Love and the Single Girl
Photo Credit: Jo Metson Scott
MY MATCHMAKER DAD
One woman's well-meaning father surprises her with an unconventional birthday gift: her very own online dating account - By Kim Gamble
My birthday falls six days after Valentine's Day, and from the time I was 16 until my late 20s, I viewed the proximity of the two dates as a second Christmas during which I expected to be showered with cards and gifts for the better part of a week. But now, as I creep into my mid-30s, the dates seem to work in tandem to remind me, in quick succession, that I'm alone and one year closer to staying that way.
The gift my father sent this year didn't make getting older any easier. On the morning of my birthday, I logged in to my e-mail to find a message from the online dating website eHarmony.
"Congratulations!" the message began. "Your dad has given you the gift of long-term love and companionship." A quick scroll down the page revealed that he'd purchased a three-month membership in my name. Stunned, I slammed my laptop shut and called him. "Is this a joke?" I asked as soon as he answered.
"Happy birthday! I thought you'd like it."
"Are you kidding? Dad, if I were 30 pounds overweight — "
"But you're not," he interrupted. "You're a very attractive woman."
"That isn't even what I was going to say! If I were 30 pounds overweight and you bought me a gym membership or sent me a bottle of diet pills, how do you think I'd interpret that?"
"Listen, I know several women, exactly like you ..."
He went on to list a number of smart, successful 30-somethings he knew who — he stressed — are totally normal yet had trouble meeting men until they went online. Had I been paying attention, I would have asked why he's so intimately familiar with the romantic struggles of women half his age, but I think I blacked out during that part of the conversation.
My issue with the gift wasn't rooted in skepticism about online dating; I have plenty of friends who have met their boyfriends and husbands this way. I was upset because my dad has always seemed to value and encourage my independence. Here is a man who rocked out with me on the dance floor at my younger sister's wedding when I showed up dateless, a man who spent two weeks traveling with me through Budapest and Prague, frequently remarking what a brave adult I'd become.
Suddenly, it felt like his support was waning. The eHarmony message might as well have read, "Guess what? Your dad is sick of pretending your lifestyle makes him comfortable. Can you get it together and get married already so he can relax? Is that really too much to ask?"
During the past 10 years, I've periodically put pressure on myself to settle down. However, my anxiety over finding someone is always quelled by an internal knowledge that I have a wonderfully full life, and that, romantically, everything will come together when it's the right time. I always thought my dad shared in that belief. But now I wondered: Is he genuinely concerned? Is my family worried? And what is it about my future without a husband that looks so bleak that this gift seemed like the only logical antidote?
"Don't read too much into it," my dad said a few days later. "I just want you to be happy. That's all."
I'm fortunate to have a father who usually knows best. He's a prudent figure who makes a mean cocktail, has a killer iPod mix, and has better financial tips than the anchors on CNBC. I suppose he's right that meeting someone would make me happier, but his support is more valuable than his dating advice. I'm confident I'll figure out my own love life. In the meantime, I plan to e-mail eHarmony, get a full refund, and use the money to buy myself a massage — now that's a birthday gift.