Kate and Computer Dating: After her divorce, Kate (I’ll call her) had trouble meeting men. “I hadn’t dated in 20 years,” she told me. “How do you meet someone?”

Kate’s an attractive, witty, professional woman living on the South Coast; she’s in her fifties but looks at least a decade younger. Her work keeps her busy, and “I didn’t have friends I could meet people through.”

On the Beat

A friend at work suggested computer dating, but Kate was reluctant. “It sounded kinky. Who would do something like that? Maybe I’d get chopped up. I thought about it for a year.” She knew what she wanted. “I was looking for a marriage partner. I liked being married and being a couple.” Finally, she tried it. Kate did not get chopped up by an ax murderer, but she’s still laughing about some of the men she met. (This story has a happy ending, by the way.)

Kate went online and browsed through the men who’d posted photos and profiles. “I assumed they all wanted to date and get married. It’s not like going to a bar and meeting a guy who’s taken off his wedding ring.” But she said, “I didn’t pay any attention to the profiles because you can’t tell anything that way.” She selected 12 people based on their proximity to Santa Barbara and age bracket. “I didn’t want to date someone 50 miles away and 25 years old.”

Some of the photos were black and white, suggesting that they might be decades old. Kate would select six at a time and exchange emails, routed through the computer service so that her address was not revealed. “I asked some questions several times in different ways to see if they were lying,” she explained. “I also asked if they had a Web site, so I could see if they were legit. The plan was to meet them at lunch for coffee at a very public place, usually on a Saturday afternoon. I always arrived early and bought my own coffee.” And she usually brought a book, in case Mr. Right didn’t show up or was late.

Over a period of three or four months, she met a dozen men. “They were all very polite and seemed fairly truthful about their age and where they worked.” She never felt threatened and met only a couple of them twice. And she never came close to having sex with anyone.

The first was a nice, older man. “He brought me flowers but forgot them in the car. He said, ‘This is the best first date I’ve ever had.’ I never saw him again. That scared me. I felt he was a little too desperate.

“The next guy was pretty nice. We went out a couple of times. The second time he asked me back to his place to cook dinner. That made me nervous. It seemed premature. I didn’t know much about him. Besides, I didn’t cook.”

Another date talked about himself nonstop, about how he could get women and fly them into town from the East Coast. He told her, “If I took you to the second floor of Nordstrom and dressed you, I think my friends would accept you.”

Then there was Mr. Know-It-All, the king of one-upmanship. Whatever subject she mentioned, he knew it from A to Z, had been there and done it. When she declined a second date he told her, “I like my women better educated than you.”

With that attitude, Kate laughed, “I’m sure he had exhausted the 30-year-olds in the computer dating service, then the forties, the fifties, and, by now, is into the 70-year-olds.”

Another date drove her around the mountains while his dogs in the back kept sniffing her. “He didn’t shut up for four hours. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. My head was almost vibrating. I finally got out of the car and said, ‘You never shut up.’ He replied, ‘That’s what my kids say.'”

One guy, on their first (and last) coffee date, told Kate: “Wow, I could see spending the rest of my life with you.” She figured that he was probably newly divorced and needy.

Meanwhile, a ship was about to pass in the night. Kate needed a break and was about to quit for a while when a man I’ll call Michael emailed her. He was trying computer dating briefly. “I liked his looks in the photo. We talked on the phone.” They decided to meet but had trouble arranging a date. “He was going to be the last one.”

It was worth the wait. “We talked for an hour and a half,” she said. “I thought he was so cute. We went out into the parking lot, and he grabbed me and kissed me. I pushed him away because I was embarrassed because there were teenaged kids there.

“Then we walked to the beach and did some more kissing. He really was so nice and a gentleman.”

That was four years ago. Now they’re happily living together.


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