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He was sitting at the bar, staring ahead, and I watched him watch me out of the corner of his eye as I walked the plank all the way from the front door to where he sat. In spite of all the tactics and algorithms deployed to make sense of our checked boxes and declare us a 100 per cent match, and being declared “official” by Facebook and the young bartender who thinks we’re photogenic enough to be “the desert Obamas”, we are making this match right here, right here where angels fear to tread, in the messiness of the middle of two lives that collided at the best and worst of times.
Even though I know you’re not supposed to have any expectations, I had prepared myself to be let down and lied to, but my instinct told me that the man at the bar was not going to lie to me and that I would not lie to him. Virtuality was becoming reality and although I was sceptical - sorry, musicians, but you have a reputation to uphold - I was also smitten. Having read and committed to memory the FAQ section of the online dating site, I knew this was another red flag.
Sally was an extension of Nora Ephron - single-minded with a certain way of ordering a sandwich exactly the way it needed to be for her. For countless hairdressers rendered clueless and incompetent by the state of my hair, I unfolded that page as though it were the Shroud of Turin, while I beseeched them to grant me a Meg Ryan haircut. Seventy was out of the question - definitely not a new 50. Even though I recently found out that it’s bad for the car, I only buy gas after the “empty” light comes on.
Over beers and banter, we sized each other up and over-shared, checking off those boxes our middle-aged online personas had created. First dates that are too long (or turn into second dates on the same night) are deemed more likely to create a premature and false sense of intimacy. They’re probably right, but I’ll be damned if we didn’t do it again the next night and most nights since.
Online, I could be equal parts brainy and breezy; I could hide behind pictures that only show my good side, and I could deftly dodge questions with cryptic clues about what I did for a living and the kind of man who might be the right kind for me.
In a flurry of box-checking, I could filter out men who didn’t like my politics, my hair, or my taste in music and who didn’t care if I was as comfortable in jeans as a little black dress but did care about when and how to use “you”, “you’re” and “your”. Time to take stock of all I have accepted about myself, the “alternative facts” if you will.
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