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Recently I have had to apologize to the Internet. For quite a few years I’d been working on the assumption that the World Wide Web was at best a place to check the hours of the local library, and at worst a screen flashing incessantly until you clicked on a link listing the top 10 celebrities you didn’t even know were married. There seemed to be something in the Internet’s speed and commercialism that was best suited for the shallower side of the human experience – such as pornography and retweets of the new Prime Minister’s tattoos.
I have to admit I’m not immune to the illusion of friendship provided by Facebook: Sometimes an exhausted mother’s only external validation is 10 likes on a picture of her son using pudding for makeup. But as a chronic amateur poet, I am unimpressed by the incessant updates of Twitter. It’s as though writing a post in 140 characters is an achievement equal to Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter.
With my literary-Luddite inclinations, looking for love online made as much sense as asking for real butter at a movie theatre. Don’t expect a place that tells lies for a living to serve up anything real, I thought. Much less a man who would hold your hand on the way to a mammogram.
My marriage ended in all but name a few years ago. It was at a point when the yelling had replaced all the loving.
As a single mom with a black belt in cynicism, I still found that life contained more joy than I considered strictly probable. I had two children who treated my arrival home from work each day like a snow-free visit from Santa Claus, and who repaired the potholes in my soul with their unconditional affection and drawings of misshapen hearts hung around my bedroom.
The likelihood of my finding love at all – whether on the computer or in a Spanish-language class full of lonely people conjugating the verb “to eat” – was dramatically reduced by the fact I live in Victoria, where you have a greater chance of seeing a wild deer walking down the street than an eligible bachelor. The ratio of men to women at the local university is 4 to 6.
But despite the surfeit of single women I knew who claimed to have gone dateless for near-decades, I decided to post a profile on a dating site. After all, I had little to lose besides my privacy, dignity and all faith in humanity. I am still surprised by my own actions. I guess I’d reached a point when I thought it might be nice to have someone with whom to share an overcooked West Coast salmon.
I adopted an unusual strategy when writing the requisite paragraph describing myself: Instead of composing a narrative to attract the most men, I painted a picture that I knew would interest only a discriminating few. I eschewed comments about long walks on beaches and having a great sense of humour. Instead, I noted that I prefer books to people, am both fascinated and repulsed by the legacy of the Soviet Union and am a total disaster in the kitchen. I think I also managed to work in that I’m a single mom. I did offer a few carrots, stating that I’m financially secure and as happy as a recovering misanthrope has any right to be.
Despite what I considered to be the deterrents in my online profile, I soon heard from hotguynanaimo69. He was apparently really attracted to me and hoped we “culdhookup.” As discouraging as that was, I had an uncharacteristic bout of optimism and persevered. My online routine was to keep my profile hidden except for a few hours each Saturday night.
On the second weekend of this select screening of my identity, I heard from a more appealing candidate. This man actually picked up on the fact I’m a writer, and spent several paragraphs showing off the correct use of the apostrophe. I responded with a short message admitting that neither grammar nor spelling are my strong suit, but saying I appreciated his discrimination between “it’s” and “its.”
Two months later, we were planning a staycation together on Vancouver Island for the Christmas holidays. He is a great cook. He doesn’t care that I don’t know a shallot from a scallion. Sometimes we spend our evenings discussing whether his former single and childless lifestyle really does capture the Unbearable Lightness of Being. Oddly, he grew up five kilometres from my childhood home in Alberta, which makes a mockery of all my worldly wanderings.
In the short time we’ve been together, he has supported me through the discovery of a lump in my breast and a visit from my mother, who’s suffering from early dementia. He was unfazed by the drama in my family and the false alarm from my body. He made me laugh through all the stress, and his comforting words were utterly free of platitudes. Instead of saying, “It will all be okay,” he promised, “We will work through whatever happens,” an indication that his affection has both feet planted in reality.
The only drawback to finding love as a 45-year-old single mom is that I’ve had to put aside many of my cynical assumptions about life – and, even worse – men. I’ve also had to apologize to the Internet for doubting its ability to deliver love to my doorstep.
Hazel Fay lives in Victoria.