Aside

Daughter Molly and I started our current adventure on Friday, June 13. Our flight from Chicago to Amsterdam was delayed more than three hours, which caused us to miss our connection to Geneva. We arrived in Geneva six hours later than planned. By the time we got the rental car, it was after 5:00 pm, but the car rental people assured us that we could still make it to Nice, France where we had hotel reservations for the night. They recommended that we take the Italian route, as it was faster and cheaper.

We stopped at about 7:00 for a sandwich, still in France–lovely smoked salmon and cucumbers on a whole-wheat baguette, with strong coffee to keep us awake.

By 9:00 and about $75 in tolls later (this was the cheaper route?) it was getting dark, and we were only in Turin, which was less than halfway to Nice. We spent an hour driving the streets of central Turin in search of a hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Majestic, near the main rail station. We had a nice room on the second floor with a a window that opened on to the noisy street below.

This morning we set off a second time for Nice. Had I known how much time we were going to spend in Italy, I would have tried to expand my six-word Italian vocabulary before we left.

We stopped this morning at an automated, attendantless gas station. The first question was what kind of gas to select, since the categories are not the same as at home. Then there was the question of how to actually GET the gas. There was credit card machine, but it refused my American, chipless credit card. The machine also accepted Euro notes. The machine happliy gobbled up my 20 Euro note and then silently refused to dispense any fuel. An older Italian man stopped for gas, but he spoke no English. None of my six words of Italian helped convey my dilemna, and I lapsed into Spanish, which he seemed to understand at least in part. But alas, he had no solution for us. After he left, we pulled around to the pump he had used, inserted a five Euro note, and then another, and got ten Euros worth of gas. The moral of this story is never put a 20 Euro note in a machine when a five will do.

Our route today took us through an extremely mountainous, but beautiful part of Italy and France. There were many, many tunnels, and I was very glad we had not tried to travel this route at night.

By mid-day we reached Monte Carlo, and spent some time wandering the streets of the “Old” City. We also found the Cathedral where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier were married. We had lunch at a great open air restaurant near the Palace Gardens before we started the last leg of the trip to Nice. Leaving Monaco, we took a tunnel big enough that it had both a fork and a roundabout in it. The right fork and the roundabout brought us to exactly the place that Google maps wanted us to be to get to our hotel in Nice.

I am so happy to be with Molly. These last two days have not been for the faint-hearted traveler. We had what I thought were good maps, but it turns out the road numbers on the maps do not match the signs on the roads. Still, we were lost surprisingly few times–just unsure where we were most of the time. We went back and forth between France and Italy so many times that when we got to Monaco I was still using my six-word Italian vocabulary rather than my 25-word French vocabulary.

We now settled at our hotel in Nice. We will be in France for the next few days–unless we decide to go back to Italy tomorrow before we head to Provence on Tuesday. Buon giorno y bon soir.

My Adventures in Online Dating: Part 2

I’m now nine months into my experiment with online dating, with a two month hiatus that began in mid-March.  Several months ago, I blogged about my experience with online dating at Zoosk and Match.com.  To review, my experience with these two services has been roughly equivalent to a hitter batting less than .001.  Today, I’m sharing my (mostly dismal) experiences with several other dating sites, including OurTime, eHarmony, Chemistry.com and Twoo.  If you want the Readers Digest version, suffice it to say  it’s grim.  If you want the juicy details, read on.

OurTime, the dating site exclusively for those over 50, is to me, boring.   Reading the profiles mostly feels like walking into nursing home after the lights are out. 

There is one guy at OurTime who has been an ardent suitor.  Unfortunately, he made unwise photo choices.  He is quite heavy, and the photo of him in a chair, wearing shorts with his legs splayed apart—perhaps intended to be sexy–simply is not.  It is just….gross.  It has been hard to get out of my mind—in a nightmarish kind of way.

There have been a couple of guys who have emailed once.  But if I don’t get back to them instantly, I don’t hear back from them.  Maybe they have memory issues.  Or maybe they just die of old age in the interim.  There’s no way to know. 

OurTime is the only site that has shown me profiles of men I know.  Two of them to be exact,  both of them lawyers that I’ve known for decades.   The first one I know well enough that he told me in detail once about his son’s bris at age 10 (ouch).  Well enough that when he was handling a high profile case that I thought was stupid a couple of years ago I called him and told him so.  Well enough to know he is a super nice guy, but not dating material for me. 

The second one had a profile that I wasn’t sure belonged to him.  Even though we have lots of common experiences and common friends and we have dinner together once a year at a professional meeting, conversation is always a tough go for me with this guy.  Yet, his profile goes on at some length about how much he enjoys great conversation.  But then, I still think of myself as young and shy……

To be fair, there is one guy from OurTime that I met for coffee.  He was a nice guy, a retired college professor, but he was…old.  It felt sort of like meeting with my father.

So the score at OurTime so far (yawn) is several hundred views (I’m not sure how often the counter resets), no pen pals, and one date.  This is a paid subscription service.

Then there’s eHarmony.  Their format tells you the person’s occupation right away, and this seems to attract a better educated, more successful crowd.  The profiles contain only the occasional bare chest, motorcycle, car or boat, and almost no dead things appear in the profiles. Their computer gives you a handful of names each day, and you can go through a guided “let’s get acquainted” format if you are interested.  Their pool of people seems small, however, and having exhausted all the choices near where I live, I have expanded the search parameters and am now getting matches from places like Dubai, England and Western Australia—none of whom have replied to my inquires.

I met Man #2 on eHarmony.  We had one date, and then 10 days later went on a 3 ½ day road trip of convenience together (which if you if you figure a date lasts three or four hours, counts as quite a few dates, right?)  A friend asked, “Mary, what if he gets ‘ideas’ on the trip?”  (Isn’t that sort of the point?)   But, her concern was for naught: Man #2 and I had a great time, but he had no ‘ideas’ whatsoever. 

So at eHarmony so far, it’s a couple hundred views, one new friend, no romance.  This is a paid subscription service.

Then there is Chemistry.com.  You take a personality test, and their computer matches you to one person at a time.  On Chemistry, I met Man #3, who is a very nice man who lives an hour and a half away.  But Man #3 thinks an hour and a half is too far to drive for romance, and would prefer to date a woman whose first language is Spanish.  Our deal was that we would see each other once a month or so until one of us met someone else, and we did.  I liked his honesty, and we had fun when we got together, but it was clearly not going to be a long-term thing.    So the score at Chemistry.com so far is about 160 matches, one new friend.  This is a paid subscription service that has occasional “free” weekends and events.

I’ve also explored  a social networking site called Twoo.  It is not promoted as a dating site, but it is mostly a dating site.  What is fun about Twoo is that because it is not promoted as a dating site, people actually write to each other!  I’ve been penpalling it with men in Arizona, Oregon, the Netherlands, Egypt, and Morocco.  I get messages in French, Arabic and Spanish.  There is a nice man in Yuma who writes to me in English and I write to him in Spanish.  I may not meet Mr. Right on Twoo, but there is actually social interaction, which is (mostly) fun and refreshing.  And free, although there is a paid subscription option as well.  So the score at Twoo is an undetermined number of views, a handful of pen pals, no dates, no romance.

Next up:  Still more dating sites:  probably to include Plenty of Fish, Cupid and  Geek2geek.

The Truth About Online Dating and Me: Part I

Online dating makes me feel like a complete loser.  I am a 59-year old widow who has had a successful law practice for more than 30 years.  I am at least average looking, if more than a few pounds overweight.   I am upbeat, have a great smile, love to laugh, love to travel, love to meet new people—you get the idea.  I am used to being successful—at least part of the time.

Last fall, I decided to try to find love again.  I plunged boldly into the fray on Match.com with a profile explaining who I am and what makes me tick, along with a handful of recent photos.  At a recent count, 1,163 men had viewed my profile.  (Last night the count was 500-something, and today it is down to 400-something.  I’m not sure how the counter works.) The outcome?  One guy who emailed me back more than twice.  Let me repeat that:  one. 

There have been a number of emails from spammers.  These typically say something like “u look like angel i very interesting to know you i have trouble access site plz email me at xxx@xxxx.com.” There was a guy who claimed to be a 60-year old contractor from Arizona who knew less about the construction industry than I do, a guy whose only wish was for a woman to cook for him, a man whose main selling point was that he was a couch potato, and another who listed himself as “separated” and who got pretty defensive when I said I was only interested in dating single men. And there have been a handful of replies from decent men who were courteous enough to say they just weren’t interested. 

But in terms of guys who were interested in getting to know me and that I was interesting in getting to know, the number is one.  Man #1 and I  had several great dates before he decided that he wanted to pursue an exclusive relationship with someone else, and we are still friends.  But really—one in 1,163?  So, day after day I send off witty emails to men on Match.com and other dating sites, with no response.  The silence is deafening.

I’m trying to put this ego-bruising experience in perspective.  You read about famous writers whose books were rejected by 150 publishers before the 151st accepted the book and it became a best seller.  If men were book publishers, I’d have ten best sellers by now.   When I was in non-profit fundraising, the general rule was that if you did a cold mailing for funds, that you would expect a 1-2% return.  So if I were a charity raising money, I’d have 11-22 donations by now.  And worst of all, if I were playing baseball, my batting average would be less than .001. 

The Match.com website presents “daily matches”—a group of a half dozen or so men that the computer selects for me.  The computer then tries to entice me to read their profiles by pointing out what we have in common.  Frequently  these include “you both have children who live away from home” or “you are both non-smokers.”  Sometimes it will tell me that we both own a dog.  These little prompts are giving me a whole new perspective on relationships.  Who cares if he makes you laugh as long as you know that you both have children that could still move back home?  Really, stimulating conversation is not that important as long as neither of you smokes.  And I probably didn’t really want to find out if he likes to go to concerts anyway, since we have to go home to let the dogs out.

The Zoosk dating site has a more subjective way of making me feel like a loser. It has a silly popularity meter that displays every time I sign on.  It usually screams, “You’re NOT Popular” at me.  On a good day it will only shout, “You are SOMEWHAT Popular.”  At Zoosk, there are plenty of men whose photos include bare-chested shots of themselves  with their Harleys, their cars, and/or their boats.  Or with a dead thing.  Or with all of the above.

Although I am not interested in seeing bare chests, motorcycles, cars, boats or dead things, the number of responses at Zoosk has been a little higher than at Match.com.  Four stand out.  The first was from a guy who wrote me several long emails about his days in the Navy, and when I emailed him to wish him a happy Veteran’s Day, asked in a bewildered tone how I knew he was a veteran.  The next guy invited himself for dinner at my house on the second email.  When I responded that I wished to have a first meeting at a restaurant, he replied that if I wasn’t willing to cook for him, that he was OK with  just spending the night.  And then there was the guy who didn’t understand why I thought his first email which described in some detail what he wanted to do to my “booty” was offensive.  (I’ve blocked further communication from these two.) The last one was a retired college professor who didn’t write well and talked mostly about a deceased child.  Talk about a downer.   So on Zoosk, the score is one slightly paranoid (or forgetful) penpal, no dates.  My subscription is up this week, and I’m not renewing.

This week Match.com sent an announcement concerning their new premium matchmaking service.  It appears that by swapping a $31.99 monthly fee for a jaw-dropping $5,000 annual non-refundable subscription up front, their computer system—with the help of some human matchmakers–will have another go at finding me a perfect match.  Really–$5,000?  Wow.

Next up:  Part II:  More online dating adventures.