Enter No. 5.
And, yes, I couldn’t be more surprised. After saying goodbye to No. 2 a few weeks ago (the second of four men I connected with via an Internet dating site in early summer and the only one I had genuine interest in seeing beyond our first date), I told myself I would take a break from the strange, and sometimes disconcerting, process of trying on potential partners online, as if people were shoes to be slipped in and out of at the first pinched fit.
I could use the breather, given the emotional tumult of the last month and a busy fall performing weddings almost every weekend. This I tell myself as I wade through the messages I’ve been ignoring in my account, deleting several without a response — the inability to string a coherent sentence together is an immediate turn off to this writer, as is a blatantly suggestiveness first contact — and politely declining other offers of interest.
Then, just as I’m about to temporarily disable my account, No. 5 pops up, with a simple, seemingly genuine note of appreciation. I express my thanks with no hint of wanting to further engage him. When a few days later he reaches out again, admittedly wary of being a pest, I write a little more. And though he makes me laugh with his follow-up response, I tell him I’ve been debating the merits of what often feels like a wholly unnatural approach to dating and may just leave the site. He agrees with me yet makes a case for the sincerity of his intentions. There are things in his profile that suggest he isn’t an ideal match but there also is enough that intrigues me. We exchange numbers.
And though we have yet to meet, I begin to fall under his spell with alarming, wondrous swiftness. No. 5 is an unbridled romantic, a startling, almost comical, mix of macho gruffness and tenderness. After we trade a few impersonal texts, he begins sending me at least one celebratory or adoring message daily, among several others, expressing his gratitude for having connected with me. He teases me, too, never missing an opportunity to display the sarcastic wit he promised in his profile. But mostly, he woos me — with eloquent expressions of how I make him feel and songs he shares that initially make me smile and later move me to tears. From The Four Tops’ “I Believe In You And Me” to Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day,” he exhibits an uncanny knack for starting my day with songs already in my catalog of sentimental favorites.
But when he sends me Willy DeVille’s “Storybook Love” from “The Princess Bride,” after I share my enthusiasm for the film, and then a Kenny Rogers classic the next day — how could he have known Rogers’ romantic ballads were part of the soundtrack of my childhood growing up in St. Lucia? — something shifts.
Despite the heady effect of his attentions, I have been cautious and guarded, still smarting from my experience with No. 2 but mostly staggered that No. 5 could be so quickly and transparently captivated. The pragmatist in me balks. He barely knows me yet is optimistically envisioning the intertwining of our lives.
The romantic, on the other hand, feels a slow and ineffable tug toward something deeper the moment I hear those first strains from “Storybook Love.” Suddenly, in the days to follow, No. 5 becomes a smile flitting through my day, a flood of happiness that brings the wash of renewal. After my first stumble down this path, something sparks a radiant softness in my heart.
When I question the ardency of his appreciation and praise, he tells me simply: “I think you deserve it.”
And I realize I do. Yet when I severed my ties with No. 2, the act itself a declaration I was ready for the man who would love and treasure me without reserve and meet me as an equal in full partnership, I never expected the Universe to respond with such haste.
I’m not saying I’ve found forever with this expressive, impassioned, funny man. We haven’t even seen each other face to face. But it is not lost on me what we believe about our self-worth is what we attract. In moving on from No. 2, I wasn’t only committing more deeply to what I want in a relationship, I was taking a stand for myself and my own magnificence. For if we aren’t willing to own and honor the gold in ourselves, how can we expect such admiration from anyone else?
As I settle into that awareness, I realize this is the source of my happiness these last few days. Yes, I am utterly charmed by No. 5, though I sometimes wonder if he is merely enamored by the idea of me. But even as I can no longer deny an unspooling gladness with our every interaction, whether we meet or not, whether he is meant to stay or go, I know what I’m really rejoicing in is something much deeper: the reflection of my worth, shimmering back at me, tenacious and immutable — the gift of loving myself.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times