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Being single isn’t easy.  Logistically or emotionally.  Nor is it easy to field the questions and understand the social expectations.

Friends have recommended I try online dating.  No thanks; that’s just desperate and creepy.  Clients have asked if I’m bitter, a man hater, hung up on the ex.  My own elderly uncle asked if I’ve become a lesbian now because of what that man put me through.

But, when I tell people I met a nice man I’m just talking to, some friends, some of the same friends who recommended the online thing, tell me they’re worried about me.

They’re worried I’ve been alone for a reasonably long time.  They’re worried when I meet someone.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t win for losing.

What is a single woman to do?

They used to say that your chances of being the victim of an act of terrorism were greater than your chances of getting married over 40.  So the joke goes, our chances are increasing in the world today!  Hey!  Awesome!  Not.

I have a confession to make.  I did it.  I signed up for online dating.  Because, regardless of what the worriers and naysayers think, I deserve and need love and companionship just as much as the next girl.  In fact, maybe more.  So, creepy and desperate I am!

image from news.techgenie.com

A couple of months ago I’d received a friend request from a man on a page I follow.  We had exchanged some witty comments, and we obviously had a common interest.  It seemed okay to become Facebook friends.

Am I ever glad we did!

As much as Facebook is an intrusion into our privacy, it’s kind of nice to be able to know what a new friend is doing, what kind of photos they’re liking, what trolling comments they’re making.  Within two short weeks I was able to see that this guy was not who he was telling me he was, he has a mean spirit that he wasn’t showing me, and he apparently has an addiction to porn.

In the real world, at work or through friends, it could have been months before any of that came out.  And, once it did, ending it could have been very awkward.  Online, it was easy.  Unfriend and block with just a few clicks.  It was then that it hit me how truly great online dating could be.  There just could be some advantages to the whole thing.

So far, I can’t even begin to tell you how many men I’ve chatted with.  I’m only on one site.  It’s a small site geared toward a particular common interest, and the men outnumber the women two to one.  I’ve “met” some seemingly very nice men.  Some I pray for, and they say they pray for me.  But, I know I’d never want to date them.

As we write good old-fashioned letters (via email) I get to see how they respond to things and what they focus on.  I get an inside peek into what makes them tick without having to leave my children or get dressed up.  And, there is no temptation that comes with sitting across the table from an attractive man.  I mean, let’s be honest, when it’s been a long time since you’ve been held in a man’s arms and heard compliments come from a deep voice, it might be easy to overlook those problem issues when you’ve got a live one right in front of you!

I’m once again learning how to talk to men.  I’d forgotten.  In all the years of silence and suffering, I’d learned to not respond or to only respond in an acceptable, “supportive” way.  I’m unsure, even around women, if my conversation and responses are appropriate or odd.   At the end of the day, I weigh my words over and over again, wondering and fearful that I may have been offensive or stupid.

I can’t hide away–fearful, bitter, and untrusting.  I have to try to live again.  And, that means warily inviting people into my life.  From opening up a conversation with the cashier to reconnecting with old friends to meeting men, I need to make connections with other human beings.

So, I appreciate these men who are just as lonely as I am.  I appreciate that they are honest enough to say they want someone in their lives.  I’m grateful when they’re honest enough to say they don’t think we’ll be a match.  I enjoy the witty banter and the compliments.  And, I’m learning to feel comfortable expressing myself.

Each of these flat pictures on the screen represents a human being.  For whatever reason, we’re touching each other’s lives.  We may just be catalysts for growth, and, most of the time, that does indeed seem to be the case.  We work through the murky waters of getting back out there from the safety of our computerized cocoons.  For me and the men I’ve chosen to maintain conversations with, it seems finding “The One” is secondary to building a solid, happy life.  And, I’ve come to realize that they’re just as scared as I am!  Not all men are monsters who are just out looking for the next victim.  Who knew?!

And, this whole experience has the added benefit of building my confidence.  I walk a little taller, stand a little straighter, smile a little more.  Even if I never receive another email from any of these men, the ones who’ve told me I’m beautiful or asked how I’ve stayed so slender with so many children have made me feel feminine again.  That is mine to keep now.  The ones who have asked me questions about subjects I know something about and have commented that I’m a “fount of information” have made me feel intelligent again.  That is now mine to keep as well.

I don’t want to be the woman who garners her value via a man’s opinion.  But, I need to reclaim what was stolen from me….by men.  My girlfriends can give me encouragement all day, and, for me, it just doesn’t say the same thing.  I do need men to give back to me what men took:  that sense that a man could value me.   It’s one thing to be strong in a group of women.  It’s another thing to stand strong before a man when you’ve been so utterly destroyed by the men in your previous life.

And, my self-confidence is boosted when I walk away, when I hit block or choose to not write back.  My fearful friends love me and are worried about me, but they’re telling me they don’t trust me and my judgment when they act like that.  They’re saying that I am responsible for my own pain, not my abusers who chose me and groomed me, and I’m too stupid or too wounded to be trusted to make decisions for my own life.  That in itself is harmful to my growth in my new life.  I must be allowed to make my own decisions and fail and grow and learn.  The majority of my past were forced or coerced situations.  To move past that, I desperately need the opportunity to make my own choices, right or wrong.

So, I guess I am desperate.  But, not in the way some people would think if I told them I’m using online dating.

There are creeps online, but there are creeps in “real life,” too.  It’s a matter of learning to use discretion and my own GOOD judgment no matter what waters I wade into.