A Good Man Is Hard to Find
For my 61st birthday, I decided to buy myself a man. I do not mean that I resurrected slavery, nor did I hire a male prostitute. Rather, after four years as a widow, I signed up for JDate.
I never would have considered such an act if a fellow widowed friend had not begun a romantic relationship with—of all people—her brother-in-law following her sister’s death (a story in itself). Until this development, she, like me, enjoyed an active, happy life filled with wonderful women friends. But seeing the new gleam in her eyes whenever she mentioned “him,” I resolved to find myself a man.
My sister, thankfully, is alive and well and, with apologies to her husband, I have no interest in my brother-in-law. So on the day before my birthday, I charged $39.99 to my credit card for a one-month membership on JDate.
After attempting the task of describing myself in 3,000 characters or less, I filled in the requisite information. I chuckled at whether or not I wanted to have children, confessed my pattern of keeping kosher (none) and synagogue attendance (sometimes), then selected Reconstructionism from the denominational choices, hoping no one would confuse it with Jews for Jesus. I eliminated Frum and Orthodox as potentials. These would hardly be good matches for a shellfish-eating, shorts-wearing, female-equality-ranting woman like me.
Within 10 seconds of completing my profile, the JDate algorithm brought forth 79 potential true loves living within 50 miles. With excitement and fear, I clicked on the first, “a really nice guy who likes to share opinions and hold hands.” Staring at GoodGuy’s face, I tried to imagine what my life would be like with him. Would I be happy with this divorced salesman? Would the next one, R U 4 Me, a retired widow, fit in with my friends? His dead wife would want him to move on. I guess my late husband would, too, but with this one?
Skipping from face to face, I tried to remember if I had seen any of these guys at the condo clubhouse or gym. Later that day at Publix, I even followed a gray-haired sixtyish man down the frozen food aisle, thinking I had seen him. I hadn’t, but it occurred to me that, “Hey, didn’t I see you on JDate?” might not be a bad pickup line.
After exchanging a few e-mails with the most promising ones, it became obvious that my mother was right. Guys (some, anyway) are only after one thing, no matter how old they are: “Care to have some wicked fun?” read an e-card sent to me at three o’clock in the morning from a man who claimed to be “the kind of guy your mom would approve of.” Not my mother.
“Are you a good kisser? Are you into younger men?” asked ironically named MenschMan. MakeOutMan would have been more appropriate. Another was looking for “a wild, sexy woman with a nice pair of legs.” How did the computer know that described me perfectly?
Though sex talk was plentiful, honesty was in short supply. One man described himself as having black hair. His photo showed a head of gray. Either he thought he was being asked about his previous hair color or he was so dumb he did not realize the photo would uncover his fib. Another man deceptively presented himself as a bike enthusiast. Though that much was true, it turned out he biked everywhere because he could not afford a car. I am not looking for a sugar daddy, but not a pauper either.
Truth-telling at least was in evidence for the 57-year-old who began his profile with, “I’m not Jewish. I’m a nice Italian boy.” Perhaps he—and the estimated five percent of non-Jewish JDaters—thought his non-Jewish status enhanced his desirability. Or maybe he prefers Jewish women.
Once I had winnowed out the sex-talkers and liars, I exchanged e-mails with a few and arranged for my first face-to-face meeting. On the day of the date, I was as nervous as when I had to interview for a job.
My friends only heightened my anxiety. Along with wishing me good luck, they offered advice about what to wear (a dress), where to go (somewhere public) and who should pay (the guy).
Though I knew they were well-intentioned, I decided that next time I would not tell anyone in advance. Or maybe I would tell one person, with instructions to call the police if I never came back.
Giving myself and my condo one last look before heading out, I realized that for the past four years the only men who had been inside my house had been plumbers and pest controllers. I had no intention of bringing this guy to my house, but I took down the bras hanging in the bathroom, just in case.
The moment I saw my date in the parking lot of Panera Bread, I knew the lingerie could have lingered where it was. Twice the size of his evidently photoshopped picture, his opening remark as we entered a bakery was, “I don’t eat bread.” Since the meeting place had been my suggestion, I felt defensive before we even sat down.
Once seated, he elaborated on his bread aversion with a detailed explanation of his gastric bypass. Descriptions of stomach pouches, small intestinal sections and organ reconstruction formed the basis of our conversation. Halfway into my salad, listening to him list his daily nutritional intake, I longed for female company.
I know many people find love online. During my JDating trial, I even attended the wedding of a couple who had met online. “I had four disastrous dates with total losers,” the bride told me. “I decided to try it one more time before I gave up. That’s when I met John.”
But at this point of my life, I am not motivated enough to endure four more fiascos. The thought of exchanging e-mails with more NiceGuys and ManlyMensches made my stomach twist tighter than a lapband. And I am not even sure I want another marriage. For 25 years I was happily married to a wonderful man and now enjoy spending time with our fabulous daughter. I am blessed with a loving family, dear friends, interesting work and—thank God—good health. Come to think of it, I already have a marvelous, if man-less, life.
When I returned home, I hung my bras back up and cancelled my JDate subscription. I have resumed my active, happy life with female friends. Who knows? Maybe one of them will end up with a spare brother-in-law.
Nancy Kalikow Maxwell, a member of the L’Chayim-Plantation, Florida, chapter of Hadassah, is a freelance writer. She can be reached, especially by single, 55-to-75-year-old Jewish men, at firstname.lastname@example.org.