Depth vs. Image in the world of Online Dating: Dating a guy on a respirator?

Something about January has me back on Match these days. I have spent the better part of a year trying to meet new people the old fashioned way, in person. I joined a gym, started participating in a writing meetup (I highly recommend for getting yourself out there and meeting others with common interests), even started Salsa dancing on Friday nights. I now have some awesome new friends, but I haven’t dated.

So, I dug up my old profile and turned it back on. I even coughed up some money for an auto-renewing 1 month subscription. The emails, winks and interests started rolling in. Back when I was getting a little Match-weary, I updated my profile to be a real heart-on-your sleeve affair. I mentioned that I was widowed, how it had become a part of who I was, how I had written a book and how it was all about the “journey.” OK, perhaps not the most uplifting of profiles, but truly honest. It was this profile that resurfaced again last week. The result is that almost all the interest I received has been from men who are at least 10 years older. Some commented on my honesty. Not one held any interest for me.

Now at the risk of sounding like the completely shallow, mean person who will no doubt burn in hell, the clincher came when I received this email”

Would you consider going out with someone in a wheelchair?

Really? Welcome to my dating nirvana! And I wonder why I went off Match?

When I clicked through to his profile I learned that this wasn’t just a man in a wheelchair, but a man on a respirator, in one of those wheelchairs that he drives using his mouth, someone who has a degenerative disease.

I don’t think its knowing that he is on a nasty path of degeneration that causes me to hesitate. The death part I can handle (I think). Its the care giving part. As my kids get older, my caregiver role has gotten easier (though I write this between trips upstairs with trays of food for Carter who has sprained his ankle). I can’t do it.

I keep trying to picture the date, waiting for his his respirator to breathe for him so he can answer a question (like Chistopher Reeve), wondering how he’s going to feed himself, worrying about inadvertently raising the topic of sex or horseback riding. Awkward. And then there is the question good night kiss. As much as I want to say I am the kind of person who would go on a date with this man who I’m sure is very lovely, I hate realizing I’m not.

Which is how I came to realize that my profile wasn’t working for me. I wasn’t attracting the type of man I was hoping to date, you know the kind who has the use of at least one of his legs and can breathe on his own. I sat down and re-wrote my profile, something funny, irreverent, something that really says very little about me. I put up my tarty Halloween pic.

So, the experiment is on. If two days of emails are any indication of the result, then the median age of my respondents has dropped by 10 years, and a few even seem interesting. Have I sacrificed potential depth and understanding for image and a shallow irreverence. Is that OK?

Its not too late to go out with Mr. Respirator…

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  1. Supa Dupa Fresh February 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    You are NOT shallow, no matter what. I for one would never volunteer to be a caregiver — if it ends up that way, fine, but it nearly killed me the first time. Nor would I date a poor guy (Gavin was an artist). Maybe that means I'm shallow…

    About dating, one depressing thing to remember: guys are lying by 10 years and 3 inches. And they don't consider that even lying. So if they say they're 50 they're 60, and 5'9" means 5'6".

    I say be patient. (And let me read your ad!!!) Your intentions being out there will charge the air around you offline, too.



  2. Julyne February 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I'm glad you changed your profile. A friend of mine wrote a story years ago about She created three accounts. In one she was an honest women at her honest age looking for a stable, long-term relationship. She was very earnest and honest. She got a few bites.

    In the 2nd one, she hinted that she was looking for fun and play (i.e. SEX) and not for anything long-term. Her picture was provocative. She got a TON of emails from that.

    And I don't remember the 3rd one, I assume it was something in between.

    Food for thought.

    As someone who knows many happily married couples who met through Match and who has dated on Match on and off for a few years between boyfriends I have to say that I've never met anyone who lied by 10 years about their age (grounds for dismissal after first sight, after all) or too much on their height (an inch or two is the max I've seen) so don't let that get you down.

    What I don't like about Match is that with such a large pool of candidates you have to be picky about something and for women that tends to be income (we specify a certain amount) and height and for men it's youth and beauty (they look for younger). We tend to dismiss based on shallow things many people we'd be attracted to in person. So my being 37 wouldn't matter at a party to a 35-year-old, but he wouldn't look twice at my profile because there are 1000 people younger than me to check out. And that charming, funny graphic illustrator that I can't stop thinking about wouldn't get two glances on Match because he makes less than $75K.

  3. Anonymous February 4, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I have been laughing hard at your post! Maybe because it makes me feel better about myself because the last guy who responded to me on a dating site was a guy with no legs and I was so disgusted with that I just gave up on the on-line dating sites. PLEASE!! Am I that unkind and shallow? I too wrote a very honest profile about the widow thing. Maybe it's time for a new one! I have one more year with a school-age kid at home. Look out world after that!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Abigail February 4, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Yeah, I'm with Julyne. I have not experienced a guy lying about his age or height. And I usually meet really nice people, ones I wouldn't mind being friends with, but it rarely works out that way. As soon as you're clear that the romance thing is a no-go, they are gone.

    I wonder though, that girl that created 3 profiles how that ended up? Did she ever wind up with anyone? The end result will be the interesting thing about this experiment.

    And Anon, no legs sounds reasonable after respirator dude. And there's no point in waiting a year to change up your profile. How about look out world NOW!

  5. dadshouse February 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Good luck with match! I don't put a lot of faith in it. The day I turned 40, my success rate there dropped 1,000 percent. Match encourages people to seek their preconceived ideal.

    What's wrong with meeting people through salsa or writing? How come that's not working?

  6. Roads February 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    If you've got it, flaunt it. Why not?

    And as for your profile, I do think it's entirely reasonable to keep the history back. I mean, next time you meet a new Graphic Illustrator (for example) at a party, you're hardly going to start out with 'Hey, did you know I'm a widow, but I'm getting together with that now'?

    I don't know what your line would be in that situation. But whatever it is, if you can catch something of the flavour of that approach in your words, perhaps you won't go far wrong. Good luck!

  7. BigLittleWolf February 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    You have my empathy. The last Match date as I recall – sometime a year ago or so – a retired gentleman who appeared to be some 20 years older than myself (said he was 12 years older) was after me to go out. We met. He was quite delightful, and I decided to set my own ageism aside, whatever his age was. We had two fab dates, and then he never called again. I'm guessing he was able to find a woman who was even younger. (Or blonder.)

    Every now and then I've met someone terrific, but not anywhere geographically workable.

    The online world is good for laughs, conversation occasionally, and more frequently than not, beating up your self-esteem, once you're over 40. That may depend upon where you live, but I've seen the same old faces (and old photographs), and I'm afraid I'm with DM on this one – which doesn't mean I think you should stop! You're a hot mama in that picture! And sheer numbers say there ought to be some great people around. If only they wouldn't "hit and run" because they treat others as a commodity product, or not even stop by unless you lie in your stats.

    Keep us posted. . .

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