Introducing myself to people I don’t know is something that I am fairly used to doing. Since I was in school I have always been the proverbial “social butterfly”. Flitting from person to person, and getting chastised for talking during class (though the teachers still liked me), was a regular occurrence. For almost as long as I can remember, I have always been a raging extrovert. Although I have calmed down considerably over the years, my life path has been one where I have been in a position to meet a variety of new people. Once I graduated from university, I stumbled onto doing volunteer/missions work for well over a decade with Youth With A Mission, a non-denominational Christian organization. Visiting countries where people don’t always get to wear shoes, know where their next meal is coming from, and struggle to make it through everyday life, has created in me a true sense of gratitude for all that I have been blessed with.
That journey led me to encountering new people as I globe trotted and had the privilege of working with the destitute and needy. We would host multiple camps here in Juarez, Mexico, before the drug cartels invaded and took control, and I would meet hundreds of people over spring break alone. Online dating would later end up being similar to maneuvering in a cartel war zone, but the battle would now take place in coffee shops, restaurants, and other public venues. The ultimate conquest? To find a lasting love.
Throughout my 20s I went from one serious relationship to another. I did not date. I was the type of girl that a guy seemed to want to marry, not just go to the movies and make out with. For me this was a positive phenomenon, as I looked for long term possibility when going out with someone new. It was as though I emitted an invisible signal which declared that all players should keep walking, and that any serious contenders, who were looking for a girlfriend, were welcome.
Three and a half years. A year and a half. A year and a half. Three and a half years. You add all of these relationships up and that is a decade where I always had someone that thought of me, that called me, that sent me flowers, poetry, emails, care packages, letters (depending on the guy of course), and I loved every minute of it. I am a relationship woman, which has made the next phase of my life an interesting one to say the least.
About the time that I broke up with my serious boyfriend of three and a half years, I was rapidly approaching thirty. Now, unless a woman has already hunkered down and gotten married and had children, this milestone is a big deal. There is something devastating about saying goodbye to your twenties, where the world is still your oyster and time is still your friend.
You never have to think about the responsibilities you carry in your ‘grown up’ career, or what kind of anti aging face cream to purchase. In a culture where beauty is closely associated with youth, it can be daunting to say farewell to that assurance, that safety. Maybe thirty was not as catastrophic an age for me because I looked years younger than I actually was. I attribute that good fortune partially to genetics (You should see my mom!) and to clean living. Because of the fact that everyone thought I was in my twenties, I just thought of myself as having ‘lots of time’ to meet the right guy. There was no rush. I still hear that I am a pretty girl. A supermodel, I definitely am not, but I have received my fair share of attention, and seem to be an ‘attractive girl next door type.’ Surely time had not run out for me to find love?
As mentioned previously, it was not unusual for me to meet new people, but the problem was that those new people tended not to be single men my age. While still doing missions, the workers I’d come across were teenagers, families, and couples. Not many single guys in their late 20’s or early 30’s seemed to be focused on missions. When I transitioned into teaching in a public middle school, it was even slimmer pickings. The men were all older than me, married, or they were interns who were fresh faced college students. One year I had a great intern, who bordered on ‘Enrique Iglesias’ good looking. All my preteen girls were in love with Mr. “L”. I just enjoyed checking out his shiny hair and straight teeth from afar in a ‘non pervy’ way. Even though we hung out as friends for a few years afterwards, on a very casual basis, I could not bring myself to show interest in a boy that had to be at least 10 years my junior.
Having spent a good amount of time doing missions, obviously my faith is important to me. The question that has kept coming up over the years is, “Surely you can meet an eligible bachelor at church, right Karen?” Wrong. In my whole post twenties dating career I have only met two men at church. One of those relationships ended up so badly that I left a church that I loved going to. It was just too awkward to deal with the drama and the gossip that encircled that situation. The second man did end up being a serious enough beau, who actually made the trek to meet my parents and spend Christmas with us in Canada, but in the end the timing was off. Add to this, the fact that usually I end up going to all women bible study groups, and it is unlikely that without church hopping I will run into Mr. Right. There are only so many times that I can hear the following phrases from well intentioned onlookers:
“It will happen when the time is right.”
“The right guy will come along when you least expect it.”
“I can’t believe you have NEVER been married. You are so
This is when I resigned myself to online dating. I have been doing it now for over ten years, and I have gone on more dates than I can count, even while taking some extended breaks. I have had some absolutely unforgettable experiences; both terrible and exhilarating. What I absolutely do not have are any regrets. An education is what I have come out with, about myself and others looking for romance online.
A disgruntled suitor, who knew I was writing this book (and knew he would be included in it), accused me of cruelly mocking people through sharing these dating escapades. And I thought he knew me! Where I have used humor to discuss why different dates did not lead into anything more, I would never deliberately wound anyone or injure their egos out of spite. My own ego was hurt plenty of times, as you will see, when someone I liked was ‘just not that into me’. I suspect my quest is one that millions of women, and dare I say men, can relate to, and have at one point or another embarked on themselves. Match.com declares that 1 out of every 5 relationships now start online, and due to how fast paced and hectic our lives have become, I believe it.
Ten years. Countless dates. Buckle up; this is going to be a bumpy ride.