Keeping it Real


“Betty”, 58
She calls herself a ‘single mother’ but she was not single when her daughter was growing up. She was with her husband until ten years ago. She is just-now starting to explore the online dating world. She is not finding very much success.

My friend helped me ‘set up my dating profile.’ I don’t know much about computers, really. I can check my email okay but I can’t do much more than that.

It was fun setting up the profile. Listen to me. The profile.

We had some wine and just sort of made things up as we went along.

We started with a picture. Of me. I wanted to use one from my last trip to Vegas but my friend (we’ll call her Helen) said no. She said the photo made me look too old. In truth it made me look my age! But she said, no, that was not the way the online world works.

So we dug around and found a picture of me when I was teaching uni in Johannesburg. It is a great picture. To be sure. But it really was an awful long time ago! It must have been thirty years ago? At least.

So yes, I looked great -thirty years ago- but I do not look like that now. I was worried. I said so. I said, what happens if some guy agrees to meet me and I don’t look like that any more!

I lost that battle. So we uploaded the uni photo and then Helen helped me write my profile. She made up all this stuff, all about my hopes and dreams and my experiences with men. It was almost all make-believe. Well, lies I guess you would call it. At least in the real world.

Then we did this section where I said what I was looking for in a man. You know, the usual. Kind, honest, walks on the beach, candle-lit dinners, vacations around the world.

She told me to say I did not have any kids because some guys are put off by that. They want something more virginal and you can’t be virginal if you have a kid. I laughed. If I was still virginal at this age why would anyone want anything to do with me! You know what they say about teaching new dogs old tricks.

So no kids. That was the way to go.

We said I was independent and did not need a man but sort of hinted that I wanted one. That seemed fair enough. I mean you don’t want to cut him off in the balls before we even get to first base.

Then we picked out some music I liked, the usual pop stuff and she threw in a few things I had never heard of. The same with books and movies. I thought it made me sound like I was on the go 24/7 but Helen said it was fine.

‘Would I be willing to meet someone in person?’ That was the last question. Hell yeah. No, Helen said. I had to leave it up in the air. Keep the poor sap guessing.

Anyway, by the time we were finished I looked so good I would have dated me. And I’ve never touched a woman!

Then the profile went ‘live’ and waited to see if we got any hits. And you know what? They started almost at once. To be honest, most of them looked like schmucks but there were one or two that looked promising.

I liked the guy who had worked all over the world but Helen said no. Guys like that never settle down, she said. And the same with the ones who had never been anywhere. If they have not gone anywhere by now they were never going to go anywhere, she said.

So we narrowed it down to one guy. He was my age, cute, had hair and kids and a sense of humor.

Helen helped me write to him. It was light and breezy. She said that was the way to go.

Anyway, long and short we agreed to met up later in the week. I picked the place. It was at a nice bar downtown. Well, just outside the bar. I didn’t want to go roaming around inside looking for some guy I had never met before. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

I saw him before he saw me. I called out his name (let’s say it was John) and he looked at me sort of stunned-like. I almost thought he did not know how I knew his name.

I said, hi, its me but he still didn’t seem to know who I was. I said my name again and then said we had ‘met online.’ (I felt so proud just saying that. ‘We met online.’ Like I do this sort of thing all the time!)

He finally cottoned on to who I was but he still looked kind of baffled. I didn’t know why. I thought maybe he was just slow-witted.

He looked just like his picture. Like I say, my age but he sure didn’t look it. He could have passed for five or six years younger.

So we went inside the bar and took a seat at a table. We sat across from each other. I prefer sitting side-by-side but I could not expect that on our first date.

We talked and it was fine but it really was sort of awkward. He told me a little about himself. Everything he told me was what he had said in his profile. He liked music and going to concerts and movies and having a pint at the bar. He seemed very active. He was slim, to be honest. And fit. You know, not muscular but more like he was still very agile.

I had said in my profile that I went for long bike-rides and walks in the country and going to concerts and this and that and I think it became clear to him that maybe I did do those things, but maybe it was a long time ago.

Which is true. I did all those things when I was the age I was in the photo I posted online.

So it was a bit of a battle to keep the conversation going. It became harder and harder to be honest, the more he realized that maybe I was not quite who I said I was. There were long silences that became longer and longer and then there was pretty-much nothing but silence.

I had to put an end to things at that point. He paid for my drink (such a gentleman!) and even walked me to the subway.

I think he might have been going my way but he made an excuse about having to run some errands before he went home so he gave me a hug and I went down the stairs to the subway.

I had mixed feelings to be honest. I was fun talking to someone -especially someone so interesting and funny- but I went home feeling sort of empty. I had wanted to have a successful outing but I did not feel that way when I got home.

At first I felt kind of cheated but then I realized that maybe I had been the one who had done the cheating? Like I had sent out false messages about who I was. That did not sit well with me.

Helen called me as soon as I got home and I told her the same thing and she told me not to be so loopy. She said it was all just a game and everyone played the game and everyone knew the rules so I should not feel badly just because I had played by the same rules as everyone else.

But I was not so sure. I’m still not sure, to be honest.

Mind you, I have been on a few other dates and it turns out the John was the only one -so far- who turned out to be exactly who he said he was. Everyone else is doing the same thing I did! You know, old pictures, lame histories, exaggerating everything under the sun.

So maybe I should not feel so bad about it but then again it does make me kind of sad because in the end it really just means you are never going to meet anyone ‘real’ because no one is even trying to be real. So no one is ever going to be happy.

I know I’m not. I kind of wish sometimes I could have a do-over with John but that would not work anyway because if I had put who I really am in the profile he never would have come out on a date anyway.

© 2016 James Porteous

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