A few weeks ago an email landed in my inbox at just the right time. Maybe. It depends. I may look back on this and tell you differently. But I am getting ahead of myself. The email arrived. For whatever reason I didn’t send the email directly to trash as I so often do with unsolicited pitches. Instead I read it. Then I read it again.
The subject line was in all caps, which usually would have been a deterrent, and yet it read like an invitation:
SHOW EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY ELLEN DEGENERES LOOKING FOR SINGLES
Oh. Oh, really? Hmmmm. And how did I feel about that? I like Ellen and I had been reading some good things about her production company. (This, by the way, was the conversation I was having in my head …) Maybe I should keep reading.
“The show is casting singles who are interested in going on a first date. We interview all applicants and set them up with someone who shares similar interests and tastes.”
Immediately I knew I was going to apply. Looking back, I am still very surprised by this because it has taken me YEARS to get up the courage to even consider online dating, but one quick email about a dating show and I am all in?! The quickness and certainty of my decision reminded me of another decision I made about a decade ago — the decision to become a single mom by choice. When I was ready to become a mom, I had zero qualms about the how of it. I didn’t realize when I made the choice 10 years ago that I was also subconsciously closing the door on dating. That was SO not my plan.
Now here I am, and online dating has been stagnant, simply because that’s how I made it. I took ages to set up my profile, over-analyzed every aspect of the form, and worried about each question. Was I being too flippant? Too quirky? Too silly? Too OVER THE TOP? I was terrified of the process of being judged even though, of course, that’s how the system works.
Once I set up my account on a popular dating site I felt relieved, as if I had achieved a major goal. I felt done and was ready for the doorbell to ring. I pretty much forgot that the next part was the big part, the process part. I forgot there would be work to wade through profiles and messages. Within minutes of saving my profile I started getting messages alerting me, “User WriteStuff74 is checking you out!” It was thrilling. I was being checked out. Sweet!
But then it wasn’t. It was overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do with the checking out thing. Was I supposed to go look at his profile thus generating a message within his box of, “PlaidGrrl checked you out as well because she thinks that was the polite thing to do…” The “checking out” was bizarre to me. I would quickly look at a profile and feel there was no way I could possibly know if the answers were true. And of course people would be doing this with me.
The messages stopped being zings of flattery and more inducers of panic. What was expected of me? What is the etiquette here? I had jumped into online dating without any common sense of knowing how it worked and that was a mistake.
The email about the dating show, as absurd as this may sound, made me wonder if it would be a true matchmaking situation. At the end of the day, I think matchmaking is what I need. I need someone to say, “Dresden! I know this great guy you would absolutely click with!” I don’t trust myself to do this in a pool of strangers on the Internet.
I kept the application for the dating show open on my iPad for 24 hours and assumed I would close out the tab and move along with life. It was a thrilling idea to think about, but also scary.
The next day I was sitting on the sidelines of my son’s karate class and I opened up my iPad and the browser tab with the application popped up. It made me laugh because honestly, it’s funny to think of jumping off such a personal cliff. I can’t handle online dating, but I CAN handle dating ON TV?!! I started filling out the application and was very aware of just how honest I was being. I wasn’t going to sugarcoat a darn thing. If I was going to do this, I was going to be all me. I also made one of those qualifying bets with myself, “If you can’t finish this before W is done with karate class, then don’t send it.”
I finished it with three minutes left in class and clicked send before I could change my mind.
Immediately I felt awesome. AWESOME. Not because I felt like anything was going to happen, but because something in my mind had shifted while I was filling out the form. Ironically, I suddenly felt 100% OK with being single, and I hadn’t felt that way in a while. I realized my life, my family, my everything is absolutely fine. I don’t NEED anyone else. If the online dating thing makes me feel weird, I should stop it.
A few days later I got a call from Los Angeles.
“Hi Dresden! This is _____ from ______ casting! You submitted an application to a show we are working on. I want to talk to you!”
I can not even begin to tell you how heartily I laughed over this voicemail.
I took a deep breath and called her back. Ten minutes into the call I realized I was in the middle of an audition. She asked me a series of questions about dating and life; it was a very easygoing conversation and I felt comfortable. The last question she asked me was about the show itself. She wanted to know if I thought people would want to watch someone like me on a dating show like this. It’s a very good question.
After mulling over my answer, because I needed to answer this for myself as much as for her, I told her the following:
“I am honestly not sure if people will tune in for me. I’m not a hot young thing. I’m almost 40 and I’m a single mom. But I am pretty great. I’m the awesome sidekick. You know how Julia Roberts always has a date or gets set up in her movies? Well no one ever sets up Joan Cusack. I’m a Joan and she should get a date, too.”
I made it through to the next round and will have an on-camera audition (via Skype) later this week. This isn’t something I am clasping my hands and praying to happen; I will absolutely be OK if/when it doesn’t. Going through the experience has been a blast. It would be pretty awesome if there was a guy out there chuckling about this process as well and somehow we met.More On