One time years ago, shortly after a particularly devastating breakup, I decided to go out on a limb and take a chance. After months of feeling sorry for myself over gas station snacks and marathons of Gossip Girl, in a moment of admitted weakness, I peeled myself off of my futon, picked the Funyun crumbs out of my cleavage, and joined OkCupid.
I had heard the horror stories, but at first, it really wasn’t so bad. The messages trickled in slowly, a Hey sexi! here, an obvious copy-paste there. Then all of a sudden some guy is asserting that he has the biggest boner on the internet and a married guy is trying to get me into a threesome. And this guy wants to know how much I can bench, and that guy is just wearing a towel hanging from his ding-dong (so much hairy side-butt.) It’s confusing and scary and there are a lot of Bro-man Polanski’s wielding dead fish and clenched abs. Those pictures amused me the most, the headless torso shots, like you’d walk into a date with this guy and have to circle the bar lifting up shirts. Now, I recognize the nipple rings, but the chest hair is throwing me off. I was expecting a six pack on a spray-tanned hotdog, but what I’m getting here is more Chewy meets The Thing. Tell me, are you HawtLover69? Do you know where I can find him?
I tried to be more proactive, scrolling through pages of eligible bachelors like looking through sexy resumes. I found myself being too critical, scanning through dudes thinking Fuck your t-shirt, You look like Elmer Fudd, because it’s so easy to do when you have a potential mate’s self-professed best qualities listed in front of you like a menu. At this point in my life, I felt entitled to some stellar hunk of a man, my very own Romeo, if Romeo was a scientist cowboy lawyer with meaningful tattoos and a nice beard. Also, minus the whole tragic death part. Not about that shit.
So when I got a message from a cute, kind of geeky looking dude that made me laugh, I was quick to respond. We exchanged messages all night, and he seemed funny and charming and harmless, so when he asked me to get a drink, I thought, Why not?
We decided to meet later that week at a bar in his neighborhood. The day of, I was pretty nervous. This was my first online date, and for all I knew he was really a philandering robber baron or Anthony Wiener in a wig. I spent an hour digging through my closet, trying to find something cute to wear. Should I wear a skirt? Do I have to wear heels? I can’t get away with my good sweatpants, can I? A pile of discarded clothes was growing on the floor and I decided that someday I would be fashionable and attractive, but tonight I was going to wear the floral dress and flats like I always do when I’m making an effort and the black leather bomber jacket that made me feel like an international jewel thief, as long as my cat hadn’t peed on it again. (She would reserve that for when I got home.)
A tangle of cords, products and powders later, I felt ready, invincible. I looked good, I had managed to put on both perfume and deodorant, and I was ready to be swept off my feet. I left with enough time to sit in my car for a last minute glance at my date’s profile, in case conversation got really strained and I needed material. I hadn’t been on a date in a long time.
I walked into the bar and out back to the patio. I spotted him immediately. He was wearing a dark shirt and jeans and, in person, looked like a blond Squiggy. He saw me and waved, so I walked over to his table and sat down.
It started slowly. We stumbled into conversation, exchanging inquiries about each other’s days. Then he asked me if I had gone to a recent music festival.
“Yes,” I said. “I did. Did you?”
“I went,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “And it was terrible because you couldn’t see anything from the VIP section.”
“Oh, you were VIP?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m with one of the bands.” He paused to let this sink in.
Hesitantly, I asked, “Which band?”
He told me, and I replied with the requisite level of feigned admiration. (Also, he was their merch guy.) He proceeded to tell me all about his encounters with various famous people, how Bill Murray screamed in his face one time and how he had sushi with Michael Cera, who was a complete bore.
“And this one time, we went to this strip club, because, you know how touring is.”
I didn’t actually know how touring was, unless you count the time I drove to Kenosha to watch a friend’s band play at a smoky VFW and drank Natty Lights in the parking lot because we were underage, but even then I was back by curfew.
“Well, we’re in this strip club, and they’re playing Elliot Smith of all things, and this girl is just stripping and crying, like really crying.” He frowned empathetically. “It was really fucked up.”
“Oh, that’s… Okay.”
He looked at me searchingly. “Are you nervous?” he asked. “You seem nervous.”
“Nervous” was not exactly what I was feeling at the moment, but I responded with, “Oh, it’s just my first online date.”
“I see.” He paused, looking me over. “I’ve been on a lot. They’re usually not great. Although this one time, I was going out with this older chick, I mean, she wasn’t really old or anything, not like anything gross, and from the pictures, I thought I was going to meet her and her friend, and you know, have a threesome.” I nodded. I knew how it was. “But then this guy comes, and he like, sucks my dick while they watch. I mean, I’m not gay or anything, but yeah, he just sucked my dick. Just sucked my dick while they watched.”
At this point, my date was loudly repeating the phrase “Sucked my dick” in a somewhat crowded bar while rats were running frantically in and out of the bushes.
“Have you been to Europe?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I said, relieved.
“Where’ve you been?”
“Oh, London,” he said, wrinkling his nose. “I lived in London for a year. There’s no reason to ever go to England.”
“Well, I enjoyed it,” I said. He smirked.
“I love San Francisco. My sister lives out there. She lives with her girlfriend. I mean, I know she’s a lesbian and she’s dating my sister, but I think this girl is my soul mate. She’s really great and she’s just so beautiful.”
“I do stand-up,” he said. “I mostly just talk about my dick, though. It’s a great dick. What do you do?”
“I work for an IT company,” I said.
He looked at me skeptically. “Is that a 9 to 5?”
“Yes, it is.”
“That sucks. I can’t imagine working a 9 to 5. I work at a sushi restaurant, which really affords me a lot of freedom. Just today, I walked all across the city, just because. Can’t do that with a 9 to 5, can you?”
I considered bringing up weekends, or the fact that night exists, but I just smiled and shrugged. He continued motor-mouthing his way through his exciting and unique adventures with little pause for air, so I fell into a habit of picking at my nails and nodding a lot.
The bartender came out and cleared his throat.
“The patio’s closing. Everybody has to move inside.”
We walked into the bar and I paused, facing him.
“Want to go to another bar?” he asked.
“Well,” I said, “I should probably get going. I have work in the morning.”
“Your 9 to 5?” he asked, sympathetically.
“Yeah, my 9 to 5.” Aww, geez.
He followed me out of the bar and onto the sidewalk. For one brief but terrifying moment, I thought he was going to kiss me, but he pulled me into a strong and lingering hug.
“Now what?” he said, giving me what I’m sure was intended to be a seductive glance but looked more like he was about to sneeze.
I paused, and said, “How about we run really fast in opposite directions?”
He grinned and started to count down.
And with that, he took off running down the street and I hurried to my car and sped away. I wondered if he had returned to the spot where we were standing and was astonished that I was gone. I also wondered if he was punking me and using this as material for his standup. Then I wondered if there were any drive-thru liquor stores in Chicago that also sold tacos. Maybe tacos that had liquor baked right in them. Vodka tacos (vodtacos?) with wine in the salsa. And they’d come with a copy of Titanic and like, six or seven cats, because if this was dating these days, I was just going to wrap myself in a bathrobe, get really into knitting or fly-fishing or something, and call it good.
I pulled onto my street, threw the car in park and sighed. What an unforgivable waste of cute underwear.