I blame Hallmark.
Most of their movie plots involve princesses, bakery takeovers or pumpkin contests. But the movies where the family of a caregiver-turned-widow tries to find her a mate? That’s my story.
Last year I logged in over 200 hours of the Hallmark Channel, from “Christmas in July” through “Countdown to Christmas.” I fell in love with love. Actor/star Andrew Walker was my Hallmark boyfriend. I was captivated by Hallmark’s contrived crap-fest and each movie’s single, long-awaited, sanitized kiss, occurring exactly two minutes before the end of each movie.
My friend Stewart and I had a bet about this months ago.
8 p.m. sharp, miles apart, we are each tuned in to our respective TVs.
“Watch,” I say to Stewart, who is a Hallmark newbie. “There will be a kiss at precisely 9:59.”
Please note this is the first and last time he consents to watching one of these movies. And it’s possible he’s watching baseball at the same time.
“9:59?” he asks. “Nah. They won’t wait that long.”
“Yup,” I say, “There will be an abbreviated kiss at 9:26, but that will be a huge mistake on the part of the female lead, because she’s still engaged to the boring executive back in New York and hasn’t found out yet that being a farmer or raising sea monkeys is really what she wants to do with her Harvard MBA.”
“9:58,” he predicts.
“Wrong, my friend,” I say. “9:59. And closed-mouthed, as ordained by the Hallmark gods. Then the credits will roll so fast you will think you are having a stroke, followed immediately by the opening scene of the next Hallmark. Trust me.”
Now I’m just bragging.
“They hook you quickly. No time to get a snack,” I say. “I grab mine at the 9:52 commercial.”
I’m embarrassed to admit that Hallmark has played such a big part of my life since my husband’s passing. Music, community events…all scarce, in my effort to soothe myself via Hollywood. Now, nearly 2 1/2 years later, I realize I’m still alive, and possibly wanting to start a Hallmark romance of my own.
“Go online,” my single sister says.
“What’s it like?” I ask her.
“Disgusting,” she says. “The men are either way too young and still eating packaged ramen noodles every night … or some are older but have really let themselves go.”
I catch a glimpse of this jiggly thing called my upper arm. Eh, what the heck. I’ll try it. But in the process, I’ll take good care of myself. I know this from caregiving. Proceed gently.
My thirtysomething daughter suggests a low-key online dating site.
“But if you get a date,” she says, “breathe quieter.”
“What?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she says, “You breathe too loud. Like a horse.”
“And about eating?” she continues. “Don’t. You chew too loud.”
Friends, we all have people in our lives who are, um, articulate.
“And one more thing,” she says, “Don’t tell everything about yourself in the first 10 minutes—”
“I’m an extrovert,” I blurt out.
“AND DON’T INTERRUPT PEOPLE WHILE THEY ARE STILL TALKING,” she says.
I get started on the website.
I want to be honest but not divulge too much. I am also now aware of every breath and every chew. Dammit. I do both. A lot.
I make my profile statement general. Then more specific. General. Specific.
Meanwhile, and I can’t prove it’s connected, I get this email:
Anastasiya Exotic Russian Women waiting you Now.
Ugh. Punctuation, people. Grammar and punctuation.
Later, I write a profile statement that makes me feel at home, comfortable, genuine.
“Love music, theater, popcorn, God, coffee, chocolate. Not necessarily in that order.”
“Any luck today?” Stewart asks, next time we have coffee.
By now, he is the closest thing I have to a dating coach.
“Yeah. I viewed a guy with three tattooed women around him. Big fat belly showing—his, and bare—with bags of garbage behind him.”
My sister was right. Disgusting. I’m thinking about how simple it was to have a crush on my Hallmark guy.
Stewart grabs my phone. I grab his. Sometimes we screen new people for each other.
“She’s cute,” I say. “Click on this one.” He looks over and nods.
“This guy here looks good,” he says. “A little older than you, but similar interests. Lives an hour away, but…let’s see what he looks like.”
“Not bad,” he says, and turns my phone toward me.
I gasp. And he waits.
He waits as my unrestrained giggles and screams turn to hysterical, unbridled laughter.
I can barely speak.
“What? What?” he asks. “No fat belly. No garbage.”
“No…” I breathe finally. “No garbage.”
I try to calm myself and make more words.
“WHAT?” my friend asks.
“A perfect match of sorts,” I say. “Also known as…”
Kathy Eliscu, a retired RN, received a National Society of Newspaper Columnists Humor award in 2012 for her Maine Women Magazine column. She is the author of “Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess,” a humor novel. She blogs at www.kathyeliscu.com and lives in Westbrook.