And She Lived Happily Ever After

It was just one short phone conversation with Peter, and I had it all figured out. I was infatuated with “Harley Boy” (I loved giving nicknames to the men I met online.) Peter could be my distraction, a way to take my mind off this man-who-was-totally-wrong-for-me. Well, not exactly take my mind off him; just give me a chance to think about something (someone?) else every once in awhile.Then, we met.

He knew the restaurant I suggested, one that I had met many men at in the past; we planned on meeting there at 6 p.m. because a friend of mine was visiting me for the week-end. When I walked into the restaurant, the hostess asked me if I was meeting someone named Peter.

“He just called to let you know that he’d be about 10 minutes late.”

What an impression that made on me. A man who would actually call the restaurant to tell me that he was going to be late by 10 minutes. That was a first.

“Would you like to sit down at the table and wait?” she asked me.

I couldn’t. I was too jumpy. So, I went back to my car. I wanted to call Peter to say that I had gotten his message, that I had parked in front of the restaurant and I was saving the space for him in front of me. Peter pulled up. I looked in my rearview mirror to check how I looked for one last time and said (out loud), “Here comes my distraction.”

We spent three-and-a-half hours in that restaurant. Asking, answering, talking, listening, laughing; asking, answering, talking, listening, laughing.

He admitted to enjoying sitting in front of his computer and searching through profiles. He liked to look at the photos and, if the photos sparked his curiosity, he would read the text. But he never contacted any of them. He didn’t have to. He was busy enough responding to the emails that women were sending him. He couldn’t believe what was happening to him. His head was spinning.

So many women, so little time.

In the two months he had been on Match.com, he had met 12 women. He was currently dating four of them. (I already knew that; he had told me in response to my standard first phone contact question, “So, what’s been your experience on Match?” I had noted at the time that he had not responded in a bragging way. It had seemed to be his honest answer to one of my typically bold questions.)

He was a gentleman – operating by the dating rules he remembered from decades before when he was still single. When he took out a woman for the first time, he would ask her out for a second date (they all accepted), whether or not he really wanted to. He did it because he thought that was the right thing to do. He hadn’t yet been indoctrinated into the new Dating Game.

Of course, I wondered, why in the world does a man like this ‘need’ to be doing online dating?

“As soon as everyone knew that my marriage had ended,” he told me, “all the married women were trying to fix me up with their single friends, but I wouldn’t do that. If I went out with someone’s friend, and I didn’t like her, I’d be disappointing two people.”

There was more.

“I’d be dating in a fishbowl. If my next door neighbor fixed me up, there’d be some explaining to do when I didn’t take the woman out the second time; and everyone at the (Country) Club would know about it”

It was clear to me that I wanted to be part of this man’s life. Even if I had to be one of five. “Just as long as I’m Number One of five,” I told myself. To get there fast, I needed to think fast.

“Are you having sex with any of the four women you’re seeing?” (Yes, I really asked him that.)

“No.”

“Why not?” (Yes, I really asked him that, too.)

“At this point, I just want to keep the relationships casual. It’s been so long. I don’t know what I’m really looking for. If I were to have sex with any of them, it would put the relationship into a different category.”

“And you’re scared, too.” (I was testing out whether my take on some of the things he had written in his profile was correct.)

“Yes. I haven‘t had sex in two years.” (Bingo!)

“Don’t worry.” I told him; then I paused. Maybe it was for the dramatic effect. Or maybe it was to think about what I was about to say once more before I said it. “I’ll be your f- – k buddy.”

I continued: “You can be my distraction which I definitely need.“

I didn’t go into great detail about “Harley Boy.” Just enough to let it be known that maybe I wasn’t seeing four other people, but I was seeing one other person. And it had been going on for awhile. (Read: I’m not a total loser.)

Later that night, I would revise my offer.

“You know,” I told him. “I don’t want us to be f – - k buddies; I want us to be friends with benefits.” I explained the distinction. I told him that I had a feeling that I would enjoy doing more than just having sex with him.

When it was time to leave, he said that he’d like to see me again and wondered whether we could get together after my friend left on Sunday afternoon. “We could go to dinner and a movie,“ he told me.

“What, no sex?“ I thought, laughing to myself at my little joke.

We stood at his car, and he kissed me. It was a long kiss, and I remember it. He remembers more:

“I kissed you and you looked at me, and you said, ‘We’re going to have fun.’”

The fun part made a big impression on him. It was what he was looking for; I was offering it to him.

My house guest listened as I described the three-plus hours I had just spent with Peter.

“What do you call him?” she asked me.

“Peter,” I replied.

“He doesn’t have a nickname?” She was incredulous. I could see it in her eyes.

“No. But if he did, it would be ‘Perfect Man‘.”

Perfect Man? (That was the voice in my head.) How could that be? For the previous three years online, I had lived by my deal breakers.

He had a son who sometimes lived at home (deal breaker); his political leanings were totally askew (deal breaker); he liked to kayak (deal breaker); he played golf (you gotta be kidding).

Perfect Man? His smile, his laugh, the way he looked at me when he spoke; his obvious honesty; the questions he asked; his values; his ethics; his belief system, his personality that no one can describe in words in a profile no matter how hard one tries.

I was a wreck the entire week-end, though I tried not to show it. My damn insecurities had reared their ugly heads again.

Is he really going to see me Sunday, or was he just being polite? After all, he had said, “I’ll call you Sunday afternoon.” Not “Call me when your friend leaves.”

Did I wait for him to call me? Of course not. As soon as my friend left, I called him and got his voice mail.

“That’s it,” my insecurities told me. “He’s there; he sees the caller ID. He’s not going to pick up. He has no intention of seeing you.”

Of course my insecurities were wrong. He called (when he got back from the golf course and listened to my message). “Come over, and we’ll look in the paper and see what movie is playing that we both want to see.”

On the way, my car broke down.

“Are you lost?“ he asked me when I called to tell him what happened.

“I wish that were what it is,” I replied. I told him where I was (at a gas station waiting to be towed to a repair shop), and he came to rescue this damsel in distress. Strange that right from the beginning, I wasn’t the tough, independent gal I had been putting out there whenever I met/dated/slept with a man. I even let Peter do some of the talking when we got to the repair shop.

“What’s going on here?” the voice in my head asked. “You’re letting a man -this man – negotiate for you?” But somehow I didn’t think that Peter was doing it because he didn’t think I could. He was doing it because he was a nice guy. A gentleman. Still, the voice repeated itself:

“What’s going on here?”

I got into his car. He held the door open for me. He took me to his house. I got out of the car before he could open the door for me. We looked in the paper to see if there was a movie we both wanted to see, and there wasn’t. The movie I had wanted to see he had already seen – with one of the four.

“We’ll watch a DVD,” he said. “But let’s go to dinner first.”

He chose a nearby Chinese restaurant where the food was good and, I thought, the service was quick. Back at his house, we decided to watch “The Big Chill.” What a perfect choice. We had both seen it so many times before that we didn’t really need to watch it to know what was going on; and anyway, what was going on between the two of us on the couch was much more exciting.

“Let’s go upstairs,” he said, as he hit the “pause“ button. He led me up the staircase and into his bedroom.

I knew I could do it; I knew that he could do it. I was the coach he had been looking for in his profile, but none of the other four women had been smart enough to volunteer for the job.

How can I put into words what happened? When he climaxed, I felt as though we connected not just sexually, but emotionally. He felt it, too.

When it was over, I got out of bed and went into the bathroom. When I came out, he was standing there, holding his bathrobe for me, the arms outstretched. He had a big smile on his face. I walked toward the bathrobe slowly, then turned around so that I could put my arms through the sleeves. Still standing behind me, he wrapped the body of the robe around me, tied the belt, and held me there, close. He’s opening up his life to me, I thought, and I’ve just entered it.

We walked back down the stairs, and I realized that everything felt totally different. Two people walk up the stairs as strangers. When they walk down the stairs, there’s a bond between them that they never could have imagined. This time we weren’t two people on the couch; we were one. I nestled in his lap, and we finished watching “The Big Chill.” Then, as two avid baseball fans, we watched our home team play one of its most exciting games of the season. How fitting.

Then, we went back upstairs, and I took off the robe.

The next day he drove me into Boston; he went to work while I met a friend for lunch.

“What do you call him?” she asked me.

“Peter,” I said.

He met me outside his office, and he was smiling.

“Why are you smiling?” I asked him.

“Because I’m so happy,” he told me.

My car was ready. Peter would drop me off at the repair shop. We talked about our upcoming availability. He was booked solid for the week. I was supposed to see “Harley Boy” on Thursday. As good as I was feeling about Peter, I was still looking forward to a date with the man who was all wrong for me.

On Saturday, I was leaving for New York; from there I was going to Nashville and ending up in Fort Lauderdale where I would be staying until the following Tuesday. I simply couldn’t stand the thought of 10 days without Peter. But wasn’t it too soon to let him know that? How would I feel if he rejected my proposal? As we pulled up to the repair shop, I blurted out, “Do you want to spend next week-end in Florida with me?”

And he said, “Yes.” Without even hesitating, he said, “Yes.“

Instead of spending the week-end together, we spent six days together. Glorious days. Incredible nights. On the way back to the airport, he told me, “I need to call the four other women and let them know that I can’t see them anymore.“

“Are you sure it’s not too soon?” I asked him. Not because I wanted to, but because I thought I should.

“No,” he said.

And over the next two days, he called (not emailed) them. He said that he didn’t want me to be around when he did it, so I stayed home, at my house. When he had made the four phone calls, he invited me back to his house, and I never left.

He likes to say, “Our first date lasted three-and-a-half hours; our second date lasted 24 hours; our third date lasted… We’re still on our third date.”

My friends admit that they greeted the news that I had met the man of my dreams with great joy, but a little disappointment, too. My stories wouldn‘t be as interesting as they had been before. Even my manicurist noted that she had looked forward to, now missed, my weekly date updates.

For my male friends still floundering on Match.com, I suddenly became the “poster child.” They started analyzing what it was I had done over the previous three years to make this happen. They all came to the same conclusion, articulated by one of them: “I don’t know anyone who’s worked as hard on this as you have.”

Yes, I definitely worked hard. It would have been easy to compromise, but I didn’t. It would have been easy to disregard my first impressions of a man, but I didn’t. It would have been easy to see the glass half empty, but I worked at always seeing it half full. It would have been extremely easy to not keep going, but I kept going. Even when I decided to stop looking for the “right“ man, it was because I felt that I had reached a goal that I had set for myself. I found and used survival techniques that worked for me, and when they stopped working, I found others. I used online dating to my advantage, and I used men to my advantage (which is not a bad thing). I grew from every experience because I learned something about myself from every man I met. I reinvented myself several times over. Not for someone else, but for myself.

I have never been loved so much, nor have I loved so much. I have myself to thank.

- Dale Koppel, PhD, author of “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide To Online Dating” Available on Amazon.com and www.theintelligentwomansguide.com.

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