Saturday, November 12, 2016
In Search of …With Lost Loves And The Curse of On-Line Dating In Mind
By Bart Webber
In search of… that sure as hell fit Dan Hawkins’ fix, his inevitable lost love fix that had this time taken him by surprise, taken him for a spin as well. That terrible fix had a name, Moira Kiley, whom Dan had had a long, long for him at thirty, relationship with for three years, three and one half years if you included the six months he had been in shell-shock since she had left. It hadn’t been like he couldn’t have seen it coming, could have seen it coming if he had had his eyes wide open for there were signs and word fights that came very close a few times. And then there was that wake-up call time about a year before after they had gotten back from Paris, a freaking week after they both agreed that they had had a great time there and he had thought they had turned a corner, had thought about moving on from living together to marriage and such (that “and such” the question of children which he was ambiguous about and she was as well although less so).
That week after Paris one night, one Friday night, a night they called their “wine date” night which they were using then as a way to touch base with each other, time to enjoy each other and be silly if they liked, silliness not a strong suit between them was the night Moira first lowered the boom. She had told him that she was dissatisfied with their relationship in no uncertain terms, that the great time in Paris only made it clear to her that the episodic good times they had could not make up for all the times in between. Could not make up for his ill-humored fits of anger at her for no earthly reason making her afraid to mention anything in the slightest bit negative for fear of that rage that he could not or would not contain. What he one night called the “fire in his head” but which had kept her awake more than one night while he dozed off oblivious to her hurts, her sorrows dragged in her own head since childhood out in upstate New York where he tyrant father brooked no talk, much less back talk.
Could not make up for his usual indifference to her when he was hopped up on one of his work projects, one of his damn cases, one of his lawyer things. Or his exercise program, or his golf and golf buddies, or his craving for museums which bored her after about half an hour (except Paris where the museums blew here away with all the paintings she had read about since childhood) That after Paris time Moira coolly suggested to him that they go to couples counselling, something like that or she was leaving, was “going to find herself,” going find out what she was meant to do in this wicked old world (Dan’s term not hers) before it was too late (she was about to turn thirty, a critical age for such decisions as Dan had to acknowledge in his own turning thirty).
Dan, who had grown up in a strongly working-class neighborhood, the Acre, in Riverdale about thirty miles west of Boston had been no partisan of what he called, what the guys whom he hung around with there, in college, and in law school called “New Age touchy-feely stuff” and at first had balked but after several hours of discussion over that weekend as Moira literately was packing her bags he agreed. The funny thing was that once they found a suitable counselor, a New Age-type no question, in trendy Cambridge but who was very much into letting the couples have the floor, work out between themselves what ailed them, he could see the wisdom of Moira’s suggestion. Could see that his off-the-wall behaviors and her reactions were the source of their problems. And that her childhood fears of her father had been rightly or wrongly, wrongly in that he would never hit her unlike that tyrant father.
Naturally he had to “kick and scream” a bit about this therapy business but after a few sessions he was, using his term wherever there was an impasse in the session, “all in.” And so it had gone for the better part of a year before the crash, the lowering of Moira’s boom. Some sessions were good, the ones where they had to deal with each other’s hurt, hurts started in childhood with Dan having to prove he was not-bum-of-the-month which his father constantly called him and she with a father who would shut her up anytime she uttered anything, anytime. No question not a happy mixture. Some sessions, and this would be part of Moira’s final indictment of him, seemed like a match between two professional talkers, the counselor and the lawyer, with her on the outside looking in. Still he, they had held on until their summer vacation for a week up in Maine. That Maine trip was another great time, a time when they not known for goofiness had beside the usual beach and dinner out routine gone and played miniature golf (which she had fairly and squarely won and chided him kiddingly about since he was a pretty good golfer), gone to an old-fashioned drive-in theater (and “made out” in the old-fashioned kiddish way they had) and to a bowling alley (which was where he had shone although both were terrible bowlers) Then, a week after that great time, this week after a great time for Moira to spring something bad which Dan had thought a lot about the six months she had been gone, Moira lowered that final boom. After a short indictment of Dan’s short-comings, after again expressing her desire to find herself, to see what she was on earth to do she packed her bags that night and told him she was going to her sister’s house where she would stay until she found a place of her own. That was the last he had seen or heard from her except a few impersonal e-mails about forwarding her mail and forwarding her cellphone number to any friends who might call expecting that she would be found there.
For that six months since Moira had gone Dan had had time to think things through, think about what made Moira tick the way she did and how what seemed like a union of soulmates (both had used that designation when they gave each other holiday and birthday cards and the like) had turned to ashes with nothing in the end left behind. So he had been sad, been in a funk, and had worked like seven banshees to try to get her out of his mind, to move on. Then one day he realized that working twelve hour days and moping around was not going to either bring her back or allow him to move on. That six months had been in any case the longest he had been without a woman, been without some girlfriend, serious or not. Dan was now aching to get back into “the game” even if he had been sobered up about his own short-comings and was slightly apprehensive about getting back into a relationship, serious or not.
Dan was not sure how to go about finding somebody since he felt that he was too old to go to the bar-hopping “meat-market” and he did not meet many available, or desirable, women in his profession so he left his feelings to stir for a while. One afternoon he heard a fellow male lawyer on his cellphone talking to somebody in such a way that he knew it was a female and that he did not know the woman well. Once the fellow lawyer saw that Dan had overheard the conversation and knowing through “water cooler” talk of his alone status mentioned that he had found Susan, the woman that he was talking to on the phone and with whom he had just set up their first date, on a well-known on-line dating service. He asked Dan to try this approach since they had vaguely talked about how hard it was to meet interesting women who were in the same profession as they were. Dan laughed and said no way that he was going to “meet” somebody, who knows some monster or serial killer, through the Internet. He had always found a girlfriend the old-fashioned way-meet them and then get their phones numbers if he was interested and go from there. But that conversation put a bug in Dan’s ear.
The long and short of it was that a couple of weeks later he decided to try “just for kicks” this new form of dating and signed up for the same service he fellow lawyer said he used. At first he was put off by the idea of paying for a dating service which despite the “come-on” of a free membership entailed payment if you wanted to get anywhere (and before he succumbed to payment he was badgered endlessly by the service about the benefits of membership). What floored him though was the questions he was supposed to answer to fill out his on-line “profile” (complete with on-line moniker-he used zackjames12 after his old friend from high school as a name he would remember easily when he logged into the site). He filled out some of the formation, left some of it blank, told little white lies about some stuff like what he was looking for in a woman which really amounted to getting somebody under the sheets, somebody to have sex with and see what happened after that but he pulled up with some bullshit about a “meeting of the minds”. Profiled flipped he clicked and he was off.
Or Dan thought he was off but as it turned out he was having trouble connecting with most of the women on-line, probably because they were not Moira. One night when he was his father’s house in Riverdale he mentioned that since Moira had left him he had not had a girlfriend and then told the story about how he joined an on-line dating service but was not having much success except a few “chats” and a couple of cellphone calls that turned out to be not worth pursuing. He was down in the dumps about the situation. Dan’s father, Jethro, had to laugh. Women troubles would always plague the Hawkins men it seemed. Dan and his father had been estranged for several years after his father had divorced his mother to run after some other woman which had not worked out either. Dan had taken his late mother’s side and that had led to the years of estrangement (as had that constant belittling of him by Jethro). They had reconciled at his mother’s funeral and would periodically meet for supper and the elder Hawkins’ house.
Beyond the seemingly endless women troubles of the Hawkins’ men the reason that Jethro had laughed at Dan was that he had a few years before joined the very site Dan had joined, or the senior version of that same site, Seniors Please. Jethro had always been a lady’s man of sorts, had had several girlfriends after he had left his wife and his girlfriend he was abandoning her for left him. He told Dan that over the past few years it was getting harder to meet women in the flesh. Those he came in contact with now that he was retired were concerned more about their grandchildren than dating men or else they were too young and didn’t have a clue about what he was talking about when he mentioned the hell he had raised in the 1960s. One had threatened to call the cops when he mentioned that he still liked to smoke grass and was glad that a number of states were allowing recreational purchases. Wished Massachusetts would get on the stick about it and stop keeping it as some goddam crime. So he was reduced to going on-line, or that was the way he put it to his son that night.
Jethro told Dan that he had had the same troubles at first in reconciling the old-fashioned way he had always previously met women just as Dan had in the days before cellphones, on-line credit card payments and the Internet. But eventually he got the hang of it. Realized that all he had to do was write a couple of cogent paragraphs and the women would jump at the chance to meet him. Well not quite that easy but it seemed from what the women told him when they “chatted,” on-line, on the phone or the few he met for a date that most of the guys, older guys remember, who trolled these sites were loons, guys who thought they were twenty-something and talked boyish sex talk or about how nice some mature woman would look in a black dress and high heels. He had learned to avoid the on-line grandmothers whose idea of being appealing to a man, an older man, was to fill their profile pages with photographs of each and every grandchild. Had learned to avoid sixty-something women who had never been married since what the hell would they know about life. Was lukewarm about women who had children at home but overall he had taken the position that the rest were worth checking out-and not be too choosy looking over the on-line “meat market, senior version.” They talked some more about the do’s and don’t like don’t give a woman your real e-mail address since one woman still sends him messages about getting together and he had blown her off months before and don’t respond to anybody, woman or man, who asks for money early on, or ever. That dough will be long gone.
That night Dan when he went back to his Cambridge apartment he turned on his computer and worked for a few hours “hitting” on every good-looking woman who did not look like a mass murderer and who could write a couple of complete paragraphs. But mostly that they did not look like or sound like Moira and that depressed him. Yeah, in search of …