always a silver lining. Or, in this case, an apricot lining.
And if there's one thing I know about fruit leather, it's that it's best when it's shared. So, in honor of my online dating adventure, I'll share with you some of the no-longer-juicy details of my online dating experience, with the hope that they might sweeten your dating endeavors (if you're single and dating, of course), in some small way. 

Fruit leather lesson #1:

A few days into my online dating adventure, I became absolutely, positively, don't-even-think-about-trying-to convince-me-otherwise confident of two things:

A) Breathing exercises (and paper bags) would be my best friend.

B) I wouldn’t meet anyone interesting online; instead, I would meet a bunch of very strange men who were desperate to get married. 

I was right about A, but wrong about B. I did meet someone interesting — someone who'd been reading my blog for awhile and, when he read that I'd joined an online dating site, decided to join the site too, with the hopes of meeting me. [Side-side note: being pursued like this is just so lovely and flattering].

This guy (we'll call him Grayson) lived down the street from me, and had even been on the same campus where I've taught and gone to seminary the last six years. Somehow, though, we'd never met.

Here's the funny thing: long before we met online, I'd seen Grayson's picture on Facebook via a friend's profile, and thought he looked interesting and eligible. So I'd asked God if I could meet him. Months later, Grayson found me online.

I enjoyed getting to know Grayson, even though we didn't end up being a good match. My experience with him defied my expectations about the kind of men I'd meet online. It showed me that, as confident as I was in my abilities to predict the outcome of my dating efforts, I wasn't nearly as omniscient as I thought I was. My dating future wasn't written in dreary stone. God surprised me. 

And he used my relationship with Grayson to do more than teach me about who God is and who he's created me to be, as he always does. Grayson's the one who told me about the little bungalow on the ridge top I eventually moved into, right when I most needed a place to live. Without Grayson's connections, I would never have known about this quiet, beautiful place. 

So it's worth trying new things, like online dating, because God can (and will!) use them in our lives in ways we don't expect. It's worth taking risks, getting outside of our comfort zones, and being vulnerable. God will weave our dating efforts with his sovereign activity to give us life-giving opportunities. We needn't fear a dating life that's destined to predictable mundanity, and we can certainly throw those paper bags away. 

Fruit Leather Lesson #2:

But wait. I'm not ready to throw the paper bags away. Dating continues to be difficult for me, despite the practice the last year has afforded. The energy it often requires, the anxiety it usually provokes, the general sense of loneliness it causes. Except for those rare instances when there's unexpected chemistry and connection, I don't love dating. And I'm getting really good at breathing techniques.

Most of the time, I find I must do self-soothing beyond breathing techniques, though. I must wrap my trembling, introverted self in all sorts of little comforts before a date, such as:

  • fleece pajama pants
  • slippers
  • my bed
  • a hot cup of tea
  • chocolate
  • the Pride and Prejudice sound track

Unfortunately, most guys are not okay with a date who shows up wearing pajamas and slippers whilst hugging her pillow and slurping a cup of hot tea. Which is why I've developed an affinity for self-talk ("You can do it, Cinderelli, you can do it!") and scheduling mid-date phone calls with friends ("Call me one hour into my date, and if I need to be rescued, I'll answer"). Some male friends have even volunteered to come pick me up in the middle of a date wearing suits, sunglasses and ear pieces:

"I'm sorry, we're with the FBI and we need to interrogate Miss Jackson. You'll have to excuse us for the rest of the day; we're going to need her for an indefinite period of time."

And then, a few months ago, I discovered an introvert's dating dream come true: Skype dates. 

Here's how they work: 

1. Decide you're game to meet the out-of-town guy or gal you've been writing the last several days. 

2. Schedule a Skype date. 

3. Minutes before the date pull on a nice top over your pajamas. 

4. Brew a cup of tea. 

5. Position your computer so the guy or gal can't see your [hot pink] pjs and slippers. And hey, climb in bed if you want to!

6. Keep the kettle on the stovetop, just in case. 

7. Talk for 45 minutes — the standard Skype date duration, which is, incidentally, much shorter than the typical in-person date. 

You guys, Skype dates have revolutionized my dating experience. In fact, I'd say it's worth trying online dating just for the Skype dates.

So pull out your pajama pants and a chocolate bar, Jack; your dating life is about to get 100 times easier. 

Fruit Leather Lesson #3:

Laugh. Laugh a lot. Heavens knows online dating will give you plenty of reasons to. And the doctor knows those laughter endorphins will make you happy happy happy, even when when your dating life isn't turning out the way you'd hoped.

And that's all the fruit leather I have for today folks. Thank for sticking around to gnaw on it with me. 

Happy Monday everyone (and happy online dating to all my single readers)!


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  1. This was fabulous and I also listen to the Pride and Prejudice sound track all the time, it's my happy place!

    1. Thank you, Sterling! We must be soundtrack kindreds. :) Very little can soothe my soul the way that soundtrack can. And the movie. It does wonders for a tired soul, too. :)