Tag Archives: dating

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.
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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.

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.

Word Minimum for Love

11 Mar

Less talk, more digging!

My homie over at It’s Not a Match recently weighed in on how many times you should exchange emails before meeting up in real life. It got me thinking back to a time when I received a reply from a girl on OkC who was “writing a book” (aka not working) and thus relying on swooning OkCupid guys to supply her drinks and dinners. Based on her pictures, she was attractive and feisty, and unfortunately this combination sometimes speaks to my lizard brain, egging me on to a challenge I don’t need. I sent her a bit of “feeler banter” to which she replied along these lines (paraphrasing):

“Listen, I’m not into long exchanges. Are you going to buy me dinner or not?”

Now, some might jump at this bold acceleration of proceedings, but for me it raised several orange flags. I sent her a brisk riposte:

“Listen, honey, I need to be romanced via banter before we get to dinner.”

Needless, to say, I never heard from this odd “dinner digger” again but it highlights the preference of many people to get straight to the point (ulterior motives aside). There are those, like yours truly, who love putting pen to paper, and drafting long missives, which can certainly cross the line at times from wordplay and charm to drawn-out epistolary romance. But for many, online dating is just a medium—no more, no less.

My personal outlook is that even if you’re not a writer at heart and prefer to keep the preliminary copy to a minimum, you need to recognize that online dating is, for better or worse, primarily a writing medium. You don’t have to draft essay-length messages (you’d all laugh at some of the screeds I used to churn out), but dig deep to put in more than 5 words’ worth of effort. I’ve been able to edit myself down from multiple paragraph profiles and messages to pithier capsules, but I still enjoy the exchanges. They are, honestly, often the most exciting part of the digital courtship process, and in successful connections I often reminisce happily about those early messages.

For someone who loves to exchange words with likeminded ladypals, verbal reticence can also be a useful signal of compatibility. It won’t shock you to find out that I usually click much better with people who appreciate wordplay and style and dish back equally deft replies. Whatever your writing persuasion, I urge to just give words a chance!

POF Data Mining Fail

7 Mar

No, thanks

What the H? I’m neither 23 nor a single dad; nor am I from California, for that matter!

POF Profile of the Day: Spelling and Laundromats

6 Mar

Isn't 12 years enough to learn spelling?