A Bundle of Nerves Named Lee

While she is experiencing life on the other side of the world from me, lostnChina recently wrote a great post entitled “The Sarcastic Woman’s Guide to Online Dating: The Whole Enchilada,” which I believe touches on some real issues those of us who have dared to look on the Internet for companionship have to face. She has also dated a man who is completely obsessed with Amway – which is something else we have in common. Yes, I will discuss my Amway guy in a future post – don’t you worry. Anyway, lostnChina sums everything up fairly early by saying, “Most online profiles come across as too-good-to-be-true and exaggerations abound.” She’s right about the profiles. I would like to add that e-mails and text messages that follow can have the same effect.

I was spending the night at my brother’s house after a festive Rosh Hashanah celebration and had my laptop out to look at online profiles. Honestly, is there a better way to close out a holy and blessed evening than perusing J-Date? We began instant messaging right away, and when we took those messages over to AOL, I knew our exchange was getting intense. Well, not really, I think we were both bored out of our minds and found that spending more than a few minutes on J-Date was embarrassing. In any case, we spent a few hours chatting that sacred night. One can say that our romance blossomed at the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Or not…let’s not get dramatic.

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In his photos, Lee had really dark hair and eyes, looked to be in decent shape and wore dark framed glasses. Lee was the first (and only, now that I think about it) divorced guy I chatted with online extensively. It sounded like he had gotten married when he was very young to a girl who was from another country. As they both grew up, and she became acclimated to life in the US, they grew apart and their marriage ended. That detail is neither here nor there, but I was curious after meeting him how he was ever a married man, and I figure you might be as well by the time you finish reading this.

Once we used similar phrases to describe what we do for a living, we both realized that we worked in the same industry and as it turned out, knew many of the same people. Lee had a really dry sense of humor and we enjoyed making each other laugh through our quirky one-liners and stories of past experience. We e-mailed and texted back and forth for a few weeks to continue our intricate comedy show. He told the most entertaining stories and was as charming as can be. I loved the way he “spoke” during this time. It was both self-deprecating and sexy, since he had the confidence to say anything. And then it became time to meet in person.

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I shakily approached the guy who looked pretty much like Lee’s photos and was standing outside the bar-restaurant we decided on for our first date. I gave him a big smile and told him it was great to finally meet him in person. He looked up from his phone long enough to make eye contact with me for about 2 seconds and mumbled a greeting, looking either like he thought I wasn’t the person he’d been texting for weeks, or he was absolutely terrified. It seemed to be the latter, since he did open the door for me to the restaurant and I lead the way to our table.

Once we sat down, we actually started communicating as though we had, in fact, been in touch for a while. However, he was really nervous. I asked him more than once if I had something on my face or in my teeth because he was now staring at me very intensely. Some stutters also came out of his mouth, but I was glad we were speaking. I ordered a vodka tonic from the waitress, and Lee did the same. And then his was gone within 5 minutes. He ordered another one, and then that one disappeared in pretty much the same fashion. After that happened I jokingly said, “Thirsty?” and he put his head down, and said he was nervous. I tried to explain that there is no need to be shy or anxious and that I met up with him because he seemed like great guy and we got along well thusfar. To give him a bit more confidence, I told him that I was glad he actually looked like his profile pictures. That didn’t help him much, and he told me that I was even more beautiful than mine. Aww, yes, that was nice to hear, but the compliments, and nervousness did not end throughout the entire date. After my second drink, I ordered an appetizer, which Lee said he was too shaky to eat but ordered another drink. We talked about some work things, and other general topics, but it didn’t seem like he was really listening to anything and just kept staring at me in that weird, creeper way. I was wearing work clothes – pants and a button-down shirt – and you would have thought I had on a negligee. I felt dirty.

The date lasted a bit less than two hours and Lee had ordered and drank a total of five cocktails. We parted with him still being shy, and me feeling like a supermodel. I had no idea what the hell had just happened, but he definitely was not the person I thought I had been e-mailing and texting with all the intimate details of my life with earlier. I have zero issues with anyone having as many drinks as they would like, but the lack of personality and creepy anxiety combined with the superfluous cocktail guzzling just confused me.

As I stroked my lustrous supermodel hair at my desk the next morning, I received an e-mail from Lee explaining that he had a great time. The only sign that I got that ‘electronic Lee’ was the same person as ‘date Lee’ was that he apologized at the end of his e-mail for being so nervous.

Then he asked me out again. And I had to refuse. That might sound really harsh, but you have to understand that when someone is nervous, to the point that they are borderline sinister, that doesn’t sit well with me. Confidence, and a clear speaking voice, are key.

If you feel bad for Lee, don’t. Facebook suggested that I become friends with him a year or so later, and his main photo included him smiling with a female, who I assumed was his latest love interest. Maybe she went shot for shot with him on their first date, made the first move and beat the anxiety out of him. Or maybe he read this:

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And even after the Facebook suggestion, I made a huge social media faux pas and hit the wrong key on my LinkedIn profile. I ended up sending a bulk message to every person that the site thought I might know and invited them to be a connection. Lee was one of them. Being such an open and boisterous technological personality, he actually responded to my erroneous message, explaining in a lengthy manner that while my name and company sounded familiar to him, he had no recollection of ever meeting me. Tempted to remind him of his evening of creepdom, I started drafting a reply, recounting our courtship, and eventually decided against it.

Lesson learned. Always talk to your possible love interest on the phone before you meet in person. There is a lot you can learn from a person’s tone of voice that any amount of text and two dimensional photos cannot exude.

Oh, and don’t send bulk e-mails to strangers. You might end up reaching out to a blind date from the past.

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One Hour of Passion

Matt had the sarcastic charm that I typically giggle at in his J-Date profile. He had light hair, blue eyes, a smile with a child-like quality and was totally unapologetic about liking reality TV shows. He spoke my language so I gave it a whirl. After about two e-mails in one day, I handed over my digits and Matt called me later that evening:

Me: “Hello?”

Matt: “Hey, it’s Matt.”

Me: “Oh hi. How are you?”

Matt: “Good. Okay, I won’t waste either of our time by having a long phone conversation. Are you free this Thursday after work?”

Me: “Tee hee… Um, yep, I think so.”

Matt: “Okay want to meet at Flanagan’s* on 7th at like 6 – 6:30? I’ll text you when I’m on my way.”

I dug Matt’s style. It really is logical. Why waste time going back and forth online or on the phone before meeting in person and knowing if there is any chemistry or not? I added “not beating around the bush” to my mental list of Matt’s attributes.

On Thursday evening, I sat at the bar sipping a drink while waiting for my charming, blue-eyed dreamboat to walk into the bar and sweep me off my feet. Every few seconds, I would glance at the door waiting for him to walk in, quickly looking down at my phone again, to make sure I kept up my breezy appearance. And then a crouched dude with a comb-over in a grass green polo shirt and khakis who looked generally annoyed at life walked in. I couldn’t help but stare at him obviously. I was once again mystified by online profile photos. Sure, the images of Matt I had checked out could have translated into a confident and good-looking guy with a good vibe. But in this case, the real-life Matt was a bitter, hollowed version of his photographs. I suppose his face was the same, but angrier-looking, and surrounded by a lot less hair. We exchanged greetings and got a table toward the front of the bar.

I am not the world’s best conversationalist by any means, but I can certainly hold my own and keep things interesting with the general population, and I have never had a problem on dates. Without even thinking of any sort of meaning behind it, I asked Matt how work was. You know, since most of us spend a large portion of our lives earning our keep, and we had both just come from our offices, that topic just came naturally.

Matt: “Oh, I’m not talking about work. I was there all day, and now I’m not.”

Amused by the angry leprechaun, I asked him what he would like to talk about.

With a deadpan look on his face and the several dozen hairs he had left glistening with gel sweeping over his head, Matt said he wanted to discuss “our passions.” So I flipped the dialogue back in his court and asked him what he is passionate about.

Matt: “Reality TV shows!”

Again, I thought he was kidding, but his diatribe about people being crazy enough to go on television with their eccentricities proved that this was a topic he was certainly zealous about. He went on for a few minutes about some of his favorite shows and though I tried to chime in a few times, I couldn’t keep up.

The ongoing serious look on his face caused me to look elsewhere, and while I didn’t even notice that I kept glancing away from Matt, he declared that I had horrible eye contact, which just made me more paranoid. About 15 minutes into this date, I assumed that I was sitting with a gay guy who had an unhealthy obsession with “Survivor.” What’s worse is that I realized that I couldn’t even be friends with him because he seemed to not have a friendly bone in his body.

At some point, Matt decided to switch topics. Rest assured, he was still focused on being passionate about nothing and indirectly insulting me.

Matt: “So, you’re alone in a room that is 12 feet by 12 feet. You have an old ladder, no light source, a horse and a small window with bars over it. How do you find a meal?”

Ah yes, the ol’ psychological study performed by those who like to find strangers online, pretend they are looking for heterosexual companionship and truly know how to get to hold eye contact throughout a romantic conversation. Whatever my answer to Matt’s hypothetical situation was, he wasn’t satisfied with it and told me that a psychologist would say I am insecure, negative and basically sucked at life.

So, no, there certainly wasn’t a love connection with Matt. The only sign of human warmth he demonstrated during that evening was that he walked me to the train station. And that was only because his train would be stopping at the same station.

I often wonder if Matt ever found the masochist who is able to look him in the eye and discuss episodes of “The Real World” for hours. That is one lucky man.

*For the life of me, I can’t think of the name of the place. It’s a dive bar – that’s all you need to know anyway. Nosey-pants!