Time May Change Me
But I Can’t Trace Time…
The first time I tried to register with eHarmony they rejected me. They were polite about it, saying that I did not fit any of their profiles and, since they couldn’t guarantee a match, they could not take my money.
“eHarmony is based upon a complex matching system developed through extensive research with married couples. One of the requirements for successful matching is that participants fall within certain defined profiles. If we find that we will not be able to match a user using these profiles, we feel it is only fair to inform them early in the process.
We are so convinced of the importance of creating compatible matches to help people establish happy, lasting relationships that we sometimes choose not to provide service rather than risk an uncertain match.
Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched. This occurs for about 20% of potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply will not benefit from our service. We hope that you understand, and we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time.”
The eHarmony questionnaire takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete but I was trying to be as truthful as possible and took much longer – I saw no benefit in lying to a matchmaker. So, when I finally got to the end and received this gentle kiss-off letter, all I could do was laugh.
My last relationship (if you could call it that) had been close to twelve years prior, with a beautiful black woman from Kenya named Njoki (pronounced Jokey). She was going to college in Berea, a little town in Kentucky – of all places. It wasn’t much of a relationship, certainly I was more enamored with her than she was with me, and it ended badly. Jim Morrison was to blame, or specifically, Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison. We had just finished watching Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” and had a small difference of opinion about the choices Morrison made in his life. I maintained that he used drugs to escape his personal demons and ultimately committed suicide, intentionally or unintentionally. Njoki’s take was that Jim simply enjoyed his life to its fullest – live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. I simply couldn’t buy into this interpretation, so I pressed the matter. The next thing I knew, Njoki was screaming that she hated me and ran into the kitchen, opened the freezer door, and began to pelt me with ice cubes. Sounds harmless but that girl had one hell of an arm. The ice cubes cut into my forearms (which I was using to protect my face) and covered them in blood and melted ice water. When she was done, Njoki ran upstairs to my bedroom and locked the door. Okay, so some people might hear this and think, “what a nut job, freaking out over a movie.” However, anyone who has known me for a while will completely sympathize with Njoki and may even kick themselves for not thinking of ice cubes as a valid weapon. I can be quite annoying when someone doesn’t see things my way. I should probably have mentioned earlier that Njoki was visiting me in Pennsylvania for two weeks and this event happened within the first five days. We spent the rest of her visit in awkward silence, she locked away up stairs in my bedroom, only coming down for food, and I camping out in the living room.
So that was over. I didn’t really pursue another relationship after the ice attack. I instead focused on my career and decided my social life would sort itself out. It didn’t. Working freelance 24/7 and being generally antisocial didn’t help. So twelve years came and went and my career was going just fine but I wasn’t really content. It felt like I was only living half a life, my job was all I had and it was lonely. I did not want to be one of those boring people who only talk about work because they have nothing else to talk about. What I wanted was someone I could grow old and share my life with, as corny as that may sound. But there aren’t many options for a man in his mid-thirties, at least there weren’t for me. Going to clubs was not an option, never been good at the “pick up” – I’m not a “player” and I never wanted to be. Dating people I worked with was both impractical and not professional. My father used to suggest I “work” the Church but I wasn’t religious or that scummy. Fundamentally, I hated the awkwardness and ambiguity of dating, period. The idea of a matchmaking site appealed to me. It would eliminate some of the guessing game, people would be able to see my picture and read a little about me before we spoke, they would know what they were getting into and my intent would be clear. That’s where eHarmony came in. Their damned commercials were annoying but they did seem a little more trustworthy than a lot of the other internet dating sites. I worked up the nerve to give them a try, answered all their questions and was…rejected. Turned down by a website. What do you do if even the Internet won’t accept you?
After I got past the initial shock and laughter, I thought about the questionnaire. What was it really? Just a very simplistic psych test – nothing more. These tests ask the same question many different ways, expecting the subject to provide the same or similar answer each time. By establishing a predictable pattern of answers the subject can be lumped into one of the pre-prepared profiles. The problem was, like most simplistic psych tests, it didn’t take into account that the wording of a question can drastically change the emphasis of the question. In my attempt to be as accurate as possible I had given too much attention to the wording of each question and my answers were not consistent. The solution was simple, answer the basic questions and ignore the particulars and all would be well. With that plan in mind I logged back on to the eHarmony website only to find that they had blocked my email address and wouldn’t allow me a second chance. I considered an idea I had to get around their block but, by then, I had lost my patience and my nerve. So I gave up.
Over the next year I did make an attempt to be more social. I tried to go out with friends from work but that didn’t last too long. Almost all of them were getting married and were busy starting their own families. It was like an epidemic, I went to four different weddings that year. There were also a couple of incidents that either directly or indirectly, boosted my confidence. Like the night I found myself breaking into an apartment complex’s pool with two very attractive girls and my boss to go skinny dipping – very weird and more than a little uncomfortable. I was definitely too old to be making out with a couple of twenty-somethings in a pool at two in the morning but that sort of thing does tend to lift the morale a bit. There was also one person in particular who played a large part in helping me find a little self-worth and set me thinking once again about seriously dating. I briefly looked at a few other Internet dating sites but I wasn’t comfortable with them, they catered to people younger than me and seem really shallow. I decided to see if I could get off of eHarmony’s black list. I created a new email address and snuck past their crack security. I answered the questions consistently this time, still being honest but playing to their expectations. However, when I got to their questions about children I had to stop. Did I want children? Did I object to dating someone with children? At one time, in my twenties, I thought that I would like to have children but after so many years on my own and reflecting on my childhood with my father (less than a role model) the answer was no, I didn’t really want children. What the hell kind of father would I be, anyway? Certainly one that any child would be better off not having. No, I have no business being anyone’s father and that’s how I had answered the last time. This time, I paused – I was thirty-five years old, the chances of meeting someone who didn’t already have children were slim to none and, given that I’m not exactly a sex idol, I didn’t want to limit my options any more than they already were. So to the question “do you want children” I answered “maybe” and “no” to the question of whether or not I objected to dating someone with children. It wasn’t totally the truth but it wasn’t entirely a lie either. Saying “maybe” to the question of having my own children left room for discussion and I did feel more comfortable dating someone who already had children. It gave me some distance from the true parental experience. Of course I would still have a responsibility to the child but ultimately I wasn’t the child’s father, I wasn’t the one who’d been there from the beginning and if I wasn’t cutting it as a father-figure, I could always walk away. Maybe that sounds cold, but I felt that I’d rather sacrifice my relationship with someone than be a negative influence in a child’s life.
This time eHarmony found that I did fit one of their pre-prepared profiles. I was asked how far I would be willing to travel to meet someone, I chose local, and I was presented with a list of five or six potential matches. I looked them over, sent out a few feelers but none of them really caught my eye. I broadened the search to thirty mile outside of Austin – one more profile appeared. I extended it to fifty miles outside of Austin – no new profiles. I felt pretty disheartened. It was depressing to think that in all of Austin and fifty miles out, there were only seven women who even came close to being a match for me. I turned off my computer, poured a glass or three of wine and watched a movie. The next day, I went to work and didn’t think much about eHarmony or my apparent uniqueness (lucky me, too unique to attract anyone.) That night I logged on to my eHarmony account without much enthusiasm. There were the same six or seven profiles looking back at me and something else. One woman contacted me! She wasn’t one of the ones I’d sent out feelers to, she wasn’t included in my list of possible matches, this was someone new. I clicked on the link, there was a picture, it was grainy and her head was cocked at the angle of someone holding the camera at arm’s length to take their own picture. It wasn’t the best shot of her (I would come to find) but she was attractive. Her name was Rebecca Hendrickson and her profile was far more interesting than the five or six that eHarmony had sent me. And…she contacted me. I didn’t know it then, wouldn’t have even imagined it a possibility to be honest, but Rebecca Hendrickson would become my wife.