Adventures In Online Dating

Back in July, my crazy “Month of No Fear,” I joined eHarmony. I’m not sure why. Really. I don’t know what possessed me to shuck out the credit card for a year-long non-refundable membership to an online dating site.

Or, welllll, maybe I do.

Most of the time, I don’t really think about the fact that I’m about to be 25 and still single without any prospects. Well, okay, a lot of the time I don’t think about it. But when I do focus on this discouraging fact and begin imagining my unavoidable destiny as a hermity old spinster with eleven cats and a creepy porcelain doll collection, God finds some way to remind me that I’m single right now for a reason, and that I have a lot of growing and maturing to do before I am ready to be the wife of the amazing man of God I pray for each day. I know I have to trust God and wait for Him to bring our paths to an intersection.

BUT.

BUT.

Well-meaning people keep insisting that while waiting is good, and trusting God is good, He expects us to do our part. Sometimes we have to “help” make things happen. This means I need to get out and start meeting people, because God is not going to send some wonderful man crashing through the ceiling of my apartment, smack into the center of my living room between me and my TV screen.

Yes, that scenario is highly improbable. I really doubt I will find my future husband during a pizza and Once Upon A Time pajama party for one.

But I’m not so sure the Creator of the universe needs my “help” finding him, either.

So from the start, I felt like joining eHarmony wasn’t the best idea. But I did it anyway, because these well-meaning people were right; God could lead me to The One through this website. So, I signed up. I answered their seemingly endless personality questions, uploaded my skinniest pictures, and typed my witty little bio onto my profile. Then the matches came flooding in!

And these guys seemed so much more legit than the ones I talked to via Plenty of Fish a couple of years ago (A hostile, foul-mouthed, calls-constantly-even-at-4-AM stalker and a midget/little person Elvis impersonator) ((Not joking; this is my real life)). One of these eHarmony users was actually a church music leader. Another was a computer programmer who loved to cook, watch Doctor Who, and talk about Jesus.

I felt a giddy, girlish excitement rising within me. Maybe, just maybe, one of these guys would turn out to be Him.

But once I started talking to these people, the letdowns commenced. The worship leader likes to kick back with a Bud Light a few times a week and watch Duck Dynasty. The computer-programming Whovian likes the Eccleston period and hates The Eleventh Doctor (and more importantly, from what he said in our spiritual discussions, it became clear we weren’t talking about the same Jesus).

I ended up blocking all but one of my matches. This one guy seemed alright. We started e-mailing long essays to each other, outside of eHarmony, in which we discussed our many shared interests. Both homeschooled. Songwriters. Fans of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian mythology. Lovers of old houses and cities with cobblestone streets. And when he said he wanted to meet me, I grew strangely excited instead of nervous. He didn’t say anything creepy. He completely respected my wish to meet in the daytime in a city halfway between us. I felt that little spark of hope again; maybe he’s The One.

However, his suggestion that we eat at Olive Garden instantly felt like an ill-omen (Personal history of a bad first date at Olive Garden… It just seemed like a bad sign). But how dumb and superstitious is that, right? So I said Olive Garden would be fine. At least I knew I could get something meatless there with no problems.

Aside from that, I truly felt no hesitation or anxiety until the drive there. Once I merged onto the interstate, it hit me: What the crap am I doing? This is so unlike me, driving out of state to meet some guy I met on the internet?!? This is how girls get raped and murdered! My story is gonna end up on Dateline!

And see, I’d decided not to tell my parents about this little rendezvous, because my parents heavily influence my feelings and my decisions in life. I knew my mom would love the fact that I was going on a date, and she would immediately approve our marriage. And I didn’t want my mom’s feelings about this to influence my own. After so many disastrous, confusing first-date experiences, I needed to know how I felt about this guy. Not how my mom felt. Not how my next door neighbor/adopted grandmother felt. Not how I’m supposed to feel. How I honestly felt.

So yeah, the fact that my parents didn’t know I was doing this made it seem a heck of a lot scarier. (Don’t worry; I did tell my sister where I was going.)

When I finally got there, I found him waiting outside Olive Garden on a wooden park bench. As he saw me, stood to his feet, grinned, and said hello to me for the first time, only one thought flashed through my head: 

NATE COLE.

Okay, this was big.

Some of you really super cool people might remember Nate.


Nathan David Forrest Cole, one-fifth (the cutest one-fifth) of the popular Christian boyband Plus One. Oh, Nate. My first true love. The one I wrote a sad, sad fanfiction series about, in which I am a member of a successful Christian female singing group who tours with Plus One, falls in love with Nate, gets married, and really does live happily ever after. I called them the Daydream Stories, because that’s what they were. Daydreams put into sad, sad words.(Uhhhhhhh, did I really just admit all that?)

To this day, when I imagine my future husband, it is something very close to the fictional, imaginary version of Nate Cole I created in those embarrassing stories twelve years ago. (Since, you know, I don’t know anything about the real Nate Cole, even though I stalked met him. Twice.)

Anyway…

This guy, the one from eHarmony, standing before me on the little terrace outside Olive Garden, reminded me so much of the real Nate Cole in his pre-hipster, Plus One Obvious days. The gel-spiked hair, the bright blue eyes, the dimpled grin. His height- barely taller than me- and slim build. Everything, right down to the whiny, nasal tone of his voice and his Californian accent (Yeah, like Nate, he was from Cali, too.).

This had to be a sign. Surely, this guy was My Nate. After all these years, I’d found him. Oh my word. I’d found The One.

All this happened in the first three seconds. 

He held the door open for me as we entered the restaurant, the enticing garlicky aroma welcoming us. I followed the waiter through the maze of tables with my chin and spirits high, because I felt confident that I was on my first date with my future husband. We were seated in a booth by a window. As we settled in, I kept catching him staring at me. He caught me ogling him. Awkward giggling ensued, from both of us. We’d talked so much online, but neither really knew what to say in person. (Plus, I was feeling starstruck, eating lunch at Olive Garden with Nate flippin’ Cole.)

I ordered Minestrone Soup, the only vegetarian soup on the menu, and had some salad. He ordered chicken fettuccine alfredo (a favorite of Nate’s, I believe, as noted in the Plus One Backstage Pass book). We finally got comfortable(ish) enough to talk, and we each revealed new information about ourselves. 

Turns out he likes to spend weekends in bars and clubs. He only likes soda when it’s mixed with a little hard liquor. He is a staunch Republican and is really into politics and intense political debates.

I didn't really know what to say, but I did surprisingly stand up for myself and admit to him that I feel differently about those issues. 

Our conversation took an unpleasant turn then, but it wasn’t horrible. We peaceably decided to disagree about things, and we moved on. My mom and adopted grandmother’s words- Always give a guy a chance- rang through my head. I guess he was thinking the same thing, because despite our disagreements, he asked if I’d like to go to a movie after we finished lunch. I accepted the offer.

Maaaybe I accepted it because it was straight out of “Think of Me”, the first Daydream Story about Nate I ever wrote. Nate and Jennifer go out to eat, then see a movie (a film which is so scary, she accidentally grabs Nate’s hand! Vomit...).

We walked out to the restaurant parking lot, and he offered to drive us to the theater. I didn’t like that idea. I still didn’t know the guy, and I like to have an escape plan. So I insisted we take separate cars and meet outside the theater. He said, “Okay. Well, that’s my car over there,” and pointed at an older model Honda Civic.

A dang Honda Civic. I’ll be darned if that’s not what Nate drove in the Daydream Stories. We were a musical duet and a moonlit walk on a beach away from making those old stories reality.

Except for the alcohol and politics thing. But I forced that out of my mind.

We got to the theater, which was inside the Arbor Place Mall, which was, ironically, the very same mall in which I once saw Plus One performing in the food court. Where I met Nate and took this picture in front of Taco Bell:

(14-year-old me and the REAL Nate Cole)
We checked out the movies that were playing. Percy Jackson 2 seemed the best choice, even though he hadn’t seen the first one. But it didn’t start for 30 minutes, so we walked around for a bit. I suggested we walk through one of my favorite stores, Earthbound Trading Company, because they have a lot of cool, unique items that are generally fun to browse through.

So, that's where we went. And as we passed the peace signs and yoga mats, I felt his judgment of me mounting. I could see it on his face. What was he doing with some sort of weirdo vegetarian hippie?

Then we watched the movie. Thankfully, he initiated no hand-holding or cuddling or anything like that, which I had worried about. A dark theater with a male stranger from the internet? Seemed like something that could happen.

But it didn’t. He was totally nice and respectful and gentlemanly in everything he did.

When the movie was over, we walked to our cars and said our awkward goodbyes. I felt comfortable enough with him that I actually offered him my phone number, which I had withheld from him when he had asked for it in an email. He added me to his phone and asked me to text him when I got home safe.

I did. And I also thanked him for treating me to lunch and a movie, told him I had fun, and that I hoped he’d made it home safely too. Two days passed before his reply text came: “Glad to hear you made it home okay.”

That was it. 

I didn’t write back, nor did he. And that was over two months ago. No e-mails, nothing from him on eHarmony. Not a word.

But that was fine with me. Really, it was. Because the very first thought in my head when I woke up the morning after our date was, “I hope he doesn’t text me back.” My true feelings were made clear to me the moment I opened my eyes the following day.

Even though just the previous afternoon, all I could do was try to make him fit into the real-life Daydream Story I’ve been hoping to create all these years.

I am always so hopeful. Despite my past experiences and knowledge and cynicism, I really do go into each first date with the optimistic thought that this might be The One.

But I’ve never made it past an officially named First Date. Never.

Shockingly enough, it’s usually me that is doing the “dumping” (I heard you gasp in surprise). This was the first time that the other person didn’t want to see me again. And sadly, this was also the first time I felt like I might enjoy a second date. But I’m about 98% sure that’s only because he didn’t want me. That’s pretty typical. I only want what is unavailable. What I can’t have.

Anyway, the Guy who Reminded Me of Nate is out of the picture. I’m communicating with a few other guys on eHarmony right now, but I’m not into any of them. The ones I’m interested in haven’t responded to my eHarmony smiles (the equivalent of a Facebook poke) or the questions I’ve sent. 

Sounds about right, doesn't it?    

I'm just not too excited about the whole eHarmony thing any more. Experiences like the one I just described remind me of the kind of man I'm praying for, and I realize how much I need God actively present to make it happen. So I rarely log on to the dating site, because I just don't see the point.

And I don't see why I have to go searching for The One. Everyone thinks I should, but maybe I'm not ready. Maybe there's a reason nothing has ever worked out with me and these guys. Maybe I need to listen to God and what I feel is right rather than let the opinions of others push me into a relationship that I don't need in my life right now.

Or maybe I just tell myself these things so I'll feel better about myself being forever alone.

I don't even know any more.

12 comments

Regine Karpel said...

You are braver than I!

Regine Karpel said...

God Bless!

Jessica said...

I'm not sure Nate was the cutest fifth of +1...just saying. And I feel sure they only reason you were kinda sad that he didn't try to pursue the relationship any further is because of the wanting what you can't have syndrome that we BOTH struggle with...It's so much easier to like a guy that doesn't like you! haha. But anyways, I think eHarmony was a bad idea for us both... I'd rather keep waiting for the tardis...I mean...someone to crash through the living room and say "Once Upon a Time?! I love that show! And hey girl, I love those pink polka dot pajamas you and your sister are wearing." than to settle for someone who is creepily clingy and who I have nothing in common with. So while I may be forever alone, netflix is there. And we both have nice rooms. So there.

Lacey said...

I relate to all of your thoughts 100%! It is sooo tempting to chase after what we want without stopping to ask ourselves if it's also what God wants. I know how real your emotions feel, and how doomed it can seem. Believe me I get it. But it's a relief to know that our hearts deceive us. Which is a funny thing to say, but because of that we know that what seems so real in our hearts in these matters isn't always fact. So find hope that there is something better for you out there, a better attitude, a better focus, and a better man. God is always working to do something and it's always something better!

I recently read this amazing article that I think you should check out. I am going to blog about it but I really think you should read it now! It inspired me and I think it helps bring some clarity to how I feel and (I think) you feel too. http://gracefortheroad.com/2012/02/03/idontwait/

Jennifer said...

Thank you! :)

Jennifer said...

LOL "I'd rather keep waiting for the Tardis...I mean...someone" - I really did laugh out loud at that. At that entire sentence, actually. You are too funny. But I do agree with you; I'd definitely rather be alone than with someone I can't stand.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Lacey! I read that article you linked here and wow. That girl the nail on the head, pretty much. That's exactly how I've felt growing up in the church youth group to where I am now. I can't wait to read your post on the subject!

Sarah Connell said...

I know how you feel. You have gotten more experience than me though,I still haven't been on a date and now I am 25. I am scared as well that I may really be alone. I just have to have faith and continue to pray. Reading books about Christian relationships and dating has widen my knowledge of what a good relationship with a Christian man should be. I know that no one is perfect, I just expect a lot of important qualities to be present in a man that I would marry. It is hard to find a good Christian man. Keep praying and believing.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 NKJV

God knows what we desire, even more than we do.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

These are the verses that come to mind, when I worry about being alone or unhappy in life. God doesn't want us to feel lonely or hurt because we are single. Our happiness doesn't come from having a man. I am learning to be happy and complete with only God, then maybe if it is his will, I will find who he has for me. If you truly desire to be married, and delight in God first, I believe it will happen. Keep the Faith!

Anna Marie Schaefer said...

True but twisted, anyone? I love you, I miss you, you're awesome.

Anna Marie Schaefer said...

I read the article, too. WOW. That's the best I've ever read on the subject. I wish we had all read that 10 years ago. Looking back, I have to say that the "waiting" game also affects expectations after marriage. But falling in love with Jesus puts our hope where it belongs--in him.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Sarah! I love each of those verses you referenced here. They are so full of hope and encouragement; I need to write them on a sticky note and plaster it to my forehead.

I really believe if we follow God and stay close to Him, He will take care of us and bless us. Love you!

Jennifer said...

REALLY.

I mean, really. I hadn't even thought of that until I saw your comment, honestly. So weird.

I love you too and miss you too!!!!!!!!!! Ah! I saw Dave the other day (yes, mwaaaahaaahaa), and he said you're coming home for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, so surely we can find some time to hang out! Let me know when you can!