"If you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you'd like making love at midnight in the dunes on the Cape
Then I'm the love that you've looked for, write to me and escape"
-- Rupert Holmes
Up here at the end of the road in a small town in the Rocky Mountains, affairs of the heart can get as sticky as a box of half-eaten Valentine chocolates. The incestuous nature of small-town romances can make dating locally seem a lot like sinking your teeth into every piece of confection in the box -- only to find that what's inside the chocolate wasn't really worth sampling.
Historically, ski towns have generally been dominated by men, and though it may be an overused cliché, the odds are good that for the women the goods are odd. Nevertheless, men also seem to complain a lot about being caught in the love shuffle. From his hunting perch atop a barstool one night, a friend nursing a depression -- caused by a recent breakup -- made himself feel better by reciting what he called the mountain-man mantra: "You don't lose your girl, you just lose your turn." Still, he admitted, in the middle of winter it's always better to be in the middle of a relationship -- not the bitter end.
But now, in these high-speed days of connectivity, there's an alternative to accepting lonely, high-altitude nights. It's online dating, the modern equivalent of mail-order brides and express-order boyfriends. On the net, no one knows your real name or just how old that photo of you might be -- until you actually meet.
Once a dirty little secret, dating sites have steadily gained popularity. Finding love these days should be relatively easy and certainly entertaining with over 90 million people to choose from in the United States alone. And most of us have gotten over the notion that it's a sign of desperation to indulge in the Internet catalog of courtship. In 2008, for example, over 100,000 marriages were credited to dating sites, and recent statistics show that one in five of single Americans have used an Internet dating site.
So, encouraged by friends who would never themselves be caught dead signing up for such a service, I logged into the etheric region of amorous hopefuls. After finding the perfect pseudonym, answering all the pop psychology questions engineered by a fashion magazine guru, and posting a current photo, my computer's mailbox was immediately swamped. This I attributed to both being the new girl on the block and having low expectations defined by the parameters I'd chosen. My criteria were simple and broad: I was looking for an unmarried, non-smoking male who was not fanatically religious, over 48 years old, and living anywhere in the world.
A few weeks passed with nary a prime candidate of compatibility; just pen pals, guys on motorcycles with trailing mustaches, old men lounging in swimming pools, and the disgruntled with lengthy lists of what they did not want in a date.
Until one day, delivered into my dating-prospects box with great exclamation, fanfare and a whooping (from me), came a five-star male with the maximum stars for compatibility. The only problem was that he turned out to be my most recent ex-boyfriend.
The odds were staggering that out of the millions of men across the globe, the online matchmaker hooked me up with a man I'd already spent 15 years with. Cupid was up to his mischievous tricks again. There was my five-star mega-match -- the man who for a decade and a half consistently balked at the idea of introducing me as his girlfriend for fear of being defined.
I removed my profile the next day, and after my ex and I laughed heartily about the matchmaking faux pas, we again went our separate ways; he, to a compatible intellectual in upstate New York, and me, back to my close-knit family of mountain men. I bet we'll spend Valentine's Day together on the Internet, talking about the ones that got away.
Dawne Belloise is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). She is a freelance writer and photographer in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at firstname.lastname@example.org.