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?

I find the notion both intriguing and horrifying. For years I’ve mocked the idea of shopping for a mate the way you’d shop for a book on Amazon.com (“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. . . .

But lately, several of my friends have met partners online; several others have had fun just going out for dinners, movies, and hikes with people they’d never have met without the Internet. According to Business Week Online, almost 5 percent of the U.S. population is now listed on Match.com. Arranging dates through Buddhist sites promises something novel: a wide assortment of potential friends, all of them single and interested in connection, and all sharing a primary interest in spiritual practice. And as a mating strategy, it probably beats cruising a Vipassana retreat.

The only problem is, I’ve never really dated.

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. 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. A French Zen student who baked a tarte aux pommes for my birthday and offered me bouquets of homegrown chard. A yogi who invited me to a clothing-optional “love and intimacy” workshop at his Santa Cruz home that culminated in a talent show where a seventy-three-year-old woman belly-danced wearing nothing but a denim apron.

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