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How About We… First Get a Cup of Coffee and Make Sure Neither of Us Has Conspicuous STDs

12 Jun

Muff-Dive Before You Skydive

So I’ve joined this relatively new dating site, How About We (also served up through the Someecards website), and I really love it. I think it’s the best 2.0 dating site I’ve seen, with a gimmick that actually works, a simple layout, and an elegant way of collecting feedback to make improvements. The concept is simple but innovative: online dating based around experiences and interests rather than just arbitrary filters and profiles. You propose some dates you’d actually like to go on and only then do you fuss over whether your picture makes you look too fat or just how much you should reveal about your bug collection.

The coolness of the concept, however, has an amusing side-effect. Once you start scouring the ladies’ profiles, you run into some very amusing “unrealistic first date proposals,” or UFDPs. Some of these, localized to NYC, include:

  • Rock climbing
  • Shooting range
  • Parachuting out of an airplane
  • Ziplining over a mountain
  • Trapeze class
  • Spontaneous travel to an exotic locale (i.e., Peru/Inca Trail/Machu Picchu)

Now, not to be square and old-fashioned, but are any of these dates actually viable? With varying degrees of plausibility, even the ones that sound doable, such as a shooting gallery, in my humble opinion, do not create the best environments for getting to know someone (unless you’re both NRA members, in which case it just might be).

A first date should be about getting to know a person, not about extreme adventures. There should be some healthy awkwardness and a lot of conversation. You’re both feeling each other out, looking for common ground while looking for any really bright red flags. So, yeah, maybe it’s not very original, but a coffee or a glass of wine at a chill venue is usually pretty ideal. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, check out a museum or art gallery for some conversation pieces.

I’ve done my share of quirky dates. From Pickle Day on the Lower East Side to an interactive off-Broadway show to a Michael Jackson/Thriller outdoor tribute, I’ve tried to spice things up or just fly by the seat of my pants on a first date. Some were good, some were bad, some were neutral. What I’ve come to realize is that adventures are most awesome when shared with the right person, and your first goal should be to find that person, not going on a safari or arranging a flash mob date.

Not with a Bang But a Whimper

4 Jun

ImageIt was a casual mid-week evening of extreme beers and mild rage (in theory). A couple of my friends met me at Peculier Pub, that underrated NYU hangout on Bleecker that happens to offer one of the great bottle lists in all of New York. They even offer mediocre Eastern European varieties. Rarely will I imbibe a Belarussian lager, but I appreciate the option. The evening started out fortuitously with Founders Imperial IPAs and proceeded to the inevitable Samichlaus. 3 or 4 “erudite” beers in, the night started getting more interesting.

First, a Korean girl wandered in, looking lost. My friend uncharacteristically invited her to join us, whereupon we learned she was a language student. Behind us, a gaggle of geeks were holding court. Somewhere between the Korean girl and her friend (who soon joined us) singing the virtues of Dr. Who and a portly gentleman in a Dr. Who tee shirt behind us, we finally realized that the two girls were there for a Dr. Who fan club meeting. Awesome. Eventually, we had to release the Korean exchange student to her flock, but not before getting her to translate a North Korean beer commercial on YouTube (North Korea has beer commercials?).

Turning our attention back to our palates, we sailed further down the River Malt. At some point past that time when you stop paying attention to time, an odd couple started shadowing our booth. A skinny guy in a vest and a semi-ditzy, heavily inebriated blonde were swaying back and forth, hugging and pecking one another on the cheek. They sat down next to me and proceeded to unburden themselves of many a slurred thought. Sensing perfect marks for some bartime fun, we gave them fake names and got into character.

When the male half went outside to take a call, the blonde moved closer in and started chatting me up. I asked how long they’d been together. Laughing, she informed me that he was just a friend and was bi. As if catching herself, she immediately leaned in and whispered, “I’m pretty sure he’s just gay, but don’t tell him I said that.” Her secret was safe with me. She continued to engage me in conversation (such topics as, “What’s up with Jewish people, does it like, mean you’re Jewish?”) but I was only a quarter-interested in the mental wanderings of a 21-year-old FIT student.

I was trying to return to chatting with my friends when the girl nudged me and asked if I could accompany her to the restroom. Naively, I got up and walked her over to the typically grungy unisex bathroom in the back and returned to the booth forthwith. My friends stared at me incredulously and commanded me to return to the back of the bar immediately and proceed inside the bathroom with the girl. I complied. The door was ajar and she whisked me inside. We looked at each other somewhat awkwardly. She seemed to be vacillating between come-hither bluntness and some pre-sobering moral doubt. She made some throwaway remark about wall graffiti that I interpreted as her handing the ball over to me.

There I stood, drunkenly contemplating what is probably the only chance I would ever have at some honest-to-goodness bathroom sex in an NYC bar. But there was no push, no motor running. The only thing filling my mind was a total lack of investment and desire for this girl, who wasn’t half-bad-looking. After about a minute more of sloppy banter about bathroom walls, she hugged me, said, “Sorry that he cockblocked you,” pointing in the direction of her friend, and ran out of the bar into a rainy night. I walked back to our booth to tell my friends, and you all, one anticlimactic tale of staring.

Picking Up the Pieces

17 May

It was my first blind date. And, naturally, it happened thanks to the wonders of the InterWebz. I’d met a girl through Match (during that short window when I’d give that crappy site a shot). Like me, she was a reformed Soviet Jew straddling the line between family expectation (working as a speech pathologist) and yearning for self-definition (buying an apartment in Park Slope). It soon became apparent that while we were both cool and amazing people, the chemistry was lacking. We had a couple of drinks at Heartland Brewery in South Street Seaport and called it an evening. So  I was quite surprised to receive an email from her a couple of days later. She thought I was great. So great, in fact, that I was “perfect” for her younger cousin, who was equally great.

Who was I to argue with a woman’s praise? So I got her cousin’s email address and exchanged a few perfunctory messages. What do you do/where do you live was covered and a tentative date schedule. It was only on the day of our meet-up that I realized I had no idea what this girl looked like. That was the whole point of the blind date, but still. Going on a date with someone you’ve never seen before is sort of like ordering fruit online—you’d better trust the source. So when it finally occurred to me that I could cheat and Google her it was too late—she was not at all my type physically, but I felt like an ass canceling so I decided to just got and see what happened.

The day of our date, as luck would have it, my bathroom ceiling, which had a bad leak for days, finally caved in. I walked in to rubble in my bathtub and on the floor. The space looked like a bombed-out WWII building. It was a couple of hours before our date and I called the girl to inform her about the fiasco. As soon as I told her about my bathroom her tone changed and she sounded really suspicious.

“I’m still coming, I just need to move some of this rubble out of the way first, so I might be running late.” She was tentative and lukewarm.

We met at a lame music venue on the Lower East Side. Not one of the hipsterish ones but the kind that low-airplay mainstream radio bands. Not that I’m a snob but the lineup was pretty atrocious. Despite not being my type, she looked really nice, all set for a raging Saturday night on the town. What I didn’t expect to find was a couple who were clearly there with her. She introduced me to her friend.

“She’s health, I’m money,” the girl proudly declared. It took me a few seconds to figure out that this was a joke about their respective professions and their neat fit into Russian-Jewish parental expectations.

Next she introduced me to the girl’s boyfriend, a very typical Brooklyn Russian guy, the type I avoided at all costs in high school. He promptly told me that he sold cars in Brooklyn. I asked him if he was in school or working full time.

“College is whack. I make six figures, no college degree.”

The couple gave us some alone time, and we went for a drink at the bar. I was kind of hoping she would commiserate over the giant gaping hole that used to be my ceiling, assure me how happy she was I wasn’t crushed in the collapse, and buy me a PBR. No such luck. Instead, she took on a stern voice and made perfectly clear that if I hadn’t shown up she would have never given me another shot. Fine.

We went back to the couple and listened to some bad music while the girl and I had an awkward 20-questions-style interview. It turned out we had very little in common other than a tenuous connection to a college hockey rivalry being played out at MSG that night. Soon she grew bored of the joint and told us that she wanted to go clubbing at Lotus. Already on the fence about staying, I told her I had no interest in going there, but she was free to do so since it was her big night on the town (she lived in Jersey). The girl immediately relented and we somehow decided to drive back into Brooklyn and maybe go for a nightcap somewhere. My plan was to hitch a ride back to my house, since the other girl’s boyfriend lived nearby and was driving.

The car was one of those souped-up Japanese cars that outer borough and suburb-bound Russian teens and twentysomethings favor. The dude started gunning his “turbo” gear and scaring the crap out of the two girls. When he was doing 60 in a 25, I suggested he might want to slow down, but he was hell-bent on waving his dick around. Finally, we rolled into Gravesend, a neighborhood abutting Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst that we were all well familiar with.

He drove us to a “club” on Avenue U called “Pleasure.” As you might guess, it was anything but. After parting with $40 at the door, we entered what can only be described as a time portal into the 70s. There was a disco ball, a smoke machine, a swank-looking bar with icy-blonde Russian girls pouring overpriced drinks, and absolutely no one dancing or really even inhabiting the space. We sat down and ordered some food and drinks. The car salesman ordered fries and, after telling me some tiresome tale of his car-selling coups, slumped over his girlfriend’s shoulder and passed out. I invited my date to dance to the cheesy techno beats, trying to salvage a bit of the night, but she declined and went into an awkward silence. We sat apart, looking at a soggy plate of fries at the smoke machine filled the empty dance floor with its artificial haze.

A Brief History of Heels in Time

15 May

Heeling Good About Yourself

Heels: Before and After Christ*

Approx. 4000 B.C.
Earliest depictions of shoes (flexible leather pieces held in place with lacings) in ancient Egyptian murals on tombs and temples.

Approx. 200 B.C.
Platform sandals called kothorni, with high wood or cork soles, become popular among Roman tragic actors.

Approx. 1000 A.D.
At Saxon weddings, father of the bride customarily presents the groom with one of the bride’s shoes, symbolizing transfer of his authority over her. The bride’s shoe is thrown to the bridesmaids; the one who catches it will be next to marry.

1154-1189
King Henry II of England popularizes shoes with narrow, pointed toes. Legend says they hid his deformed toes.

1189-1199
Knights of Richard the Lionhearted begin to wear sollerets, downward-curving pointed toes, to keep their feet from slipping out of stirrups.

1215
A law passed in Paris bans university professors from wearing shoes with long, pointed toes. However, shoe toes, a symbol of rank, grow longer and pointier during the next two centuries, culminating by about 1382 in the spiky-toed cracowe. Kings and princes sometimes wore toes 30 inches long.

1386
Knights fighting in the Battle of Sempach in Switzerland are forced to amputate their shoes’ long toes after dismounting before they can advance on foot.

Approx. 1500
Shoes begin to be made in two pieces, with a flexible upper attached to a heavier, stiffer sole. This leads to the introduction of the heel, devised as a better way of keeping a rider’s foot in the stirrup. Heeled boots for men quickly become fashionable.
1509-1547
Henry VIII of England favors wide-toed shoes, sometimes 12 inches across, which had to be stuffed to keep them on his feet.

1533
Short-statured Italian bride Catherine d’Medici, married at 14 to the Duke of Orleans, wears shoes with two-inch heels to exaggerate her height. The high heel may have been invented by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

1553-1558
Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”), another vertically challenged monarch, wears heels as high as possible. From this period until the early 19th century, high heels are frequently in vogue for both sexes.

Mid-1500s
An extreme shoe style called chopines, popular among women in Italy, Spain and France, had pedestals of cork or wood as tall as 24 inches. A Venetian lady wearing chopines needed two servants to help her in and out of a gondola.

1628
Pilgrims arrive in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A law is passed prohibiting “excess in bootes.”

1660
French shoemaker Nicholas Lestage, so clever at his trade that some accuse him of sorcery, becomes shoemaker to Louis XIV. The heels of Louis’s shoes, some decorated with miniature battle scenes, are as tall as five inches. High “Louis” heels are also fashionable for ladies.

1745
Madame de Pompadour, tiny-footed favorite of Louis XV, popularizes high, narrow “Pompadour” heels. Ladies tape their feet to reduce their apparent size and faint at court.

1793
Marie Antoinette ascends the scaffold to be executed wearing two-inch heels. However, in the wake of the French Revolution heels become lower than at any time in the 18th century.

1794
Quincy Reed opens America’s first retail shoe store in Boston. Around this period, Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) invents machines for cutting soles and riveting them to uppers.

Early 1800sB
Flat shoes and Grecian-style sandals become popular.

Approx. 1865
The “sneaker” or plimsoll, a canvas-topped, rubber-soled shoe, is invented for badminton and tennis. Ladies’ heel heights vary but stay below two inches during the rest of the century.

1904
The ladies’ “pump” or court shoe, a British invention, reaches America. Shoe stores begin to stock shoes with a range of widths around now.

Approx. 1955
Tall “stiletto” heels for women’s shoes, invented in Italy, become a fashion rage. Very pointed toes come into vogue for both sexes.

1970s
Return of the platform shoe.

1980s
Athletic shoes diversify and gain popularity. Some women begin wearing them to work or for commuting.

2100(Projected)
Women adopt holographic projections of heels, miss authenticity of painful blisters and wounds. HoloHeels create hipster revival of classic heels.
*Source: http://users.powernet.co.uk/wingett/History1.htm

Old Dog, New Trick

7 May

Back off, dude

For the purposes of this story, names have been changed to protect the people involved.

In my many years of dating, short relationships going nowhere, and long relationships going nowhere good, I’ve pretty much known who I was. A generally nice guy, fun date, and all-around decent boyfriend. Like everyone, I have my shortcomings, but my dating resume is generally buoyed by unclinginess, a lack of jealousy, and easygoing nature. Last, week, though, I did something new.

We were at a lounge in lower Manhattan. One of those digital community events, not unlike a MeetUp, where people who usually don’t know each other soon become fast friends in the gated environment of a new community where icebreaking is lubricated by a generous stream of booze. After making the rounds and making some new acquaintances and allies, I spotted two girls standing off by themselves, one of whom I judged too cute to leave in that position.

Now, I’m not an operator, nor do I do this often, but I had my mark. Seconds later, banter was in the air as we toasted each other and the night. Everything was turning up in my favor. The girl’s friend, Inga, who turned out to be someone she’d just met, was spoken for, while the object of my curiosity—Myra— was almost certainly single, facilitating my entry point. When she went to the bathroom, Inga apologized for “cockblocking.” I was amused by a girl speaking in bro parlance, and assured her she was not. I also gathered some intel, including Myra’s affinity for online dating sites. All signs pointed to singlehood.

Two drinks later, we were tearing up the dance floor, more or less, as house music pumped through the crowd. And, another drink later, we were off for after-party shenanigans elsewhere. The liquor now taking charge of our faculties, we somehow merged with another group of ragers, which included a ver nice but somewhat sleazy-looking guy named Jose I’d met at a previous event. At this point Myra, thoroughly sloshed from the last drink, lunched into a string of Spanish gibberish. With my limited understanding of Spanish, I was both amused at her nonsensical phrasing and impressed by her glib pronunciation. Jose seemed equally amused.

Perhaps it was the shiny bold head of someone new, or the mild exoticism of a Latino dude, and certainly the many cocktails coursing through her veins, but Myra’s attentions started drifting from me to Jose, at least for the time being. When we got to the next bar/club, he launched a full-scale offensive on her. Now, most times, I would probably grow indifferent and let this go. But something about the whole sequence, if not the girl herself, screamed injustice. You know the scene from the Matrix when Neo finally sees the agents in ones and zeroes ? I went into action.

At the bar, Jose, who had some sort of hookup with the bartender, was handing Myra another cocktail, which she quite visibly did not require but would clearly accept. With one hand, I interceded, intercepting the drink (luckily vodka-based, from which I’m immunized by the Soviet part of my blood), and pounding it back in a few quick gulps. The other hand I wrapped around Jose’s shoulder, turning him deftly to a corner where we couldn’t be overheard.

“Jose, I like you and think you’re a nice guy, but I was talking to this girl before you and think I kind of like her, so you need to back off.” I followed this up with a firm assurance that I wasn’t trying to start trouble and may or may not have insisted that “I come correct” (I’d been wanting to say that!).

Jose, somewhat nonplussed by my directness, quickly recovered, apologized, shook my hand, and handed over the “keys to the car.” I was now in the driver’s seat. For the first time in my life, I had confronted a man over a woman, won, and somehow walked away without a black eye or broken nose. It was the best of both worlds!

Phone Screeners

30 Apr

So, have you ever been married?

Because I’ve spent so much of my dating career as an online dater (never an easy thing to admit but I had to clear my conscience), sometimes I come across phenomena that I can’t place as either standard dating behavior or a particularity of e-dating. Among these trends is what I call “phone screeners.” These are women who, despite understanding that online dating starts out online, insist on an interstitial screening by phone. (I can’t be sure of the other side, but come on, how many guys do you know that like to yap on the phone?)

Maybe it’s women’s greater affinity for “voice,” or maybe there’s something reassuring about getting the audio before the video (please weigh in with a Comment), but several women either requested or insisted that I call them before we met up. In a couple of cases, where it was a clear demand, I found it a really awkward requirement. There’s something kind of pathetic about bursting that bubble of warm feeling and flirtation that grows from written communication with a bureaucratic mandate.

At least two girls grilled me at length on my marital status, the presence of children, and my dating history. I was supremely annoyed given that this information had already been disclosed in my profile. On the other hand, one of them told me she’d been burned before when one or more guys lied about their availability and commitments to other ladies. Fine. It’s not that I don’t like talking on the phone. When you’re with someone special, having those endless conversations can often be really romantic. But when you haven’t met the person once, those 1- and 2-hour conversations really add up, and will seem less charming and enjoyable when you finally meet for that coffee and quickly realize your spider sense steered you wrong.

I’ll do the phone, but that’s where I draw the line. A couple of girls’ profiles that I’ve come across basically dictated that there would be a lengthy Skype video call prior to any face-to-face interaction. Bye-bye, next. If you’re so frightened by the very idea of meeting someone off the Web, then DON’T MEET PEOPLE OFF THE WEB. Go back to that bar, library, coffee shop, or park, and wait for your prince to come galloping over on his Razor scooter. Please don’t suck all the life out of the pre-rendezvous excitement by going through a series of dry investigations. Or, if you do, you might as well hire a private eye to shadow the guy around for a month or two before sitting down for that coffee.

Legitimate Reflexology Gets No Respect

19 Apr

The Countdown

12 Apr

Was it so hard to tell me, jerks?

In the sometimes too-predictable world of online dating, there are those pleasant surprises when the script gets thrown out the window, and two people enjoy a totally spontaneous, organic connection full of laughs, meaningful glances, and prolonged silences pregnant with ineffable feeling…Unfortunately, most online dates are nothing like that. Instead, they go something like this, at least for me:

  • T minus 3 days: Date/location set.
  • T minus 2 days: Phone numbers/other means of contact exchanged.
  • T minus 1 day: A text confirmation is dispatched. Hopefully the other party confirms.
  • T minus 12 hours: I make sure my teeth and hair are brushed, hygienic products and olfactory enhancements applied, presentable clothes worn.
  • T minus 6 hours: I remind myself to resist that pile of onions in my Halal cart order lest I risk social suicide.
  • T minus 1 hour: I look in the mirror to make sure there’s not a giant booger hanging out of my nose, or a big splotch of toothpaste on my chin. If there’s toothpaste, I remind myself to check that at T-12 hours and curse all the people who have seen me throughout the day who chose not to point this out.
  • T minus 5-10 minutes: I arrive on location comfortably but not pointlessly early. If I’m at a bar that fills up quickly after work or on a weekend, I have time to grab some seats, which she is sure to appreciate (or, at least it solves a minor but unnecessary first-date problem of awkwardly waiting for basic comfort while you’re both sizing each other up).
  • T minus 2 minutes: I peruse the beer/wine list, preparing myself to wow her with my vast knowledge of spirits. At this point I may also start to wonder if those weird angles in her photos were intentional.
  • T plus 2 minutes: I throw a glance at my watch and a few at the door, curious about how she will make her entrance and how I will appear to her. This might also be a good time to check on a few near-certainties (is my fly zipped, etc.).
  • T plus 5 minutes (pre-smart phone era): I start to get annoyed, checking my watch and phone more frequently.
  • T plus 5 minutes (post-smart phone era): I feel slightly more relaxed, launch Words with Friends or Draw Something.

Date Late

  • T plus 15 minutes (pre-smart phone era): I am now fully annoyed at not getting a heads-up, wonder if this will finally be the time I get completely stood up, start to get annoyed when I’m asked if I want to order a drink for the 3rd time, contemplate passive-aggressive text, decide against it and end up calling or texting to voice my concern as casually as I can muster.
  • T plus 15 minutes (post-smart phone era): Getting frustrated with a bad board in WWF or not being able to guess what my friend’s squiggly lines are supposed to be. Forget all about date, fail to register vibrating/ringing of phone as she sends an SOS after getting mugged in the adjacent alley.

Date On Time

Showtime: You size each other up nervously, hug or awkwardly shake hands, and proceed to judge one another physically for a few seconds while ignoring what the other person is saying. If you’re both satisfied, a lovely evening may commence. If one of you is much happier than the other, one of you will be really frustrated very soon and the other will have some grievances to air with the friend who thought this was a good idea. If both of you are equally dissatisfied, you might be on your way to a beautiful friendship.

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A Dangerous Lick

9 Apr

Kick it, don't lick it

 

When in doubt, don’t stick your tongue out

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Yelp Dating Spam

1 Apr

They've gotten to you, too, Yelp!

The beginning of the end! They’ve gotten to Yelp! Sweet fake pic of the girl from the O.C.

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