It all started because I was bored at work one day. Well, no, that’s not completely true, but it’s close. My Gay-Best-Friend had been trying to convince me for literally a YEAR to sign up for some online dating site. That’s how he’s met lots of his boyfriends and he just thinks online dating is great (he’s off the market now in case you were curious).
I was living with my parents after college and I first worked in a lab where I was the only full-time employee that was a native English speaker (“helloooo China”). Then I switched to a new lab, much better in the social department, however, let’s face it, scientists are not well known for being social or attractive. I was bored. I never met anyone new, though I kept holding out hope I would meet some attractive, charming young man while riding the bus everyday like they do in movies. One day while I was at work I was bored waiting for my gels to transfer and perusing the internet (incidentally, why does my spell check want me to capitalize the Internet? I guess I didn’t realize it was so official), simultaneously humming along with the radio. They paused for a commercial break and I heard a commercial for Match.com. Since I was bored I decided… “Well I’ll just go look at their website and see what this is about”… You could search their site for free and look only at the profile pictures, so I did. My first search in the area returned something shocking. On the very first page of results “Hey I KNOW that guy!”, was a boy that I had a complete and total crush on during high school. I was hooked at that moment. I looked a little more and saw you could post a free profile. “Well why not? It’s free” You could post a free profile, and search everyone else’s, you could wink at people, receive winks, and even receive messages… just not reply without a paid account. I reasoned, “Well I’ll post the free profile, can’t hurt, and just see what happens” . So I made a new fake email address, nickname and got all set up.
I’ll admit. I didn’t believe in online dating. Sure, I knew people did it, but it never really WORKED for anyone. Right? I decided a more reasonable expectation would be to try and meet new people to befriend (since a research lab was clearly not the place to do that). I really though I might make a friend, someone to occasionally hang out with.
Then I started getting winks and emails. So I decided to make the next step. You could sign up for a month for $20. Cancel at anytime. I reasoned that, really, $20 is just the equivalent of going out for dinner and a movie, I would pay for one month and see what happened. If it wasn’t working out, I could cancel and I wouldn’t really have wasted a whole lot. So I signed up, and started replying. That’s when it got fun.
I would be email pen-pals with up to 5 boys at a time. Like I said already I wasn’t really taking it seriously so I also sent daily emails to one of my friends that knew I was doing it, narrating the whole thing as though it was a horse race. I sent her daily updates of who the current front runner was and why or if someone dropped behind in the race. (I COMPLETELY regret not saving all those emails or blogging about it at the time, but that was before I started my “anonymous” blog, and the whole online dating thing was a covert operation as far as I was concerned)
Everyone knows you shouldn’t be stupid about online dating, but I also made up all kinds of other arbitrary rules.
- I would not respond to anyone who was not FULLY clothed in ALL of their profile pictures.
- I would not respond to anyone who had a body part listed in their screenname (I did get an email from someone who used the screen name “hunkomanmeat”… No, I would not make something like that up)
- I would not respond to anyone who used a picture of their bicep (or other muscle) as their primary picture. People do, do that.
- I would not respond to anyone who listed themselves as less than 5’9″. Shallow, I know, but the world is a tough place. Get used to it. (Really the rationale was that my last boyfriend who was 5’6″ or 5’7″ -TOPS- used to always CLAIM he was 5’9″… so I figured 5’9″ was the cut off for what people would lie about)
- I would not respond to anyone who wasn’t local… (I also got an email from a 50ish year old man living in Mexico.)
- I would not respond to anyone who was younger than 24 at the time. (My last boyfriend was a few months older than me, but approximately 5 years behind me in maturity, I was hoping to avoid a repeat of that.)
- I arbitrarily set the upper cut off as 28… has to stop somewhere right? I don’t want to date any old men.
There were some early front runners. I really enjoyed coming home after work and having emails waiting for me. It was a good time :). I went out on my first date with a man we’ll call “Fred”. I agreed to go on a date with Fred online. When he called me to set up the date I was speechless because, Fred? Fred was in bad need of some speech therapy. He didn’t have a lisp but he had that common little-kid speech impediment where they can’t pronounce the “R” sound. “Where” becomes “Wheau” and “Ripe” becoming “Wipe”…. But we were on the phone now, I couldn’t back out.
So we met for lunch. My friend I had been sending the horse-race style emails to and I decided that lunch is the least intimate meal of the day and therefore should be used to for all online dates because there is little obligation to stick around after and very easy to formulate exit excuses. Which is exactly what I did shortly after we finished eating. Not only did Fred have a speech impediment that I could not ignore, but he liked to talk about himself. A lot. About 10 minutes into lunch I played a little game unbeknownst to Fred. I quit offering information voluntarily. If he didn’t ask me something, I didn’t tell him. The conversation continued from there with very little input from me.
He sent me a few emails after that. I sent polite replies, but refused further dates and he eventually gave up. Besides, like I said, there were at least 4 behind him in the race and he had fallen waaay behind. Survival of the fittest my friend Fred, survival of the fittest.
Let this be a lesson to you… if your child has a speech impediment… take them to the speech therapist. People will judge your child at some point if they cannot speak properly.
Somewhere during this time I got a wink, and started talking to this guy. He was over my age range but “why not”. He spent some time in 3rd place, just because he was new, but quickly took the lead by asking for my phone number. If you don’t take the relationship past email-penpal you can’t expect to win the race, #1 and #2 seemed content with email. We had 1 maybe 2 long phone chats before our first date. I had been vastly disappointed with Fred in person compared with his pictures. He looked pretty cute in the pictures, but in person… not so much (shorter and balder). This new guy, I decided, could go either way. We met for dinner at a large chain Chinese restaurant. I was nervous all day before (another pro-lunch sentiment, there’s not nearly as much time to work yourself into a tiz)… but took some deep breaths on the way there and tried not to think about it as I was walking across the parking lot into the restaurant.
I paused by the front door scanning the patrons. Then he stood up and I thought “Wow, he’s a lot cuter than his pictures”