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Despite its name, dharma Match turns out to be a fairly general site, aimed at singles of all religious persuasions “who hold their beliefs, values, and spirituality as an important part of their life.” Its homepage features a lovely young couple locked in an embrace, surrounded by giant soap bubbles—as if to remind us of the impermanent nature of romantic love, even as we pursue it. A burly poet in Ohio who shares custody of an eleven-year-old daughter. We tighten our life preservers, clutch our bits of driftwood, and wave at one another across the water.Dharma Date is more narrowly targeted toward Buddhists: “We want it to be an informal sangha meeting place where you can be yourself. I rule out Bikini as unwise, and settle instead on Tahini, which also happens to be the name of my cat. A Zen priest in southern California whose online photo features his shaved head and black robes. I begin exchanging emails with the people who have contacted me (sending them through the sites’ somewhat cumbersome online mailboxes, which guarantee continued anonymity until you’re ready to share your identity and contact info).Increasingly, I don’t get around to returning the emails. When I inadvertently fail to return a Smile, I receive my first flame: “Is this the way enlightened people behave?Well, if it is I might just as well go to the local bar and become an alcoholic, smoke cigarettes, and associate with big furry women who grunt when they talk.Shouldn’t I focus on contemplating emptiness and interdependence to the point where I’d get just as much joy from an evening alone sorting socks as from a night making passionate love in front of a fire to Indian sitar music? Given fifteen aisles of shoes to choose from, I’m likely to give up on the whole project and go home barefoot. The guy who suggests in his opening email that we live together on a ranch in Wyoming, where we will castrate our own goats. Many of the profiles I read, like mine, have ghosts hovering in the margins: ex-lovers, ex-spouses, shared children.
I break the ice with what seems like an innocuous question: “So what do you do?The idea first comes up as a joke between me and my Tricycle editor: As a newly single Buddhist mom, why don’t I post my profile on a couple of the new online “dharma dating” sites, and write about my experiences? For years I’ve mocked the idea of shopping for a mate the way you’d shop for a book on (“Add This Man to My Cart! Once, while browsing for a used couch on Craigslist, I popped over to the Men Seeking Women section for a look, and the ads all ran together in my mind: 6-foot divorced sofa, 45, brown hair/blue eyes, overstuffed cushions, slightly cat-clawed, wants to spank you. In my twenties and early thirties, during the long periods when he and I weren’t a couple, I had explored a series of relationships with some wonderfully offbeat men: A Brazilian massage therapist who was paying for his master’s in somatic psychology by programming computers for a 900-line in Las Vegas. According to Business Week Online, almost 5 percent of the U. And as a mating strategy, it probably beats cruising a Vipassana retreat. In my mid-thirties, I married my college sweetheart, with whom I’d been best friends and off-and-on partners since I was seventeen.The analogies to the dating process are unavoidable: clearly, before holding any open houses I should consider some major renovations—and perhaps a professional stager—to increase my curb appeal. “You’ve received a Smile on dharma from Siddharthe Gotama! I forget what I’ve said to the Zen priest and what to the jazz musician.But within hours of posting my profile, an email arrives in my inbox. I forget whether the photographer in Massachusetts has grown-up kids, or whether that’s the software designer in Palo Alto. I’m tempted to copy and paste from one of my answers into another, just to save time—but surely that’s tacky?