Moonman meets Earthwoman

Footprints

A Tale of Low GI Love 

“Skootle,” my Moonman says. “Have you ever been arrested for being naked on a beach?”

I look slightly up and to the left in the quintessential “trying to remember” pose.

“Lemme think…… Uhhmm… No.”

“Well, have you ever vomited out of a car window?”

“Uhhm… nope.”

“Have you ever had to have a crap on the beach?”

“Uhhhmmm, let me see… no.”

“Ever drank your buddy’s pee as a dare?”

“No.”

“Lit a fart?”

“Lemme think… nope.”

“Made a fire in your cupboard…? Driven through the backstreets of Grassy Park looking for a bit of mountain cabbage…? Been to a swingers party without knowing it…?”

“No, no and no.”

“Skootle, we have so little in common!” he laments.

Can there be any hope for two people who are so different, in so many ways? Apparently, yes.

When people ask us, “So how did you two meet?” we pipe up together: “Internet dating!”

“Really? You’re kidding,” is the most common response to this revelation.

“Yes, really. No, not kidding.”

“But isn’t that dangerous, or for perverted weirdoes?”

Evidently not. (I’m not that dangerous and Moonman is a bit weird, but not perverted.) It sure beats hanging out at Die Akker hoping to meet someone nice (and sober).

This is how it happened:

Some years ago, I found myself single at 36, after being married for 13 years. My friend Maryjane (not her real name), who got married to a very sweet man she’d “found on the internet,” encouraged me to give cyber dating a go. Thoughts of “Hoekie vir Eensames” in the Landbou Weekblad flashed through my mind. Surely not. That’s for desperate, old, ugly people. But Maryjane is neither desperate nor old nor ugly – in fact, she is young, gorgeous and very eligible. I decided to try it, even if it is just to distract me.

So I go to the site my friend suggested. With hands shaking ever so slightly, I start creating my profile. It’s quite daunting. Everyone says the same thing: “I’m a friendly, outgoing person who loves nature, going for long walks on the beach at sunset, drinking wine by candle light. I’m looking for an easy-going, friendly person to share my life…Blah blah blah.”

Coming up with something different – honest but interesting – is not easy, but I’m going to do my best:

“I’m not an outgoing person at all, in fact, I prefer my own company most of the time. I enjoy walks on the beach as much as the next gal, but I’m not doing it more than once or twice a year, hardly enough to warrant a mention. I prefer sleeping. As for drinking wine by candle light – well, I don’t like wine very much so I’d rather have hot chocolate, but chocolate gives me migraines. I like reading and watching movies with subtitles. I have a whole bunch of children and even more pets, a chaotic life, I have very little money and energy and frankly, I can’t even begin to think about having to go through the whole process of meeting someone new and don’t know if I have any space or time in my life for someone else. So better keep on scrolling and never mind me.”

I wasn’t very happy with my first attempt. So I tried again:

“I’m divorced, have three kids and lots of pets, I’m down to earth and practical but often have my head in the clouds.” I kept the bit about reading and movies and added that I like writing. I kept it short, and then started on the questionnaire, which covers everything from your favourite clothes to your favourite religion. That’s easy, really, because they give you all sorts of options to choose from: click click click click save. “Now add a picture to increase viewing of your profile.” Hmmmm. Well. There aren’t that many to choose from. I’m usually the one taking the pictures. But there is one from about 10 years ago, that is quite nice. I haven’t changed that much. Have I? No, that’s cheating. I choose a recent picture, and click “save”, and it’s done. Now, forget about it and get on with trying to keep head above water in my crazy life.

The next morning, when I download my email, there are 16 messages from the dating site. Whoa, that’s pretty cool. And, easy as that, a short but rather exhilarating season in my life kicks off. I correspond with so many people, I start to get mixed up with who’s who and who said what. It’s a strange experience. Sad and funny. Funny to correspond with so many people from all walks of life, some of whom are very witty and wise. Sad that so many people are out there just looking for someone to BE with, whether it’s by a setting sun or candle light or darkness. Many lonely people, having devoted the best part of their lives to building a family and suddenly finding themselves out in the cold. Some very needy people, whom I turned away very gently. Neediness is something I’m just not ready for right now. In fact, I’d like someone to NOT need me for a change. I’ve got enough people and animals who really do need me.

The process of corresponding goes on for several weeks. I’ve had about 200 replies to my “ad.” Some are clearly duds, others live too far away, others aren’t up to meeting anyone who has kids (did you not read my profile??), others want to start families (again, read my profile… no more kids for me). There is one strange email – from a woman who is looking for a lover for her husband, possibly to include her in a threesome. Would I be game…? Hmmm. Lemme think… Nope. Thanks for asking, though. Most people, fortunately, come across as perfectly normal, just like me. (OK, almost like me. I’m probably not 100% normal.)

But still, for every one potentially interesting person, there are nine who are not interesting or simply not my type. You have to be very level headed about this. It’s a kind of game, and taking it too seriously is not a good idea. After some weeks of emailing backwards and forwards, filtering and deleting, I start to approach the dreaded “Let’s meet for coffee” stage with several candidates.

I’ve been on some pretty strange dates in my life, for example, my date being stalked on the dance floor by an obsessed girl, a blind date with someone who was concussed and a guy who sent me an sms from the toilet of the coffee shop where we were sitting. (It read, BTW, “I think you’re very pretty and I would like to see you again.” What? When you come out of the toilet? I think not.)

 So I am ready for anything, armed with more than a pinch of salt and a bag of caution. I go out on so many coffee dates, it’s hard to find enough babysitters. Obviously, the father of my children is not the best one to ask if I’m off to meet yet another stranger. I drink a lot of coffee (decaf, thanks) and by the end of two weeks, I have so many restaurant peppermints in my handbag it’s really quite funny. (Why do men not claim their peppermints?). I’m enjoying myself immensely, I feel self-confident and popular in a weird sort of way, and I am meeting plenty of nice people. Some of them have the potential to become friends, others are politely set aside. But no real chemistry, no-one I genuinely like or would consider for anything more serious. Which is a relief, in a way. Maybe I’m not quite ready. And after a few weeks, I’m so exhausted and gatvol of decaf cappuccino, I decide to call it a day.

I get home, switch on the old computer and go online to delete my profile. But hang on, this is interesting… Ocean291, divorced father of two, lives in Stellenbosch… not many pictures of the man – only one rather strange picture of a rough looking character in a beanie and the brightest yellow jacket I’ve ever seen, evidently taken on a boat. And lots of pictures of rocks, sea, sky, clouds and flowers. Well, that’s a change from all the predictable pictures of people at braais, showing just the shoulder and hair of a woman who was obviously cropped out of the picture. So I sit staring at the man in the yellow jacket for a while. Should I? Last one…? Oh, what the heck, give the guy a chance. I reply to his letter and wait.

The next day, there is another email. He sounds intelligent and witty. We exchange a few letters, then, a bit sooner than anticipated, he says, “Let’s meet for coffee.” We agree on a time and place. I arrive fashionably late, just a few minutes, so that I wouldn’t be the one sitting anxiously at a table looking up at every man who walks in. I spot him quickly at a table near the entrance. We shake hands, we sit down, we order something to drink. Tea for him, hot choc for me, never mind the migraine. We start talking. It is a rather tiring process if you’ve met quite a lot of people this way, in a short period of time. It’s hard to sound spontaneous and natural, especially for me, who is, as you now know, not an inherently outgoing person. But the man next to me is doing most of the talking, so I start to relax. I like him. But to be honest, I don’t know if… I just don’t know anymore. The evening reaches its end and it’s time to go. He walks me to my car and gives me a friendly hug. I drive home, longing for my bed and solitude.

The next day, I get a few sms’s from the man. He says he enjoyed meeting me and that I seem like a nice person. Likewise, I reply. A couple of days, several emails and sms’s later, I take a rather bold plunge and invite him to go out for supper with me (I’m a modern woman after all). It goes well. We seem to get along pretty well and he makes me laugh. He has brought me a rose from his garden. The next day, he invites me to his house for tea. Since he is friends with many people that I am acquainted with (quick background check… and it is a small town), I decide to risk it. I step into his kitchen, and I spot the sugar bowl: perched on top of the toaster, a little tin blikkie with a plastic spoon. Immediately, I feel at home. Someone who uses a plastic spoon for his sugar bowl, could be my kind of person. There are rocks everywhere (he’s a geologist) and lots of books and the place reminds me of my parents’ house.

A few more dates follow. One Sunday, a week or two after we met, we’re at my house. His boys have come along, and are getting to know my kids. We leave them alone to sort themselves out without having adult eyes on them. We are sitting on my back stoep, drinking the compulsory tea and talking about where we may be heading. I’d really like us to be friends, I like him, but I don’t know if I can do a whole relationship thing now.

“Can’t we just be friends…?” I ask hesitantly.

“I have enough friends,” he says looking at me with a curious expression. “I don’t want any more friends. I want something more.”

We’re basking in the winter sun and have taken off our shoes and socks. His right foot reaches out and touches my left foot.

And with that one touch, a cautious something-more-than-friendship begins, and eventually grows into a wholewheat, low GI, oatmeal porridge type of love. Slow but sustained release. No instant highs followed by heavy crashes like you get from eating a Bar One on an empty stomach. One careful step at a time, we edge forward. We’re both so scared of getting hurt again, that stupid old cliché, and the challenges are like landmines around us. Post-divorce dating is not for sissies, let me tell you. You think being married is tough? Think again. This is tougher, because it is ten times more complicated. There’s at least double the number of people involved, and the dynamics are more intricate and sensitive than anywhere else.

In spite of the challenges, we stick with it and gradually find our rhythm. And we find laughter, the best medicine for hearts that have been trashed a couple of times. Initially, our friends ask, diplomatically, “So. You two… how long have you been together now… six months…?”

“Almost a year, actually.”

“And…?”

“And what?”

“And, are you, well, you know, going to… uhmmm…?”

“No, we’re doing a Zen thing. We’re taking it one day at a time. We don’t have any plans for the future.”

“Oh.” Awkward silence.

After two or three years, people stop asking. After five years, we are accepted as not married, engaged or living together but solidly together. We still don’t have plans for the future, but we have the present. And that is enough.

PS: as soon as Moonman is up and running again, we will invite you all to our five year contract renewal party. Watch this space.

Erica Neser © 2011

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