Where My Girls At? (No, Seriously, Where Are They?)

25 Sep

Child Idol

When I was a little boy, my family members, especially mom, grandmas, and other female members, got in the habit of telling anyone who would listen (and those who wouldn’t) that I would one day become a ladykiller. “Look at those eyes,” they would say. “Why, he’ll be married before his older brother” (who is significantly older). And silly though their exuberant encomiums were to my precocious ears, they somehow persisted, even into the troubled teen years when the wheat is separated from the chaff with the jagged thresher of social order and reality slaps you around for fun.

Fast forward two decades, and their compliments now sound like feeble charity, if not downright fraudulent. You lied to me, Mom, you lied! On the eve of the holy day of Atonement, when the power of history and guilt compel even infidels like yours truly to refrain from casting aspersions on the ones we love, I cannot but look back on their pollyannish prophecies and shake my head. What the FUCK? Where are all those conquered hearts?

Here I am, thirty-two, somehow miraculously single, blogging about my online dating misadventures—the short victories and crushing defeats. Small bubbles of evanescent joy popping at the surface of a cauldron boiling up with disappointment. Has Cupid’s arrow missed so many times, piercing friends and foes alike in his eternal crossfire with fate? Where is that lothario spirit the parents had been hinting at for so many years? Am I to join the Hall of Shame along with the other legendary busts of my time—Greg Oden, Michael Olowokandi, and Darko Milicic? Where is that kavorka?  What empty curse is this? What unfulfilled promise?

No one has a way of accounting for the future. The child who hears his parents boast of wildly unrealistic feats must one day take responsibility for his own life and his own identity—warts and all—and accept what he is and what he is not. He must navigate the inimical terrain of dating and relationships and all the bullshit they introduce—personalities, awkwardness, infatuations, attraction, availability, rejection, chemistry, and not least of all, timing—without learning to hate everyone who doesn’t give him his way while gaining the confidence to push aside anything that gets into it. He must never forget how good it felt when it was really good and embrace it when it comes again. And he must keep going, because life does not stop for whiners.

Whatareyagonnado? I look back on my twenties, most of which were spent fretting about what was to come. And, you know what? Things aren’t too bad. As my brother once said, “You still haven’t made any major mistakes.” Sometimes that seems hard to believe, but then I’ll wake up, find a tray full of peanut shells on my bed, and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. Sure, in the back of my mind, I keep hoping my scot-free days of singledom will one day soon be behind me, and I’ll suck up the last incriminating shreds of bacheloresque indiscretions with my cordless hand vac, but that won’t stop me from enjoying my freedom while I have it. One day soon I’ll happily hang the chains of coupledom on their familiar grooves and swing them as I whistle down the street. And then, suddenly, my parents won’t be liars anymore. After all, one mom’s ladykiller is another woman’s lovable dork.

Death Cab for Cutie

10 Sep

After a Friday evening HAW date with a very pleasant lady who, despite sharing my interest in several areas, and being cute, just didn’t hit the right nerve with me, I got a hit on OkCupid Locals. Are you familiar with OkCupid Locals? It’s their mobile app’s raison d’être, allowing users to click faces (let’s face it, we all love clicking faces) of allegedly nearby Cupids, indicating that you want to meet up in the very, very near future without fuss or drawn-out written exchanges. Basically, it’s the Lazy Man/Woman’s online dating app. If someone clicks on you and you click back, a match occurs and you can then set up a rendezvous at a local Foursquare-indexed urban venue. (Local takes on a different meaning when you’re in a more remote location. In the Poconos [yes, I turned it on during vacation and damn you for judging] the pickings are slim; you’ll either be selecting between a Dunkin Donuts barista or a free spirited bisexual in rural PA an hour’s drive from your demands for instant first-date gratification.)

The girl who clicked on me seemed smart, grounded, and pleasant-looking, so I went for it. We met up for dim sum and had some interesting conversation. Even when the quick sting of face-to-face disappointment sets in, I can settle into the pleasure of just meeting another human being with a unique background, set of experiences, and outlook on all the interesting things—politics, sex, etc.—that are first date taboos. Sadly the dim sum, like the girl, did not live up to my expectations. When we walked out of the Chinatown dim summery, summer rain, despite the best prognostications, was coming down. I tried to help her find a cab to Williamsburg and, wouldn’t you know it, they all seemed to be somewhere else.

When we finally tracked one down on Bowery, she invited me to share it for the few blocks that would get me closer to home before the taxi turned unto Delancey and the Williamsburg Bridge. She asked him if he could drop me off at Delancey. The cabbie, squinting with a strange intensity, replied, “Why not?” almost throwing up his arms, off the wheel, as if we’d just asked him to jump out of an airplane with us on a whim. OK! I turned back to my date to make some pre-departure small talk.

“You want to jump? Then jump!” the cabbie continued. I looked at him in confusion. He was squinting even more severely than before, and moving his head with uncertainty, his hostile tone not matching the tentative body language.

“Umm, OK.”

“Where you going?” he asked.

“I’m going a different way, just let me out on Delancey.”

“Where you going?” he raised his voice, waving me off with the back of his right palm.

“Uh, can you just let me out on Delancey?” I said will less certainty, totally unprepared for this weird challenge.

“You want to get wet, man? Where are you going, tell me!” he howled.

I told him my cross streets, way west of there, and he quieted down with an “Oh.” He knew he couldn’t help me.

“Wow, this guy is really concerned with my dryness,” I quipped to my date. I looked at her face and she was as confused as I was. I was now a little bit suspicious that this guy might be drunk, crazy, or both, but I was also in a hurry to get home.

Attempting to convey my concern and bewilderment with arched eyebrows and a quizzical glance at her, I only seemed to put her off. “I’m just trying to help,” she murmured. We awkwardly asked him to stop at the F train stop on Delancey and he instructed me to make up my mind and be more decisive. I thanked him, hugged the girl, and jumped out of the cab.

I ran down the steps into the subway, wondering if, as a human being I had any moral responsibility to ensure the girl’s survival in this bizarre yellow cab and its officious driver despite having no interest in further interaction with the girl herself. I now also wonder if he wasn’t having a stroke, or at least a transient ischemic attack, when he picked us up. I didn’t even have her number since in this wonderful age of face-clicking catalog dating we set the whole thing up though the App. If I messaged her, she might think it was a casual follow-up perceive it as interest in another date. I might sleep slightly better at night, but now I might have to deal with subsequent exchanges. Calculating the odds of survival based on past cab rides, my conscience chose the “eccentric  cabbie” over “Travic Bickle.”

My moral quandary was soon dissolved in a sea of pixels as I started playing Slide Soccer on my iPhone while a guy on the opposite platform catcalled forcefully at a girl on the bench behind me. I lost to the computer on HARD, as usual. I’m sure she made it home safe and dry, fulfilling my parting wish, but I’m a little hesitant checking the local news this morning.

Rejection Done Right

24 Aug

Last night I experienced an exhibition of the rare, considerate date etiquette I’ve long prescribed from my soapbox—and I wouldn’t believe it had I not seen it with my own eyes. There we were having a great second date. The girl, whom I’d found in the OkCupid catalog, was cute, funny, and had great stories to tell. We meshed really well from the first moment and I was sure this was going somewhere. (This should have been my first warning—never trust a good feeling blindly.) We had some great drinks and food on our second rendezvous, a totally informal hangout at a really nice Belgian restaurant. There I was, getting all starry-eyed and thinking with tingling anticipation about making out with her before the night was over. There was the check arriving at our table. And there she was fidgeting at my standard offer to cover the charges.

“I have a confession to make.” Well, I knew which way the wind was blowing, but I let her proceed anyway.

“I’m not attracted to you…Does that change your mind about the check?”

Now, in my younger, more naïve days, I probably would have pussied out and paid anyway, awkwardly spouting non sequiturs and fingering dried French fry bits until we could part with a disingenuous hug and smile. But fuck that, I’m now 32 (yikes!) and I’ve had my time wasted enough that I don’t mind cutting my losses. So I was only too happy to accept 50% as a severance. And, after a few moments of contempt for this broad, we actually went back to our conversation with minimal awkwardness, both relieved of our very opposite pressures—hers to reject me in ma very direct manner, and me to clumsily insert my tongue into her mouth in front of an express bus driver. She bought off her guilt with money—the price of honesty—and I would not feel like a sucker afterward.

To her credit, this level of sincerity, while off-putting and somewhat insensitive, is exactly the kind of female dater behavior I’ve endorsed on the pages of this blog. Having been out with someone 2 or 3 times who was only too happy to have me foot the bill only to tell me, chicken-shit style over text, that she didn’t want to mislead me as to her intentions, I would much rather accept this knockout blow and get up before the count of 10 than be sucker-punched in the head and mugged. So, ego slightly frayed, but my wallet not ripped off, I’m still standing. On to the next one!

Summer Ladies Poll

20 Aug

Dating Immigrant: Trying Something New

10 Aug

About 3 months ago, I tore myself away from OkCupid, everyone’s favorite free dating site, to try HowAboutWe, an online dating startup that’s been around a couple of years but is still fairly new to the scene. I found it through someecards, one of the sites with which they’ve partnered (one of the many cool innovations HAW has been engaged in), and at first mistook it for an online dating site for fans of snarky greeting cards.  This, of course, is not far from the intended effect, which is to connect interest-based communities and move away from the user-blind “dating warehouse” feel of many established players, such as Match (which, by the way, is now leading from behind by ripping off similar concepts).

HAW instantly sucked me in, not only with a really slick UI and smooth as silk Ruby on Rails design, but the concept of immediately focusing your dating energies on the date from the get-go as and away from selling yourself with cheesy/generic lines to a cataloged list of faces and proclamations to “work hard/play hard.” To be sure, [as a guy] you will still find yourself selling yourself to a cataloged list of faces, but HAW makes it a heck of a lot more fun–and easier. For one, even when you encounter the many annoyingly threadbare profiles giving you absolutely no insights into the Jack or Jill you’re trying to cyber-woo, with the click of a mouse you can indicate that you’re intrigued by their suggestion to “have dinner at an underground supper club led by a secret famous chef,” “stomp around in some puddles on the next rainy day–then warm up in a cafe or bar,” “take a trapeze class, cause why not,” or, of course, “walk the Highline.” With 2 or 3 clicks, you can be a little more proactive and build you own date using the built-in Foursquare geolocator–and maybe throw in a zinger or two if you’re so inclined.

In the last few weeks, I’ve gone on several dates arranged through the site. As always, some noticeable trends emerged. Here are a few:

  • Generally, people seem more eager than elsewhere (e.g. OkCupids) to get offline and quicker to offer their numbers. This makes sense. You start talking about doing something fun together, rather than asking if the other person is having a good day or how their Midwestern hometown compares to NYC. And this is positive. If the point of the site is to get offline as quickly as possible, mission accomplished. (The side effect of this is that for people who enjoy a more epistolary start to romance, this might be a bit disappointing. To them I say, look to other sites.)
  • Because women likely get flooded with messages the same way they do on other portals, most guys will be tempted to spam ladies with quick date suggestions or just to click “intrigued” on the girls’ dates. This is ineffective and perpetuates an endless loop–girls with too many “intrigues” will inevitably grow weary and numb, and guys will soon stop paying even perfunctory attention to profile details. So it’s really on us to take a more strategic and deliberative approach. Filtering and combining date invitations with personal messages may be the better plan of attack.
  • Women (and perhaps men as well, though I haven’t looked) often post amusingly unfeasible date ideas, such as “Let’s omakase at Masa and then bungee jump off the Statue of Liberty while discussing poetry.” I’ve already written about this phenomenon, particular to HAW. I’m sure for many these may serve as ice-breakers or conversation starters, many users might be put off by someone whose first date ideas all list ideas that require a private jet or a secret society membership. On the other hand, these may also serve as good warnings against people who wouldn’t be good matches to begin with. Whatever the case may be, I urge those who take meeting someone, if not the site itself, at least somewhat seriously, to give their date ideas a bit of thought.
  • There seem to be a fair number of immigrants from OkCupid. This is not surprising, considering the similar audience and the OkC fatigue all of us awesome online daters have encountered at one point or another. HAW does not guarantee better results, but it can be a really refreshing splash of water that you need after going out with some lamos on OkC or not getting any traction with your messages.

In addition to a nice layout and a very well designed app (with small kinks that can be refined in future updates), I also love their agile approach to future improvements. User feedback is crowdsourced with total transparency, and the top gripes and suggestions are no doubt continually monitored and considered for adoption by the product designers and software engineers. Basically, what few complaints I’ve had (e.g., include a subscriber flag so paid members know they’re not throwing their “dating resume” into a bottomless well of lurkers) have already been levied.

Bottom Line

There are no silver bullets in online dating, and HAW is no exception. Success is ultimately based on your level of energy, decent photos, a profile with some semblance of personality, an open mind, and above all a lot of luck in finding chemistry. What HAW is doing better than anyone else at the moment, INMHO, is making the experience much more fun. It feels like a site built by real people, not corporate tools (the founders are childhood friends and former teachers, no less!). You might find your true love, you might find yourself, or you might find VD and sue the bastard. Whatever happens, you might definitely have some fun and discover some awesome new spots in the process.

First Date Patterns, Part 1

7 Aug

Following is a list of “facts” and “rules” I’ve discovered about myself  when it comes to dating, online, offline, in a supermarket line, out of line, whatever. I by no means hold them to be true for every human being, but to the extent that life is often a solipsistic affair, I offer to you the few non-trivial patterns that emerge before me; some are patterns, other habits:

  1. Excitement and unease both descend upon me before a date. I don’t know exactly why this happens, and sometimes I wonder if this whole dating thing is not just a distraction from fulfilling my life in so many other ways. But before many, and perhaps most, of my dates, a sense of dread that isn’t quite nervousness sets in. Suddenly I have to act, I have to entertain, I have to needle, tease, flirt, provoke, and appease. The best of these encounters, which are few, will punch through this stupid onset of self-induced pressure, but quite often the “hour before” is beset with agitation. In a sense, this might be good. After all, we all need deadlines and a little fire under our feet to rise above the social flat-lining ennui of daily singledom and low-pressure routines. And yet no matter how excited I might feel before (and after!), it can seem like such a chore.
  2. What do I say next? Maybe this is applicable to most ice-breaking in social situations, but I really hate the feeling of having to come up with something to say. This takes away from genuine enjoyment and organic dialogue as you can never devote attention to what the person is saying and literally “live in the moment.” Imagine going on a thrill ride and ignoring the thrill as your mind races to consider what ride it’s going on next. Of course, age and wisdom have brought a more introspective attitude and I’m now often able to feel comfortable saying only what I want to say and even “enjoying the silence” on occasion. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into the unproductive and unenlightening conversational race to the bottom.
  3. Picking out just the right place like it’s my OCD business. Now, I know that my general proclivities for endless filtering and curating through catalogs of choices, facilitated by the convenience of modern recommender systems like Amazon, Netflix, and Yelp, amplify my tendency to spend much too much in planning than execution. But I can’t help it. Most of the time, when I propose a date, I want it to be really cool…and super fun…and awesome…oh, and have an edge. You get the point! And if there’s anything I’ve found to be an almost indisputable fact of life, it’s that ultimately the venue shrinks in significance the moment a date begins. Sure, an artistically inclined girl might appreciate some gallery hopping or some conversation pieces, and a girl who loves fish tacos might have a foodgasm when you stop by some four-star taco truck. But looking for romantic connections is not tourism. Our minds soon disappear into a rhythm of careful prodding, gentle teasing, and mental shopping. Even when we’re not asking if this is the person you want to kiss/shag/date, your mind and body are making small calculations, writing things down, weighing and calculating. That’s why we end up listlessly paying the check at amazingly romantic cocktail dens or making out with reckless abandon in the back of seamy dive bars.

Exploiting the Mismatch

20 Jul

Recently, I went on two first dates in 48 hours. There is nothing amazing about this feat. If anything, it highlights the futility of my recent dating marathon. The apposition of these two events are only notable because the girls in question were the shortest and tallest girls I’d ever gone out with, respectively. Saturday night was 4’10”, a cute-as-a-button apathetically Jewish chick from Long Island. The other was at least 6’ tall, a pretty Southern belle from North Carolina who shares a lot of my interests. (In case you’re wondering how this came to pass, the site where we met doesn’t list height and she had no full-body photos with context scaling [FAIL].)

Both were smart and interesting in their own ways. Yet both somehow didn’t hit the mark for me. As a bitterly lower-average height male, I frequently rant about women who dismiss dudes under 5’10” or so right off the bat. None of their explanations are ever satisfying. Some claim it is because they are tall and like to wear heels without emasculating a man. Others just state it straight up as a preference. So I feel a bit hypocritical rejecting worthy women based on their height.

But truth be told, it is an issue for me and, like Sir Mix-a-Lot, I cannot lie. Less so perhaps with the shorter girl, who presents more of a logistical adjustment (bending way down for a hug, having to contort myself god knows how in the sack, etc.). But with the taller girl, who’s clearly better adjusted than I am in this respect, I just can’t picture her wrapping her arm around my shoulder like a father patting his son on the back after some good “catch” practice, while jerks like me are snickering from behind. I just can’t.

So I beat on, Tweets against the current, in search of the perfect girl in my sweet spot height range (5’1”-5’7”).

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