So here's my story about how eHarmony changed my life, and it isn't because it ended with me meeting Rick, 29, English teacher. Let's just say that it won't be set to music in any upcoming commercials. (Warning: It's long and dramatic, so proceed with caution and a sense of humor.)
Okay, let's roll back to 1995 for a minute to get a little background info. In the grand tradition of freshman year roommates, the girl that I was assigned to live with when I got to college was not someone that I liked right away, to put it mildly. She was snotty, knew everything, and brought a poster of men in a sauna to tape to our wall. Of course, she probably met me and thought, "spoiled, flaky, and brought a Curious George poster."
We didn't really like each other for months, and then when we came back from winter break, she was kinda interested in this guy. I had a boyfriend (who at the time was still male); she asked me for advice and we ended up staying up for hours talking, the first of many nights we'd do that, lying on our beds, looking up at the glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the ceiling that we actually arranged into various constellations because in college you have way too much free time on your hands. After that night, the dynamic between us somehow shifted and we were suddenly inseparable. It has never made sense to anyone who has known us. We are drastically different people; you would never think to sit us next to each other at a dinner party (if anyone I knew ever actually had a formal dinner party, that is). In college we lived together for two years (the only people we know who chose to live with their assigned roommates again). We just became family. She irritated and infuriated me and I disagreed with half the things that came out of her mouth. I also adored her; sometimes it's just that simple and that weird. Ten years later we were still best friends.
A couple years ago I saw the ad on TV for the eHarmony free personality profile. I was mildly intrigued and completed it, at which point they start sending you boys. Not via FedEx, I'm sorry to say, but your inbox suddenly becomes littered with potential suitors. I didn't take it too seriously. I didn't really want to go on dates with strangers; never really have. But my friends who had nursed me through a recent difficult break-up urged me to keep an open mind.
I had an instant message conversation with one of the eHarmony guys. After a few typed lines from him, I just knew I wasn't interested. He was a realtor, living in the same town as my friend. At the time, she was thinking about selling her house, and she happened to be online as well. So I said, mostly joking, "Hey, YOU should talk to this guy." They were both game. I logged off, and then about an hour later, she called me.
"We've been chatting for awhile and he wants to call me," she said. "Do you mind?"
"No, not at all."
"Are you sure?"
I was positive. The guy couldn't spell.
She called a few hours later. "We've been on the phone all this time."
"Yeah. I kind of like him! Is this ridiculous?"
Oh, to have a time machine, and be able to respond to that with, "Yes, yes it is."
"...and he asked me to have dinner with him on Tuesday."
"Are you SURE you don't mind?"
"I'm completely sure. He's all yours."
She checked in with me about a zillion more times to make sure it wasn't weird for me. I can see how she thought it would be, but it wasn't an issue. Before she even met him, she joked that if they ended up getting married, they'd owe me big. I said they'd owe me flowers.
I never got flowers. I did, however, have to carry some in their wedding a year later. They got engaged three months after that first date. I'd love to tell you that it ended up being the sweet, accidental love story that it could've been, that I met him and loved him too, that she has everything she's ever wanted. But everything basically went as craptastic as it possibly could have.
She hadn't really dated anyone seriously before, so all of our friends were very curious about this guy. She was nervous about he and I meeting. The three of us had dinner together, and it was, um, what's the word? Horrific? I asked about him and his job, just to make conversation; he answered me flippantly and didn't ask a thing about me. I was in grad school at the time and he started pontificating about how he'd never go to grad school because it's a waste of time. He was possessive of her even at that point, chiding me for thinking I knew her so well when HE was really the expert on her. I mean, what? He was just The Classic Jerk; it was like a sitcom. He got up to go to the mens room and I was convinced that she was about to turn to me and say, "Oh my GOD, he's AWFUL." I was already plotting what we could tell him in order to cut dinner short and get the hell out of there. But she just smiled, giddy, falling in love. I was horrified.
The next day she called to find out what I thought of him without coming right out and asking what I thought of him. At a loss for words, I said (the line that quickly became infamous among our friends), "I can't believe there wasn't a wait at [the restaurant]!" In retrospect, it was inadvertently unkind of me; I should've indulged her, should've just said something innocuous like, "He seemed nice" or "You guys seem happy together." Or maybe not, I don't know. I hadn't yet had the experience of having a friend partner up with a doofus and having to choose my words delicately; I foolishly thought if he's THIS bad, she's GOT to see it, right? ...Right?
Anyway, that was pretty much it for the two of us. She essentially replaced me with him, which I think can happen to your best friend, to an extent, when you get into a relationship. But she didn't even try to juggle; she was just basically gone. She didn't even call me on my birthday. It was awful and I was, well, heartbroken, I shouldn't be ashamed to say. The worst part, though, was that it wasn't just that we drifted apart and that was it; she still called sometimes, acting like everything was fine and her life was wonderful and he, we, us and how was I doing with whatever I might be up to? She'd make a call like this about once a month or so and chat like we were distant cousins, when she had literally been like my other half for ten years. I kept wishing that if this was how it was going to be that she would just go away and give me a chance to get over it; it's funny to say that I needed closure, as though she and I were really in a relationship, but I guess we were and I did need it.
The rest of our friends thought he was a jackass too, but after my "Neat! Uncrowded restaurant!" comment, I became their unwitting representative. A few of them actually said to another friend of ours, "You guys can't let her marry him! Are you going to talk to her?" to which our friend replied, "She got a sense that Red didn't like him and it basically ended their friendship, so we're keeping our mouths shut."
I should mention that he hated me. HATED ME. He would see me and not even say hello, and I always tried to be polite and take the high road, even though I really wanted to kick him in the head. I mean, when I was with Steve, he really had nothing in common with her, but he knew how important she was to me and he made a big effort with her because of this. I can't fathom a relationship in which your significant other doesn't make an effort with your friends, where they're so inexplicably threatened by the people that you love that they can't even be bothered to say hello to them. Furthermore, I can't imagine anyone being in a relationship with this person and being flattered and not disgusted by their possessiveness and utter lack of confidence. But hey, there's someone for everyone, I guess.
Then she wanted me to be in her wedding. I decided that the right thing to do was chin up, smile, this isn't about YOU, Red. She'd been fantasizing about her wedding since we were young (I know, ew) and I just felt like this wasn't the time for everything I was actually feeling; this was the time to be a good sport. I even tried to throw her a bachelorette party that she promptly said wasn't good enough because her random cousins weren't invited, and then her childhood friend chewed me out for not honoring the bride sufficiently. I took a day and went to her house and helped her with the invitations, all the while trying to be sunny side up; afterwards all she did was talk to our friends about how she thought I was acting weird. At the wedding, every single person there KIND OF knew how they'd met; somehow a slightly altered version of the story had circulated wherein he'd basically chosen her over me. Like I needed 250 people, including my parents and my friends' parents, to hear that not only had I tried and failed at internet dating, but that homeboy had actually dissed me. And I couldn't exactly refute that rumor; no one wants to see a bridesmaid point angrily at the groom and yell, "Like I ever would've gotten on that troll!" AND to top it all off, I was wearing the most ugly, unflattering, purplest David's Bridal dress on the planet. I looked like a sad grape.
After the wedding, I was so relieved that it was all over and exhausted from being such a goddamn good sport that I sat in my hotel room (next to Party Jen and the room service breakfast that her dad had ordered for us out of kindness/sympathy/in anticipation of our mutual hangovers) and felt like crying from relief and disbelief at everything that had happened. Of course, I had to show up for the do-over bachelorette party, which was organized more to the bride's liking this time. Can you imagine the nerve, demanding a better bachelorette party, of all things, AFTER you're already married, and after your friends have already spent all that time and money on your shower and wedding? To make matters worse, she prided herself the entire time on not acting like a bridezilla. It didn't help that she took every opportunity to be condescending to me about the fact that SHE was married and I was pathetically single; she conveyed this to me in a million little ways that I've forced myself to erase from memory so that I don't walk through life with permanently clenched fists.
After a few months, the novelty of being in a relationship was starting to wear off a little bit and she started being interested in having friends again. I agreed to see the movie Rent with her; we'd been obsessed with the musical in college, and it seemed only fitting to see it together. Subway and Flux came along and I was tense the entire time. That was the last time I saw her; insert one of many appropriate Rent lines here.
Shortly thereafter I heard she was complaining to some of our friends about how I wasn't including her in my life anymore, and what was my problem? I was livid. I wrote her a long email basically saying, after everything you did over the past year and a half, how dare you complain about me finally starting to move on and have a life that doesn't include you. I wanted to write the entire thing in caps lock. I STILL KIND OF DO. She wrote back something equally hostile. Email confrontations are ugly and childish at worst and unproductive at best; I don't recommend them unless you're fairly certain that you want that to be your last interaction.
Then I heard that she and her husband had separated. That classy guy hooked up with someone else and took a picture of it, which she found. Then they got divorced. And the icing on the cake was that she'd sold her house when she first met him and moved in with him, and they basically used all the money they got from selling her home to pay for their ginormous wedding and various vacations and remodeling on HIS home (actually not even his, it belonged to his grandmother, who still lived there). So not only was she going through a divorce less than a few months after her wedding, but this woman who had been financially astute enough to purchase a home at the age of 23 had lost that entire investment. AND she'd already ordered a maternity bridesmaid dress for a friend's wedding this summer, in anticipation of being pregnant (talk about tempting fate), and then had to have it taken in when it became clear that she would not be with child, or with husband, for that matter.
I sent her an email telling her I was sorry to hear about what she was going through. She wrote back saying thanks. That was six months ago. I have no idea how she's doing or who's helping her through this, since out of her other close friends, one just had a baby and the other moved away (one of them started giving me shit for being single too, and I eventually had to distance myself from her as well, if you can believe that, but that's a whole other boring story).
Sometimes I think about her, at stupid times that catch me off guard, like when I was watching the Will & Grace series finale. Sometimes I don't even think about her at all; or if I do, it's the old her, the one I barely remember because the new version of her took over. Sometimes I even think about calling her, but never for long enough to actually do it. I do miss my old best friend a whole lot, but as with any relationship that ends, you try to move on and see what else is out there. And you hope that the best is still to come and that it isn't what you already had.
So, yeah. Like I said, that crazy white-haired guy is not exactly going to be bragging about my experience on any of the eHarmony commercials anytime soon. But you have to admit, it would make for one hell of a parody.