Dating Hell

By Karene Horst, contributing editor – He introduced himself because he saw my whitewater kayak and mountain bike strapped to my car roof racks.

I hadn’t brushed my teeth or my hair. I tugged at the grungy T-shirt I’d worn to bed the night before. It was early and my roommate had dragged me out of our apartment to meet this guy who stopped her in the parking lot to inquire about the car’s owner.

He was sort of cute, even with his glasses. We exchanged e-mails and phone numbers because I was new to the area and needed to network with the kayaking community.

He helped me connect with some boaters the next Sunday; he apologized that he couldn’t join me as he had other commitments. On Monday, he e-mailed to find out about my day on the river, then he asked about meeting the following weekend.

Would you like to go to the air show Saturday?

Would this be our first date? Should I go along just to see where this could lead? First date or not, I was definitely not interested in attending an air show. But I couldn’t just say no, so I asked if he wanted to join me for a hike instead. He chose the air show.

We arranged to carpool for a day of kayaking, although we went on separate runs because his whitewater skills exceeded mine. Afterward he asked if we could make a Costco run, as it was on the way home. Then it was dinner time. I offered to pick up the tab since he had burned through gallons of gasoline that day. He accepted my suggestion with a sweet smile.

During a subsequent phone call I proposed a camping trip. An overnighter. Silence. Then he blurted out:

“I just got through a bad breakup.”

I was not sure if I was even interested in him other than as a hiking-biking-kayaking buddy. I certainly had planned on sleeping in separate tents. We hadn’t even kissed. Just what the hell was he thinking?

I didn’t want to have this discussion. We shared common interests and loved the outdoors. He was attractive and nice, but I’m planning to travel outside the country for extended periods for the rest of my life and have no interest in a relationship. Someone to tie me down and limit my options. And I really didn’t want to have to start shaving my legs on a regular basis again.

Maybe he was just being leery himself. We had both ridden this roller coaster many times before. He’s 60. I’m 53.

After ending a 20-year marriage, I returned to the dating “scene” more than a decade ago with a vengeance. I immediately fell with a sickening, resounding thud for a man who told me I was beautiful. After he dumped me, I dated a younger man who made me feel way too old. Then I tried the online thing. Yikes! Exhilarating and creepy all at the same time. After years of heartache and headache, I decided to give up on relationships and focus on my lifelong desire to travel the world instead of finding my illusory soulmate. I was only 49.

Then I spotted this gorgeous creature sitting alone at the end of the bar. I wouldn’t even dream of approaching him. Instead, I toyed with my drink and babbled with my girlfriend.

“He’s looking at you.”

“No he’s not, he’s watching the game. The TV is right over my head.”

But he was looking at me and after we all started chatting, he eventually scooted his bar stool closer. By the end of the evening, he was resting his hand on my knee. We bantered over our shared interests and experiences. He said he wanted to travel the world too, and in short order he would be financially set and ready to join me.

On our first date we went to see the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, and as the camera panned Hollywood’s dazzling version of Macau’s coastline, he whispered in my ear:

“Let’s go there!”

You would think I had learned. I had heard it all before:

Oh I love dancing … Vegetarian for dinner, that sounds great! … I can quit anytime if that’s what you want … We’ll move to Colorado as soon as …

What the hell was I thinking. After I moved into his apartment, I discovered that his favorite sport was watching football from his favorite lounge chair. And his ship never docked, so he couldn’t afford to travel the world with me. I made solo trips while he stewed in front of the TV: I kayaked the Youghiogheny in Pennsylvania, snowboarded in the Rockies, rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, checked out a writer’s conference in Chicago and bummed around Spain with a backpack for six weeks. When I returned after four months of wandering through South America, I walked in the door and knew it was over. Actually, I had figured that out on my own while somewhere in Buenos Aires.

Since my teen years, I had relentlessly searched for my dance partner, my travel buddy, my best friend. My prince.

I was ready to quit again. Not long ago I wrote a friend that all I want from a relationship is a man who has the guts to put a bullet in my head to prevent me from suffering an excruciating, slow death from cancer or dementia.

Then this guy with muscular arms and a nice ass shows up outside my apartment, wondering who belongs to the Jackson Little Hero and the full-suspension Trek Lush.

So we camped out and hiked in Yosemite, separate tents of course. We held hands while watching the latest Bond movie on the big screen. Chopped brussel sprouts for stir-fry dinners together. Walked in the moonlight. Traded massages. We’ve met each other’s parents. We’re planning a kayaking trip to Ecuador.

For Christmas, instead of a silly diamond necklace or an ugly sweater, he gave me a drysuit for boating. This guy gets me! I think I’m in like.

What the hell am I thinking.

Avatar photo
About Karene Horst 14 Articles
As a fourth-grader, Karene Horst decided she wanted to be a writer when she grew up, and it's been downhill ever since. Her novel Moving Men is available via