The Great Pre-Tinder: Online Dating When Was The Only Game In Town For Leonard Cohen & Me

As I was Photoshopping the above graphic to illustrate an updated, Tinderized version of Leonard’s poetic plea to Marita, I realized that, while Leonard would  have been successful seducing women with either his looks or his words, I was fortunate to have participated in online dating prior to that function being dominated by Tinder and its like.  By my assessment,  such dating apps are weighted such that two factors, “cute” and “close-by,” alone account for approximately 98.7% of hookup decisions. To one whose aspiration is to appear “non-repulsive” in photos, this does not offer a target-rich environment.

Happily, The Duchess and I met the old-fashioned, romantic way – on, which, at least in those halcyon days now more than a half-decade past, required one to write a few lines if for no other reason than to demonstrate the ability to correctly spell a reasonable percentage of  words and, if you were showing off,  form a complete sentence.

The following is the essay portion of the dating profile I composed shortly after moving to Durham, NC that 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 led to dates, the occasional indulgence in iniquity, and, finally, almost six years ago, our nuptials. Yep, those research and writing skills I developed as an English major 40+ years ago finally paid 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 erotic arts and an irrepressible desire to inflict them on me, my recent efforts to find a companion have been unrequited.

I know – I can’t believe it either.

Nonetheless, I must conclude these tactics are, in some subtle, almost imperceptible way, tragically flawed and a more proactive approach 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”), earned a undergrad degree in English at a commuter college, got into a medical school desperate to recruit a token non-science jock, and moved to Chicago for 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, North Carlolona.

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, 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 very different from my marriage, with a woman very different from my wife.

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 should 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’m 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 & 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 what 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.

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