Finding love online

By Kirstin Buick
25 July 2013

Our blogger Erla-Mari Diedericks shares her experiences of getting back into the dating game at the age of 46 and why it’s a scary place.

When I was 19 I would walk through the suburbs of Bloemfontein (where I was studying) on Sundays, smelling roast leg of lamb cooking and hearing the laughter of children – and I’d always wish for a husband and kids of my own. These days I’m just looking for peace and quiet – and a boyfriend for the vagaries of my heart.

At 46, I’m single again after a long engagement. Before that I was married for 10 years. So I can do long relationships, I just can’t keep them going. So here I am again, my meagre possessions in my hands and my heart on my sleeve, looking for a love that will last.

The last time I was left single (as in left with a divorce order and a broken heart) I went onto a website for singles and found love. But I must have broken a mirror somewhere because my happiness lasted seven years, and now I’m looking for a new man on a dating website. But this weekend I went on a date that left me wondering whether I’ll ever get the hang of the world of singles . . .

I walked to the restaurant alone. My jeans felt stiff and my jacket tight and I was uncomfortable going out to eat in a place I’d visited before with my ex and son. It was like I was going to do something naughty in my mother’s bedroom . . .  But unfortunately it was the only restaurant I knew I’d feel safe.

I saw him the moment I walked in – all eyes and belly. What a boep . . .  On his photographs he’d looked at least 10 years younger and 10 kilograms lighter. Something must have happened between then and now because Mr Slim and Thirty had changed into Mr Fat and Forty. I sighed. Then I was greeted by the owner, the manager, the waitrons. And, of course, everyone I knew who would be there that night.

Paunch Man’s eyes narrowed when he observed all the greetings, and his boep seemed to sway slightly. “You seem to know the whole world,” he said. “You must bring all your boyfriends here.”

Suddenly I missed my ex, because if he was there I could have bitten his head off for making such a stupid comment. But I had to tiptoe round this stranger.

“I definitely don’t bring my boyfriends here. It’s my first date since we broke up.”

His eyes narrowed further. “I just don’t feel like being used.”

Warning bells were beginning to sound in my head, then I heard another sound, that of disaster bearing mercilessly down on me in the form of the restaurant manager.

He looked confused as he approached, looking like an anxious penguin in his black suit. Then he bent and whispered so loud the whole restaurant must have heard every damning word.

“Your husband just phoned,” he whispered, “wanting to know if you were in the restaurant and with whom.”

In the sudden silence that descended on the establishment I could hear Mr Paunch’s stomach grumbling furiously. I didn’t even want to start thinking about how my ex knew I was there.

“You lied to me” Paunchy said. “You’re married. How dare you waste my time . . .”

The explanation that followed – no, I’m not married, I was just engaged, no, we’re not engaged anymore – was so soul destroying I don’t even want to repeat it here. But in the end old Paunchy decided to stay – the fact that the food had already been ordered having more than a little to do with it.

There’s nothing, absolutely nothing worse than sitting through a meal with someone you have nothing to say to. Fortunately there wasn’t total silence, though, because Paunchy had plenty to say.

“Did you know I work on the ships?” he announced. “But I can’t really tell you what I do because then I’d have to kill you.”

I choked on my kabeljou.

“Only joking, doll.”

The kabeljou lodged in the back of my throat. Both the kabeljou and I needed water.

“But, okay, I do security on the ships.” Then he leaned forward and whispered. In the candlelight I could see the spittle on his upper lip. His boep pushed the table back slightly.

“Promise you won’t tell anyone, but I protect the ships against pirates.”

The word “pirates” hissed through the air like a bullet. I wondered if I’d heard correctly.

“The last time we were on the ships we were attacked by six Somali pirates. I was in bed, sleeping but some sixth sense fortunately woke me up and I shot them all dead where they stood. One by one by one. Mowed them down like sheep . . . BAM! BAM! BAM!”

The glasses rattled on the table. I wished the kabeljou would swallow me. I desperately wondered how long before the bill arrives?

And the spirit of the dead kabeljou must have heard my pleas because the bill arrived shortly afterwards. Paunchy summarily placed it in front of me.

“You are very pretty and desirable and, doll, I could make your toes curl with pleasure the whole night, but you have wasted my time. You are not ready for a relationship yet. So, you can pay your own bill.”

I wanted to start laughing. The evening couldn’t possibly get worse. I paid my portion of the bill. He strutted out in front of me, his gait wide-legged, his expression smug as a large hen carrying an Easter egg in its pants. We stood at my car for a while. He caressed it and when he pulled his hand away it was covered in dust. He then used one of his dirty fingers to stroke my face.

“Oh, I could really make your toes curl but not tonight because, doll, you must leave now -- and have your car washed...”

Well, I’ll try again next week. Watch this space . . .

To try online dating yourself, go to YOU's online dating site, Looking4You.

-      Erla-Mari Diedericks is author of the successful Sin, Sushi & Survival and her latest novel, Still Standing, is now available in shops countrywide as well as at kalahari.com.

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