kissing a lot of frogsWanted: The company of a warm, open-hearted, intelligent, fun man. Must love children, dogs, movies, new experiences and not weigh less than me.

A few years into widowhood, I dipped my toe in the water of online dating. My first date, a once-prominent journalist, was like an old newspaper clipping—stuck in the past, faded and stale. At dinner, “captive audience” took on new meaning for me as he nursed his cup of soup for twenty minutes, then gave each morsel of food loving attention. When he finally got the check he asked the waiter to – wait for it – take our picture!

The next day he called. No surprise. I let voicemail answer. But he called six more times leaving the exact same message. For months Mr. GroundhogDay “winked” at me online as if we’d never met.  So my return to dating began in a sadly disturbing way.

My next date chose a funky, intriguing lunch spot. We shared an interest in architecture, so I welcomed his spontaneous, “C’mon, I’ll show you those Victorian homes nearby.” But before my seat belt clicked he’d secured a place on my “never again” list. His car smelled like my husband’s had: a noxious blend of man-sweat, fast food, flying farts and artificially sweetened air freshener.

Then I found someone who looked like a great match: a War on Poverty veteran like me. When I read his profile to a friend she said,: “He sounds perfect for you!”   Mr.Seemed Right and I hit it off. He said he’d like to see me again; fine with me. He was working to engage new generations in Civil Rights. “I’m involved in a similar project,” I exclaimed, “I’ll connect you to my colleagues.” Fatal mistake: I turned our date into a meeting. The only contact we’ve had since? Emails copying me on plans to link the projects.

Up next, a good-looking retired lawyer. We live on opposite sides of a sprawling county connected by a toll road. “I don’t have an EZ pass,” he confessed (really?).   So I made the trek, expecting we’d meet near the road’s end. Instead, Mr.Where’sMySecretary named a Panera’s (be still my heart) another 15 minutes’ drive for me. He emailed: “No Panera’s there. It’s a Starbucks. See you there.” Surprise – the few tables were occupado. “Let’s walk over to the grocery store,” he said, “sometimes you have to think outside the box.” (You can’t make this stuff up.)  We talked. We didn’t laugh. I downed my coffee in record time.

Another wannabe suitor insisted we meet at his planned community, promising “lots of lunch places in the village square.” (Does anyone think a sea of lookalike townhouses is a village?). While showing me his home, he paused lovingly at his wife’s bridal portrait. “Doofus,” I wanted to say. “You just violated Rule No. 1 of Geezer Dating.”

One date went sour before we met. Online, he seemed like a down-to-earth guy I might like to hang out with. His emails were breezy: “I like your profile. Hate eating alone. How about dinner?”  Then he called. His high-pitched Southern twang sounded like TV’s country bumpkin, Gomer Pyle.

I wore a sweater and scarf with simple earrings. Glad I didn’t bother with a manicure. His grey zip-up fleece jacket, chinos and tennis shoes matched his complexion. (It was going to be a long evening.) The conversation and his life were equally dull. Mr. Blah: “So, you work with non-profits. I’ve got a non-profit client, the West Point Class of ‘45. They don’t do much.”  (Neither does he; his “boutique CPA practice” keeps him busy 3 weeks a year.)

“Let’s try the pasta bar,” he said, “It’ll be fun.” (Compared to what?)  “And we get ice cream.” This paunchy guy would pile his plate high. (I know. My way-too-heavy husband loved buffets.) The chef offered linguini, penne or fusilli. Mr.Blah: “What’s the funny-looking kind again?”  Living on the edge, he went with that.  “Give me six meatballs and extra cheese.”

He’d golfed that day. “Ooh,” he moaned, “my legs are killing me.”  (I’m your date not your wife).  When he picked his teeth, then burped audibly with no “excuse me,” he rocketed into second place on my worst date list (Mr.GroundhogDay has a lock on first.) As he nursed his coffee the dining room emptied. The wait staff and I had the same question: Are we done yet?  When he finally settled up he asked, “Want to see the rest of the club?” (No. I want to see the exit.)

This lonely guy – and others of his vintage – seek relief from their solitary confinement. But they need basic training. I’m developing a syllabus.  As for me? Coffee dates only from now on.

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