Friday, June 1, 2012

Slim Pickin's - Then and Now

My mom used to say there’s someone for everyone.  Specificity was not her strong suit.  I thought where is this elusive “someone”?  And how will I recognize him in the thoroughly improbable event that we should lay eyes on each other? 

When mom offered that consolation, it meant I’d been dumped.  I’d cling to her and cry and leave soggy spots on her shirt.  She would hold me for a little while, but soon would push me back to arm’s length and say, “Now get out there and try again.” 

“Out there” meant school, or church, or (though Mom didn’t know it) Pennington’s drive-in restaurant.  Not drive-through, drive-in; our own live-action dating service.   

My friends and I slathered on mascara, blush, and Pink Baby lip gloss, drove to Pennington’s, looped through at least twice finding the best strategic location, pulled in and put it in park.  We sipped cherry Cokes and surveyed our options from the privacy of our own Pinto. 

We weren’t too discerning in those days.  With a functioning car, good teeth and personality almost any unsuspecting young man landed on our list of “possibles.”  Perhaps it wasn’t the most reliable method for assessing the potential of a future life partner, but somehow it all worked out.  

Occasionally, someone would “fix you up.”  Awkward!  Though now that I think of it, that’s sort of how I met the love of my life, my husband of 22 years. 

St. Patrick’s Day, 1989.  I was, let me be gentle on myself, single again.  Too old for Pennington’s, but not too proud to look, I put myself “out there,” open to opportunities. 

My friend convinced me to go with her and her man-of-the-moment to a local pub for a St. Patty’s Day celebration.  It was all about rock and roll and green beer.  We’d hardly settled in before my friend suggested I have a look around.  I did. 

Weaving through the dance floor, zigzagging among the bystanders, hopefuls, first time lonely guys, and all manner of oddballs, I spied only one presentable prospect.  He was quite striking.  But he barely glanced up when I not so subtly brushed past. 

I got back to the table and pointed him out to my friend.  “Only one,” I said.

She promptly got up and went directly to him, took him by the elbow, and led him to our table.  “What’s your name?” she shouted over the din.  Then before he could answer, she yelled, “This is Carolyn.  Ask her to dance.” 

Romantic, huh? 

Now that same friend is single again and lamenting the dearth of suitable suitors.  I’d like to return the favor and find her a wonderful man with whom she can spend the rest of her life in bliss.  But when I asked her to describe the kind of man she’s interested in, her response went like this:  Artistic.  Sensitive.  Long walks.  Yadda yadda.  Ho hum.  What is she talking about?  She needs a man with a job! 

Then it settled in.  That’s what you say online.  OMG.  She doesn’t need me to sit in the front seat with her and peer through the windshield.  She’s peering through an online dating window!  Mom’s “out there” has expanded to include the ether.  My friend’s on  And  And eHarmony.  And Zoosk and Badoo.  Really. 

Like any wise investor, she’s diversified.  Yet here she is – dateless. What’s wrong with this picture?  

Once upon a time actual men sought actual women.  And vice versa.  Now virtual men and virtual women create best-case scenario cyber-versions of themselves, put those renderings on computer-generated fishing lines, throw them into multiple electronic pools and troll.  They can sift, sort and categorize by everything from age, height, location, religious preference, favorite food, playthings and pastimes, to life philosophy and means of support.  Witness: where hopefuls can connect with “1000’s of down to earth country folks, because city folks just don’t get it.” 

Yet with the hundreds and thousands, no hundreds of thousands of men online, she’s sitting at home on Saturday night.  Water, water everywhere. 

Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw years ago in Sitka:  Alaskan men - The odds are good, but the goods are odd. 

Don’t worry though.  There’s someone for everyone.  You just can’t be too specific.