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He had found the words to describe my own sentiments.

Apparently online dating sites are chock full of these peeps.

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I was either (a) busy, (b) dating someone else, or (c) moving to Siberia for a year. A few talked me into dates or, worse, relationships. It's embarrassing to admit that I was learning the very basics about personal boundaries at the age of 34. Like a suit of comfortable, lightweight body armor, my newly declared boundaries kept me safe. "Hmm...maybe," I thought when I spied him waiting across the Art Deco lobby of a seaside hotel. I never expected my man would come from a faraway continent where he was raised on a tea plantation, but he does. They repeatedly tested my ability to speak up or to stay quiet when I needed to.

I marvel to think I left the nest without ever learning how to verbalize my own needs and desires. At times my faith flagged, like when the well-spoken National Guard pilot bought me a single California roll for dinner and called for the check. They certainly taught me to appreciate the man who, in the end, answered not only my ad but my dreams.

I dated aerospace engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, an oceanographer, film animators, a romantic man who lived impecuniously on a boat, and a self-proclaimed gazillionaire who resided atop a mountain."Are you insane? The thing I liked best about my whole dating project was that it validated that nagging sense I'd had for years: Every Saturday night I'd spent alone or with girlfriends, I'd believed there had to be several thousand potential dates out there for me, somewhere. To date so many men, I needed to be honest in a new way. The initial frenzy mellowed to a couple of dates a month, and one sunny Sunday afternoon in late summer, I met Johanne.

In my 20s, when the wrong man asked me out, I usually lied. When the soap opera actor or the triathlete didn't call—both of whom had looked deep into my eyes and proclaimed their attraction to me—I did nothing. I had, by this time, trained myself to listen closely to what my deepest instincts said in the first nanosecond of meeting a man. Johanne says he's more confident in my feelings for him, knowing I looked long and hard to find him. The parade of men who preceded him helped me know myself better.

I told more than 100 men about my work, my family, my years in Czechoslovakia.

I weathered personal-revelation fatigue and relied on pep talks from girlfriends to see me through.

I was looking for someone who could see my best self despite my imperfections.

A gentle but strong man with the capacity to become as deeply devoted to me as I would be to him. I suspected it might take awhile to find him in greater Los Angeles, and I was right.

I didn't kiss any of these men, reserving physical contact for the one—I might as well say it—who would eventually win my heart.


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