Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tommy Has Boundaries

An email from Our Time, the online dating site, alerted me to a new message: "How about 2 p.m. at Meinle, the coffee shop at Addison and Southport?"

I was pleased to see these details from my latest match.  In an earlier email, I told him I was going to be on Southport for a 3:30 movie at the Music Box, and since he revealed he lived near Lakeview High School, I gave him the option of naming a place for our first meeting.

"Sounds good," I wrote back. Then, "I'm going to take a chance and give you my real name and phone number." I was aware this was a risk, but our previous messages signaled a safe bet. In those, I learned he was a former journalist and PR guy, kept fit, was divorced, traveled, and had two kids. On paper, he deserved a look-see.

I added: "I'd also appreciate your contact information. This way, we can do background checks and text if there are delays or cold feet."

A few hours passed as I prepared my wardrobe and kept busy with tasks to prevent obsessing about the meeting. Although I had had several dates with Our Time matches, and they turned out pleasant and interesting, I still became anxious about initial sightings. Those opening minutes always felt to me like a Broadway audition, where I'm probably all wrong for the part.

Soon it would be time to get dressed for my 2 p.m. coffee date, but I hadn't yet heard from Match6. Now I had a dilemma: Did he not read my online email requesting his contact information and would just show up at Meinle?

Or, had he read it, done due diligence to check me out and learn that I frequently write about my dates. Did that scare him off? Then, the phone rang. It was a 773 area code, but no caller I.D. It could've been a marketer, but I decided to answer it.

"Hello, is this Elaine?" From the sound of his voice, I knew I'd be exchanging my date wardrobe for everyday clothes.

"I know who you are," he said. "We've met. Tommy and I worked out at the Y together. He used to bring me his old golf magazines. Remember, I'd run into the two of you at Dapper's diner? Tommy introduced us; I remember you being nice."

Match6 told me his real name and I tried to picture him and place him in the setting he revealed. I couldn't get a sharp image, but think he was tall and good-looking. Despite his compliment, I knew our date was in jeopardy.

"I don't feel comfortable," he said. "I hope you understand. It's a little too close to home."

"Of course I understand," I said, but thought: S**t! Why did I give him my real name? If I had waited for our meeting to exchange details, Match6 might have thought me appealing enough to give loyalty a pass.

"Maybe we'll get together at some point," he said. "Trade war stories about online dating."

"That'd be great," I said, knowing it wouldn't happen.

With time on my hands, I pondered why I had sabotaged myself by prematurely revealing my identity. Soon enough, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my dearly departed, moving in my imagination from the past tense to the present.

"Hi Wifey," he said. Tommy was smiling, devilishly. "How's your dating life going?"

"It was you, Hubber, wasn't it? You put the idea in my head to out myself. You knew Match6 would look me up and get cold feet."

"I'm not confessing to anything," Tommy said. His smile grew broader and soon he was laughing.

It was wonderful to envision him joyous, but then I sobered. "Why didn't you want me to meet him? We could've had a date. Not marriage, as I've often promised, but a companion."

"Listen sweetheart," he said. "I know you're trying to find a boyfriend, but I have boundaries. The guy is my friend, off limits. It'll be easier for me if your fella is a stranger."

"OK," I said. "No one in your circle. No Y or golf buddies."

So, on my list of criteria for potential dates -- which already included "must love animals, be connected to his children, be under the age of 85" -- I added, "no one who's a pal of Tommy."

With that, I felt a soft kiss on my cheek. Then, my Hubber was gone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pick-Up Lines

"There's a kind of nice looking man at the pool. For you, not me. No ring. He's doing crosswords. What are you doing?"

"Thanks. On train home," I typed in response to Diane's text.

"Oh, perfect. Stop by."

In the next communiqué, instead of providing further description, my friend sent a photo of the man she was bagging. Evidently Diane took the shot surreptitiously because only half of his body was visible and a wooden fence obscured his image.

"Oh, a bit of a belly," she wrote.  "But you're the only one who doesn't have one."

I had a second to enjoy her praise before this text arrived: "Crap, he's leaving. Scratch that. He just sat down under an umbrella. You'll walk into him. Facing snack bar."

How could I resist this summons, which was as tempting as a movie trailer promising love between two mature singles? In my version, and likely Diane's, the hilarious sidekick plays a major role in bringing the widow and widower (preferably for pathos) together.

With conjured music guiding my path -- think trumpets -- I took the elevator to the fourth floor of our health club, and then paused to survey the scene. Row upon row of brown weaved lounge chairs spread out on a deck that seemed the size of a football field. A crowd, out of central casting, occupied most: they were young -- 20's and 30's; the men handsome and sculpted, the women, tall, thin with long blonde or brunette hair and wearing bikinis as bity as a baby's first swimsuit. (Trumpets give way to cellos.)

Fortunately, I was fully clothed, so there was no need to contrast my shape -- which does indeed include a belly -- against the slender panorama mocking my age, height, wrinkled skin, and hidden middle.

With Diane's treasure map in mind, I easily spotted our quarry. He was sort of heavy set, grey hair, likely my age, probably Jewish (could be Greek or Italian), definitely someone I would've graced with a second glance had I spotted him on my own.

I looked at him; he looked at me. I continued my walk.

"So, what do you think?" Diane asked. I pulled up a chair, and then dropped my backpack on the concrete, and me in the seat.

"He looks okay," I said. Actually, he was my body type. I never minded a bit of zaftig-ness because the shape reminded me of my beloved dad. (In Tommy's case, although he was svelte and toned, I relented because my dearest made up for it with his adoration.)

"You must be thirsty," Diane said, offering a hand to tug me out of the chair. "Let's go back to the snack bar and get you some water."

Obviously, she was rehearsing her own lines for our upcoming film and intent on moving the scene along. I worried: for comic effect, would she elbow me onto his lap?

The man, wait, let's give him a name: Larry, was still seated in his lounge chair. We took note again of his absence of a ring or a female companion. En route, with the sun stewing my covered body, I  viewed the guys and gals. I overheard these pick-up lines: Didn't you go to Madison? You were in my MBA program, right?

Best pal sidekick and I did our trip, and on the reverse, I looked at him, he looked at me. Then, our detective duo returned to our chairs. "Now, go up and talk to him," Diane said.

"What would I say?"

"You're clever; you can think of something."

"How about a mistaken identity ploy?" I said. Hi, Larry, I thought you looked familiar. Didn't we meet at Hedy and Mort's party?

I was clever. By starting out with a name, he'd have to respond with his real one. And by using a popular couple that are my friends, and who host many events, perhaps we had met at one of their occasions.

"That'll work," Diane said.

"Or, I could just try, Hi, I noticed you're not wearing a wedding ring and you're alone. You appear to be in my age group and my preferred body type. I'm a widow on the hunt. May I sit down and chat?

"That would work, too," she said.

"What if he doesn't speak English? Then what?"

"Better yet," she said. "Haven't you seen movies where the language barrier is conquered by the language of love?"

We tested a few more pick-up lines as I gained courage. But, by the time we settled on the mistaken identity ploy, Larry was gone.

Sigh.  Broken up before first date. Cue the violins.