Published in Sammiches & Psych Meds Published in Oh Honestly! When I first started telling people I was thinking of online dating, of course the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was their horror story experience from the daunting realm of the World Wide Web. If they hadn’t experienced the online disaster themselves, it was their friend, their sister, or a reality show. Some guy ended up being the complete opposite of what he said, the date was the most awkward experience, the date committed this atrocious dating taboo – the stories were endless and each one felt more intimidating then the other.
I was very innocent going into the world of online dating; this was the first time I had ever tried something like this. But that was the least of my inexperience. I’d never had a boyfriend before. I’d never even been on a casual date before. At 25 years old, I may have been a bit naïve in my romantic experience, but my life experience certainly made up for it.
As a teen, I never made time for dating because I never felt like I had time for it. I was a busy-body with her hands on a million projects at once, and was more excited about auditioning for the latest musical than flirting with the guy who’s locker was closest to mine. I knew I’d have the rest of my life to date, find love, and eventually settle down.
However, this took a sudden hiatus when at 18, a week before my senior prom, I fell into a coma. What followed over the next several years were more than two dozen surgeries and an odd mixture of feeling like an old soul, wise beyond my years with too much life experience, and a newborn child rediscovering the world, regaining physical strength and suddenly having to be taken care of again.
There were so many highs and lows along this deviant path, so many twists and turns, blessings and curses, setbacks and triumphs. The biggest one of all was just three years ago. I was recovering from what was supposed to be my final surgery, but unfortunately, it left me worse off. I was slowly healing, but my heart was what needed the most mending. From years of trying to keep my head up while being so isolated, I was overwhelmed with loneliness all at once. I was fresh out of the hospital and didn’t have a community of people my age I could just go out with at night and be social with; no way to leave this medical thundercloud behind me, even just for a few hours of relaxation. I had no expectations and nothing to lose, so I set up an online dating profile for myself using the first dating site I remember someone mentioning. What was the worst that could happen?
I had been away from the social scene for so long and had no idea what “dating etiquette” was or the right “games” to play when finding a guy, so I had no filter. I just made my profile whatever I felt was me. It was great to write that profile; it was a way to really describe who I was without the medical part, and in doing so, I was able to remember who I was again, which filled me with a forgotten sense of confidence. I had no idea how to date, but now I thought, “27 surgeries were rough; dating should be a cinch!”
Of course, having been through so much, anyone who found out I was exploring the shady world of online dating was wary and extremely cautious. Having overprotective parents is one thing. Add three older brothers into the mix and you have an army of loving, caring people who become overridden with paranaoia and neuroticism when they hear their 25-year-old “baby girl” is dating…and online too!
Things happened very quickly. A bunch of guys messaged me at once, which was overwhelming, although very good for the confidence! Emboldened by these successes, I started writing back. Suddenly, I felt alive in a new-found way, I had reawakened those long-dormant social muscles and it was the breath of life I needed. I was having a blast with writing back and forth to prospective suitors, when suddenly I received a message from an adorable guy named Brandon. Something was different in our connection. We had so much in common, it was almost like I was writing to myself! Soon, our messages became so long that we weren’t able to send them in the standard online format and we had to exchange e-mails which turned to texting which turned to phone calls, and eventually he convinced me to meet him in person.
I was certainly nervous, had no dating experience, and didn’t know the “games” you were supposed to play. I hadn’t even seen a man besides doctors for years! But I convinced my parents to drop me off around the corner and with an odd mixture of trembling excitement and heart-pounding fear, I met this man of online mystery face to face.
Photo provided by Amy Oestreicher
Brandon and I clicked like magic I had never experienced before. Once my brothers got over their relief that he wasn’t an online sketch-ball, they focused on lecturing me about the proper dating do’s and don’t’s. When I bragged of our instant connection, the first advice I got was to not call him right away. So I sent him an e-mail saying, “Can we meet up tomorrow? How’s that for my attempt at playing hard to get.” A second date followed at the mall. Four months later he proposed and now I’m marrying the love of my life…on Saturday!
Artwork by Amy Oestreicher
Maybe I was lucky. To this day, Brandon loves telling me his own online dating horror stories. I never had to deal with the bar scene or play dating games, and I’m not sure I’d be able to follow those “dating rules” I hear about. But I guess I’ve played life my own way for years now.It’s lead to some roundabout detours, scenic plateaus, obstacles, hurdles, blessing and disappointments, but ultimately it’s led to THE love of my life. I don’t need to have met or dated anyone else, on or off the web. I feel like I’ve traveled the world and have finally found the missing piece of my heart, the half I was searching for my entire life.
And it all started online.