Sam’s profile picture was handsome on the OurTime site; salt-and-pepper hair, a soulful look in his eyes that made him appear kind and poetic. There was no date on the picture– like so many on the sites.There were a few other photographs and one that appeared more recent– with telltale signs of growing older– more weight, glasses, more face hair, reading to a boy–likely a grandson. His occupation was listed as an artist, and one of the activities he enjoyed was dancing. He had not written a lot of detail in his profile, but made a point of his Christian faith being important to him; all of that sounded good to me.
I ‘Liked’ him and got the conversation started with a simple follow-up question–asking him what kind of art he did.
That began our messaging on the site, and later a plan to have a phone conversation. In that initial call, we talked for almost two hours and I liked the sound of his voice–warm and engaging, kind like his picture. He even said he liked my Southern accent– telling me he’d grown up in Texas and had moved to Michigan where he lost his Lone Star State accent.
After he had my phone number, he’d send texts. It was nice feeling connected to a guy– but I knew that it was best to meet in person; You couldn’t really tell about him without meeting face-to-face. Don’t drag this out if there’s no potential, I told myself.
We made plans to meet for coffee at my go-to place near my home– Panera. But the day before we planned to meet, he called and said that unfortunately he’d have to postpone; his grandson had the coronavirus and Sam would have to be in quarantine. That resulted in more texting and phone calls. Eventually, we had a plan to meet on a 36 degree morning in February.
I wore my best jeans with boots and had on a nice blouse. Even on a Saturday morning at the mall, it was important to dress nicely–especially for that first impression.
We met in the parking lot near the entrance, deciding it would be good to start there for our first in-person meeting– without a mask and at the six-feet distance. It was nice that his voice was familiar; at least that part wasn’t awkward.
I was surprised that for the weather being so cold, he only had on a thin green windbreaker with his baggy jeans–looking like he was running out to the hardware store. When we decided it was better to sit outside, I asked him wouldn’t he be too cold, judging that my winter jacket would be sufficient but not sure about his.
He responded, “No, I never get cold. Only wear a jacket like this all through the winter.”
Well, he had lived in Michigan so cold weather in North Carolina would be nothing to him.
We got our coffees and sat at one of the tables. When I leaned down to put my purse on the chair, I noticed his shoes. They were the white, nondescript, velcro-closured type I’d seen so many residents wearing at my mother’s nursing home; easy to get on and off, never an issue with untied shoes being a tripping hazard. They conjured up memories of those eight years of visiting Mama and seeing residents pushed down the hall in wheelchairs with the legs extended, ulcerated shins and calves showing above the functional white crew socks. It gave me a feeling of immediate repulsion–not something I’d counted on feeling when we sat down at the table.
We drank our coffee and settled into an easy conversation. We shared about being parents, and grandparents, and a love for art. I learned he was a visual artist and while I hadn’t dabbled in that area for years, I did love that medium. He’d listed dancing as one of his interests in his profile, and when I asked about that, he hadn’t actually gotten around to it.
“When I moved here, I signed up for ballroom classes at Arthur Murray. But then the pandemic shut everything down–so I never took lessons. Always wanted to dance, but my wife didn’t– and I didn’t want her to feel bad.”
I’d been impressed by his empathy since the first time we’d messaged. He’d been there for his wife through her long illness until her death– and spoke more about his concern for her than himself. Sam had also impressed me with his ability to express his emotions easily– something I hadn’t seen in any man.
I thought that lack of emotional expression by a man must be what you should expect–since that had been my experience. But after reading a book a friend recommended, Are You the One for Me? by Barbara De Angelis– noted LA psychologist and relationship expert, I learned that wasn’t the case for all men.
De Angelis outlines six qualities to look for in a mate. Of all of them, the one that surprised me most was “Emotional Openness.”
She breaks this down into four characteristics:
- Has feelings
- Knows what he is feeling
- Chooses to share those feelings with you
- Knows how to express those feelings to you
In the short time I’d known– or kind of known, Sam, he had been able to do that.
We ended our coffee ‘date’ and made a plan to meet for dinner the following week. I wasn’t sure there could be any relationship in our future, but there was much I liked about him. I felt we needed at least another in-person meeting to have a better feel for any potential.
I couldn’t get the image of his shoes out of my mind. I’m very visual, image-driven and it was hard to erase that sight of his shoes and connection with the frail nursing home residents. I looked back at his profile headshot and realized that it was the same one that he used on his artist website–that would have been taken about twenty years ago. With closer inspection of that photo, he’d worn a Ban-Lon style black shirt that was crumpled-and unbuttoned just like the one he had on under that thin windbreaker.
Sam was not a man who took pride in how he dressed. Those men, whether for their headshot or for a date, would be self-aware. They’d likely put on a long-sleeve button down white shirt– pressed and crisp, that would add to, not take away, from their attractiveness. Sam had a sloppy appearance; he’d had the same look for years. How could a visual artist be so unaware of his visual presentation?
Thinking about the issue of appearance, I was was reminded of another section of the De Angelis book. In Chapter 10 “Compatibility: Finding Out Who’s Right for You” she provides a Compatibility List. First up is Physical Style– appearance with examples “Cares About Appearance” “Likes clothes/dresses well” etc. I could say that my husband had been good about paying attention to his appearance– and I’d always liked that.
I didn’t want to rush to a harsh judgement about Sam. I’d give this another chance with our dinner date the following week; it would be telling to see if he dressed differently.
When I arrived that night at the Italian restaurant, I saw a man across the parking lot that I thought was Sam. He appeared to have on a sports coat and looked nice. But as I drew closer, it was not Sam.
Once inside, the hostess took me to the table he’d gotten. He stood to greet me and I felt total disappointment: Sam had on the same green windbreaker over an unbuttoned Ban-Lon shirt with a pair of baggy jeans. I couldn’t help myself; I looked down at his feet. He had on the same white velcro shoes.
I’d never been a shoe person–so for Sam’s shoes to bother me so much was a new experience.
When I was a girl, I hated shoe shopping. I remember when I was twelve and Mama took me ‘uptown’ on the Saturday before Easter to find patent leather shoes. We went to Avent’s Shoe Store and the salesman with the dark brown hair, prominent eyebrows, and a serious expression waited on us. He measured my foot, then went to the storeroom to gather dress shoes in my size. He returned with two pairs, and sat down at the stool in front of my chair for me to try them on. When I struggled to get my foot into the tight shoe, he said, “With those feet, you should wear boxes.”
Yikes! Did he realize he was talking to an adolescent girl who was already self-conscious about everything; Probably not. He had that fussiness of someone who’d never had to be patient with children. He didn’t know I was one of the taller girls in my 6th grade class and that I had inherited larger feet from the Rosser side of the family.
Buying shoes wasn’t the end of my feet embarrassment. When I was in high school, kids would go to the hometown bowling alley–OK Bowl either in a group or on dates. I was petrified when I realized they advertised your shoe size by putting them on the heel of the shoe; made it easier for the staff to reach into a cubby and pull out your size.
If a guy mentioned going bowling as a date night option, I would quickly steer away from that choice. Better to be in the darkness of a movie theater and no size screaming from the back of my shoes!
Lest you think I’m superficial, the way Sam dressed was not my biggest concern. In the time we’d gotten to know each other, he’d mentioned some looming health problems. While I know that changes in your health are likely at my age, I don’t want to start out with that issue.
Sam had read my memoir and I’d read his novel. During our dinner, he asked me questions about my solo journeys–and wondered about me going away on my own. He said he and his wife had done everything together and he would have been lonely traveling without her. But as he told more about their relationship, it also seemed to me that he was too dependent on her–relying on his wife to fill gaps in his confidence.
When we left the restaurant that night, we talked about going for a hike the following weekend. But as the time neared for him to call to make plans, I felt it was not right to continue; I saw too many red flags.
Fortunately, when we talked he had come to the same conclusion. I never mentioned the shoes and I’m sure there were things he didn’t mention to me; I have my blind spots, too.
When I remember back to Sam being the man in my path, or the toad on the table— as I’ve previously referred to guys, I see those white velcro shoes. Sorry Sam!
They’re just one reminder of all the components that go into finding someone who’s a match and the crazy journey you walk– in whatever shoes that are to your liking.
14 thoughts on “Not a Shoe Person: Online Dating”
I have walking problems and am overly conscious about wearing sneakers when I go to lunch or dinner. So much so that I wear other type shoes and have uncomfortable experiences hours afterward.
Am I guilty of evading the truth about myself?
You make a good point. Sam may have had walking problems that he never shared with me. So–I should be more aware of that as one possibility for his choice of shoes.
I don’t think in your pain you are evading the truth about yourself–the problem is real. Maybe our society, including myself, is guilty of looking at the cosmetic more than the comfortable.
I hope you find a way to walk without discomfort and to not be overly conscious about wearing sneakers.
Thanks for reading and sharing your perspective, Shirley.
Very interesting concept. I have never considered the approach that you take to size up people. You really do take all this seriously which I do admire. With this post, you have covered a lot of territories. With each week I seem to learn more about you. I get into each segment of the life you share with your readers. I am also impressed with your candor. You are going on this journey there in NC and allowing all of us to be there. That is really cool. Love and Blessings to you.
Thanks for reading and sharing your perspective.
I’m not sure I even understand my approach to ‘sizing up people.’ I have always been very observant– per my best friend, and then I had years working as a psychiatric nurse–so all that impacts me.
Yes, I try to share honestly.
Thanks for joining me on the journey.
Best to you,
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There may have been a pun in there somewhere.
Could be and it went over my head! Haha!
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So interesting. I am amazed that the man dressed so inappropriately both times. also shocking that the shoe clerk said what he did,
Thanks for reading and for your perspective. Yeah, I was surprised, second time especially.
Back when we were young, adults weren’t too concerned about what they said to children.
Now– he would be fired!
So interesting! X
Thanks, Julia for reading.
Yeah–some interesting situations with online dating– or I guess any dating!
Best to you,
I am completely captivated by your online dating adventures Connie – you really should turn this into your next book – it would be super helpful to many people who are going through this experience.
Thanks so much for your enthusiastic reading of those posts!
Yes, I’ve had others to tell me that and I am collecting them toward that purpose.
I’ve also thought, “Have I worked myself into a corner, with readers liking my online dating posts? Can I ever stop testing these toads and settle down with the Love-of-My-Life?” What will I have to write about?! Ha!
Guess I’ll just keep writing them and see what turns up.
Best to you in your dating adventures, Marie!
They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but its all small stuff. The shoes would have thrown me off, too — no way he’s going dancing in those.
I agree with others, your dating adventures and what you’re learning about yourself, would make a compelling book!
I laughed out loud when you said, “no way he’s going dancing in those shoes” That’s a funny image!
Thanks so much for reading and for your support. Yes— it seems that the votes are coming in for me to make my online dating adventures into my next book. Guess I can’t stop this process or I won’t have enough to fill those pages! Haha!
Best to you, MJ,
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