In honor of The Sun’s fiftieth year in print, we’re revisiting topics that have appeared in past issues and reprinting some of the original responses. “The Personals” (updated here to “Dating Apps”) first ran in our December 1994 issue.
I was feeling isolated after moving from California to Alaska. My dad encouraged me to try a dating app, which, despite being in my late twenties, I had never done. He said it could be a way to make friends and maybe even find a community. (I’m not sure he knew how dating apps work.) “What do you have to lose?” he asked.
I went on one Tinder date and met the woman who is now my wife. I was drawn to C.C.’s profile because she included a picture of herself bleeding from the head after a rock-climbing mishap — a notable contrast to the carefully curated glamour of all the other profiles. She must be different, I thought. It turned out I was right.
And, I must admit, so was my dad.
I started my Tinder conversation with Greg by saying that I liked his face. It was a welcome departure from the slack, sallow, jowly faces I’d swiped past in the last few months. He was square-jawed and bright-eyed and even had a dimple that hadn’t been swallowed by age.
“I like your face, too,” he replied. “Aren’t you the pet detective who helped me search for my cat last year?”
This snapped me out of my dating-app torpor. I am indeed a pet detective. How could I have forgotten this handsome client? Oh, right: I was married last year and therefore excluded from the dating pool.
I searched my contacts to fill in my memory: Greg already had an elderly cat when Charley, a stray with an abscess on his cheek, appeared on Greg’s porch. He decided to take Charley to the vet for treatment, but the cat carrier broke open in the parking lot, and the cat ran. Greg hired me and my search dog, Murphy, at considerable expense to help him find Charley. Though the cat was never found, Greg’s commitment to Charley demonstrated that he was a compassionate guy, which seemed to bode well for dating him. Perhaps he would appreciate my unusual career choice and tolerate the rather high number of dogs who shared my home.
The preciousness of our meeting and Greg’s good looks blinded me to reality for quite some time. Let’s just say a cat was Greg’s perfect companion: content to gaze at him from a distance, happy to bask in his occasional affection, and satisfied with little more than a bowl of dry kibble.
A year after my ex-husband and I separated, he showed up as a potential match for me on Tinder. It was difficult to see pictures of him looking more chiseled and handsome than when we’d been together. His bio made him seem happier than ever, playfully describing everything I’d loved about him. But the most painful part was that my ex had selected to match with women even though, when he’d left me, he’d said he was gay.
I immediately made an appointment with a therapist. After six months of sessions I was able to accept that whatever my ex was going through had nothing to do with me. When I asked my therapist how I could trust that someone new wouldn’t leave me, she replied, “You can’t. You just have to feel comfortable taking a risk.”
Four years later I received an email from someone named Nieve with the subject line “I’m so sorry.” It was my ex, a year into her transition and about to undergo the first of many surgeries. We reconnected and now see each other regularly for coffee, drinks, and movies. The risk I took marrying this person was worth it for the friendship we’ve been able to maintain — despite a few changes.
Once, when my daughter returned to college after a break, I went into her room to make the bed and noticed a journal on the floor. I opened it and read a paragraph, then immediately wished I hadn’t. I had learned she was using dating apps to have sex with strangers.
I am a survivor of rape. The attack changed my life, and as a mother I always tried to protect my daughter. In high school she would roll her eyes when I set a curfew and asked her where she was going and with whom. I just wanted to keep her safe.
A year earlier my daughter had told me that most young people used dating apps to hook up, that it was normal. I’d said I wasn’t morally opposed to women choosing to pursue sexual pleasure on their own terms; I just didn’t think it was safe to make oneself so vulnerable with a total stranger.
Now that I knew my daughter was doing this, how could I not think of it every time she asked to borrow my car? What if she went out and never came back? How would I find her? How could I trust her to be safe? And how could she trust me if she knew I’d read her journal?
My trauma had made me so overprotective that I’d violated a boundary with my daughter. I had the sickening realization that I was endangering our relationship in my effort to protect her from something that might have already happened. The next time my daughter came home, I straight up asked her if she had ever been raped or sexually assaulted. It was a difficult question to ask, but it started a conversation.
In my twenties I met my long-term boyfriend on a city bus. In my thirties I met my husband at the finish line of a 5K road race. Now divorced and in my forties, I’ve turned to online dating.
The first guy I met canceled our date three days before it was supposed to happen. Later I found out it was because he had to attend his own wedding. The next man repeatedly mentioned that he’d gone to Harvard. It was the one thing about him that turned out to be true. I slunk away from those experiences and became more discerning in how I made matches. A Google search and an initial phone call helped screen out bad dates.
I’ve been at this for four years now, and not one match has evolved into romance. The major advantage of online dating is that I’m more likely to find someone who shares my values and interests than I am on, say, a city bus. But online dating lacks serendipity. There is something to be said for a chance encounter — the hint of fate, the initial chemistry. When I met people in person, desire often overrode impracticalities and lack of things in common. Now I am almost too cerebral in my approach. I meet each stranger for a walk or coffee first. I slowly get to know them. Nothing physical transpires right away, and, by the time it might, my level of interest isn’t strong enough to balance his troubled children, his allergy to cats, or his obsession with his work.
I am happy by myself, but I still try from time to time: because I would like to have a partner who knows the details of my day-to-day routine; because I want someone in my life who can provide affection and intimacy; because I remember what it was like to be in love.
White River Junction, Vermont
“What type of women do you like?”
It seemed like an innocuous question, but I drew a blank. Though I’d been out as a lesbian for nearly two decades, I had never really thought about my type before. After a few fumbling dating experiences in my late twenties, I had fallen in love and committed myself to one woman. There was never supposed to be a life after her.
But here I was, forty-something and newly single. With fifty-fifty child custody, I had time on my hands, which is why I’d said yes to a dinner invitation from two women I knew only through professional circles. When I told them about the end of my relationship, they encouraged me to try online dating.
I had no idea where to start. I hadn’t been on a first date since 1995 and had never downloaded a dating app. Propelled by my dining partners’ enthusiasm — I called them my lesbian fairy godmothers — I set up an account. The initial questions about age, height, and gender were easy to answer, but others left me stumped. The app asked about hobbies. For so long my life had revolved around kids, partner, and work. Who had time for hobbies? Apparently a lot of people. Their profiles showed them playing softball, basketball, and golf; traveling to Iceland and the Bahamas; and enjoying fine dining and art galleries. They knew what they wanted sexually, too, and weren’t afraid to write about it: Top. Bottom. Kink. Poly.
I felt like a time traveler ill-equipped to navigate the norms of an unfamiliar future. Fortunately one of my fairy godmothers came to my rescue, advising me to keep my answers light and fun and not to focus on my past. Building my profile felt like crafting a new life.
In the months and years that ensued, there were dates, make-out sessions, and full-blown love affairs. There was a cop who looked tough in her uniform but liked cuddling in bed. There was a cynical lawyer who was secretly writing a novel. There were sober women and women who drank. There were awkward moments and tender ones. It was thrilling and unpredictable. Eventually I discovered what type of women I like: Butch, gender nonconforming, maybe with a tattoo or two. Intellectual but not stuffy. Witty. Affectionate. A good listener. My self-confidence grew along with my clarity about my desires. It was my lesbian adolescence, finally delivered to me through the unlikely medium of my phone screen.
San Carlos, California
“Medium-sized, thirty-something gay male looking for same. Enjoys fine arts and fitness. New-age beliefs a must.”
I fit the description except for one detail: Was I “new age”? I didn’t know what that was, but I decided I was at least open-minded, so I responded to the ad.
We met at a mall to see a movie. If he was new age, it seemed appealing enough: he appeared to exist in a constant state of euphoria. But the truth is it wasn’t his blissfulness that appealed to me but his cute butt. I was attracted to him, so when he talked about his first love — swimming with manatees — I convinced myself I really was interested in spending three times my savings account on diving equipment to commune with sea cows in frigid, freshwater streams.
On our second date he told me all about the movie we’d seen on our first date — obviously forgetting that I was the person with whom he’d seen it. Was he new age or space-age? Finally I went out and bought his suggested list of new-age books in the hope that we would have more to talk about. But soon I admitted to myself that we had little in common. We spoke once or twice by phone but no more.
The irony is, though I lost interest in him, I devoured the books. They opened my eyes to the spirit that I had always sensed lived within me but that I could never find for want of a proper guide.
The Buddha teaches there are many paths to God: I found mine through the personals.
I joined eharmony shortly after my divorce. I was forty-five and had been married for eighteen years. I remember sitting at my desk filling out the grueling compatibility questionnaire. One of the questions was “Do you know how to bone a fish?” Is this a requirement for dating? I wondered.
I played message ping-pong and set up a date with a man named Mark. We both had two kids and loved golden retrievers. In hindsight I should have required more points of compatibility. Mark picked me up for our dinner date in a meticulously clean BMW that smelled like leather. As I buckled my seat belt, I noticed he was holding a neatly folded white towel. I thought he had back problems and needed it for lumbar support. I have back problems, too — another area of compatibility! Then he unfolded the towel and draped it around his shoulders.
“I wear a towel when I drive to protect my seats from my skin oil,” he said.
I couldn’t help but laugh. I tried to rationalize: He takes good care of his things. He’s probably a man who does his own laundry. Then he handed me my towel. I considered not wearing it — I didn’t feel oily — but I decided to be polite.
When we arrived at the “restaurant,” I was surprised to find myself at a Dairy Queen. Mark got out of the car and took off his towel cape, but I left mine on. If I was going to eat dinner at a Dairy Queen, I was going to enjoy that Heath Blizzard like a damn superhero. What was my superpower? Being polite. Also denial.
After we ate, we got back in the car, and Mark donned his terry-cloth cloak of incompatibility and said, “If you’re still hungry, there’s a banana in the back seat.”
Was this some strange, middle-aged sexual innuendo? No. There was literally a banana in the back seat, sitting on top of another neatly folded white towel.
Two months ago I joined Bumble — one of the swipe-right-swipe-left apps — and even though I confuse my swipe directions a lot, I still managed to meet a pretty incredible human. He is hilarious and hasn’t once asked me to wear a towel. I hope it works out, but if it doesn’t, I’m still a damn superhero.
The light from my phone screen dimly illuminates my bedroom, where I sit atop my unmade bed and start my nightly routine of swiping. I swipe so much that all the Tinder profiles blend together. I swipe for what feels like forever, dividing people into two categories: like or not. This is no way to go about dating, or life.
Eventually a match is struck. Her name is Sydney. We briefly feign interest in each other’s lives, but we both know that Tinder is for fucking, not relationships.
She comes to my place, and we barely attempt a conversation before we remove our clothes. The sex is emotionless, almost lifeless — just two people going through a script. Sydney leaves as quickly and quietly as she arrived. When the door closes, my shame returns.
Whenever I open Tinder, I’m trying to forget the one who could never blend in with the rest. Her smell left me intoxicated. Her smile lit up my gloomy days. And when we had sex, it was a beautiful, vulnerable act of love.
Yorba Linda, California
In college I was sexually curious and wanted to experiment with having a threesome, so I downloaded a dating app. I found a stunning couple, and we decided to meet at an ice-cream parlor.
When I got there, I didn’t recognize them at first. They looked nothing like their photos. After we ordered some ice cream, the couple skipped the small talk and launched straight into their sexual interests and expectations. I glanced around uncomfortably during the X-rated conversation. The place was full of parents with young children.
I can’t say what possessed me to get in a car with these two, but I did, and we headed to a grocery store, where they picked out the largest cucumber I had ever seen. They told me that I needed to use it to “practice” for certain sexual activities they expected me to participate in. They wanted video evidence of me putting the cucumber in places no cucumber should ever go. At that point I came to my senses. Once we were safely out of the store, I bade them goodbye, blocked their numbers, and deleted the app. I gave the cucumber to my mom, who put it where it belonged: in a salad.
It was Jonathan’s glistening bald head, shining as brightly as his smile, that led me to swipe right on Bumble late one April afternoon. Within an hour we were texting and making plans for our first date.
We chose a Saturday, when we could meet at the farmers market and sample the early spring greens. A few days before our date I came down with strep throat and started a round of amoxicillin. As the pain eased, red patches emerged from my forehead to my neck — a reaction to the antibiotics. I looked like a child with chicken pox and called Jonathan to postpone. He wanted to go ahead. If I was no longer contagious — I was not — then he saw no reason not to meet. A rash, he declared, would not deter him. I begrudgingly agreed, though I did not want to be seen in public like this, especially by a potential new beau.
At the market I heard someone call my name and turned to see Jonathan coming toward me, smiling and waving a red Sharpie. He had covered his smooth head with spots, explaining that he wanted to be the focus of the stares, not me. I ran my hand over his scalp, and my apprehension melted away.
After three divorces and the end of a thirteen-year partnership, I was alone at the age of seventy-six and struggling to adjust to my newfound freedom. To fill the man-shaped void in my life, I signed up for OurTime, a dating app for seniors. I scrolled through scores of faded Polaroid photos of men, annoyed that they didn’t post something more current. Equally off-putting were the photos of men posing with cars, as if they were a puffed-up pigeon wooing a potential mate. I saw nothing I couldn’t live without.
Then, while waiting for the sedation to wear off after a colonoscopy, I decided to check my email. There was a message from OurTime: “Someone wants to meet you!” Feeling uncharacteristically carefree and relaxed, I opened it. I discovered there were two men whose interests seemed to match mine. After emails and phone chats I made arrangements to meet each of them in a public place. I didn’t share this information with my children or friends. I wanted to enjoy my slightly naughty secret.
The first man was shorter than I am but otherwise resembled his photo. He complimented my appearance, then led me to the counter to order a drink. As I sipped tea, he told me he was planning a trip to London. He said he and his business partner were just two months away from a huge payout on a years-long investment, and the one thing he’d always wanted to buy when he got rich was a new suit from Savile Row in London. He asked me what my favorite car was and even suggested that he might buy one for me. When he told me the investment was in Nigeria and that government paperwork was the last hurdle, I felt my stomach turn. I warned him that he might have been scammed, but he dismissed my concerns, saying that he trusted his business partner’s experience and investment savvy. I wished him luck.
The second man was more disappointing in person. He had a skinny frame, stooped posture, and cracked, coffee-stained teeth. At lunch he chewed with his mouth open. Afterward I suggested dessert at a bakery down the street. On the way he grabbed my hand. This guy doesn’t like to waste time, I thought. But after a certain age, none of us has that much time to waste. So I gave him a pass.
The next week I had a medical appointment, and I suggested he meet me at the clinic, and we’d go for coffee afterward. We laughed at the fact that our senior date would include a doctor appointment. When I returned to the waiting room with my neck bandaged, I was surprised by how comforting it was to be greeted by a man who smiled and asked how I was feeling. He even got me coffee and a cookie that I hadn’t asked for. This is a nice guy, I thought.
He called me later, and we talked about his garden. He offered to bring me some tomatoes. “Speaking of tomatoes,” he said, “are you one? A hot tomato?” I just laughed. He went on to confess that he was looking for a physical relationship, because his late wife had been cold, and he was starved for affection and sex. I told him I enjoyed sex, but I thought we should get to know each other first. He said he understood. Then, after we hung up, he texted me a photo of his bed. I decided not to give him another pass.
My advice: avoid checking your email for at least twenty-four hours after a colonoscopy.
Four years ago I confided to one of my coworkers that I was running a personal ad in a Boston weekly. He promised not to tell anyone, but the next day at lunch he blurted out my secret. A woman at the table remarked that anyone who ran a personal ad must be desperate and that she would never run one. My stomach sank.
That night I had my first date with a woman who responded to my ad. Four years later Caroline and I are still together.
The woman who laughed at me at the lunch table didn’t realize that it’s OK to feel desperate. Why should we be ashamed of how we feel? I desperately wanted to share my love with someone. What could be wrong with that?
After more than twenty years as a couple, my partner and I were good traveling companions. I enjoyed climbing Mayan temples and exploring the Louvre with him. Sadly our compatibility did not extend to the bedroom. Though we still slept in the same bed, physical intimacy was infrequent beyond a light good-night kiss. The issue was mismatched libidos: I wanted more sex; he thought I was oversexed and vigilantly attempted to tamp down my drive. I felt resentful and undesired, yet I followed the unspoken rules: only on Sunday morning; no playful innuendos; don’t talk about it.
When we went on vacation to New Zealand, I forgot my phone, so I borrowed my partner’s to check my email. He unlocked it for me, then went to take a shower. After checking my primary account, I went to another that I used with a couple of online groups. The app opened to his email account, and I immediately saw a few messages that referenced Scruff — a dating app for gay men. Excited and a little anxious, I opened the Scruff app and read his profile. So he wasn’t sexless. His profile gave me a new perspective. It gave me hope. And it gave me a reason to start a conversation.
Recently I was sitting in my hotel room in Washington, D.C., 2,600 miles from home, when I wondered how the dating pool there compared to California. So I went on Bumble. The plan was just to look — it was shortly before midnight, and I was leaving the next day — but I came across an interesting profile, swiped right, and boom: it was a match. I hesitated for a moment, then started a conversation. He responded right away. I asked casually if he wanted to hang out. As in, right now.
I usually text with a man for a few days before propositioning him, but this was an unusual situation. He said he lived in Maryland and had just gotten home from D.C. It would take him two hours to get dressed and drive back into the city. I tried to coax him into it. After some back and forth, he asked, “Are you trying to have sex with me tonight?”
“I’m not looking for anything specific,” I responded. Which was my cryptic way of saying yes.
It’s difficult to admit, but for the past year I’ve been using dating apps to find casual sexual partners. I crave physical intimacy without the emotional responsibility of a relationship. I want a no-strings arrangement, where I’m not burdened by anyone else’s emotions. I rarely save the men’s numbers to my phone or even call them by their name. Instead I give them nicknames to avoid getting attached.
Most of the men I hook up with probably think they’re being catfished, but they take the risk and show up anyway. To their surprise, the real me matches my profile: midforties, gainfully employed, funny. I even look like my picture.
These fleeting sexual encounters allow me to escape the reality of being a widow. My husband died suddenly five years ago. Even though I still desire a partner to share my life with, the thought of having to start over, after investing fourteen years building a life with someone, seems impossible. So when the loneliness becomes overwhelming, I turn to my phone.
After my divorce in 2013 I was inundated with suggestions to try online dating. I resisted at first because I wanted to take my time. After a year of singledom I brought the subject up with my therapist. I hated dating, I explained. I didn’t want to fritter away two hours on cocktails and niceties. I wanted to get to know someone through deep conversation. The convenience of dating apps only promised more of the types of encounters that I didn’t want in the first place. I believed someone phenomenal would appear eventually, when the time was right.
“Where?” my therapist asked. “On your couch?”
We laughed, but it was true: my life consisted of work, yoga, and trips to the grocery store. I had few chances to meet anyone new.
A few months later I had brunch with an acupuncturist-in-training from yoga class. I was hoping they would agree to be a guest speaker for my high-school health class. We were both excited about introducing the students to Chinese medicine, so we planned a second brunch — this time at my house. For six hours we discussed astrology, family dynamics, and the stigma around mental illness. Midway through I felt a romantic flutter.
We were sitting on my couch.
Jake and I met in late summer. It was the closest thing to love at first sight either of us had ever experienced. When our relationship fell apart, I decided to download a dating app to help me get over him. I soon found the sort of guy — tall, handsome, successful — I thought could provide a distraction.
We met at his apartment and drank cheap wine on the back stoop. I looked away when he hit his dog for being curious. I stayed with him that night, but as soon as I fell asleep, I awoke to find his hands wrapped tightly around my neck while he did what he pleased to my body. I fought my way out of bed and tried to gather my clothes and belongings, but he pinned me against the wall. Only when I screamed did he relent. I dressed and left quickly.
I wish I’d taken his dog with me.
I was in my forties and had been married for almost ten years when I developed an intense crush on a woman and wanted to act on it. Nervously I told my husband. To my surprise, he was supportive of my exploration.
I met up with this woman at a boating club. It was a beautiful summer evening, and we sat by the lake. I was hesitant and unsure, but she was brash and to the point. She suggested we see if we were compatible by heading to the bathroom to make out. I was game. I’m not sure it was the best test of compatibility, but we did meet several more times that summer.
When the pandemic hit, I found myself wondering when I’d have the opportunity to explore that part of myself again. I wanted it to happen organically, but that wasn’t possible due to COVID. I started scrolling through images of smiling and flirty faces on dating apps. It seemed promising, but when I went to make my profile live, it didn’t work. So I made a second account. When I finally got that profile posted, I realized the first one actually had worked. Somehow I had made two. And I had a match on both accounts: the algorithm had paired me with myself.
My boyfriend and I met through a dating app during our junior year of college and quickly progressed into a serious relationship. We had been together for just over a year when our friend Carrie found out that her partner had been using dating apps to cheat on her for the entire time they had been a couple. They had just signed a lease together.
The following year my friend Miranda found out on a routine visit to the gynecologist that she had a sexually transmitted infection; her partner had been cheating on her, also using dating apps. And shortly after that, my friend Brianna learned that her fiancé’s frequent business trips were to meet up with women he was connecting with online. My boyfriend and I wondered how anyone could do such a thing to their partner.
A week after our four-year anniversary, in the beautiful townhome we were thinking about buying, I unplugged my boyfriend’s phone to plug in mine and saw a dating-app notification on the screen. He had been using it off and on for our entire relationship.
I’m grateful I learned the truth before making any major life decisions with my ex. When I shared my breakup story with others, a number of people told me they’d had similar experiences. I add them to an ever-growing group chat — now thirty-five strong — of women who are supporting each other after dating-app-related cheating scandals. We get together on Zoom once a month for informal group therapy.
I no longer use dating apps myself, because I can’t help but wonder how many of the men on them are already in a relationship. I look forward to meeting my future partner in person.
As a divorced elementary-school librarian who didn’t frequent bars or houses of worship, I had little social contact with single men. So I decided to put my research and database skills to work on that dynamic database of romantic hope, the dating app.
To my surprise, lots of men responded to my profile, but not one held any promise for me beyond the first date: not the lawyer, nor the professor, nor even the brain surgeon. I broadened the search by extending the upper age of a match that I would accept. That’s when Ken’s profile popped up. He was nine years older than I was but indicated in his profile that he would accept a match with a disabled woman. Though I’m not disabled, his response suggested he might be worth getting to know.
After several phone calls and emails, we arranged to meet at a mall restaurant. I arrived early and waited by the mall door, figuring I would recognize him from his profile photo. Over the next half hour I didn’t spot him. I entered the restaurant several times searching for him, but he appeared to be a no-show. Then the hostess pointed out that the restaurant had two entrances, one from inside the mall and the other from the parking lot. Of course he had been walking in from the parking lot each time I was walking out to the mall. I burst out laughing at the screwball-comedy nature of it.
Ken passed away last year, after nineteen years of marriage. I miss him every day.
It starts with a friendly online conversation about the basics: Where are you from? What are you studying? How long have you lived here? Then he asks, “Would you like to grab a drink sometime?” to which I reply, “Of course,” as if I were delighted. He starts throwing out dates and times, and I start making excuses. It ends with me ghosting him — I just stop responding. He texts two or three more times, and I bask in the attention: I did it. I got one!
Since my boyfriend and I broke up, I have had nearly forty conversations like this. The feeling of being wanted keeps me playing the game, and I relish thinking about how jealous my ex would be. But I also know that each time I ghost somebody, I trick myself into thinking no harm has been done, that I haven’t just led someone on and toyed with their emotions. It’s only online, after all.
One evening in early November, sitting down to eat dinner alone, I picked up the Chicago Reader and flipped halfheartedly through the personal ads. I stopped at this one: “Psyche-oriented, sensitive, progressive explorer/artist/shaman . . . seeks conscious, perceptive, emotionally and intellectually strong woman of integrity who knows it’s time to simplify and move on.”
It was so unlike the usual “I love to walk in the rain” ads, that I called the personals line and listened to his phone message. His voice was warm, unpretentious, nervous. To my surprise, I left a message about whatever came into my head: having two teenage daughters, living in the suburbs, being forty-six, traveling to India, being a nondrinking vegetarian, meditating — all undesirable in the singles world. Somewhere in the middle of the message I felt the absurdity of it all and laughed.
It was my laugh that got him. When we met, I liked him but wasn’t immediately attracted. Tall, gray-haired, a little overweight, slow in speech, and shy, he wasn’t the sort of man to whom I was drawn. But when I dropped him off later that night, he kissed me softly on the cheek, and I smiled happily the rest of the way home.
I was impressed by his gentleness. He listened carefully to my daughters, and they liked him. By the holidays we were in love.
I had already planned my annual spring trip to India to study meditation, but now he didn’t want me to go. I was torn between being who I was and trying to please the man I loved. Eventually I chose not to go; it was my first step in giving myself away.
By summer we were struggling painfully most of the time. He resented my other interests, my family, my friends. So for the first time in my life, I ended a relationship with someone whom I still loved.
Six months later my daughters brought home the Reader, and I found myself glancing at the personals, even though I knew I would never answer another ad. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. His latest ad was virtually identical to the one I’d answered, with one exception. In describing what he wanted, he had added, “is both nurturing and independent.” The quality he was looking for was the one he most needed to learn.
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
As a perpetually single thirty-seven-year-old, I signed up for a free trial on Match.com and scanned bleary-eyed through hundreds of dull profiles listing walks on the beach, cuddles on the couch, and weekend brunch at a local cafe as favorite activities. I had nearly resigned myself to a life of bachelorhood when I was caught off guard by a profile that said, “If you don’t think mint chip is the best ice-cream flavor ever, don’t bother responding.” I responded. Karen was receptive to my attempts at flirting but sadly said she was seeing someone and had forgotten to take down her profile.
My heart dropped, but I didn’t give up. I told Karen I felt certain that her current beau was not the right guy for her — so certain that I was canceling my Match.com account once the free trial was over. Why pay $29.99 a month when I’d already found the perfect profile?
We continued an email correspondence for the next two months, writing almost daily. Karen would complain about her boyfriend — she called him “the vampire” because he never wanted to go outside during the day — and I would tell her about my unsuccessful dates. Eventually I did meet someone promising, and I told Karen all about her. Did I pick up on a twinge of jealousy in her reply?
A week later Karen wrote to say that she and the vampire had called it quits. Assuming I hadn’t run off and married the new girl, would I be interested in going on a date? We finally met in person. That night Karen painted my fingernails. It was more erotic than sex.
Seventeen glorious years later, we are married and still going strong. And you’ll always find a pint of mint-chip ice cream in our freezer.