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Internet Shopping for Love by Quija Moonflower Keogh

It was the way he wrapped his large man-sized fingers around the tiny ceremonial Gongfu tea cups, holding them ever so delicately, feeling into them as gravity released the tea from the upside-down taller aroma cup into the even tinier upright sipping cup, that caught my attention and confirmed what I believed was true. He was my soul mate.

A few winters ago a single friend came to visit and we sat in front of a computer screen scanning page after page of photos of men on a dating website for people left-of-center seeking their mates. We must have critiqued over 350 profiles. We were musing about the ways men would try to lure us into a potential love affair with pronouncements about being romantic, spiritually evolved, handy-men around the house, and the ability to deliver the galaxy’s most passionate kisses.

Their photos ranged from distorted handheld cell phone close-ups of slightly warped faces, to wilderness scenes posing in front of a mountain or doing their particular macho sport, to unclothed upper bodies featuring flexed biceps and alluring smiles. A plethora of perfect virtual mates. But were they?

In my subsequent search for my own perfect mate, I have sampled several of these cyber-profilers, always with less than perfect results. I had a date with a man who thought speaking loud broken English to the sushi chef was appropriate. I had another date with a man who smoked pot after every glass of wine, in between every Vicodin he swallowed. And I have dated a couple of men who looked SO good on paper (and even smelled good to my hopeful nose), only to discover that I was lost in a romantic fantasy.

Here is how it usually unfolds. When you scroll down a page covered with photos of man after man, the first one to catch your eye is the bait. Once you start to nibble the bait, click, the profile opens and his words catch your attention. Words like, “I would describe myself as athletic and toned under a few extra pounds...” (he sounds strong, but soft and huggable), or, “I try to always look into myself; improve myself; find the best spiritually healthy choices...” (sounds like he’s holistically focused). Some write about their relationship history: “I am no rookie at loving; it is an incredible experience to be someone’s everything. I have been that and had it in my life...so know that I am not coming from a busted or broken relationship.” That translates as emotionally whole, right?

But the truth of these quotes is more like: A few extra pounds means love handles thicker than whale blubber; improve myself means spends more time in the bathroom than the entire Brady bunch; and the proclamation about not being broken means he is broken. Definitely broken.

Should you find yourself attracted to his picture, and his words touch just the right spot in your heart, you can send a message to your potential soul–mate... or just a smile, or a wink, depending on the site. And then you wait while he views your pictures and words. This is when the cyber-attraction force can kick in. If he thinks you are THE ONE, you might get a smile, a wink or an actual letter back from your beloved-in-waiting. At this point, the curtain rises and love begins his performance, moving back and forth across the stage of your heart like a highly skilled massage therapist kneading your aching back with his big strong manly hands. It just feels so good.

The courtship steps up a notch when you are let into his inner sanctum and he offers you his personal email address. The level of trust this conveys is enormous since he is essentially saying he knows you are not a stalker who will plaster him with spam or life threats.

Now the fun really begins. The words that appear in these emails are his big chance to communicate the depths of his heart’s journey through the long and winding road of searching for, well, you. It amazes me how quickly some guys are willing to spill the beans about every past relationship, and why it failed, and how they are still friends, and why he knows it will be different with you.

But you know what? People can write anything. They can edit, spell-check, delete, use those Creative Writing 101 skills, or just plain lie. Who would know?

And the emails keep going back and forth. One begins to anticipate the next letter like a curious child on Christmas morning waiting to unwrap the presents. What could it say? The world may still be spinning around its axis, but the meaning of life now revolves around his emails.

But you know what? People can write anything. They can edit, spell check, delete, use those Creative Writing 101 skills, or just plain lie. And yes, you just read that sentence in the last paragraph, but I needed to say it twice.

The last man whose emails I waited for escalated to the next level in only 5 days. He asked if he could call me. Usually it is an offer of his phone number, but this man told me there was no cell phone reception where he was staying. So guess what wise woman me did? I gave him my number. I know, what was I thinking? I’ll tell you what. He could be THE one. My fantasy man. The guy on the white horse.

He called me at the appointed time. And OMG, this one had a foreign accent. Will someone please turn down the heat in here? My knees began to quiver. He had to be the ONE I was searching for (or more accurately, shopping for). After a few days of phone calls during which time my brain melted into a head full of bread pudding, we actually made a plan to meet, at a tea house. My idea... good one, huh. Romantic, but casual.

At the appointed hour of the fateful day, as I motored round the corner from Grand Ave. to Belmont, my cellphone rang. He asked where I was in traffic. I told him. He suggested I turn in after the red car about to go by. I looked up, and the red car went by. Holy crap! How did he know? It was magic.

Well, not exactly. Having no car, he had walked from the youth hostel where he’d stayed the night before, he knew what my car looked like (from an email), he knew exactly where I was in traffic (because I just told him)—and looking up the road, he saw a lot of cars with a big gap behind the red one. More like good eyesight. But could my mind disengage from the idea of it being magic? Hell no. This guy was my soul mate, dammit.

I stopped up the road where the tall blonde man stood in a parking lot. I got out and gazed upon my future husband (literally) with lust in my heart, and knew instantly that my shopping was over. The teahouse date went smooth as freshly ironed silk pajamas, so I invited him home. (I know, but...) I had erected a tent outside my home and there he would sleep the first night, at least, to play a little hard to get at first. Just at first.

A month later, after lots of loving, two great road trips and the promise of love everlasting, he left to go back to his country. So we picked up the thread on Skype. Then he came back to America and on Halloween we married. Yes married, the real deal, white gown, celebration with friends and family, a reception and cake, the whole 9 yards. We had agreed prior that this was for a green card, but there was love too. At least up to and during the ceremony.

I didn’t know it but the wedding was my personal portal into the Twilight Zone. About 5 days after the wedding we finally consummated. That was the only time, post ceremony, that we were intimate with each other. Seriously. Something changed in him after the wedding. I think it is called, I DIDN’T KNOW HIM AT ALL. He became lethargic and behaved like we were an old married couple. I worked and came home... and then worked some more. He didn’t help around the house, didn’t seem to like my cooking, didn’t do much of anything. I talked with him about feeling uncomfortable—I mean the relationship was so new, yet there was no romance, or courtship, no anything at all. He told me I could not demand appreciation or romance or gratitude, it has to happen on its own.

After 6 weeks of that I decided he was right. I could not demand it at all, and it was time to call it a done deal. I asked him to move out, which he did. 10 days later, he went back to his country of origin, as his visa had expired and he had no green card yet. Thankfully he’d had to buy a round-trip ticket to come back here and that turned out to be my insurance policy in case it didn’t work out.

The divorce cost $308, and a couple weeks to be finalized. Now I can remove his name as it hangs off the end of mine by a hyphen—like a useless fur ball on my cat’s tail, waiting for me to pull it off as he walks by.

So, to review: I met him online. We emailed for 5 days, talked on the phone for 5 more, met over a Gongfu tea ceremony, lived together for a month, Skyped for 2 months, got married, then got divorced 6 weeks later. It was as if a tornado had lifted me out of my mind, spun me into a dream state, whirled me around wildly, then dropped me down in the land of awes. There was no wicked witch under the house where I landed, but I still had to journey down the yellow brick road of relationship, to the emerald city of clarity, before realizing that my true life partner was always right here, in my own heart.

The fantasy of finding “him” by browsing photos at a dating site online, now appears to me like the kind of reality TV show that makes me think, why I am watching this crap anyway? Love, in the form of a mate, may or may not show up in my life, but for now, when I look into my mirror I see the reflection of my best and most trusted friend, always present in my home. I will continue to deepen that relationship and prepare myself for all the unexpected surprises yet to come.

The beauty of this story is that my faith in love remains unchanged. What has changed is my relationship to “magical thinking,” and most important, I have become a much smarter shopper. The best bargains are right here in the basement of my own heart.

Quija Moonflower Keogh resides and works at Breitenbush Hot Springs for the past 6 years. A lover of life, stewarding that sacred land is one of her passions. In addition to being an avid writer, she is both a recording artist and a fabric artist. Her music and felted wool hats can be found in the Breitenbush store.

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