Wow, these online dating websites are quite popular. I used a couple of them, myself, in addition to some Meet Up groups in my effort to make new friends following my gay-divorce.  (When you get gay-married, you have to get gay-divorced.) Curious process, this. While I did meet a few folks who became friends, I also had some experiences where I doubted that I was speaking the same language as the person with whom I was in contact. Up was down, black was white. Or grey. Or green. Women who claimed not to want drama were expert at creating it. One of the first women who spoke to me asked if I’d like to be Facebook friends and when I declined, she prowled through not-for-profit website after not-for-profit website until she found a photo of me and proudly told me how she tracked me down. I was totally creeped out. No did not mean no? I hadn’t hesitated. I had said NO. I began to wonder if there was a secret decoder ring that would help me understand some of the conflicting messages and language barriers.

Calling Capt’n Crunch! Ovaltine? Anyone?

Alas, not finding a decoding system, I finally decided to write my own.

Mind you, it wasn’t all bad. I like my new friends. They’re kind, decent folks who really were okay with the fact that I was just looking for friends, who became bike ride companions, hiking companions, lunch or let’s-get-coffee companions. Sometimes we compare notes on their experiences on the dating sites and what I saw, and we have found some remarkable similarities. That could be because it seems like it’s the same 40 or 50 women on all of the sites over and over again, so there’s bound to be some similarities.

I suspect these findings are not limited to lesbian dating websites. I suspect cis-het folks get their share of comments like these, as well as people who try to convince them that up is down and black is white. Or grey. Or green. In fact, several of my straight friends howled with laughter when I read this to them and then said, “It’s not just the lesbians doing that, baby!”  I can’t speak to that, though, as it’s been a long time since I went in search of a maaa-yun, or as I sometimes called my housemate, “An XY.” So take these with a grain of salt. Or even a shaker full of it, depending on your own experiences.

For the record, I am open to the idea that I just suck at meeting new people but if that’s the case, it’s a fairly new phenomenon. Like since I turned 50. I mean, it’s entirely possible that my ability to make friends has gone by way of “What did I come in this room for?” that we 50+ folks tolerate of ourselves on a daily basis. I do, however, recall some coaching in grad school about how when you repeatedly walk out of a conversation scratching your head, genuinely puzzled, wondering, “What the hell just happened here?”, it’s also entirely possible that the issue is not yours.

So who knows for sure? Let’s keep the door open to the idea that when I am faced with potential new friends, I draw a blank and can’t remember what I came in this room for. Maybe it’s an ongoing cycle of walking back to my office with a Diet Coke when I really needed to go get some scissors, just with people, instead. I meant to go out and make a friend, but once I got out there, I forgot what I was doing and came back with a puppy, a new refrigerator and someone who really just wants to get married. These things are known to happen, right? While we’re at it, though, let’s also make room for the idea that quite a few of these conversations truly deserved a head scratch and a “What the hell just happened here?”

Here is a list of the comments I heard and saw most frequently, coupled with the things I believe to be the unspoken real statement behind what was said outwardly.

No drama! Translation:  I’m going to treat you poorly and then when you protest, I’m going to complain about the drama you’re creating. Do NOT call me on my shit.

No baggage! Translation:  I have no true desire to get to know you or share with you anything that makes me real, usually because I don’t know what that is. Let’s just figure out if I want to get in your underroos or not, and then we can be done.

No drama/no baggage! Translation:  I’m an absolute asshole.

I’m all about living in the moment.  Translation: What? There are people who actually write about and speak on the topic of mindfulness and it doesn’t mean I really just wanna get laid tonight without complications??? People study this shit? Are you sure?

Feminine only. Translation:  I’m still married and my husband will be involved.

Femmes only.  Translation:  I’m still in the closet and you have to pass as my platonic girlfriend.

Must like to laugh. Translation:  I can’t think of anything else to say about myself because I have no idea who I am.

Sports fan.  Translation:  I can’t have a conversation longer than 4 or 5 sentences that doesn’t involve some sports reference.

Sure, we can be friends, Version 1. Translation: But only until I find someone to date, then I can’t be your friend anymore.

Sure, we can be friends, Version 2.  Translation:  But only until you confirm that you don’t really want to date me, then I won’t be interested in being friends anymore and I’ll blow you off until you get the point, although I’ll never actually admit this out loud.

Sure, we can be friends, Version 3.  Translation:  Whatever, I’m about to ghost you.

No, I don’t want to be in a relationship, either.  Translation: …Unless you want me to be.

I am looking for my soulmate.  Translation:  I can’t make a decision on my own and need someone else to fill in the gaps in my wounded psyche. Please take over the decision making in my life so that when things go wrong, I have someone else to blame and I can be bitter and angry at you forever.

I am looking for my other half.  Translation:  I’ve seen too many Nicholas Sparks movies OR I attempted to recreate a scene from a Harry Potter movie that involved flue powder or splinching and…ooops… (As an aside, this comment often confused me. Don’t people generally want to date and make friends with other people who are already whole all by themselves?)

I am looking for my best friend.  Translation:  I’ve somehow managed to make it to 50 without making any friends, so if we start hanging out together, you have to promise to be EVERYTHING to me because I have no other life.

Family is really important to me, Version 1.  Translation:  Saying I’m doing anything with my family is a good excuse for when I don’t feel like getting together with you.

Family is really important to me, Version 2.  Translation:  I am a single parent and have three kids under 10. Or my grown children all still live in my house. Or I’m the sole caretaker for my aging parent(s), so getting on my calendar to do ANYTHING is impossible, but thanks, it makes me feel really good that you were interested. No, we don’t need to meet in person. I just wanted to introduce myself to a bunch of strangers so they could all know that family is really important to me and that I am unavailable.

I’m spiritual.  Translation:  I don’t give much thought to spirituality at all or how it influences my life. I don’t have an affiliation with any faith community, but I believe in something—I just don’t think about it. But I believe in it. I just don’t think about it. Go ahead. Ask me. You want another beer?

I know we said we’d do something today but now…  Translation:  You’re not on the priority list. You’re not even close to the priority list. But I’d like you to be available the next time I don’t have anything going on, so please keep your calendar clear.

I’m sooooo busy.  Translation:  I didn’t really want to be connected to you, I just want you to chase me.

Sorry I have to break our plans (followed by no attempts to make new plans).  Translation:  A lack of time with you doesn’t mean anything to me…and frankly, neither did having time with you, I just didn’t know how to tell you.

I’m not even sure WHY I set up a profile on that website!  Translation:  Please don’t ask about the other four dating sites I’m also on, there’s no need to talk about THOSE. Nothing to see here, people, nothing to see!

I’m looking for a long term relationship.  Translation:  I want someone who is physically stunning, has a great job with an awesome paycheck, is an elite athlete but still exquisitely feminine, can prioritize me immediately, and lives two houses down because I don’t want to put any work into having to get to the same space she’s in. I don’t drive or own a car, I’m more interested in the size of her waistline than the size of her heart, my conversation skills are limited to, “You have a great smile,” but hey, I’m a find—just ask me how much!

Head scratching and puzzled looks aside, I do tend to be a bit of a smart ass. That needs no translation. I’ll just own that. If you’ve gone exploring in the wild world of online introductions and potential dating without being ghosted, benched, or zombied, I wish you nothing but the best. If you have been ghosted, benched, or zombied, I’m sorry. We’re all grown ups here and it’s a reasonable expectation that another grown up’s communication skills would be better than those three options. But if you find yourself scratching and puzzling, you might want to consider your own decoder system. (Well, after 25 years of working in HIV services, if you find yourself scratching, that might be a topic for another blog—get that to the nearest clinic!)

Until next time, decoding fans!

decoder ring




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