What Was I Thinking?! How Not to Date could have been subtitled “Ten Reasons to Remain Celibate.” Annie Earley writes about 10 men she dated after her divorce at age 51. All but the first were men she met through on-line dating services. Earley’s style is informal, nearly stream-of-consciousness; reading her book is like sitting down with a friend telling you what’s been going on in her life, non-stop for two hours. She also shares her rules, philosophy, and tips for on-line dating.
There are times when the reader feels “hey, this only one side of the story,” as she describes some of her dating and relationships disasters. With some of the men, it seems like she should have cut them loose much sooner, while others didn’t seem to get much of a chance. It seems discretion and a desire to be fair prevented Earley from being more explicit.
When she started her quest to find someone "to relax in front of the fire with," Earley tried not to be superficial. She didn’t want to judge someone on his looks alone, and she spent many hours on the telephone with some of the characters she had “connected” with on the Internet. The problem with that is she would actually like someone as she got to know him telephonically, and then be disappointed when she met him in person and felt no “sparks,” as she put it.
It’s noble not to judge people by looks, but when you are looking for a soulmate, physical attraction is part of the equation. Two of Earley’s requirements in a man are teeth and hygeine. If she were to find that he had lied about his age, height, weight, or other physical attributes, she jettisoned any thought of a relationship on the spot.
Despite the wonderful moral we learned from Beauty and the Beast, we all know if there’s something you can’t stand in a person, dating them isn’t going to make it better. What you find repulsive at the first meeting doesn’t become adorable soon after.
I could relate to Earley’s experience because I was at a similar age when I re-entered the dating pool. It didn’t occur to me, unfortunately, that you would have to ask someone if they had teeth (natural or store-bought). Of course, if teeth aren’t important to you there may be other areas you should emphasize.
What Was I Thinking?! is personal; you may feel like you’re reading someone’s diary when you pick it up. Earley candidly discusses her dates, but her remembrances are kind to the men she dated, even those with whom she developed relationships that ultimately did not work out. It’s left to the reader to decide that some of these guys were weirdos and losers, and wonder why she hadn’t dumped them sooner.
Annie Earley had three specific rules that she tried to apply to every new dating experience: obtain a clear picture of the guy; meet in a public place, “preferably in the afternoon;” and “drive my own car to and from” the meeting place. Something she did not include in her rules, but is very important, is discuss things with the people who love you, your friends and family. Earley had an informal Advisory Committee that included her mother, sister, sister-in-law, and a few other friends and relatives. On at least two occasions, when she was considering breaking one of her rules, an “advisor” talked her out of it. Both times, following someone else's advice proved a wise move.
While What Was I Thinking?! How Not to Date does offer some advice, it is really one woman’s story. Twice she decided to take a break from dating, and the second time she actually did. She seems to have learned that there doesn’t have to be a man in your life to make it complete. When she was dating losers, she seemed desperate to have someone — anyone. When she stepped back and looked at her experiences, she realized she could have done better (one of her friends told her that every guy she dated was ugly). For the most part it wasn’t a man’s looks that were the problem, it was his attitude.