Since I started this online dating process, it feels like I’ve read hundreds of profiles–the overall description of yourself and listing of qualities you’re seeking in a partner. Sometimes, I’ve depended on the online forum for my entertainment during the pandemic– especially in those early days when we were homebound. There was one guy’s profile that has stuck with me.
His primary picture showed him in a pose with his dance partner, a pretty female who may have been half-his-age. He wore a tuxedo and had a serious expression on his face.
“First and Foremost I’m a ballroom dancer and participate in competitions,” he stated. “I spend many hours practicing and competing. You could join me and watch.”
“Geez, buddy,” I murmured to his picture. “First and Foremost it’s not just about you!”
Do all men think it’s only about them, I wondered, cynical after months of reading self-focused bios, cynical from years of being a baby boomer wife. I’d often thought that my generation had been pressed on both sides; we saw Donna Reed images as wife/mother on our black-and-white televisions when we were young and impressionable girls; now we witness our children’s generation trying to find work-life balance with the husbands/fathers making it a priority to be at home, to co-parent the children.
From the ballroom dancer’s statement, I got the impression that he expected to fold his future partner into the batter of his life; wasn’t there supposed to be a blending of interests and hobbies in these new times of dating?
Along with evaluating these dating profiles, I started reading articles and books by relationship coaches. It seemed that since it had been over forty years since I’d dated, maybe I should pay attention to the latest advice. I gathered that all of those in the know felt the couple should compromise– learning new skills and trying new activities that their partner enjoyed– yet not giving up what was important for themselves. While we’d done some of that in my generation, it seemed that more often than not, women were too quick to accommodate the man and to let go of what they loved– if he didn’t share their interest. I found myself doing that at times with some of the online dates.
When I projected that guy into my future through my mind’s eye, I saw that too quickly I accommodated what he liked, giving up some of what I enjoyed in order to be in his world. The top interest I have on my list is dancing. While I know that not every man likes to dance, or feels comfortable–those guys who said they had two left feet, I expected they could at least try; at minimum— they could do the slow dances with me.
But some of the guys who had a great love of one area– say water sports, spent so much time doing that it seemed that working in time to go to dances would be unlikely. Not many of those avid boaters would leave the lake early for an evening of dancing.
I love the water, but have never spent much time boating. I know how tired I feel after a day on the beach, how the sun takes the energy out of me. How would I shift into getting ready and going to a dance after a day of boating? I imagined I would say, “That’s okay. We can go another time.” That would be typical of my accommodating nature.
Eventually, I would lose my activity and give his priority; that’s what I’ve seen in the lives of many baby boomer wives.
Last month, I was enjoying a Thursday night of country dancing at Loafer’s in Raleigh. I danced a 2-Step with an older man who’s a regular there. We may have danced to one of my favorite songs, Clint Black’s “No Time to Kill.” When we finished the dance we stood at the edge of the dance floor and talked.
“I don’t think anybody here likes dancing more than you!” he said.
Curious about his comment, I responded, “Why do you say that?”
He answered, “Cause you’re always smiling like a mule eatin’ briars!”
He laughed and walked back to his spot in the corner on one of the bar stools.
I do love to dance, I thought. There’s no hiding how happy I feel when I’m on the dance floor.
Back in the summer, I met a guy from the Match.com site for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. We had a lot of things in common on our profiles; the only draw back for me was he said he couldn’t dance. I agreed to meet him, partially because I thought he might be exaggerating about not dancing; some guys just haven’t given it a chance. I also thought maybe I was being too short-sighted and may miss out on a nice guy by not giving him further consideration.
We had an easy conversation at our table in the patio area on a Sunday afternoon. He was nice-looking and appeared like he did in his pictures on the site–which hadn’t been the case for many guys. Over the course of our two-hour meal, he described physical injuries he’d accumulated over the years; all left me feeling the guy shouldn’t even try to dance.
“So is me not dancing a deal breaker or not?” he asked, and looked at me across the table, waiting for an answer.
I started out in my Southern way, working around before moving to the center, to the heart of his question. I repeated to him the list of his injuries and told him that from my point of view as a nurse, dancing may aggravate those problems. I knew this wasn’t enough– that he was waiting for a “yes” or “no” answer.
“I’ve considered whether I’m being too short-sighted about this. It may not be an issue at first, but over time, I’d resent being in a relationship that didn’t include dancing.” Finally, I answered, “Yes, I think it’s a dealbreaker.”
He shook his head and said, “I was afraid of that.”
We walked out together to our cars and made conversation about the approaching thunder storm.
“If you ever stop dancing, you have my number,” he said. “Take care.”
We ended on friendly terms– with him sending a cordial follow-up email to close things out.
I continued on with my search on Match.com, hoping to find someone who was a better fit. Eventually, the ballroom dancer cycled back through. I reread his profile and decided to “Like” him and send a message; maybe I’d judged him too harshly by what he’d written; he probably didn’t know how self-focused his “First and Foremost” sounded; maybe he just had more clarity about dancing being essential to his life.
My initial message was a question about which of the ballroom dances he most enjoyed. He answered with specifics about his level of competition in Argentine tango and hours of practice to master the dance. He followed with asking me about what dances I enjoyed; I responded with a self-effacing comment about enjoying swing dancing but not working at it, like him, with the hours of practice and competition; I mostly wanted to have fun.
Our conversation never got beyond dance; we never covered the basics of family, work or hobbies, faith or philosophies. While we both had dancing as our primary interest– we were very different in what we liked and our purpose for pursuing that activity. It seemed that First and Foremost, he was a ballroom dancer and didn’t show a lot of interest beyond that–or maybe he just wasn’t interested in me.
A woman I know refers to online dating as “data dating.” You have facts or data on your profile to help show who you are and what you want. But unlike how things were back in the day when we baby boomers were dating, the data is a limited dimension of what that person has chosen to put on a public forum. It takes knowing yourself and knowing what you want and sharing those aspects of yourself, in person and over time, to get at your true match.