Meet My Perfect Virtual Boyfriend? I Don’t Think So …

I joined an Internet dating service the Saturday night before Easter. I was very into the concept of resurrection, rebirth and new beginnings. Having recently survived a debilitating divorce, I was sure I deserved another chance as much as Jesus. It was exciting at first. “Mommy has to send an urgent e-mail,” I would say as I nudged my daughter off the computer chair. I did this approximately 50 times a day, determined that when I logged on, Mr. Right would be waiting. One month later, I am ready to hurl myself into the sea.

I’ve had responses from as far away as Greece and Monaco, with the Greek writing to me, “We are 89% math and I would like to have a contact.” I know neither what he based his computation on nor what he meant by a “contact,” but I felt frightened and pressed “delete.”

I’ve had potential suitors tell me that they “extrude confidence,” are highly “intelligient,” and that they will absolutely not bare the depth of their “sole” on the first date. “Reformed Bad Boy” told me that he used to be a total jerk, particularly to women, but that he’s all better now. Of course he is.

I’ve considered revising my profile to add “no lunatics, please,” but if you change as much as a comma, that idiot Cupid sends your profile out to a bevy of new beaus that he has personally chosen for you.

Cupid is a little computer-driven matchmaker who lives within the confines of the dating service. Based on I know not what, he pairs you with whomever he deems appropriate. I’ve come to hate him. He has extremely bad taste and insults my intelligence, not to mention what he does to my self-esteem. No. 1 on my latest list of Cupid mismatches was this: “Looking for my Black Queen.”

Which would be fine, if I were black.

Most of the men’s profiles are the same. They like to hold hands and walk on the beach or snuggle in front of the fireplace. They universally enjoy fine dining and are always embarrassed to tell you, but they really are very good-looking. None play games, which is unfortunate, since I am particularly fond of Scrabble and, when I am feeling spunky, Twister.

I actually called one guy. His name was Dan (all names have been changed to protect the guilty), and though his profile was not very interesting, the shallow part of me was attracted to his photograph. He was six feet tall and incredibly handsome. We had e-mailed back and forth several times and decided on a mutually convenient time for me to call him. I introduced myself and after several awkward seconds heard, “Refresh my memory. Which one are you?”

“How about you refresh your own memory and look me up on the computer,” I snapped. He did, and to fill the gap of the logging-on time, he told me in great detail about the crusty pink eye from which he was suffering.

“Oh, yeah. You’re beautiful,” he said after my image finally popped up on his screen. “Do you really look like this?”

“Not at all,” I responded. “I cut that picture out of a magazine.” Goodbye, Dan.

In the midst of this madness, though, I have one small glimmer of hope. His name is David and he lives in Maryland. He is handsome, charming and, best of all, he dares to be different. In the space on his profile that says “What I’m looking for,” he wrote, “I’m looking for my car keys.” Underneath his photo, instead of the usual “Click here to meet your Love God,” David’s caption read “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” He is a pilot, which brings to mind speed, power, great heights.

We’ve been e-mailing each other for about three weeks now. While he continually questions why we bother since we live in different states, I throw philosophical tidbits at him in an attempt to convince him that it’s irrelevant. “Just be, don’t ask,” I say, hoping he won’t question exactly what that means.

I have printed out his profile and carry it around with me rolled up in a little diploma, secured with a rubber band. I do this in case I run into any girlfriends I want to show him to. This happens more often than you would expect, because I live in Manhattan and am constantly bumping into people I know. “Look at my new boyfriend,” I say as I unroll him. “Isn’t he cute?”

A couple of days ago, I took him with me when I went to have a pedicure. As I reached into my bag to retrieve my sandals, out plopped David. I was momentarily horrified to see him gaily floating in the tub in which my feet had been soaking. “My boyfriend!” I gasped as I rescued him from his grubby sea, hoping the smiling attendant spoke no English. “He’s wet.”

David came with me to a cocktail party last week. I brought him along to show to my friend Ellen. She and her husband Mark had invited me to a soirée held at one of those old-boy New York clubs that, as a concession to the 21st century, has decided to allow women in for an evening. Men outnumbered women by about three to one. Mark made it his mission to introduce me to as many available men as possible.

“Ah. Here’s my friend from prep school,” Mark said to me. “Hello, Blakely-this is my friend, Jan.”

“Hi, Blakely. It’s nice to meet you,” I lied.

Sniff. Pause. Extended hand. “Yes. So nice to see you,” he said, with a little bow of his perfectly coiffed blond head. Blakely was bronze- he had just returned from Mustique. His monologue glided into his plans for the summer, which will be primarily spent on the Vineyard.

“And you?” he asked. “Where do you summer, Jan?”

Anywhere you don’t, Blakely.

Ordinarily, I leave these evenings feeling despondent about the possibility of ever finding romance. This night, though, I leave with a spring in my step, for David is in my bag. I can’t wait to get home and log on. Merely seeing his screen name makes my heart skip a beat.

Language excites me, and even the titles of his e-mails are seductive: “Lost in Atlantis,” “Mystic Veil” and my hands-down favorite, “Distant Thunder.” Having grown up in Texas, storms have always thrilled me.

Though I respect the intimacy of our correspondence, I do forward his e-mails to a few dozen close girlfriends. We are all so starved for meaningful relationships that I feel it’s my responsibility to share.

David really wants to meet me. He has come up with innumerable plans to make this happen: coming to New York City, meeting halfway, whatever would be convenient. The mere thought makes me cringe. Our relationship is so perfect now-so positively unreal. I’ll take my paper boyfriend over a real one any day.

My Internet-dating membership expires in two weeks. I don’t think I’ll renew. With my David, I’m sure I’ve found true love.

Meet My Perfect Virtual Boyfriend? I Don’t Think So …