The little bubbles appeared on my computer screen, indicating that the other party was typing their response.
“These two are totally our type,” I told my husband excitedly. “I have such a good feeling about them!”
He loosened his tie and leaned over my shoulder, squinting as I tapped the woman’s profile picture. “She looks … kind of weird.”
“Weird?” I clicked on the profile photo to make it larger. The woman on the screen was holding a puppy wearing a baby bonnet. “She’s not weird!” The dog’s name was superimposed on the profile image in glittery pink font: Daisy.
“Listen to me,” I said to him, defensively. “We cannot be choosy here! Do you want couple friends or don’t you? I’m working overtime to make this happen!”
The bubbles on the message window disappeared without her sending a response. “She’s not going to answer,” I said to Michael. “I sounded too needy.”
“If you ask me, we dodged a bullet with those weirdos.”
I groaned and slumped onto the bathroom floor. Then I considered that perhaps Michael was right.
The problem was, that at nearly 40 years old and three years into our second marriage, Michael and I were virtually friendless.
After our first marriages dissolved, both Michael and I found ourselves starting over in every aspect of our lives. If divorce freed me from marital isolation, it also widened the distance between friendships I had long taken for granted. Among the furniture and the lawn equipment that was divided up between plaintiff and defendant, husband and wife, also went the couples we called our friends. His friend, her friend — and so on. Even the friends that remained mine found it difficult to understand my new life after divorce — as a single mother, as a single woman and then as a remarried woman. As my whole world changed, the things we had in common, that made our friendships mutually satisfying, began to fade away.
So I made some single, divorced friends. It was easy to find people to go out to the bar with, on evenings when my children were at their dad’s. These friends understood and commiserated over the difficulties of single parenting, the sad-happy of starting life over again at 35.
But when I met Michael, the single friends lost their footing in my life, too. No longer did I want to spend every other Friday night at the bar, drinking Irish Car Bombs and singing bad karaoke. And they were not allured by the prospect of dinner out, just the three of us.
Making new couple friends that we could have dinner with or invite over for a raucous evening of Trivial Pursuit proved to be daunting. The neighborhood that we moved our blended family into was filled with couples our parents’ age, empty-nesters who had affinities for bird-watching and early-bird specials. They were lovely people to call on when we needed jumper cables to start Michael’s car one cold January morning, not so lovely to sit with on the back deck and share margaritas.
At the point that my husband found me, desperate and trying to broker a deal for a double date, with a friend of a friend on Facebook, we had hit the bottom of the barrel. In our smattering of friendships, we had three single men, two single women and one couple who never wanted to be out past 10 p.m.
And so, Michael and I were two best friends in a marriage to each other, with few other friends to call our own. We relished our time out alone together. But we still felt the pangs of envy when we saw two couples out together at a restaurant, sharing a bottle of wine and a plate of crab rangoons. It felt as if those friendships were out of reach for us, as if friendlessness was a punishment for having failed at marriage our first time around.
Then the dog lady wrote back.
“I spoke with my husband,” she wrote. “We are free a week from Friday.”
I could tell Michael was trying not to laugh, but I ignored him.
“That sounds hopeful,” I said.
“Yes. For sure. Very hopeful.” He turned back to the screen. “Oh. There’s more. She says, ‘Do you like bingo?’”
I scrunched up my face. “Bingo?”
Pushing Michael aside, I pulled the computer into my lap and responded: We’ve never played bingo before, but it sounds like LOTS of fun.
“LOTS of fun?” he read out loud, his mouth pressed against the back of my neck. I could tell he was smiling.
It’s a date! The dog lady typed back, quickly.
I closed the computer screen and turned to Michael triumphantly. “Did you see that? We’ve got a date!”
“Do you suppose they’ll bring Daisy?” He stood up and clasped his hands in faux anticipation. “I want her to like us! Maybe we should throw the dog a bone!”
I groaned and threw a pillow at him. I was too excited to be terribly annoyed with him.
Dating after divorce is hard work. I was learning that, to meet new people and make new couple friends, we had to adapt — to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. We would meet two strangers and win at Bingo like we were born to play.