This time last year, I was probably scrolling through Facebook looking at photos of all my ex-boyfriends… with their wives and kid, or standing alone outside of Walgreens explaining to strangers in the Redbox line, “My roommates are going to watch this with me,” or trying to get the cheese sample worker at Costco to be my best friend. Whatever I was doing, I was adamant that online dating was a desperate move and a level of low that I was not willing to stoop to. Online dating is for people who are not good at real life – not people like me.
My best friend Rachel was an online dating queen. OkCupid, Match, Tinder – you name it. She went on multiple dates a week. Rachel never could convince me it worked. I mean, she had frat boys sending her photos of their lower regions on the regular, but she did convince me that online dating was okay. That it was not embarrassing to want to share your life with someone. That it was 2014. That we live in a technological world and I should stop being judgmental, create a profile, talk myself up and take a few flattering selfies. The worst that could happen is I eat for free a few nights a week.
In April, I finally took the plunge. Two days after I created my profile, I was glued to my phone. I had a coffee date set up with a Ryan Gosling look-alike. I was smiling so big I thought my face would fall off. He seemed hilarious and charming, and the Ryan Gosling resemblance did not hurt. I bought a new pair of boots and only allowed myself to eat seven baby carrots the entire day before.
That night I walked into Starbucks with a fast-beating heart. We already hit it off via text so I was basically ready to bring him home to meet my parents. I scan the Starbucks looking for my rock star man. He was not there. Some Duck Dynasty wannabe waves at me from his table. I’m a nice girl so I wave back and scan the room again. This Duck Dynasty guy is really creeping me out at this point. He will not stop staring. He stands up, “Christina?” Weird. He knows my name? I’ve never seen him bef…. WAIT! NO WAY! It couldn’t be…. it was. This bearded man in gym shorts is the man I gave my digital heart to. I’ve spent the twenty-four hours texting this guy letting my heart dream about this very moment of meeting him. I let myself get teenage-girl-giddy when I could have been binge watching Arrested Development and drinking whiskey in my pajamas.
I had a decision to make. I calculate my steps to the glass door, my glorious escape. I count the steps to his table. He was already reaching out to shake my hand. I decide to be a polite human being, give him the benefit of the doubt and remind myself what a great connection we already had. Wrong decision.
He sits back down to take a sip of his coffee… that he had already purchased – classy move. I excuse myself to order and pay for my own three dollar coffee. I sit down and we proceed to do whatever the opposite of “hit it off” is. He had a loud voice like people who talk on their phones at the cereal aisle and the entire grocery store is annoyed by their conversation. We sat in a tiny Starbucks with tables of people surrounding us. A little too close for comfort but at least they provided some free entertainment. He tells me about his day and how he drove there straight from cleaning his boat. I’m thinking: cool, I’m glad you’re so unconcerned with making a first impression that you’re wearing your sweaty fishing shorts. Meanwhile I’ve been doing crunches since 11:00 a.m.
His loud voice makes me feel like he is my summer camp counselor trying to get me excited about this date. Not working. Next, the dreaded question I thought we both knew was far too inappropriate to ask, “So, how did you end up on eHarmony?” His voice echoes through the crowded Starbucks. I reluctantly admit to a complete stranger that I had an entirely uneventful love life. He treated this as a long awaited opportunity to vent about his past four relationships.
I was ready to shut things down, but he beat me to the punch. He had to cut our dream date short to go home and watch a televised basketball game. I was relieved but mad at myself for not being the first one to peace out. My last piece of dignity stripped away just like that.
I drove home feeling discouraged, deflated and silly. I knew better than to expect an online date to end in fireworks. I needed a burrito and someone to remind me that I am a confident, beautiful woman. That I am worthy of a clean shirt and a three dollar coffee. I would have gladly left the online dating world that night, but I already had another date lined up and knew it was too soon to quit.
Two days later, I met Blaise. He was even more attractive than his photos. He opened every door and picked up the tab. We spent hours talking about our families, our careers, our dreams, our Netflix queue. He told me he had been on eHarmony for a whole year and his subscription expired that very week. I let myself dream for a minute that the universe had perfectly and purposefully given me the humility and grace to start online dating the very week that was Blaise’s last. If I had waited a week, or a month, or a year, or never, this beautiful man would not be sitting across from me making me feel like the only girl in the entire world. This thought made me immediately grateful for this moment. I whispered a quick thank you to God, my friend Rachel and to myself.
Blaise was charming, kind, good-looking and funny. I was smitten but unable to accept that life could be quite this good. I spent the next week trying to figure out if he was actually a married man, a fugitive, or if I was on a new reality TV show targeting lonely women in their late twenties who have an abnormal fascination with goat cheese and cannot seem to meet a decent man. No such discoveries. We spent every day together for the next week and every day I grew to appreciate this man more and more.
Two months after our first date, he told me he loved me. A month after that, he took me to the bridge that overlooks Nashville and we stood in the rain and he asked me to be his wife. We planned a wedding in three months and said “I do” in front of all our friends and family.
I did not settle. I did not give up. I did not lower my standards. I was not desperate. I just fell madly in love with the most perfect man for me who I just so happened to meet on the Internet. I never thought “I met my husband on the Internet” would be part of my love story. But I also never thought I would be so confident and calm in making a lifelong commitment to another human being, that it was possible to love a man with every bone and every breath in me and yet not lose sight of my own self. That marrying someone did not have to be giving up on my life, career, or dreams and that I could meet someone that made me love life, people and even myself more than I thought was possible.
I am so proud of my husband every single day. Our life together is better than any fantasy I could have dreamt up on my own. The most beautiful part of my day is waking up next to him every morning. Giving online dating a chance may seem like a small decision, but that small decision affected my life forever in the best way possible.
There is no formula to love. There is no best way or right way. Some people meet in the first grade and grow up as neighbors. Some people meet at the grocery store in the produce aisle. Some people meet after one week of online dating – some people meet after one year of online dating. Whatever it is, hang in there. Do not be discouraged. Do not be afraid to try something new. Because once you find the one your soul loves, you realize, there is no such thing as an embarrassing love story.
By Christina Forêt
Image by Renae Saxby