DrHGuy’s Online Wooing Of The Duchess AKA Penny Showalter


Words of love, so soft and tender,
Won’t win a girl’s heart anymore.
If you love her,then you must send her
Somewhere where she’s never been before.
Worn out phrases and longing gazes
Won’t get you where you want to go. (No!)
Words of love, soft and tender,
Won’t win her…

From Words Of Love
By The Mamas & Papas


I’ve received a number of queries asking how my fiancee, Duchess of Durham, and I met.1 Far too many of these messages, by the way, incorporate a subtext of incredulity, one correspondent going so far as to ask if The Duchess [Update: She now answers to Penny Showalter] had been by chance in danger of being deported unless she earned her green card by marrying a putative citizen.

As it happens, we met the old-fashioned, romantic way – at an online dating site.

The essay portion of that dating profile, which I composed shortly after moving to Durham, NC, follows below.

Notwithstanding the premise set forth by The Mamas & Papas in the verse atop this post, this prose enticed the demure Duchess into an email correspondence that was spiced with selected lines from Leonard Cohen songs, a few Neruda and A.E. Housman poems, links to pertinent blog entries, and a salacious suggestion or two that itself led to dates, the occasional indulgence in iniquity, and, finally, our impending nuptials.2

Yep, those research and writing skills I picked up as an English major 40 years ago have already begun to pay off.

I may have been going about this dating business wrong.

Despite near-perfect execution of my strategy, i.e., sustaining vigilant readiness in anticipation of the spontaneous appearance on my doorstep of a smart, good-looking, quite possibly naked woman with an encyclopedic knowledge of the erotic arts and an irrepressible desire to inflict them on me, my current efforts to find a companion have been unrequited.

I know – I can’t believe it either.

Nonetheless, I must conclude that these tactics are, in some subtly mysterious way, tragically flawed and that a more proactive approach is indicated – something along the lines, say, of signing up with an online dating site not unlike this one. So…

I’m a doctor, widowed ten years ago after an outrageously happy marriage. More about that in a moment.

I’m a quick-witted, funny (in a sardonic, parenthetical-comment sort of way) overachiever, heavy duty reader, sporadic scribbler, & perpetual cynic. I began college as a Bible major (not “theology major,” mind you – I majored in “Bible”) but finally earned a undergrad degree in English at a commuter college, got into a highly rated, Midwestern medical school that was desperate to recruit a token non-science jock, and then moved to Chicago for what I assumed would be three years of training – that turned into 35 years there practicing medicine, raising two kids, striving to earn a dollar or two more than we spent, and generally taking care of business.

Now, I’ve arrived – on my own for the first time since medical school – in Durham, NC.

Add a theme song, and you’ve got yourself a pretty darn adorable TV sitcom.

Along the way, I’ve had two remarkable experiences:

First, Julie, my then wife-to-be, and I met in college, fell madly, irredeemably, unflinchingly in love, and – one decade, five academic degrees, four career changes, and three spouses later (think “When Harry Met Sally” meets “Waiting For Godot”) – got together for that afore-mentioned outrageously happy 20 years together before her death.

Then, six years ago, I won the lottery a second time, finding myself in an implausibly wonderful relationship, albeit one not at all similar to my previous marriage, with Val, a woman who was very different from Julie.

In fact, the only shared features were that (1) both liaisons were marvelous, (2) both love affairs were tragically ended by death, and (3) both women were too good for the likes of me, a blatantly self-evident fact of which they were blissfully oblivious.

From these experiences evolved a simple but powerful two-step methodology that allowed me to hold up my side of those relationships and which will hopefully stand me in good stead if I have the good fortune to again cross paths with the right woman at the right time.

  1. Find a woman who meets my primary criterion (also the single trait shared by the two women I’ve adored): she could do a lot better than me, but she doesn’t know it.
  2. Distract her with fancy footwork, song, dance, snappy chatter, snippets of poems, champagne, ribald limericks, gifts, and other expressions of enthusiastic attentiveness so she doesn’t come to realize she could, indeed, do better.

Because the draconian word count restriction placed on these profiles precludes the kind of knock-your-socks-off big finish, you (and you know who you are) deserve, I have to ask you to imagine the deleted section I originally composed after studying a few profiles of other men on this site promoting themselves as attractive date and mate material. Close your eyes (well, read the rest of this essay first; then, close your eyes) and envision a message epic in scope, a work with both tragic and comic elements that embeds, within an elegant exposition of paradigm-shifting insights into the human condition, the appropriate code words to suggest, in a humorous, self-effacing, not legally binding manner, that I am one athletic, rich, generous, and, of course, handsome son of a gun who is not only “spiritual” as all get out but also “embraces life” and “knows how to treat a lady,” which I now understand has nothing to do with prescribing antibiotics.

Then, imagine a second paragraph that similarly describes my devil-may-care yet chivalrously respectful romantic quest for a soulmate in dating site lingo that implicitly signals my preference for a bright, gorgeous, sexually adventuresome woman possessed of a great figure and low standards in men.

Picture this cast in clever, ironic phrases replete with subtle but unmistakably provocative sexual connotations and just a dollop of nonaggressive, outrageously manic humor. Consider the pervasive romantic subtext only modestly and begrudgingly attenuated by a mature recognition of reality, Finally, it would be nice but probably not essential if you could visualize a closing that offers a polished fragment of universal wisdom proffered without a trace of pomposity and motivated solely by a compassion for humanity itself.

OK, what kind of woman am I actually looking for? I’m looking for a woman who – heck, the two women I’ve loved most didn’t fit any of my preconceived notions of whom I wanted then, so why pretend I know any more about women now? Let’s go with this – if you’re old enough to know the score, young enough to go into extra innings, and you’re still reading, you probably qualify.


Note: Originally posted Aug 15, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of AllanShowalter.com


  1. Update: The Duchess was my fiance at the time of posting: Aug 15, 2011. She is now Mrs DrHGuy aka Penny Showalter. []
  2. Ongoing blog readers, certain Exs, women who peruse online personal ads, and email buddies may recognize portions of this composition. What can I say – I recycle. []

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