Part Three–Calling Hair and Makeup!
After not connecting with anyone through a matchmaker, I went to a blow dry bar to prepare for my dating profile photo session, as I had been instructed by my ex-husband Zippy. I was vaguely familiar with what a blow dry bar was but I had never been to one before. So, to understand what to expect, I googled the official definition–a hair salon that strictly provides washing, blow drying, and hair styling–which was somewhat different than my own made up definition–an establishment where cocaine addicts (blow) in recovery (dry) hang out and drink (bar). That, they aren’t. Instead, my salon looked like a gleaming nightclub that was heavy with the roar not of EDM or rap but dozens of blow dryers.
Because my visit was a few days before Halloween, a stylist in a Peter Pan costume was working on a woman in the chair next to mine as my stylist, dressed like Olivia Newton John’s Sandy in “Grease,” rolled my uncooperative hair with so many round brushes, the handles spoking around my head, that I looked like a 1950s Sputnik chandelier. “What’s the special occasion?” she asked.
My face turned red, my eyes watered. I had to hold my breath to keep from crying. I was still so tender from the breakup. “Oh, just trying out a new look,” I finally said, sniffling. I didn’t have it in me to tell her the truth, that I was getting all prettied up for absolutely no one and nothing. Well, except my ex-husband who was going to take pictures of me so that I could date complete strangers, which was all too messed up to bring up in superficial chit-chat.
Once my hair was styled, I was walked over to the cosmetics counter. My makeup artist had gotten all crazy creative and dressed up for Halloween as a makeup artist. Her wizardry was brief and fast-paced: slather on foundation, outline red-rimmed eyes, layer on eye shadow, brush on mascara, then finish with some pink lipstick. Ta-daaa.
I went home and met Zippy for my photo shoot.
“You look fantastic,” he said.
“Which is to say, not like myself,” I told him. During the car ride home, my sensitive skin had begun itching from the makeup. But my hair? OK, my hair was a dream, although an impossible one at that because I would never be able to re-create the style on my own. It was clean, straight, and smooth, a look that I could achieve if I had 23 round brushes, a hair dryer that hung from the ceiling, and 1,500 hours of training. Zippy was spot on about going to that blow dry bar. When had he become a personal stylist?
He picked through my closet and selected three outfits for me to wear. I changed into a T-shirt and jeans, then sat on a chair in my living room as he pointed his phone camera at me. “Are you in pain?” he asked. “You look like you have appendicitis.”
“This is all so abnormal,” I told him.
“Please smile or at least try to,” he said as he used the burst mode photo setting, the shutter rapid-firing. “All right next outfit! Next location!”
“I don’t have another location, just a TV room. And is another photo really necessary?” I asked. “Isn’t one photo enough?”
“No, you need to have at least three to five, otherwise guys will think that your profile is a fake.”
Fake profiles? I hadn’t thought of this. I’d been so focused on worrying about run-of-the-mill Craigslist dating murderers that I hadn’t considered that there were scammers aiming to part the lovelorn from their money, credit cards, and identity. “So what you’re basically saying is that my life could be the subject of a Dateline NBC episode about my first and also final date with a serial killer con artist.”
Zippy rolled his eyes and sighed. “Please stop.”
“I’m nervous,” I said. “This whole situation makes me sweat more than running does.”
I perspired through three more photos in three more locations, with wardrobe changes in-between. Zippy handed me his phone to look at the results: me in a striped shirt, black pants, and no shoes sitting on a chair in the TV room; me in a tie-dyed dress standing on the breezeway of my condo complex; and me in a wraparound dress standing with my Chihuahua in front of a wall. My dog was looking up at me with a quizzical look. If he could talk, he would have said, “Why, why, why?” in Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan’s voice.
I was asking myself the same question–why was I doing this? But at the same time I knew the answer: online dating was the only way I could meet people at this stage of my life. My kids were grown so I didn’t have a large community to draw from whether through their school or sports or activities. I didn’t belong to a club–country, health, or Sam’s. I didn’t have family in town to connect me with friends of friends of friends. My world was small and online dating offered the most direct way to broaden it, whether I liked it or not, and I didn’t like it. But I had to endure it, which would involve a change of mindset. And my mindset is strongest when I’m running. I started to run while going through my divorce as a way to alleviate stress. Since then I’ve run places and distances I never before imagined I would–up mountains, down canyons, across hot deserts, against horses (yes, in a race), in the early mornings, and late at night. I’ve met runners with the toughest minds and wills who have not only inspired me but taught me how to expand my vision of what I’m capable of doing. I had to take on the challenge of online dating as I did with running: embrace the suck and settle into the sufferfest. The next step of which was to create my online profile.
Zippy and I sat down at my computer and started working through the match.com registration form and profile. “Make your first sentence unusual,” Zippy said. “You want to get noticed.”
“You’ve mentioned that before,” I said. I typed, I have all my original teeth.
“Well, all right,” he said. “I guess they’ll know what they’re getting into.”
“Good dental hygiene,” I told him.
When I reached the “Political Views” section, he said, “Don’t say you’re a liberal.”
“But I am a liberal.”
“It’s very off-putting, especially in these times,” he told me. “Choose ‘middle-of-the-road’ and then once you meet, you can gradually be honest about your beliefs. Everyone fudges on these profiles.”
“Great,” I said. “This is like going to one of those parties where you bring a wrapped gift and you get to pick someone else’s wrapped gift. You might get something nice or you might get something crappy, but you can’t tell because everything is covered in pretty paper and curly ribbons.”
“Uh-huh,” Zippy said, not listening as he scrolled through his text messages.
“I hate those parties,” I told him.
“Uh-huh,” he said again, still not listening as he started replying to his text messages.
In the “Favorite Things” section, I listed running on roads and trails, hiking, and being outdoors. To prove that I had an incredibly wide variety of interests in my life, I added “Watching Netflix.”
Finally in the “Last Read” section,” I typed, Ratf**ked.
“What the hell?” Zippy said, suddenly all interested again in me filling out my profile. “Is that porn?”
“Well, maybe politically,” I told him. “It’s about gerrymandering.”
“Keep it in there,” he said.
“Because it’ll get noticed,” I told him. He nodded.
I hit the the save key and clicked the submit button. And then I waited.
Next time: Part Four–Use Your Words