Kissing Frogs

By Michelle Paris

About a year after being widowed, my friends encouraged me to enter the terrifying and intimidating world of online dating. “You’re so young and such a great catch,” they’d say. At forty, it was true I was looking at half a lifetime ahead of me. “If I were single, I would do it,” my married friends would add with what sounded like a tinge of envy in their voices.  Really? Why do married people think mid-life cyber dating is so much fun? I doubt any of them would ever trade places with me. But still, I let their cheering and compliments plant the seed of hope that I would meet someone online who would save me from a lifetime of loneliness. To listen to people that have never tried it, you’d think online dating should be a breeze.When my fear of being alone overpowered my fear of online dating, I set off looking for Prince Charming 2.0. I wrote a profile and selected pictures that didn’t make me look too fat. I couldn’t help but feel like I was advertising a used car – with a lot of miles, the interior a little worn, but still sporting a decent paint job. Putting myself out there in search of love was a little exciting and a lot scary.

Within hours of posting my profile, I was sifting through “winks” and emails from prospective suitors. At first glance, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Several men were getting to know me “virtually.” It was so different than when I dated before I was married. No noisy bar scene, just a keyboard and computer screen.

After weeding out those that were obviously trying to scam me or just looking for a hook up (and in some cases maybe both), I narrowed down my selection to one guy. His profile made him perfect:  romantic, funny and a reality TV junkie – what more could a girl want? Our email exchanges were inquisitive and flirty. As we got to know each other, we seemed to really connect. So, when he asked me out, I typed “YES!”

We decided to meet one Saturday evening at Chili’s. On my way there I recall thinking that maybe my friends were right – mid-life dating didn’t seem so bad.

An indication of how the date went is that I remember the chicken quesadilla but not his name. Shortly after meeting him, I knew he wasn’t “the one.” He was pleasant enough and looked like his picture, but there was something big missing from our date – chemistry. Much to my dismay, we had none. I got a sinking feeling as I chatted nervously, telling my “go-to” funny stories, but got no reaction from him at all. Not even a half smile; not even a look of annoyance. Where was his cute and clever cyber personality? Where were the “LOLs” and the :-)s? I was meeting an entirely different person than his profile and emails portrayed. Was I experiencing a true-life Cyrano? Or more likely I was experiencing the lesser known late-in-life fairy tale – the one where the princess has wrinkles, Prince Charming is balding and the white stallion is swaybacked from all of their baggage.

During dinner, there were several awkward lulls in the conversation, and I fought the urge to feign illness or fake an emergency text. Afterward, I politely ended the date with a handshake and an internal sigh…and let his calls go into my voicemail for the next several days.

Undeterred by my first first-date in years, I refused to give up hope – believing a twist of fate and a stroke on the keyboard would bring me a happy ending. I went on date after date, and kissed a lot of frogs, as they say.

Near the end of my three-month online dating service subscription, I was in a Starbucks on a date with a non-descript accountant when it suddenly clicked:  I wanted to be home alone, snuggled in a blanket watching Real Housewives of anywhere more than I wanted to be with him…or anyone else. At that moment, in that Starbucks, I decided it would be my last first date for a while.

At first, embracing the concept was frightening. I was raised believing a woman is happiest when she’s half of a “we” or “us.” When I was young, I hopped from relationship to relationship, never wanting to be alone, sometimes settling, and always feeling more secure when I had a man in my life. And now, by some cruel act of fate, I was alone. Whenever I’d run into people I hadn’t seen in years, I could see the look of pity in their eyes when they learned I was widowed. “I’m so sorry” was often followed by “You’ll meet someone else.” But what if I didn’t want that? Was there something wrong with me? Hardly.

Dealing with the loss of a spouse is hard. Grief ebbs and flows, but it is always there. It takes resilience to create a new life and courage to want to live it. I was forced to be alone, and yet I was far from lonely. I am blessed to have many friends who love, support and enrich my life. While I know I can’t change what happened to my late husband; I can appreciate how it changed me.

I believe people come in and out of your life to help you grow and teach you lessons that are not always obvious. Kissing frogs taught me that it’s okay to be alone and that happiness isn’t contingent on loving anyone other than myself. The solitude gave me introspection that I wouldn’t have if I was all consumed in a relationship. I acknowledge I have strength, confidence, and independence that evaded me in my earlier years. I wouldn’t trade those traits for any man. I am content with my life and proud of the woman I’ve become…warts and all.

About this writer

  • Michelle Paris

    Michelle Paris

    Michelle Paris is a Baltimore-area public relations professional with a life-long passion for writing. She recently completed her first full-length novel, New Normal, which is loosely based on her life as a young widow.

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6 Responses to “Kissing Frogs”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Michelle, I enjoyed your essay and can agree, getting to know and love yourself is the true test of love.

  2. Jyl Mayall says:

    WOW! What a wonderful piece. Would love to see more

  3. Erika Hoffman says:

    A good message and a story that will resonate with many who have experimented with finding a soulmate on a dating site.

  4. Rose Ann says:

    A lesson for women of all ages. Kudos to you, Michelle, for finding yourself and loving what you found. Your strength is inspiring.

  5. Dee Lawrence says:

    Hi, Michelle! Great story – love your sense of humor in light of a situation that can be quite daunting. Kudos to you for inspiring us all!

  6. Dolores Higgins says:

    Enjoyed your story of Kissing Frogs. After losing my husband of 50 3/4 years after just 4 weeks of trying to get a diagnosis from the Doctors, You gave me a laugh and the permission to live alone, for the first time in my life. I went from living with my family to living with my husband. First time alone. Thanks.

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