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Love in a Pandemic—the Scientist and the Serviceman

A Story of Unexpected Love after Divorce


I never thought I would get a divorce. No one does.


As traumatic and deeply painful as that experience was, no one ever told me that my first relationship after divorce would not only reawaken my life but also destroy me in the end.


About two years after my divorce, I was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge on a weekend adventure with two of my best friends to visit the Cowgirl Creamery and all of the other cheese shops in between. As we chatted and laughed about life, my dear friend said to me, “You’re smart, beautiful, successful; you need to get out there again and date!” I looked at her in the back seat and said, “Really?”


My thought of loving again seemed like a long shot considering the traumatic experiences I endured throughout my marriage, the inability for us to have a child, ultimately ending in divorce. As we all giggled about the thought of me experimenting with online dating in my 40s, I just assumed that my very successful friends had a very straight path to success both professionally and personally. My own personal path, I thought, had taken more of a scenic route. What was shared that day on that car ride in search of cheese, changed the course of my life.



Cowgirl Creamery and oodles of Mt Tam. (Ahna Skop)

 

Two weeks after getting back home to Wisconsin, I decided — and also dreaded — even attempting to navigate online dating at the urge of my dearest friends. Match, OkCupid, Bumble, Tinder…UGH, I thought. Being in my mid-40s and a scientist to boot, the idea of putting myself out there on these sites was met with skepticism and trepidation.


My friends ensured me I was certainly of value to other men, but that I just needed to get out there like she had after her first marriage ended. Despite her divorce, she found the love of her life again after a few failures trying to date online, and three children soon followed. I thought, “What do I have to lose?”. Given this past trip and all of our discussions, I started a profile one evening after work.


What was I looking for? What did I need? I hadn’t had a clue, but this man had to be very different from my ex-husband on a lot of levels. I want a team player, a partner, and most importantly a companion in life. I need someone who loves to travel, likes to try new foods, and especially enjoys eating the food I like to cook at a minimum. Everywhere I travel, I make it a priority to take cooking classes, and eagerly love to share my travel experiences once I get home through the dishes I learned to make on my trips. I want someone who loves to eat — a picky eater definitely will not do. Certainly not a vegetarian, no offense, but the thought of having a fridge filled with tofu, seems like something I couldn’t see myself happy with for the rest of my life. I want someone adventurous in all aspects of their lives and are not scared to at least try everything at least once.


As a woman scientist, I knew I would meet many men who simply would not give me the time of day because “I was smarter than they were”.

Equally, this person would have to like to go to art shows and museums, enjoy the history behind things, and to go on local adventures around Wisconsin or the country. Someone who appreciates art and design in our natural world. Someone good at fixing and building things like my father. Someone with a beard perhaps? Someone who is a creative problem solver at work and home. Someone who is active and has interesting hobbies. Someone progressive, emotionally intelligent, and can empathize with others. Someone who likes to help others and is equally a good listener. Someone who can laugh at memes, have gut-busting laughter over jokes about donut and toilet paper exchanges, enjoy stupid TV comedies like Baskets, or awesome ones like Fleabag, or old Seinfeld episodes perhaps. Lastly, someone that would be confident and curious enough to be with a woman scientist.


I looked at my list and gulped. Who could this person be, do they possibly exist? As a woman scientist, I knew I would meet many men who simply would not give me the time of day because “I was smarter than they were”. This statement was thrown at me throughout my entire path to becoming a scientist. I knew that many men might also not believe I was a scientist, and question that I was even a professor at a big research university.


Countless men that I had conversations with on many of my work trips had said these things to me before. They usually noticed my microscope imaging data I was working on during the long flight and would ask me what was doing. Only to be met with disappointing and unfortunate comments.

I just assumed men online would do the same. And many of them did. I thought to myself, I need to find a confident man, who was not only ok with dating a scientist but could also understand I needed the same emotional support just like anyone else.