In his primary pic on the dating site, “Gabe” had a profile headshot taken in his designer sunglasses. His head was shaved and showed some gray stubble. His face was tanned and toned and he had a chiseled jawline. Gabe stated he worked out five days a week, as evidenced by his gym tank top and defined deltoids. His other photos were him at a distance in a chaise longue and one he took sitting in that chair while looking toward his bare feet– with further evidence of working out– tanned and toned legs, athletic in appearance.
What was missing was a headshot without sunglasses, one where you could see his eyes. I never quite trusted a guy who wouldn’t show his eyes– the windows to his soul.
In his profile, he described himself as a second-generation Italian who’d moved to the South from Boston. Like many of the men, he went into detail about work– his in finance. He described his main activities as golf, tennis, and bike riding.
In the final portion of his profile, he followed the standard dating template and said what he was looking for in a woman. He wanted someone who was “Attractive and Athletic.”
He went on to describe his desire for companionship, a travel partner, and someone to share cozy, romantic evenings.
I was surprised when he sent me a ‘Like’ and a brief “Hello” type message.
I was as much curious as interested, so I responded.
“Hi Gabe, I don’t consider myself athletic.”
I didn’t say anything about the attractive part; what woman’s going to turn that down?!
We messaged back and forth and then made plans for a phone call. While most of the guys wouldn’t ask to talk on the phone before meeting in person, it helped me feel more comfortable. Then I’d be more familiar with the sound of his voice and how he expressed himself. Gabe was okay with that and we talked for over an hour without difficulty. That cleared the hurdle for that first meeting, the quasi-date that could feel like a job interview with some guys. We’d meet at my go-to place– the nearby Panera.
When I told my younger son, Ross that I often had my first meeting with the men there, he responded in his online-dating-coach voice.
“Well, Mama don’t you think that’s a bad idea?” he said, then continued, “all those people that work there are going to think you’re strange when they see a woman meeting different men in the same place.”
Ross is a thirty-five year old guy that doesn’t realize women ‘of a certain age’ are invisible–especially to part-time adolescent workers. I assured him that enough time goes by in between these dates that I wouldn’t be remembered by the staff.
The week before we were to meet, I kept thinking about his interest in an athletic woman. I danced– or at least I had before the pandemic shut things down. Many weeks, I’d attend two dances as well as take lessons. I walked every day and did aerobic workouts with hand-held weights.
But that’s not an athlete, I thought; That’s just being active. What does it mean to be an athlete when you’re 65 years old– my age when I met Gabe. Did you have to run triathlons in the Senior games, or take up kick boxing, or play competitive tennis? I felt totally inadequate just thinking about what it would take to move from active to athlete.
I thought back to when I was a girl and I would have described myself as somewhat athletic— not like today with girls competing on teams from the time they’re young; that didn’t exist back in my day. But I loved basketball, softball, and swimming– the sports that were available to me. If I’d had more opportunity, more chances for being coached– I could have been a decent athlete.
And with that thought, I said to myself, “I could be an athlete now if I wanted to be.” I could focus on one sport, like I had on dancing, but ratchet it up. It would take hours of practice and training that I’d have to take away from something else– but I could make that choice; It was possible.
I worked out harder the week before I met Gabe at Panera. He came in shorts and his legs were as tanned and toned as they’d appeared in his picture. But what was surprising, was that without those designer sunglasses and that profile shot that had a relaxed sophistication, he looked much older. He had brown eyes that reflected back a gentle and somewhat worried spirit.
We talked about our experiences with online dating. It surprised me when he said he’d been on and off the site for the past four years.
“I was hesitant about dating. But my daughter encouraged me to get our there,” he said. “She’s smarter and a better writer than her dad so she wrote my profile.”
That explained why he sounded less polished than his profile. Lots of guys on the sites would say “My daughter put me up to it.” I wondered if women ever said, “My sons put me up to it.” I didn’t think so. They would probably be content for you to stay just Mom!
I asked Gabe about the activities he’d listed.
“Well, I used to play tennis but then I started having problems with my foot.” Later, he elaborated on more serious issues that had impacted his health. He played golf occasionally and as for the bike riding– he said he needed to get the bike out of the garage. I envisioned the garage I’d had that was packed full of junk– a storage place rather than a home for my car.
Gabe was a good listener. He had been when we talked on the phone and asked me then about the activities I’d listed as my favorites: dancing, hiking, riding my bike on Rail-Trails, and writing. I was impressed that when we met at Panera, he’d already looked up my blog and read some posts. Not all guys had shown as much interest in me as I had in them; I appreciated that.
We were getting close to time to end our ‘first date.’ While Gabe seemed to be a nice guy, I didn’t feel any real connection with him. During our conversation, neither of us had mentioned any potential for getting together in the future. Besides, he’d said he would be going to Florida in the upcoming months and wasn’t sure how long he’d stay; no sense in starting something with a man who would be leaving.
Afterwards, I looked back at Gabe’s profile and pics and thought about what he’d said about his daughter creating that online persona. While it wasn’t completely accurate, just like you discover when you meet other guys in person, it was enough of the truth and I didn’t regret meeting Gabe.
When I first started this online dating, I struggled as I wrote in my post on March 7, 2021– “People in Our Path: Online Dating.” I came to the conclusion that each guy I met was part of the journey and had a gift to offer. Here’s what I said after the ‘still small voice of God’ spoke to me– now six months ago:
“Just approach this as your new Solo Journey. See these guys as the ‘people in your path.’ “
On the Solo Journeys I’ve taken over the years, I start each day with the prayer, “God, bless me and the people in my path–for their good and mine.” I go forward that day watching who’ll show up, seeing them as destined to be part of that journey, knowing we will have an impact on one another. Some of them are helpful– giving me directions or suggesting local haunts I should visit; some of them share their stories and gives me a new perspective; some of them show acceptance of me in ways I haven’t accepted myself; some of them show me new ways of being that I hadn’t considered.
After having coffee with Gabe at Panera, the idea of becoming more athletic, more fit, stayed with me. I gradually increased my work out from walking to a slow, intermittent jog. I danced more often and watched my diet more closely. Over the months, I’ve lost weight and become more toned.
Recently, a friend introduced me to the ministry of pastor David Jeremiah in California. I listened to his broadcast entitled, “The Lonely Single Part II.” Jeremiah outlines five points for replacing loneliness with a spirit of gratitude. The five include 1) Acknowledge singleness as good 2) Accept as a gift 3) Affirm with gratitude 4) Allow for Growth and Transformation 5) Activate for God– allow it to be used by Him in your life.
In thinking about the impact Gabe had on my path, I realize that he’d been used in my transformation to a healthier self. Those desired characteristics in a woman, the “Attractive and Athletic” had been the impetus to move me forward; I hoped that meeting me, the woman in his path, had helped him to move forward as well.