With nary a single friend in the bunch, I embarked into the brave new world of online dating, a medium too new at the time for a community whose members weren’t completely comfortable being “out” in cyberspace. These were the days of the dial-up connection, uploading pictures was uncommon, and using member aliases in lieu of real names was the norm.

My rules were simple: communicating through the website’s email application until I felt comfortable exchanging a real email address with a reasonably prospective date, then agreeing to a coffee date if we had enough in common to meet in person.

Thus were born some of the most disastrous first dates imaginable:

• After meeting in Cowtippers’ parking lot, a date asked me to wait to enter the restaurant until she finished “journaling” her previous hour’s psychotherapy session.

• Agreeing to meet another date after Sunday services at her place of worship in order to proceed to brunch sounded reasonable at the time, but it turned into trapping me into attending the service and asking me to face the congregation and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. (Apparently being Catholic didn’t count.)

• My clutch purse accidentally set on fire by a votive candle on a table and my butch date refusing to help as she was uncomfortable handling a “purse.”

• Upon learning I was a Jane Austen devotee, much to my horror, a date showed up in a straight-up period costume as “Mr. Darcy”.

• Call this one an “almost” first date: After smart, witty banter with an attorney, we agreed to meet over the weekend. Later she called cancelling the date saying I wouldn’t want to waste my time with a loser. I thought she was kidding, but it became painfully obvious she was not. She called several times that night in rambling rants.

A month later she emailed asking for another chance, explaining (true quote) that “the combination of vodka/prozac/adderall/lemectical/trazodone and the evil that exists in me” had sabotaged the plans.

• The most repeated of the urban legends, though, goes to the girl who sent me a picture of her “jock” self, in midair playing Frisbee with her dog at Piedmont Park. We corresponded for two months before agreeing to meet for dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant, the hostess said my companion requested for me to be seated in advance, champagne waiting. I was seated at a table for four, oddly, with only three chairs at the table.

Shortly thereafter, the hostess opened the main door and a woman in an electric wheelchair approached my table and occupied the (missing) fourth chair. Neither one of us brought up the subject, until we left the restaurant and she got into her chair-lift van. It was then she explained she was partially paralyzed from an auto accident.

My common sense prevailed. This woman wasn’t ready to date; she hadn’t been confident enough in two months to disclose a pretty material fact, and misled me with a dated picture. It wasn’t the wheelchair that killed the deal, it was the lie.

Every one of these dates ended with me saying, “Thank you, but I just don’t think it’s a match.” It became my mantra.

After all these years, I still encounter someone repeating “the worst dating story they’ve ever heard” and recognize it as mine. I don’t mind. I never went on a second date with any of these folks, not wanting to settle. I stopped “dating” altogether.

Only when I began to see myself and others as potential friends did I end up finding the love of my life — effortless and as it was meant-to-be.

 

Top photo: Maggie Lopez (right) with her last first date, wife Patt Cianciullo (Courtesy photo)

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