Safety Girl and Plain Joe

(Finding Love on an Online Dating Site)

Online dating, I tried it once and got burned, why am I doing it again? I ask myself as I once again post my profile to an online dating site in February of 2007. I know the answer; I’m lonely and this is the most convenient way for me to meet people. I’m not athletic; I have rheumatoid arthritis, which limits my mobility. I don’t drive and I’m not much of a drinker; I can’t dance and don’t enjoy going to bars; online seems the safest method; I feel like I have more control over who I meet.

I choose “Artist looking for a friend” as the heading since I’m not looking for a romantic relationship. I want someone who has the same creative interests, someone who would rather have a nice dinner and night of conversation than go hiking or mountain climbing. For three months, I read profile after profile, but my search is fruitless. I’m getting frustrated.

June already and I’ve only had two guys contact me. Neither one is even close to what I’m looking for. A CEO of a sports clothing company who enjoys outdoor activities; I said I wasn’t an athlete. And the other one wants to meet so we can share each others clothes! Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea,

Saturday, June 16, I log on to the site to check my inbox. A message is waiting; the subject line reads, “Likes to Draw.”

Hmm, that sounds promisingThe message is nice, nothing weird. I click on his profile to find out more. Darn, he’s too old! I close the link in disappointment.

The next afternoon I decide to send him an icebreaker—a canned response—to be polite: “Thanks for getting in touch. Have you got a photo?” 

Within two hours, I receive a response. Giggling, I read, “I’m sorry I don’t have a photo. Are you familiar with the comedian Carrot Top?????? Well I don’t look anything like him. I’m 6′, short, dark brown hair with some gray, a gray beard trimmed very thin along the jaw line, about 208 lbs, blue eyes. I know what you’re thinking ‘Sam Elliot meets Dom Deluise'” Not a paid subscriber to the site, I can’t send a reply.

Later I meet my friend Bernadette for coffee. “Hey, I got two messages online, from this guy, Greg, he seems nice,” I say. “But he’s too old for me. He’s fifty-three.”

Looking at me strangely, she says, “And how old are you?”

Pausing, I look at her “Oh my gosh.” I feel my face get warm. “I forgot; I’m going to be fifty-one soon. I guess he isn’t too old.” 

Soon I hear from him again. Man is he persistent. Now he wants to meet for coffee.

“Bernadette,” I telephone my friend. “Greg sent me another message. He really wants to meet me. What should I do?”

“Why not meet him? If nothing comes of it at least we can have some fun.”

“I don’t think I’m ready to meet him. He sent his phone number again, though. Will you call him and give him my email address? I think he has a cell phone and I don’t want him to have my number.”

The next day, June 24, I get an email. Everyday after that, I wake up to a friendly, cheerful message. We share our values and our faith in God. We share our disappointments and our pains.

I still don’t know what he looks like. In one email he writes: “I have a huge hump on my back, my left eye is below my cheekbone, and I like to ring the bell tower at church!!!!” I resign myself to the fact I must wait until we meet to know what he looks like.

I am comfortable with this mode of communication, but he isn’t. “… it seems more distant and impersonal to me…” he writes on June 28. He would rather meet me, or at least talk to me on the phone.

My reply “…for now this seems safer…” inspires him to write a funny, yet sweet story about a girl who goes out of her way to live a safe life and the guy who wants to meet her. It is entitled plain joe and the safety girl. From then on, my nickname is “Safety Girl.”

Yes, I was being safe. I was afraid the fact I have RA would be too big of an issue for anyone I meet. It’s hard to stand by and watch me do things. So, when people ask to help me, I let them. I don’t like to keep people waiting, or make them feel uncomfortable, so I probably say “yes” too often. I feel this is the main reason my last relationship soured. If this friendship with Greg is destined to evolve into a relationship, and it seems to be going that way, I want to be sure he knows what to expect.

He assures me he knows from my pictures how severe my RA is. He has talked to a friend whose mother has the disease; his friend tried to discourage him from meeting me saying I was “very high maintenance.”

“I didn’t take my friend’s advice,” he writes. “I like everything I know about you so far. Also right after I got the first few e-mails from you with your last name I looked you up on the white pages web site. I know your phone number but have not called because I felt you would let me know when I could. Would you hang up on me if I did?”

I’m not sure I want him to call me, yet, I think, but I reply that I won’t hang up.

“I was counting our e-mails,” he wrote on the first of July. “Are you aware that we have had 67 of them? And when you answer my last one…that will be 68. And when I mail this one that will be 69. The one after that will be 70. And at 70 I get to start calling you once in awhile. (I’m sure that’s in the yahoo cyber dating rulebook “fine print”)”

After I remind him of my last email, he calls me that evening; we talk for an hour and a half. I don’t remember what we said, but I remember laughing a lot.

The phone calls become a nightly ritual. Talking to Greg before going to sleep is the highlight of my day.

Soon, it isn’t enough. “We have to meet,”Greg says. “How about this weekend?” I am ready to meet him, so we make a date for that Friday.

On July 6, we meet at the local coffee shop. My friend Bernadette is our chaperon. “Let’s get there early so I can order my coffee and be sitting down when he gets there,” I say, because I’m self-conscious of the RA’s affect on my body.

Unfortunately, he’s there first. As he holds open the door, I smile nervously. “I don’t see a hump.” He smiles and hunches over, imitating Quasimodo. He has a nice smile. I think.

He is about six foot tall, has short, dark brown graying hair and a gray beard. Bernadette signals her approval as she moves to a table outside so we can have some privacy.

As we talk, Greg shows me a picture collage of himself at various ages. He also surprises me with a MacArther Study Bible. “A gift to remind you of our first meeting.” His thoughtfulness and generosity amaze me. My faith is important to me; I am happy to see that it is important to him also.

The time flies by as we enjoy each others company. Too soon, it’s time for him to go.

“May I kiss you?” he says.

What a gentleman. I think and nod my head. Just as his lips approach mine, I turn my head and the kiss lands on my right cheek.

“Thank you.” He smiles again.

“I brought my camera,” I say. “We can have Bernadette take a picture of us. It will be fun to look at in the future, especially if we remain friends.”

After he leaves, I tell Bernadette, “This was fun; I hope he wants to see me again. He’s cute.”

Not only does he want to see me again, he wants to see me the next day. He calls me that afternoon and convinces me to invite him to my house, no chaperon. After laying down some rules—I’m still Safety Girl—I agree to see him for a couple of hours.

After hanging up, I call Bernadette. “I hope I didn’t just do something stupid,” I say. “I told Greg he could come over. Tell me that wasn’t dumb.”

“That’s great. Relax and have fun, he seems very nice.” Her voice is reassuring. “Call me tomorrow and tell me how it goes.”

Feeling better, someone knows Greg is coming over—in case something happens—I straighten up the living room while I wait for his arrival.

The attraction between us is obvious, and we don’t even pretend it isn’t. We spend the time watching a movie and kissing—mostly kissing.

“You need to leave,” I say a couple of hours later. “If you don’t…Call me when you get home.”

That one meeting changes our relationship. Our friendship begins to evolve; we quickly become even closer.

Two weeks later, Greg tells me he loves me. I am stunned. It’s too soon, I think. We’ve only know each other a short time, how can he think he loves me.

“You don’t have to tell me you love me,” he says. “But, I need to let you know how I feel. I was very attracted to you before we met; you put so much of yourself into your emails. When we met I worried a little bit because of your arthritis, but I prayed about it and realized I wanted to know you better, anyway.” He kisses my cheek. “I love you; you are a gift from God.”

A month later, we are sitting on the couch watching a movie. Shyly, I lean towards Greg. “I love you,” I whisper in his ear.

Grinning broadly, he takes me into his arms. “I love you, too, Safety Girl.”

The next two years go by fast. Anticipation of nightly phone calls, weekend dates and an occasional surprise weeknight visit, fuel our passion.

We continue to exchange daily emails. I wake each morning and check my inbox for that one message. That message from the man I love. An email filled with words of joy and devotion; an email expressing the awesomeness of God’s bringing us together.

In June 2008, we take our first trip together. We spend two wonderful days at the beach, recommitting ourselves to each other and looking towards the future.

In September, I move into his house. We enjoy seeing each other every day and the emails taper off; except for an occasional, I love you!

May 2009 we’re sitting in the kitchen, discussing where our relationship is going. Suddenly Greg leaves the room. When he comes back, he kneels down in front of me. “Just calling you my girlfriend isn’t enough. It doesn’t express how I feel about you. Will you marry me?” He holds up an engagement ring.

I jump out of my chair. “Yes, yes, I will marry you. Oh my gosh, it’s beautiful.” He put the ring on my finger. “I’m now your fiance’.” I say and reach up to kiss him.

It turns out this “artist looking for a friend” found—to paraphrase one of Greg’s emails— her friend, her soul mate, and her future on an online dating site after all.