Monday, June 17, 2013

(Almost) Ready to Give Up

During my first year of graduate school, I developed a crush on a fellow graduate student. I thought he was kind, quiet, serious, smart, and a genuinely decent person. I talked to him about grad school and teaching, but I never told him that I liked him. Recently, I found out he got married.

I wasn't in love with him, but I have to admit that I did feel a little sad. Obviously, the fact that he's married to someone else is the ultimate proof that he isn't the one for me. But I couldn't help wondering what would have happened if I had invited him out for coffee years ago.

I've never been good at making the first move. It took me a long time to even get up enough courage to venture into the dating scene. When I first started dating, I just wanted to see who was out there and go out on dates. Now, several years later, I want more.

The other day I was walking down the street in my neighborhood and I saw a little boy sitting on his father's shoulders. His mother was walking alongside them, holding a baby. They were all laughing about something, and the little boy was singing. Family, I thought. That's what I want. 

But now I'm starting to worry that it'll never happen for me. I'm thirty-two years old, and even though I'm still young(ish), seeing the majority of my friends, acquaintances, and relatives who are my age or younger get married and have children makes me feel like I'm falling behind.

I thought that online dating would help me find someone special. After all, several people have met their spouses online. Everyone knows of at least one online dating success story. In fact, one of the guys that I dated on eharmony is now married to someone else that he met on that site. (I'm not really sad about that, since I didn't like him very much. I can't help feeling a little resentful that someone who was a total tool was able to find his future wife and I am still single. But then again, you don't have to be a nice person to get married. Every single bride on that TV show Bridezillas can attest to that.)

I've joined four different online dating sites. And what have I found? Hundreds of guys who only want to date women who are decades younger than them. Guys who write stuff like, "Don't message me if you aren't as thin as you look in your pictures" in their profiles. (I'm seriously not making that one up. I've seen that line several times.) Fake pictures in online dating profiles. (How do I know they're fake? The guys post pictures from ads that I've seen on the Internet, and others post pictures of famous actors, like Daniel Craig and Macaulay Culkin.) A guy who only posted two pictures of himself, and in both pictures, he was wearing a ski mask. (Incidentally, I made a joke on this blog about showing up for a first date in a ski mask. I didn't think anyone would actually post a picture of himself looking like a bank robber in his online dating profile, but I was wrong.)

There were also the disappearing acts. The dates that disappointed me, disgusted me, or freaked me out. The genuinely nice guys who liked me, but who I didn't feel anything for (though I wish I had felt something for at least one of them, who is the only one I regret pushing away.)

Now I'm on a second time, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I still haven't gone on any dates, even though it's been a month now. This has never happened to me in my previous online dating experiences; I was always able to get dates before.

In high school, everyone took a "matching" test for fun, and we were all given a list of other students in the school that we were most compatible with. The matches were based on percentages; that is, the test revealed whether we were one hundred percent compatible, sixty percent compatible, ten percent compatible, etc. Even though I had my own list of matches, they were all revealed to be less than fifty percent compatible with me. A "friend" said that meant I wasn't very compatible with anyone.

I know it was just a silly test that didn't really mean anything. But I can't help thinking that maybe the problem isn't the online dating sites or the guys. Maybe it's me.

When I was younger, I thought that I would meet the right guy at school, at work, at the gym, or at a party. I thought that maybe we would become friends first, and then it would eventually turn out to be something more. But now I'm starting to think that maybe there isn't someone out there for me. Maybe I'm not meant to get married or have a family. Maybe I'm supposed to do something else with my life.

It's not like anyone hasn't messaged or "winked" at me on, because there have been several guys. But I really DON'T want to date someone who's thirty years older than me or who is missing his front teeth or who wrote in his profile that he's "looking to have some fun" before he leaves the country in a few weeks.

If I stop trying to find someone, maybe the right guy will show up anyway one day. In the meantime, I could focus on the other things that make me happy, like writing, reading, dancing (in classes at my gym), teaching, and fantasizing that Satan's Siblings (also known as my neighbors) have moved away. I could spend more time reading books and articles for my dissertation, and I could finally prove myself as an academic.

But then I think about that grad student I had a crush on, and how I kept waiting and hoping that he would finally notice me as someone who was more than just a classmate. I kept waiting for the right time to tell him how I felt, and I lost my chance. I'm afraid that if I just wait rather than put myself out there, I'll end up losing again.

I've been thinking about joining, which is an online dating site I haven't tried before. In fact, one of the reasons I joined okcupid a few years ago was because wasn't working out for me (though I did get to go on dates with guys I met from

I also thought about joining one of the amateur sports leagues that a lot of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings in Chicago join. But then it would mean I'd have to play sports (I'd also have to learn how to play sports), and I'm not sure the sight of me tripping over myself or running away from the ball, screaming, "Somebody ELSE catch it!" would be very attractive.

But on the other hand,  I don't know if I have it in me to keep searching forever. I don't want to still be joining online dating sites and going on first dates years and years from now. Eventually, I might just give up.

I'm sorry. I don't mean to sound self-pitying. But after all my failed attempts at finding love, it's hard not to feel discouraged. Not to mention I saw a sign that read "DIVORCED! RING FOR SALE", and it made me think that I'm not the only one who's less than optimistic about love.

What do you think? Do you think that there's a right person out there for everyone? Do you think it's better to actively look for the right person, or is it better to leave it to fate?


  1. I don't blame you for being disheartened. But from reading all your posts about dating, I can tell how badly you want to meet a man who is right for you and have a family. These are lovely hopes and dreams. Don't give up on them!

    1. Hi Emily,
      Thank you for the encouragement! Sometimes reading all those profiles makes me lose hope that I'll meet someone; the other day, for example, I read a profile where the guy didn't say anything about himself but totally criticized and bashed all the women's profiles that he'd seen on the site. But I still have hope that I'll met someone who's the opposite of that guy.

  2. Academia can make it especially difficult to find someone because of schedules and interests. Many of my single friends seemingly aren't interested in finding someone, and the few who are dating or are recently married are partnered with other academics (both inside and outside the department). Does your university have coffee breaks or mixers for interdisciplinary work? There might be an interesting postdoc or phd student in the sciences or another field, or they might have friends you could meet.

    1. Hi Anna,
      You're totally right. For a long time I didn't even try to date anyone because I was so wrapped up in grad school and teaching; there are so many demands and expectations that I felt pressured to live up to (and I still feel pressured). One thing that makes it difficult for the grad students to socialize regularly is that a lot of us commute to school; we're usually just there to teach, hold office hours, and do research. So we don't cross paths with each other very often. I haven't heard of any mixers lately, but I'll keep my ears open. Usually the only times I've met other grad students from other departments have been at lectures or workshops.

  3. I still think you can find someone. You are still young. So, people your age, many of them may have found mates. But not everyone. I know people who have met their companions in their late 30s and even 40s. Put yourself out there. Try not to be shy. If you see someone you'd be interested in, let them know.

    I know--easy for me to say.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      Thanks for the advice! It's easier for me to make the first move online; it's less nerve-wracking to send an e-mail to a guy than to go up to him in person.
      But I'm starting to think that maybe the right guy for me isn't online. So I might have to work on being brave in person when it comes to meeting guys.

  4. I am probably not the person to put my two cents in, since I've been married for almost three decades. However, I think you need to do a variety of things...Check out some of the sites/Join. Live your life and do the stuff you love to do. Do you belong to a writing guild? (This post was hil-ar-i-ous! Satan's Siblings? Jeezle! I almost peed in my pants.) If not, join one. I think there is someone for everyone. But from what I hear from my single friends, there's lots of weirdos out there. (One friend had two different guys send photos of themselves nekkid! Completely nekkid! What's with that?)

    1. Hi Sioux,
      I definitely appreciate your two cents, because I think it's good to get advice and feedback from other people. I don't know if there is a writing guild in Chicago; if it's open to unpublished writers, I definitely wouldn't mind joining as long as it wasn't expensive.
      I've never been sent pictures like the ones your friends received, thank goodness. I'm not sure why those guys thought that would be a good idea. That would just creep me out.

  5. Hey NW. Sorry to hear things aren't going better with the dating sites. I think fate sometimes needs a little nudge, and putting yourself out there on the dating sites is good, but if it doesn't feel right, probably a good idea to switch to the site you haven't tried yet. I also like everyone's else's advice to get involved in real life groups that aren't necessarily dating groups but that are sure to put you in the mix with people of similar interests. But only do what's fun for you - when it starts feeling more like a job, turn in another direction. And don't put so much pressure on yourself! You've got a lot of great things going in your life, and seriously, adding a man will also add more complications and aggravations, so relish your freedom while you still have it.

    1. Hi Nicki,
      I've decided that I will join plentyoffish, though I'll keep my membership on open; it doesn't expire until August anyway. A few years ago I did join a group of twentysomethings; it was fun because we all had dinner together several times and hung out. But now it's more difficult for me to join one; my dissertation is looming over me and I've still got so much to do. But thank you for the advice! I appreciate the feedback and support from everyone; it really makes me feel better.

  6. A lot of women will say don't search, but it's a secret lie we tell. My early dating years were pre-internet, so my girlfriends and I would socialise at the local yacht clubs and golfing clubs - we figured we'd find a better class of man there. Like many others, my final match was met through work. Common ground is important - although I don't think it's important to find someone with the same interests, as well as writing, I enjoy quilting, but it would annoy me no end if my hubby wanted to tag along to every writing or craft group I joined.
    Maybe you have some friends who can help hunt around for a suitable partner. There's no consequences for guys on dating sites, but if they are already embedded in your circle either by work, family or friends, they'll think hard before scampering off without a goodbye.
    Good luck - might be something very exciting on the horizon for you! In the meantime, you're getting great material for a novel :)

    1. Hi Charmaine,
      You'd think I would have met someone through work, considering all the jobs I've had, but I haven't met anyone I really liked yet. You're right that it's important to have things in common with the person you date; I think it might be difficult for me to be with someone who wasn't interested in any of things that I liked.
      Several people have suggested that I write about my online dating experiences. I think of that as my consolation prize. That is, even if I don't end up with a boyfriend, at least I could end up with a novel. But either way, thanks for the advice!