Project Toad: Letters from a Toad – An Online Dating Confessional

Not for the faint of heart…

Never – when I asked our dear Toad, Jake, to tell me his Lessons Learned so far about Online Dating – did I anticipate the depth of spirit he would share with us. He wrote us a letter, and he intends to write to us often as he experiences Online Dating. I won’t take anymore of your reading attention with my words. Instead, I give you Jake…

Dear Heidi Lee,

When I came to you with the idea of personally joining Match.com to find a relationship, I was thrilled that you offered your help. I also really enjoy seeing my adventures immortalized in your blog. I thought it would be fun and I trusted your instincts. I’ve seen your relationship with your own Prince Charming (aka PC) first hand, and I’d hoped your guidance would help me find that same magic.

Yet I have to acknowledge upfront that this project has spiraled into something I never imagined. Had I known what I was faced with, I would have never volunteered.  However, you’re my friend. Now that I’ve made the commitment to this endeavor and to you, my personal code of conduct mandates that I follow through.  But, Heidi Lee, it’s hard. I’m looking at myself and the man I feel like I have been. I see now that I have to become…

So let’s begin with what I’ve learned from you about myself. My only stipulation is that you do not judge me too harshly or see me shrouded in a perpetual cloak of ignorance. You are my friend, and that would hurt.

I never actually had a successful relationship in any capacity.  I’ve gone from one micro-relationship to another (or should I say I’ve been a Toad-Hopping from bed to bed?) I’ve done this all my life.  I prided myself in the belief that I held a keen understanding of what women want only to learn at 41 that I couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

I have dated, and yes, I use that term carelessly, women who were between 18 and 25.  I’ve always told you that I dated these younger women because I lived in a college town with limited options. Now I confess that this is not entirely true.

I never understood that my geographic location wasn’t the only reason for my perpetually young, ever changing, flock of female companions. Funny thing is you did, you called me on it, and I’m grateful that you forced me to open my eyes to reality.  I guess on some level, buried deep within, I couldn’t deny that I was (and still am) incapable of having an adult relationship.  Hence, Lesson #1:

  • Women don’t date boys, and boys aren’t capable of dating women.

Despite a list of what others may consider to be my sexual conquests, I’ve never felt good about the ease at which I leaped from one bedroom to the next. It secretly sickened me.  What I never realized was that I wasn’t just hurting myself. I was actually hurting these women as well. Although I never intended to do harm, my collateral damage remains in the aftermath.  I hid from the ugliness of my behavior and the reality of my actions behind a pretense of self-righteousness, anchored in a pool of arrogance and vanity.  I was actually pompous enough to believe – to hold as concrete – that I was doing these women a favor by sleeping with them. Hence, Lesson #2:

  • What women deserve from men comes from North of the equator!

Heidi Lee, it’s been said that “the truth hurts”. To be quite honest with you I don’t know how much more truth I’ll be able to handle.  In this short time I’ve already seen enough to know that this journey will be a painful education into self-discovery…which leads me to the lesson that keeps me engaged in this process:

  • I owe this to myself, to my sons, and to all the women in my past, present and future.

In light of my confession, I’ll take this next step with you, Heidi Lee. I want to begin this process in earnest by apologizing to all those that I’ve hurt and by forgiving myself for leading a less than respectable life.

Respectfully,

BD – Jake

P.S. As instructed, I will be dining out this evening with just me, myself, and a good book – so that I can learn that my own skin can be a happy place to live.

 

Project Toad: Jake’s Online Dating Profile

Friends, you will all be happy to know that our friend Jake survived Thanksgiving Dinner, and he has been able to dedicate time to creating his Match.com profile. He and I spent some time this afternoon figuring out how much of himself he wants to let strangers see online, and we completed his Match.com questionaire together.

Jake struggled with creating his own version of an Anti-Profile. As soon as we got his mind out of the bedroom and into relationship mode, he realized he had no idea who he may be open to meeting. He had no idea of what activities he may enjoy, but he did share that he likes astronomy. Good start – viewing the stars followed by a nice glass of wine.

Jake realized that the women he has always dated wouldn’t fit the profile of the woman who needs to fit into his current life. Jake went to what he knew. When Match asked, “What things do you like?” Jake replied, “Women”.

When the questions came to enjoyable activities, he asked something along the lines of, “Do they mean other than sex?”

Jake manages to find young women who live in party-mode, but he is a business professional and a single father. In his words, he usually meets the girls who are looking for a last-minute “hook-up”, but then they expect the hook-up to last until the next guy trolls along.

Poor, boy-dumb Jake simply has no idea how to meet a woman that he can be proud to present as his date to an office Christmas party without having to worry that she will leave tushy-tracks on the copier.

Match also wanted to know if he was single, married, divorced or separated. Jake wanted to ignore his short-lived marriage because he believed that being a 41-year old divorced father would be a turn-off. As soon as I presented him with my Seinfeld Theory, we were back on track.

After a couple of hours of Toad Kissing therapy, Jake was able to tell me who he hopes to find…

Jake needs a woman who can be as comfortable throwing back a few beers with a couple of close friends as she is hosting a cocktail party for his colleagues. She should also be physically active. We’ve established that she must enjoy exercise from his earlier debacle. Jake identified exercise as a must-have for the woman who becomes part of his world.

Jake’s perfect woman must be confident and comfortable with herself, and she has to have her own interests and commitments. He cannot get involved with a woman who will make her life revolve around his, and she needs to be strong yet gentle enough to tell him when her plans don’t include an invitation for two.

Ok, so all of this is great! We managed to go live on Match.com today, and we even found a couple of cute women that he liked.

Jake asked about using the Wink feature built into Match. I explained from experience that if he finds the woman interesting enough that he needs to take the time and respond to her with an email.

Men who read about a woman’s interests and aspirations should respect her enough to give a creative response. To get the woman to notice him in return, Jake needed to lead with something more than “Hello” in the subject line.

He put together a saucy yet appropriate little note to a lady who showed spunk and energy. And together, we hit the Send  button. Now I find myself sitting anxiously waiting for the phone to ring…hoping Jake is calling me to read me her reply.

Wow, am I living vicariously or what? Tune in…

Kind Regards,

Heidi Lee

Part Two: Single Dad’s Guide to Thanksgiving – Missing in Action

Jake, left on his own in Virginia, was armed with only an oven, a knife and a fire extinguisher. Thanksgiving was stressful to say the least. Last I had heard from Jake, he was on his way to Wal-Mart to pick up a meat thermometer for his first attempt at cooking a turkey.

PC, Cole and I were enjoying our own afternoon of football and feasting with our family in Wisconsin. Occasionally I would sneak away to dial the (703) area code – trying desperately to verify that nothing had burned down. After my fourth attempt to reach Jake and sons, I gave in to helplessness and enjoyed a glass of wine, a plate of turkey, and my Packers whopping on the Lions. Go Team!

Today, Black Friday morning, PC and I shared a pot of coffee as I logged into my email. I wasn’t quite ready to face what disasters lay ahead if I were to track the elusive Jake down. I feared that something may have happened with my poor, boy-dumb friend and his great kids.

I felt guilty from encouraging Jake’s idea at preparing a Thanksgiving Feast, and I was afraid to hear the outcome of under-cooked turkey or a fire in the apartment.

Hesitantly, I accepted the iPad PC placed in my hands. I logged into my Hotmail account only to receive an email from Jake with the subject line reading, Missed Thanksgiving followed by another subject line that read, First Attempt.

Geez – what did I get him into? There I was, trying to help a bachelor-dad to prepare a grand feast  when he had probably never even turned on an oven. And I was a thousand miles away. How irresponsible!

I clicked and the first note opened. I read aloud to PC…

Missed Thanksgiving

Heidi Lee,

First of all the food was amazing!  And asparagus is now my favorite vegetable in the world – just break of the hard parts of the stalk, lightly coat in Olive Oil, fry on the George Foreman Grill, and when done just a bit of lemon juice topped with Parmesan cheese.  It was the best tasting vegetable EVER 🙂

Unfortunately I missed most of Thanksgiving.  The night before I didn’t sleep at all – nervous from my task ahead.  So after the boys and I “wolfed” down a gluttony of food, I can’t really say for sure what happened other than I had laid down to get a moments rest and didn’t wake until 7:00AM EST.

The boys loved Dinner H.  Thank you so much. FYI:  Not a lot of meat left over from that 14 pound bird 🙂

Jake

What a wonderful experience. Today I’d love to thank my friend, Jake, for allowing me to be a part of this memory he created for his children.

And the note that he had titled First Attempt – it was a picture of the meal with the boys standing proudly next to the turkey. Granted, a bit too much of my secret basting liquid, but the bird was cooked to a moist gloss of perfection.

He and I had a quick call this morning, and he shared with me their thoughts on potatoes. He made a triple batch of gravy because his boys never enjoyed a potato on its own. However, he made the sour cream mashed baby reds, and the gravy went untouched.

This morning I’m proud of my friend. I’m happy for him and for his kids – the oldest son is getting ready to join the Marines. I feel privileged to be included in even a small piece of their Thanksgiving experience and their family memories.

Thank you, Jake, and thank your sons for me as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Heidi Lee

Project Toad: Help us Create an Online Dating Profile…Pretty Please?

“I try not to drool when I eat in public, and I don’t spit my food when I’m having a conversation.”

Truly, friends, this is the response Jake gave me when he was asked to find his 5 best qualities that a woman may admire. He went on to tell me that, while finding admirable qualities in others was easy, he really struggles to list 5 strengths that someone else may value in him.

My response? “Perfect start, Jake! Looks like you were raised with a knowledge of good manners. We are on a roll!” Honestly, he also has a pretty good sense of humor also.

Following our little pep-talk, Jake was able to complete his homework assignment in preparation for designing his Online Dating Profile. He has a little bit of insight in how to tackle the personality profile now, because he has a level of self-awareness.

When asked about himself, Jake says he…

  • Generally doesn’t drool
  • Keeps himself in shape
  • Is loyal
  • Can be intelligent enough to know to use a spell-checker before sending an email and sometimes even intelligent enough to know to check for the correct tense
  • Remains open-minded and always wants to learn and improve both personally and professionally

So if I were to translate this back to Jack, I would say:

Jake is…..

  • Well mannered and respectful
  • Physically fit
  • Loyal
  • A Life-Learner
  • Open-minded
  • Is conscientious and able use Spell-Check before hitting Send

So he actually gave me 6 positive qualities – even better.

And for admirable qualities he looks for in others, he gave me these:

  • Ability to juggle multiple tasks while remaining calm
  • Patient and even-keeled
  • The ability to do the right thing even when it’s the hard and unpopular thing to do

Which tells me that he…

  • Needs a woman who thrives with spontaneity
  • Hopes to share patience and understanding
  • Values integrity and self-respect

I’d say we have a great start to who he is and what he is looking for in his Princess Charming. And Jake seems like a pretty great guy, right?

Perfect! We can move on to the next exercise.

Jake’s next homework assignment involves his interests. I’ll warn you, friends, he is going to be a little frustrated with this next task. He is excited to get a profile up so he can start winking, but I’m not allowing him to be so hasty. He needs to know what he wants to say, and who he wants to attract when he goes live on Match.

Jake’s list of good qualities now needs to be complimented by the type of hobbies and activities he enjoys. He took quite an interest in my earlier post that discusses creating the anti-profile, so we will use this concept as a foundation for building his How about we…. section of the All About Jake page.

Let’s find out what he absolutely would never do so we can start leveraging those Open-Minded Life Learner qualities that he claims to own. So, my toad kissing friends, here is where I ask for your help. Can you start throwing out some hobbies or interests that you enjoy? Maybe even share your idea for your favorite date?

I can promise that Jake will be reading each of your suggestions, and he’ll mull them over one at a time. This will help to open up his mind to enjoyable activities that don’t involve school plays or Pizza Night at Chuckie Cheeses.

So, how about it, friends? Help a Fellow Toad Kisser out? What are some activities you enjoy – on your own or sharing with others?

Warm Regards,

Heidi Lee

The Mystery of the Grape – What’s in a Name?

Good morning to all of my wine enthusiasts. I’d love to share with you how to read a wine label in response to your interest in the 5 S’s of wine. I’ve had a few provocative questions since from that post, so I’d love to share more information.

Jake from Project Toad wants to be able read the wine list when he starts meeting women through online dating. My brother is studying wine to be knowledgeable for business functions. Beverly – heck, she wants to get more out of her tastings 😉

Today, let’s start walking through the label. Knowing the label may help you feel more confident when picking out a bottle for a hostess gift, a date, or even business dinner.

Personally, I think the most interesting part of the label lies in the name of the wine (not to be confused with name of the vineyard). Traditionally, European wines are named for their appellations (growing regions) while American wines are named after the varietal (the kind of the grape).

For example, if you would like to bring a French wine to your hostess for a Thanksgiving dinner, you might look for a Red Burgundy. The Burgundy region of France is famous for the Pinot Noir grape. This varietal is rich yet delicate, so the Pinot Noir is a lovely with turkey.

If, however, you prefer to bring along an American wine, perhaps look for a Pinot Noir from Oregon. See how the same grape is named differently based on the appellation? The wine growing regions bring different characteristics based on many factors: the soil, the humidity, the amount of sun exposure, and even the slope of the hills in the regions.

Learning the characteristics in the European regions that drive the naming may be more than we want to tackle with Thanksgiving being so close. Let’s take a peek instead at the American wines. Read the label for specific growing regions.

A wine that lists Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley as the region will be more concentrated than a wine that names Northern California as the appellation. This is because to list Napa as the region, the grapes need to all be grown in that region.

However, a Northern California wine may use grapes from a few growing regions within Northern California. The more generic the label’s appellation, the wider the growing region. Make sense?

Now the real lesson – while the wine from Napa may be considered a higher quality of wine due to concentration, this does not mean the bottle of Cabernet that you grab from Northern California is any less enjoyable.

Remember, wine is subjective. Paying $50 for a bottle doesn’t guarantee that you will like the wine any better than paying $15 for a bottle. With a little bit of information, you can start to make informed purchases. Take your time to get to know what you like. You can find good labels in every price point.

And for Jake or anyone else wanting to learn about wine to enrich your dating life, don’t waste the date by throwing out every tidbit you learn about wine. Don’t feel threatened by the guy one table over who sniffs and says,

“Oh Buffy, how reminiscent this Merlot is of that Cuban cigar you brought me from your adventures in Panama. The tobacco does mingle so perfectly with the wild blackberry nuance.” He is showing off!

Instead, offer a quick comment on the wine, and then spend your time learning about the man or woman sitting across from you. After all, that person should be the most interesting topic at the table if you hope to get a second date.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

Project Toad: A How-To Guide to Online Dating

Hello friends. Welcome to my how-to guide to digital dating. By now, you probably know that I met my Prince Charming through Match.com. What you may not know is that I survived years of countless failed relationships in the journey to Happily Ever After.

I have kissed my fair share of toads, and I hope to help other people with what I’ve learned. Until now, I have given you a handful of tips for safety and for fun. I haven’t really shared anything, though, that isn’t common sense.

Today, I have an opportunity to let you into my dating secrets. My friend Jake wants to try a new approach to finding love. He knows several people who met their husbands and wives online, and he has asked me to coach him through internet dating.

Jake also agreed to let me share this journey with you. He has been reading my blog quietly since I started, and now he is ready to dive in. I am thrilled to welcome you to participate in Project Toad.

The first step is to develop a dating profile for Jake – not an easy task. You see, Jake says that he doesn’t know what qualities women look for in a prince. This, to me, is a big problem. Jake wants to create a profile to which he could never measure up. He wants to fit himself somewhere for the sake of belonging.

The first challenge; therefore, is to help Jake understand that he has the right qualities for the right woman. He can’t reinvent himself into something he is not, so he has to find pride in the person that he already is.

Yesterday, I asked Jake to make two lists for me. In the first list, Jake needs to describe his best 5 qualities. The only catch – he cannot talk at all about being a parent in this list. Whenever I ask Jake what he likes about himself, he somehow ends every sentence with “for my children”.

Jake has to look inside of himself to know who he is when his kids aren’t around. That is the person who will be taking some lucky lady to dinner. Jake needs to introduce us to the man who holds the door open for his date as they enter a restaurant that doesn’t have a menu option for Children under 12.

Making this list is harder than it seems. As a single mom, I always thought I needed to find someone who would be a perfect dad to my son. Single parents put their children first, so our views are often skewed by the needs of our kids. I didn’t realize that I was interesting because I was more than Cole’s mom.

I needed to learn to separate the mother from the woman. I needed to learn to have a conversation that didn’t involve grass stained soccer uniforms or lead roles in school plays. Making this list for myself helped me to understand that I was more than just Tuesday Night on the carpool rotation.

Jake is also supposed to write down 3 qualities that he admires in others – qualities that draw him to those people. Is ambition a top quality, or is it sincerity? Qualities that Jake admires in others can compliment his own strengths and characteristics.

For me, I admire someone who is grounded and stable – my polar opposite. I’m still out chasing my rainbows. My Prince Charming often comes to my rescue because he makes sure I keep at least one foot on the ground. We are a perfect balance between security and adventure.

I’m anxious to see what Jake comes up with. He has so many good qualities. I believe that he needs to recognize his potential so he can share himself with other people. I promise to let you know as soon as he finishes.

Warm Regards,

Heidi Lee