My father’s daughter …

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One of my most favorite pictures in the world is a black and white photo – the really old kodak square photo with the white border – that was taken just after I was born. My dad is holding me, a little white bundle, and he’s looking very suave in his dark suit and really skinny dark tie. The backdrop is very recognizable for anyone from my home town – it’s a picturesque park with a rock garden, on the edge of the escarpment that runs through the middle of the city.

My dad looks really young in that picture, very thin with jet black hair. In the white bundle, you can see a bunch of the same black hair. Like my own kids, I must have been born needing a haircut. I think the reason why I love the photo so much, is that my dad is looking down at me. Not looking at the camera. And in that moment captured by film, you see a brand new dad enamored with his brand new daughter.

Over the years there would be hundreds of photos taken with my dad. Most of them would be family photos, including my mom and my sister. But not too many of just the two of us. As the owner of a fancy home movie camera in the 1970’s and a really cool 35mm camera in the 1980’s, my dad was often behind the lens too. Which might be one of the reasons why there are so few photos of just the two of us.

And even though I get most of my physical looks from my mother, I am my father’s daughter. We are so very similar in personality – social, joyful and kind, and at times, emotional, stubborn and hot headed. Over the years, because we weren’t as even tempered as my mom and sister, we had our run ins, but I always knew he was there for me.

And he has been the consistent male influence in my life, and occasionally offered his opinion on my relationship choices in life, but ultimately he offered his support. He was not pleased when my first marriage ended because he feared what would happen to the 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son, but always came every Tuesday to pick up my kids from school and prepare a family dinner. When I had troubles with the alcoholic second husband, he welcomed me back into his home while I tried to make an impossible situation better.

And even though we didn’t really talk about my year of online dating, I knew he was following the blog. I’m not sure what he thought of the candidness of the posts, but when the blog was nominated for an award, he was one of the very first to say congratulations, and that he was proud of me. I know my dad wants the best for me, which is to find the love and happiness that I write about.

My dad always lives his life on his terms, making his own decisions. And because I’m my father’s daughter, I have tried to do the same. We make the conscious decision to wake up happy every day, and make the most of each day. And that’s what we try to do.

Sparkle, history, intimacy and commitment ….

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The benefits of working with a wonderful therapist not only includes the ability to work through your issues with an intelligent and thoughtful third party, but also the encouragement to learn from your mistakes and be better for next time. And in my case, to finally figure out what I’m looking for in a relationship.

She sent me home with homework over the past couple of weeks, and the most interesting one was to write down my definition of love. Love? After two marriages, and nearly a year of blogging about online dating, you would think that I would be able to pen an eloquent missive about love. But for a couple of days, I was actually completely blank.

I was really struggling with the concept of love so I decided to listen to my iPhone for inspiration:

“So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames. You can tell me when it’s over. If the high was worth the pain..”

“If you want to keep me, you gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta, got to love me harder…”

“First kiss like just like a drug, under your influence. You take me over, you’re the magic in my veins. This must be love…”

Besides the fact that I have the musical tastes of a 16 year old girl, I realized that my definition of love in these lyrics, was kind of similar to what my therapist said were components of the most successful relationships – sparkle, history, intimacy and commitment.

So my definition starts with trying to describe that tingly feeling in your core during the first kiss. And that feeling that I’m melting into a pool of goo every time he kisses my shoulder and neck. Chemistry or sparkle.

And my definition has to include having common interests so we enjoy our time together – whether it’s talking on the phone for hours (yes people still do that), shopping at Costco, hiking or renovating a bathroom. And in those common interests we would build new shared memories together. Commonality or history.

The next two things are things that I didn’t realize that I need, but now know that I want.

Intimacy comes when you can be your true self with that person. I’ve never been able to do this and I crave it desperately. To feel so comfortable and safe, that I can say what I truly feel and not worry that he would criticize or leave. And he would feel equally safe to be his true self. In that safety is the knowledge that even if one of us has a bad day, we know we have each other’s back. If we don’t see eye to eye, we will talk it through because we want to.

And finally commitment. I want someone who wants me as much as I want him. Willing to love me harder. Because I would love him harder. And there is no fear about talking about the future because we both feel the same way, and are working towards the same goals. There is no fear that it’s going to go down in flames because it will be forever.

So is this possible? I think so. And I hope he thinks so too.

It’s just coffee and don’t stalk me dude…

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In the last year I decided what I like and don’t like in a potential date. Some people have a list of physical attributes – like height, fitness level, clean shaven or not. And some people add common interests into the mix – do you like the same type of music, sports and movies? For me, it’s a combination of those things but also a feeling of safety.

But it’s not until you start to talk to someone, that you can see if your spidey sense is saying this is an ok guy or not. It’s funny how good old intuition is crucial in this age of digital dating.

This one fellow on Match made it very clear he was looking for just a friend – he was widowed and stated in his profile that he was just looking for the occasional dinner or movie date. So we started to email each other, and the spidey sense sensed something wasn’t quite right. It might have been the 33 emails that he sent me, or the fact that he “liked” me on Match 10 times. Despite that, I thought, let’s meet for a coffee and see how things go in person.

He clearly was thinking about our meeting more than me, because before the coffee date he sent me a 500 word essay about the death of his wife and how he just only wanted a friend. My answer to him? If you are not ready to date, then don’t. It’s just coffee. Nothing else.

So the coffee date came and went, and I get another email asking to see me again with his full name. I said maybe to the second date and purposely told him that I’m not giving him my last name until I feel comfortable. I told him that it’s pretty easy to google and creep online and it’s my preference to try to get to know each other the old fashioned way – by talking.

The next email I received from him was an apology because he took snippets of our coffee conversation and information from my profile to find me online. And that even though it’s wrong what he did, he’s a good guy because he disclosed his actions. In the rest of the email he proceeded to tell me that I had breast cancer and that my husband was an alcoholic.

I emailed him back and told him to call me at my home number because he also now knew that number and where I lived, thanks to Canada 411.

Me – “…how did you find out my last name?”

Him – “It wasn’t easy. You said your daughter’s first name and your profile said your kids played hockey. So I searched for her then I had to do some extra digging to find you.”

Me – Absolutely horrified and extremely pissed off. “You did what??”

Him – “It was the only way to find you…I know you are mad, and I don’t blame you…but you have to understand, you are the one and I had to find out more about you …”

Me – “Don’t stalk me dude.” And I proceeded to block him from everything I could.

And as much as I know my personal information is out there, I still think the best way to build trust and get to know someone is to let them tell you their story in their own words, and letting me do the same. And stalking is so not good.

I love the players, and you love the game …

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I really love the new Taylor Swift song. My kids are sick of me playing it already and it’s only been a couple of days. I heard that she’s a good songwriter and I’m not really familiar with her music, but the lyrics of “Blank Space” is a perfect reflection of how I feel about dating. Never mind that I’m old enough to be her mother, Taylor Swift has captured the essence of what it’s like to be on this endless journey of meeting players and getting played.

Match and other online dating sites are really the best places to observe this type of human behavior. It’s the natural habitat of the player. And the anonymity of being online behind a user name is the perfect way for the player to look for his prey. The perfect pictures taken years ago, the carefully worded profile, the well placed “wink” or “favorite”, and all the flattering words to grab your attention once contact has been made – the player reaches out by making you feel special and that you are the only woman that he’s found on the site that is worthy of his affection.

But sometimes the player doesn’t realize how smart his victim might be. Especially when she has a friend on the same dating site.

So what happens when the player is played? Something quite awesome.

My friend was contacted by a fellow on Match the other day. Which isn’t an extraordinary event, because she is approached by men all the time. But what made this one special was that I had dated this boy earlier this year – for not that long, but long enough to get to know him, and hear his words of how special I am and that he wanted to be with me. I ended up going back to the one I thought I loved, so it ended.

My friend knew that I had seen the boy, and like any amazing friend would, asked if I would be ok if she responded to him. “Of course!!” I said. “Just because it didn’t work out for me, doesn’t mean it might not work out for you.”

So over the course of the evening, they traded emails, then phone numbers, and the texting began.

My friend – “So how long have you been on Match?”

Him – “I just joined a couple of weeks ago. You are the first woman that I’ve reached out to.” The player is starting to reveal himself.

My friend – “Really? I’m the first woman that you have contacted on an online dating site?” My friend wanted to ask clear questions to get a straight answer.

Him – “Yes. I’m so lucky to have found you.” My friend decides to dig a little further.

My friend – “So you are saying that I’m the only woman that you have given your number to, and have texted.”

Him – “Yes. I’m pretty new to all this.”

My girlfriend and I laughed so hard when she told me about this exchange. We can’t wait for him to contact her again. Maybe…they could arrange to meet for a drink, and I would show up unexpectedly and ask to join them. And ask the player how he’s enjoyed his year on Match.

And like the song goes … “Got a long list of ex-lovers, They’ll tell you I’m insane, Cause you know I love the players, And you love the game.”

You’re trying too hard…

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Sometimes a male point of view (and not the one that you were dating) is a good thing. They provide perspective that I don’t receive from my girlfriends. These men can be protective – one friend wants to screen my future dates (I think he was kidding but serious at the same time?), another friend explains the male psyche and what men want. In a weird way they provide validation that I’m doing the right things and I won’t be alone.

And by listening to these men, I stop myself from thinking about his words. I almost didn’t use “you’re trying too hard”, for the title of this post. It has bad memory recall for me. He said it often when things were going wrong between us. I can look back now and see where that was true – I was trying too hard to keep the relationship going. But ultimately if one person is trying their very best and the other indifferent, it can’t last for long. It’s like a house – it needs a strong foundation with four walls, and not half of a basement.

And what is trying too hard?

In my case it happens when I start to second guess my intuition and good judgement. It’s when I justify bad behaviors as normal ones. Where red flags become “that’s what everyone does, so it’s ok”. When I’m so blissfully happy and hopeful that things are going well, that I don’t say anything, when I should. And in that process it will look like I’m not being myself, because I’m not.

I recently went on a date with a guy who I thought was “trying to hard”. And it’s awkward because I was thinking that couldn’t possibly be the real him. And in that awkwardness, there was no attraction, even though he wasn’t bad looking, had a great job, etc. I feel kind of bad for him, because he’s making the same mistake that I did.

So it’s time to replace “you’re trying too hard” with “just be yourself”.

I recently had coffee with a male friend who helped me see the validity of the above statement. He speaks with great phrasing that is sometimes over the top. This brought a smile to my face and visual is perfect.

My friend – “Maybe you’re trying too hard. It’s like fishing with the wrong lure. Maybe you need to throw a bikini top on, throw a six pack in the boat, sit back and wait for the fish to jump in.”

Now drinking a Stella while catching some sun in a bikini, is definitely me.

On Match to get off Match …

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After updating my pictures and profile, I put myself back out there. And unfortunately I’m seeing the same things as I did back in January – lots of old men looking at me (and I mean old, try 86 years old!). And lots of guys who don’t have pictures, which is a huge red flag. Because even the non-attractive posts pictures.

Here is the public service announcement of the day for those who are on Match. If you are not going to post any pictures with your profile, then please send your subscription money to your favorite charity. No one will click on your profile. Don’t waste your money on a paid site, and use your money to help mankind. You can be ignored for free on other dating sites.

The pictures are important but so is the profile. And a catchy headline doesn’t hurt. I personally like the ones with humor – like “Help me I’m trapped!”, or “Ha! Made you look!”. And because I was previously vague the last time I was online, I made my intentions more clear with this headline – “On Match to get off Match”.

And because I’m on Match only for the distraction right now and not reaching out (keep on telling myself no expectations, take my time), I’m quite enjoying the profiles for the entertainment factor. I forgot how online dating can provide excellent content for this blog. For the most part, guys write great descriptions. And then there are some who don’t.

– “I’ve been on Match for 10 years…” I don’t think long tenure on this site is something you want to advertise.

– “…sharpen your pencils and put away the ’80s eyeshadow. I’m not bringing out the smoke ‘n mirrors” – What??

– “…if I have to start another relationship with someone who needs a uHaul for all the emotional baggage from their last marriage, I’m going to cash in my Kenny G tickets, and start investing in Kleenex stock” – Wow. That’s not bitter at all.

– “I believe in CARMA. What goes around comes around” – Spellcheck please.

– ” I have some texture and taste issues with food” – Hmmm. Can’t imagine what a date with you would look like?

– “If YOUR looking for a great guy, look KNOW further” – Really? I hope that’s spellcheck and not you.

– “I’m not going to put a lot here, because no one reads the profiles” – Umm, yes I do read the profiles and most people do.

– “I will bring a joy to her boring life…” – Maybe English is not your first language but you should really have someone proof read your writing before you post it.

– “I believe in king size beds or even separate beds if that works better” – King size beds maybe but I’m not Lucy Ricardo in a 50s era sitcom.

– “I’m reading 50 shades of grey, really I am…” – Not impressive and so yesterday. Beyond yesterday. Try four years ago.

I’m really beginning to wonder if Tinder is the way to go.

My decision to go back ….

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It’s like pulling off a bandaid. Or getting back on the horse after a fall. Or getting back on the Leafs bandwagon after another loss. Or any other euphemism to describe the fear I have about re-entering the world of online dating.

I knew that I had to eventually update my pictures and unhide the profile. My friends are worried that I am going back too soon or for the wrong reasons. I think I just need the distraction. And because I learned some valuable lessons from this past relationship, I do have a different viewpoint about being on Match now, than I did a year ago.

It’s no longer all about finding “the one” and “the elusive something”, although I still want off Match. But more about recognizing what I want – be myself – and what I need to do – take my time. It took me a year of dating to figure out that the articles to attract and keep a guy didn’t work because they were not my words and actions. And because I was rushing for the future, I did some pretty stupid things because I didn’t take the time to think. So many mistakes.

What can I do differently?

– Take suggestions from dating articles, books and podcasts with grain of salt. Some of the tips can be useful (don’t reveal too much in early dates, ask open ended questions, take time responding), and some are questionable (how to sext after the first date, how to text your ex back). But the common theme that is useful to remember – be confident in who you are.

– Trust your intuition right from day one. If he says or does something that doesn’t sit well with you, have a discussion at that moment, in a calm manner. I let things go too many times, because I thought it was too soon to speak up.

– And don’t find the courage to finally speak up after you’ve had too much wine.

– Who I am with my friends and family is the true me. And that person should be at all dates, right from the start. If I’m not scared to say or act as myself with a friend, it should be the same on a date.

– And why can it be the same? Because you have trust in your relationships with friends and family. And building trust, even in the early days of dating, is just as important as chemistry and commonality.

And with my decision to go back on Match, there is no pressure to find a date, to work the program, not right now. It’s a diversion to help forget and move on. No expectations. And taking my time.