Today I looked at Henri IV and he looked at me. He seemed to smile. Later he will claw my ankles till he draws copious amounts of blood, but for right now he is all I need.  I am obviously living in symbiotic denial with a cat.  When I think back to my internet dates (sic), I still look for a reason for their catastrophic (on a microscopic level) endings.  Was it something I said in the profile?  Looking for a man of a certain ilk?…apparently this was a word that required a bit of explanation. For I seem to attract men called in from central casting by a cheap director who was more interested in finishing the shoot than in relaying the plot in a compelling manner.  But I digress.

When I entered Starbucks two years ago I looked around furtively to see if anyone matched his photo, now a crumpled printout that I carried in my purse as a talisman. I breathed a sigh of relief because I was there first and I could order my coffee and work myself up to a state of sheer terror before he arrived. Shortly after the caffeine began to work its magic, a slightly overweight, but not bad looking man entered the coffee shop and I noticed he had a limp. I thought nothing of his gait as I was dwelling on the clammy hand I extended to greet him. We drank coffee and talked for about five minutes before it was abundantly clear that we had nothing to say to one another. This was my first internet date and I had no idea what the protocol was—what to do?  Luckily he broke the silence by asking me if I would mind if he took off his wooden leg when we had sex. Now let me remind you that we were drinking coffee in broad daylight when he posed this query. I looked at him with utter disbelief and honestly replied that it wouldn’t bother me at all since I would not be there.

That was a Thursday and the internet dating service urged its members not to be discouraged, but to get right back on that horse again.  Well, not that horse.  So on Saturday I met Bachelor #2 at Starbucks.  He seemed more skilled in communication and I realized as I looked into his eyes that something was funny about one of them, but I thought nothing of it. Until he brought up the subject of taking it out at night and leaving it by the bedside; would that bother me?  Again, this is not normally what I talk about over coffee and I tried to change the subject to that all-time winner, hey, what about those Braves?!  But to no avail.  I never heard from him again either.

I am a firm believer in differently-abled people and these tales may sound horribly prejudicial and unkind.  But I am a very kind person who simply believes in the fine art of foreplay. At least wait for dinner?  I was convinced at this point to leave the world of virtual dating (as my experiences were unreal at best), but I thought I would try one more experiment.   The next Monday I agreed to meet a man in a local bar at 5. After all, maybe it was Starbucks.  I was slightly late and when I arrived there was a gentleman sitting at a table and he was very good looking and I immediately knew there had to be a catch.  I approached and extended my arm to shake his hand and he did not take my hand. Immediately I began deconstructing this non-gesture:  he hated feminists and equated hand-shaking with bra burning.  Or, he had a thing about germs, or that he knew right away that I repulsed him, so he didn’t want to lead me on.  When I sat down, the man took his left hand and moved his right arm to rest on the table, as he explained that all the nerves and muscles of the right arm had been severed in an industrial accident. I looked at him in disbelief—give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…?  And then I

started to laugh at life and I couldn’t convince him I wasn’t laughing at him, and it was a disaster.  My ex-husband once likened my luck to the frequency that I stepped in dog shit; but that was too extraneous to relay to my third suitor.

The first three dates were an object lesson in the possible pitfalls of internet dating.  I felt somehow that I had learned my lesson and that I would screen the next potential coffee-drinkers much more in depth. I spoke with Dave for over two months, establishing a connection that ranged from sense of humor to sensibility; to taste in novels and to pet peeves. I felt, in short, that I was ready to meet him. We agreed to meet at the Farmers’ Market and I was going to buy the ingredients for a gourmet meal, which he in turn would cook for me.  There is a rule that one never brings an internet male home. Ever.  Even when the person lives two states away, you never let him into your domicile.  The meal was quite nice, but by the end of the quiche, the alarm inside my head started going off and I knew that I had to get him out of my house.  When I asked him to leave, he said he couldn’t because he had no money and he was too tired to drive 6 hours that night. I asked him why he didn’t put the hotel on a credit card, and he said he didn’t believe in money and lived by barter alone. Now money is fairly tangible —I mean it exists; it’s not like the Supreme Being where belief enters into the equation. I said that perhaps he could exchange goods with the Holiday Inn, but in any case he could not stay the night with me.  At that, his eyes lit up and he said he would leave on one condition:   if I gave him a blow job.  I quickly excused myself to go to the bathroom, cell phone in hand, and called my ex-husband to come over as fast as he could. He arrived with a wonderfully proprietary air about him and basically set up camp, chatting ol’ Dave up

until the latter left out of sheer exasperation at the limitations imposed by the barter system. Forfeiting the 5 remaining months of my membership was an easy decision.

That two years passed and I signed up again reveals how low my IQ must actually be.  My first date in phase two consisted of an assignation at 7 at a trendy restaurant.  When I arrived at 7:13, he was almost finished with his meal. I walked to the table and he still did not look up to acknowledge my presence.  It was only when my shadow fell over his plate obscuring the last morsels of food that he spoke; “I cannot abide tardiness in a woman.”  And then he looked at me.  It was a look filled with utter disdain and it went right through me; but I had seen that look before and suddenly I felt 18 again and dropped in the midst of a Harvard mixer. The men (sic) all thought very highly of themselves and their objective was to snare the prettiest first year students in the Boston area. Let the bidding begin!  Enough!  It was a call to arms, my own arms, that is.   One of the joys of being older is being older.  I did not have to subject myself to this type of subliminal humiliation.  Indeed, I had inner resources to sustain me through the long winters. Okay, those inner reserves are pretty useless on a cold night. But then there is Henri IV: surely he can be bribed to sleep on my bed.  I know just the treats to win his feline affection.

Nana Pirelli