Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Five – The Aftershocks

The full-on Corona quarantine lasted about 70 days in Minnesota before things loosened up. I had just arrived in my Lowertown St Paul one-bedroom loft at the disoriented start of Covid. My youngest son moved in with his brother; therefore, I would be living alone at age 55 for the first time in my life.

Dating Online slid onto the back burner for a bit. My time online checking profiles and intercepting messages from strangers came to a halt largely because, after Sam (Part 4), I switched my profile to private mode, which meant only those I “liked” would see me. I didn’t like anyone for a good month or more.

Oh sure, I still looked here and there out of habit. Online Dating Sites are highly addictive. But my heart wasn’t in the game.

I had unfortunately landed in a ghost city that held dirty crusty snow, the filth of early spring, and only the homeless people lingered. Everyone else was gone. I spent approximately 23 hours a day alone, isolated in a place where I knew no one. My plans of attending recovering meetings and the artist co-op were ruins in a wasteland. There were no open restaurants. Well, of course, you know.

I had to spend a lot of time teaching high school online then; I was finishing my final year before retirement. There would be little fanfare.

Never before had I felt such crushing loneliness.

What would a woman do with online dating now anyway? Meet some guy in a park like secret agents?

Do you wear a medical mask on a date?

What are the actual risks of human contact? This was a whole new level of awkward. It was just an absurd notion to date now.

In mid-April, I toyed with a couple fish on the phone, but within a day or two released them back to the wild. One guy strung me along on the phone for three days, then finally confessed he was never going to be serious with any woman. It was bleak.

Have you ever sat in a silent room and listened to the analog clock? Time during the Covid isolation became an entirely new dimension. There are many life experiences that have taught me about time, and I often consider time to be a fascinating and spiritual thing. I moved every spring the majority of my childhood. I knew what a year meant, how long it took to form a bond, to attach, to be a person people could name.

I spent a total of 12 hours under a tattoo needle at one point in my life.

My first son was born with 16 hours of hard labor.

I have studied spiritual texts an estimated 3, 950 hours.

I have lived with chronic pain in my neck and shoulders for over 6,000 days.

I have been married four times in less than half the years my sister has been married once.

My time dating online was a blink.

During the third week of Covid, I began to cry a lot. Only divine worship and Netflix kept me sober.

By the 6th week, I was angry. I was bitterly resentful at the plight of my life and the love I might not ever find. But I had done what I always do. I turned it inward upon myself and buried the poison in my bones. That is a very bad thing to do to oneself. And it doesn’t work. I remember sitting on my favorite chair and saying out loud, “No. I’m better than this.”

So I began to shower more. I started taking risks to see my sons just to have human contact. I went out to walk to the park reserve every single day; grocery shopping became the high point of my week. I made elegant meals for one. I was letting my hair grow out, painting and doing yoga again, and Zooming with my new sponsor daily. I danced by myself a lot. I was rising like a phoenix. And I was doing it alone. I was remembering that while I will always long for love, I can still be someone that I like right now. My spirit was coming back to life.

This is what spiritual warriors must do.

As the school year ended, I had one week left of my online dating membership. We all watched in horror at the fall of George Floyd. The city began to burn and the glorified cell in which I was living became my refuge after curfew. I thanked the gods I could breathe every single morning, since I was a privileged white woman and Covid hadn’t killed me yet.

Ironically, the day before Floyd was killed, I had contact with an African American man just two days before the finish line. He was the only man I met in person through the dating site since Sam back in February. I had never dated a black man, and this was a pretty intense time to start. He was beautiful and classy and maybe even overqualified by my standards. Kissing him was a timeless wave of dancing underwater. I saw him three times before I realized I was more in love with the idea of him than the actual man himself. I had done that once before, fallen into an idea that wasn’t real, and spent the rest of my life carrying the guilt of it. I told him I wasn’t feeling it. He played it cool and let go with the ease of a champion. And just like that, he was but a strange and distant dream.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Four – Take the apple, Eve.

I’m no saint, and I always resonated far more with the defiance of Adam’s first love, Lilith. But let’s face it, even Eve was tempted to know more, and plucking fruit from the tree of knowledge was inevitable. According to biblical wisdom, not everyone wants to be submissive, nor blissfully ignorant!

My pursuit of finding love via an online dating site was in many ways my bitter fruit. At night I would lay awake and consider the bones of the dead. I was sincerely sad that I was unable to really love so many men who wanted to love me. I too felt the burn of rejections, even though I understood that these things are rarely personal. Chemistry was a wicked beast. I would stare at the ceiling and imagine this very specific love that I hoped would transcend the electrical wires and universal airwaves and land smack dab on my profile, the absolute result of divine power and an extra kick from my own earnest intentions.

He would be in many ways my twin. There would be sentences we didn’t have to finish and serendipitous events that made me gasp and sigh. We would often be content to watch Netflix and eat our dinner on the couch. We would play hard in the outdoors and always talk about what we were reading. There would be an incredible sense of safety and a comfort I had never known. Oh to be held in my sleep! I would not worry about my aging body or morning breath or foul moods because he would be blinded by his love, and I would finally experience a mutual devotion. He would be unique and emit an entire world of splendor. He would be devilishly witty and he would have all the strength that comes only with a person who had truly suffered, endured and rose from the ashes like an immortal god!

I was always nervous though, since I had in fact had that sort of love twice before (once in college and once in my late 40’s) and then later came to see that it wasn’t real. It was an illusion, and it was deeply painful to be ripped back to reality. Thus, I was doing my best to have faith and yet not be fooled again.

Then in early February, I met him. His name was Samuel.

Samuel and I met for the usual 40-minute coffee date. Three hours later, he walked me to my car and unexpectedly kissed me in the middle of broad daylight. I was stunned. But as I drove home, I found myself slowly forming a smile on my weary little face.

Sam was very smart, educated, undeniably handsome and tall. He was responsible and reliable and deeply committed to his community. He was cultured, well-traveled and had an interesting past. He lived in the city where I was moving in just a month’s time. And he was a writer.

We emailed long and intense exchanges then for almost two weeks. Sparks were flying! We agreed to have our second date the night after Valentine’s Day, to take the pressure off the holiday angst. He made me dinner.

At first I felt like a stranger again, but we warmed up and eventually began sharing lots of stories and opinions and shedding the strains of …well the strains of dating! Two people agree to face each other and try to form something that will be ultimate and profound. That is a lot. And I think we felt it all. But I truly liked him, what he stood for, the way he lived, how he moved and what he wore. He was really amazing!

Until he wasn’t.

I think this is where I would like to turn back the clock and insist that he stop talking. I would like to control the things that he shared so I could remain in this bliss a bit longer. My spiritual core understands that there was no way we wouldn’t always end up in the same spot – in the truth. Because truth is all humans really want in the end. And Sam chose to tell me the truth right then and there on the second date in his darling apartment.

It was dark, disturbing, traumatic.

I cannot even go there. You must understand. When a person shares these things, the most spiritual reply is to honor it by keeping it safe. And he trusted me to do that. What I can tell you is that some people, like Sam, have experienced some very traumatic things and they have to walk the earth with it. They have to get up every day and make their way and find some tricky way to be okay and to manage and to live.

But the one thing that can really get in the way of that coping and survival is the harsh reality of a romantic intimacy, where someone will demand a part of your heart that is mangled and protected.

We stumbled for another month. We pushed and pulled on the phone and through emails, only securing one more brunch in person. But Sam was unwilling to do what I felt was an honest and thorough look at his past. Some part of him began to shut down the moment I suggested there was work to be done. He never really let me back in. I moved into the city and invited him to visit. He muttered something about how the pandemic was just too much. He had expected me to live with his gaping open emotional wounds, the same wounds that destroyed his marriage, or I could just move along.

I chose the latter.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Three – The Combat Zone

The dating site survey was completed along with a rather compelling profile. I mean, I’m a writer after all. And I set the privacy mode to “All members may view.” Game on!

There were lots of hits at first. Men seemed intrigued and sometimes quite forward about their desire to date me! Ego scores!

It was no shock a few hookup whores were lurking. Some wanted a younger woman to bear their children and had not even bothered to read beyond my photos. A few just stopped communication as if they were refugees in a state of war. Ego down.

This is the part where a film montage of dating absurdities rolls with a punk rock 80’s song.

I had no experience setting these boundaries, or how sometimes I had to get messy and mean. Dating was not for the weak. Dating requires a warrior, a champion, a goddamn barracuda in a lovely shade of pink!

Dating had its own culture, its own code, and I was catching on to the rules of engagement:

Rule 1: Never allow a stranger to come to your home. Especially when they say nice things but have pointy ears and sharp teeth.

Going to another person’s home, because you have mutual community ties, is fine. Unless you find out that he is Obsessive-Compulsive and stops to take another shower in the middle of the date.

Rule 2: Police Officers date. The one I dated was a fantastic human. In the end, he just did not have enough time for dating and lived too far away.

Rule 3: Never meet anyone you have not spoken to on the phone at least once. Two or three times is even better. It is amazing what you can learn from phone calls. Texting was not nearly as telling. Let me be clear: I am a strong player in the texting world. I love the flirtation of texts and the witticisms and the naughtiness of texting when you should be acting like a normal human being. But hands down, wordsmiths are outrageous masters of illusion and phone calls are several degrees closer to real.

I figured out one guy was a total stoner after 2 phone calls; he was the most adorable man but smoked weed nonstop. Nope.

Another guy held a job my teenager could have secured, but seemed to do nothing else. I asked him what he did with his time when he was not at work. He paused, then said, “Laundry.” That was it. He was incredibly good looking too, so it was painful to step away from Mr. No Life. He said he was hoping a woman would change all that. Phone calls are a precious opportunity to avoid a future divorce.

Rule 3: The way a man discusses what happened with his ex, or a past love, or how he “got here”, suggests volumes. Is this man a graceful diplomat, a childish tyrant, or a tortured civilian? If he talks too long about her, he isn’t over it. If he doesn’t talk at all, he might take himself too seriously. Does he think his loss is greater than the loss of others? Is he under the impression his pain is the totality of importance? Did he martyr himself for 20 years? I pay attention to what their experience might have been.

Rule 4: Dressing up and going to high end establishments was a mistake because within 5 minutes, I already knew if this was a no. Going fancy meant long hours of what to wear, and the time needed to doll up! Going fancy meant being hostage to a lot of waitstaff conversation and the time it takes to be elegant in public, typically a couple hours. This is all good if you have no friends and you just want company. But I was on a mission and had plenty of other things to do. Fancy was for a second or third date.

Rule 5: Men with a PhD and expansive careers, the type that travels the world and uses words I have to research are out there. They exist and they are glorious examples of how a girl can find her prince later in life. But my limited experience told me these men can also be rather repressed and shine only in certain arenas, not necessarily in my arena. For example, if an honest, rich, handsome man cannot make me laugh, I would prefer to live as simply and humbly as I do, alone. I would rather laugh with a homeless man under the bridge than live with a socialite genius who would be a far better match for another sort of woman. If you think it wasn’t painful to reject the potential of financial security with a man who would likely treat me very very well, you are mistaken. But I know who I am. And I absolutely MUST be laughing, dancing and being a total goof while I live a life of comforts.

By January, I had moved into jeans and a nice shirt for coffee dates only. 40 minutes tops. After 3 months, I had dated a chef, a farmer, a cop, a doctor, an author, a corporate attorney, and a photographer. There were zero second dates.

My spirit had not yet waned but I was beginning to wish women were an option. I had expected the Minnesota winters might be chilly. I had met some passionate, smart, talented men. I had been true to myself thus far. I was practicing the skill of saying no. I was learning that a really good person was not necessarily the right person for me. But a majorly dysfunctional person was a lesson I had mastered long ago. Perhaps I taught them a thing or two, but I doubt it. The cool part was that my intuition was en pointe. I was listening to my gut for the first time in my life. That was an awakening I had not imagined.

I had no idea what was coming next. And not knowing what was up ahead was ironically the impetus for hope.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Two of a Six-part Series – The Pitch

I made a decision to date online!

I made it clear to my suitors what I was generally seeking, and to be fair, I thought it a reasonable list.

I perused a handful of men and their profiles. I found a lot of the same thing: mediocrity with a side of conventional. Lots of men who liked to watch sports. I don’t watch sports.

Some men made it clear that if they were not moving, working, racing, climbing, sailing, skiing, biking, traveling and smiling every minute of every day, they might possibly implode.

A few gentle souls took the time to write something witty and intellectual. Now we are getting closer. Wait. Are those his arms under all that fabric? Why only three pics and all with his adult daughter? Hmmmmm…..

It was time to write my profile and lure in these big fish!

It was time for The Pitch! The Great Reveal! The Unfurling of this Delicate Moonflower….well, I mean, come on. I still had some good in me, despite a shattered heart all glued back together.

Er, ummm….I am worthy; I am certain of it.

I was at least more than worthy of the guy that posted a single 1970’s cabin pic of his frizzy grey hair, which shot out in all directions past the frame of the photo, beer in hand atop his table-sized belly, a grumpy mustache over missing teeth.

Maybe he would love me if no one else was up for it.

Sometimes these rough and belching sorts would actually incite an abrupt and singular “Ha!’ from my mouth, and then I would wrestle the internal beast of hopelessness to the ground, and settle into building my profile: What can I tell you about me to help you see why I am a good choice?!

This went on for hours. Write…delete…write…delete…ugh. I shut it down and ate a large helping of Rocky Road ice cream. Would they want me if I gained weight? Should I not eat now that I am dating online? Would it be wrong to post photos from 8 years ago? Is that photo too slutty? If I post my motorcycle, will they expect me to ‘ride or die’?

I went for a walk. I sat by the stream on that big rock where all my best thinking occurs. I wasn’t so sure now. Maybe I will only attract the nerdy ones who lack the ability to read social cues. Or the men that “don’t have time to read.” Or some con man that thinks he can move in and scam me out of the fifty bucks I have in my account. Or someone who likes really bad country music.

I walked back.

I remembered then what has worked for me when I had to stand in front of a classroom of teenagers while they gave me the once over, chomped their gum and whispered with superior smirks. I used the power of my imagination. I imagined huge white goddess wings (sometimes black if I am in a dark mood) flinging out from my back and standing at full spread behind me.

Maybe you should mess with me now, Smart One.

Then I spelled out one key at a time, as authentically as possible, who I really am. Why waste one minute pitching a lie? I was 54. Time was ticking.

I shared as many details as I could to imply the truth of me, the inexplicable way I laugh when I am alone, the way I paint with old students, the silence of the woods, how I burn mugwort on a dark moon, and Deadpool is my movie. I needed a man who was unafraid of me. And the truth is I was different. I didn’t fit into most boxes. And I decided that would be my thing. Pretty, cool, witchy weirdo seeking fun, smart, sexy man-weirdo. Straight up Psychos need not apply.

I saved the fact that I am in addiction recovery for our first phone call, but I did note up front that I don’t drink.

I would save the four divorces for a momentous height of intuitive courage. It wasn’t going to be easy being me. I could see that. Just the thought of explaining my past made me want to take a nap.

I kept in mind that I was voted Most Interesting twice. Someone will get me. Fuck it.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part One of a Six-part Series

I always scoffed at online dating, insisting that it was the least spiritual thing I could do, on a computer, with algorithms and sales pitches and gross hookup predators! Please! But loneliness softened my scorn. More and more I could see that putting myself out there required courage and an open mind. I slowly became willing.

Preparing to participate in the daunting world of online dating, for me, was then an entirely thoughtful and systematic experience. I was not going to lose. I was gonna kick its ass! I first spent a few months talking to friends and family to gain their support and feedback. I had not dated anyone at all in a year (a solid year break from romance was an added superpower btw), and we all agreed it was a reasonable time to begin.

Online dating has turned out to be one of the most spiritually expansive journeys I would take. By the time I finish this 6-part blog series, I think you will see why!

Before this venture, I had already witnessed this seemingly “desperate” option as a disappointing one, except for the rare few that actually found love, enduring love, possibly lifelong and worthy of the costs involved. The success stories with which I was familiar was a sum total of exactly 2 couples. They had met online years ago and are still choosing to be with each other. Thus, my observation was that dating online is a rare jackpot or a predictable catastrophe, a microcosm of the real world! People who had no luck had often concluded that online dating was a waste of their time and money. They often gave up trying to date altogether after only a couple months. Dating left them somewhat bitter or hopeless. But I am a very willful witch. I was determined to not let a few bad dates spoil my hopes of finding love.

Yet, I had no strong notion that I would find success, which I think in the end was helpful. I did not assume I would find someone, and I did not assume I would NOT find someone. This is where the spiritual experience began. Because what I did believe is that dating would go exactly the way it was supposed to go. If I was not going to find love in the 6 months I was dating, I was going to at least learn a lot about myself, a little more about love, and likely grow from it. I knew that I would not bother to date just for fun. I was not going on any second dates just because I was lonely. I was also not interested in casual sex. This was not a moralistic choice. I just wasn’t looking for that.

I never really had dated before the six month contract I signed. Oh, believe me, I had definitely been married and had numerous love affairs prior. Some would say I was unlucky in love, since these relationships did not last forever. Alternately, I claim that I had never really even tried.

The bottom line is that I had just never actually dated in the traditional sense of the word. I had never thoughtfully selected potential mates with whom I would share purposeful time exploring the chemistry and common ground that just might prove to generate true love. I had never been so intentional. I had also never allowed myself to be discerning in my pursuit. I had always oversimplified my notion of romance, buying into the Romeo and Juliet version. If you were a handsome bad boy, we were on! There were many red flags that I ignored, and there were lots of ideals I just presumed my partner shared with me. Turns out, I had little notion of how to find the sort of guy I would want long term, and I wasn’t sure he existed.

This time, I was fully prepared to go at this with the wisdom and clarity of a 54 year old woman. I am sorry if my readers think then that we are so different. It is my belief that we are all just children seeking someone to delight in and maybe stick around.

In hindsight, after six months of dating online, I can now claim I did actually seriously consider over a dozen men, several of whom I eventually did meet in person, and here are some basic statistics to give you a picture of the starting point:

From mid-November 2019 to mid-May 2020, I spoke on the phone or emailed with about 25 men in total, vetting about half of them from the simple list of absolute requirements, sometimes even declining a date due to shallow reasons, like a voice that grated on me, or an offensive comment, or the fact that they were drunk, or worse, boring. It is not important that you and I have the same standards, just that we know what our own standard is. I had a long history of ignoring what I needed, so it was important that I stick to the list as I had created it. As you view my list, consider your own!

  • He had to be taller than me. I tried to love shorter men before and I find short men to be very sexy, but I always felt large and awkward next to them, so no. A lot of men lie about their height and I had to be very assertive in assuring they were honest. 3 men were rejected due to misrepresenting themselves (and were 2 inches shorter than me). One man, who was the exact same height as me, was IN due to his adorable straightforwardness and awesome sense of humor.
  • Must have either a college degree (I have two), or a strong literary mind (an avid reader) and clear capacity for learning and language.
  • Must know and use his own artistic or creative side.
  • Must have a moderate to liberal sense of politics and values.
  • Must be a spiritual seeker, someone who takes daily action to sustain a connection to something divine, be it nature, an amenable religion or strong knowledge of theology. Christians and Witches don’t tend to be a strong match, unless one of them is insincere.
  • Must be gainfully employed, preferably a professional or in love with his work, and capable of paying his own bills. Enormous debt or a dependent mate is a no.
  • Must be a strong match in appearance, as in youthful and health-conscious like me, but not obsessed or “perfectionistic”(Ick).
  • Age ranged from 48 to 58. This was new for me. I had always been involved with men significantly to moderately younger, but I was now ready to try men my age.
  • Must live within an hour of my address

Negotiables: children, race, prior marriages, sobriety, traveler, competitive sports

After these qualities were checked off, it came down to actual chemistry and personality…and hoo boy! That is where things got interesting! Let’s be frank here; sexual attraction is important. My good friend says, “Yeah, yeah, that’s all great, but do you wanna put your tongue in his mouth?” This always makes me laugh because it is so true!

Next, I had to confess my own qualities as a viable mate. And trust me, that was not comfortable, but the results were fascinating! More on that tomorrow!