June 26 will be the first anniversary of marriage for Ali and me. I still sometimes wonder if I am going to wake up and this is all a dream. Following my divorce 6 years ago after 21 years of marriage, I just wasn’t interested in marrying again. Companionship, sure. Marriage? No thanks. Mind you, I am not and was not against marriage. I just wasn’t interested in that for me.
As often happens over the years, there are ways I had changed over the decades. My worldview underwent some significant modifications. I valued different things, or maybe valued some things differently. One thing about me hadn’t changed. I didn’t mind being by myself. Actually, more than not minding it, I liked it. A certain amount of solitude is necessary for my well-being.
After finding myself single again, I didn’t feel lonely. That being said, while I have never really struggled with loneliness, I do enjoy time with people and, of course, the companionship of a romantic relationship. At the least, to find someone to spend time with and do things together was desirable. What might grow out of it would have to happen on its own and that was okay.
So, I did what most people do in the times which we live—I got on dating websites and dating apps. If you have never been involved in the world of modern tech dating, dear reader, let me assure you of one thing. It is hell. Pure and utter hell. I’m not exaggerating for effect. The dating scene is hell. Not hell-ish. Hell.
Like many, I am sure, I had numerous first dates or “meet-ups,” the majority of which left me with the sad realization that an hour or two of my life that I can never get back is now gone. The coffee meet-ups weren’t too bad as aside from the time, I was only out a few bucks. First dates that involved dinner and drinks were a loss of time and a bit of money. But if you want to meet someone, I suppose there is the inevitability of some bad investments.
It is not all dark and gloom. I met women who I truly enjoyed getting to know. Perhaps there wasn’t a sense of potential compatibility for a relationship (either on one or the other’s part or, often, mutually), but I made a friend. I am told I am somewhat abnormal in this (among many other abnormalities), but some of the women I met on apps I have remained friends with. I have always had women friends who are just friends. In a couple of cases, I would ask them to read a message I wanted to send to someone new I wanted to meet, and they would ask me to look over theirs. I considered myself a decent dating app message composer, but I received some invaluable advice from my women pals.
At one point, however, I was simply tired of it all. I was extremely close to cancelling my accounts, deleting the apps, and committing to the life of a bachelor scholar. I was in my mid-50’s, nearly done with my Ph.D., so the bachelor scholar life was starting to sound exceedingly attractive!
I had sent a message to a woman two or three weeks before and hadn’t heard back. This could be for a couple of different reasons: 1) She got the message, maybe looked at my profile, and just wasn’t interested. That happened a lot. 2) The app I was on had this thing where the other person wouldn’t see your message until she “swiped right” on your profile. It seemed all very random as I had times when I would “swipe right” on a profile only to discover that the person had sent me a message months ago. I much preferred when you could send a message and get rejected right away rather than after several months. Fortunately, however, in this case, she swiped right after just a couple of weeks, got my message, and replied.
Around that same time, a different woman had also messaged me. Just a few days before I would meet the woman who would become my wife, I met this woman. It was lackluster. And then she sends me a text afterward telling me she had a great time but “the jury is still out on you mister!” Well, geez, after one afternoon meet up, I wouldn’t expect a verdict! What a thing to say! So, I ceased communication and was only strengthened in my resolve to abandon the modern dating scene forever. I wasn’t necessarily opposed to meeting someone randomly and without trying, the good old-fashioned way, but that was it.
However, I still had this one other date scheduled at a coffee place I liked (and turns out it was one of her faves also). And I did want to meet. Her profile was exceptional, it hit all the right points, and our messaging back and forth before deciding to meet had been a blast. She also seemed unusually grounded and together, which made her all the more attractive. So, I would do this one more time. If she turned out not to be as remarkable as she seemed to be, I was done. This was May 27, 2019.
Afternoon coffee turned into evening dinner. The weeks and months that followed were made up of sharing time together, sharing a lot of laughs, and falling in love. I knew I wanted to be with her and share a life. There was even the great joy of deleting the dating apps! (That was awesome). But I started having this very strange and uncomfortable feeling. I wanted to share a life with her, but I wanted to do so as her husband. Damn her! She made me want to have a wife again!
More time passed. Then the pandemic struck. We started meeting at one of our favorite locations where we could stay outdoors all the time and keep our distance from others. We would have breakfast at one spot and then spend afternoons playing board games or just talking. Between the pandemic and other factors, we didn’t have a clear view of how our future would unfold.
I secured the engagement ring, and on one hot and sunny afternoon on our usual walk in a nature trail, we came to a bridge. I had been looking forward to this moment and knew I would execute it confidently and gracefully. Then I took the ring out of my pocket, got stupid nervous and proceeded to propose with zero suave. Despite my less than stellar proposal performance, she replied in the affirmative. We were engaged! This was June 14, 2020. We went back to another favorite spot and shared a glass of champagne to celebrate.
We still did not have a clue as to when we get married or what the future held, but it was a step forward! By early 2021, we decided to take more steps and knew we would figure it out. We decided on a wedding date and then decided we had better get to work! I guess when you get married, even in a simple ceremony, there is planning involved. So, we got to planning and managed to bring it all together by the date we had set. That was June 26, 2021.
Our first anniversary is just a little more than a week away. I intend many, many more years. I figure at age 57, I have around 50 or so more good years left (color me optimistic). I intend on sharing those with Ali until death do us part.
Yes, dating apps and the world surrounding them sucks. But it worked out this one time and that was all that mattered.