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.

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?

My First OkCupid Date: It Happens to Everyone.

9 Feb

The most understood fruit...and people

Today, I’d like to take a break from generalizations, labels, and ranting (don’t worry, these being my M.O., we’ll be back to them soon enough) that might paint me as some curmudgeonly misogynist (nothing further from the truth, ladies). Let’s go back to Event Zero: That’s right, my very first OkCupid date. Everyone has one. Hopefully yours was or will be good, but because we live in an unfair world, good judgment, pre-date screening, and your best tingling spider sense for a good match are sometimes not enough.

Months after a long-term relationship, I’d ventured into the online dating realm. It began with jDate (more on this in future post), continued on Match.com, and, after a string of disappointing, go-nowhere dates, emails, starts/stops, a friend finally nudged me toward the free dating world. Used to shelling out something on the order of $39.99/month to access jDate’s repository of Hebraic/Jew-friendly dames (it pains me to write this now), I was understandably skeptical of joining what appeared ostensibly to be a free dating site for hipsters. Paying for a service is usually the best and most basic filter there can be for a dating site. {Hear that, Plentyoffish}? But, like a man on a ledge, with goons in pursuit, I took the leap.

Granted, this was a particularly vulnerable time for me. Having finally overcome the lingering heartbreak of my prior relationship on the strength of a then “life-altering” Birthright trip to Israel, I dove head-first into jDate’s comely profile pics and professions of “being equally comfortable going out and staying in.” The reality of 20-question first-dates and communication games soon sunk in and by the time OkCupid came along I was cynical and somewhat battle-weary. I was Prince Bolkonsky after the Battle of Austerlitz (and jDate was my Austerlitz). I wish I could tell you that my first OkCupid experience was an epiphany or a great and wondrous turning point. No, it was rather the hammer that beat the nail further into my already hardening heart.

The girl was cute enough, a Russian Jew, a free spirit en route to grad school spending the summer taking in New York in Hell’s Kitchen. We’d gone back and forth on our activity and somehow landed on a Michael Jackson tribute in TriBeCa (part of the Film Festival). When we met up, MJ (this was pre-death) was quickly forgotten, becoming a backdrop to a hastily arranged dinner at some lame and overpriced tourist haunt somewhere on the West Side. She opened by bragging how she’d just spent a year abroad in New Zealand, quickly moving into a diatribe about how people misunderstand and underappreciate the “Kiwis.” At the time, the word Kiwi meant little more to me than a potato-looking fruit I didn’t like. Soon, I learned about how awesome they really are. (I love New Zealanders, btw.)

When it came time to order wine, she dismissed the wine list because it didn’t feature any New Zealand Rieslings. I informed her that California produces some solid wines these days (this was 2008 and had long been true), including my beloved German varietal. The girl informed me that while she’d been away and couldn’t say for sure, she highly doubted that America could produce decent wines. She then waxed poetic about her fluency in French and her time there, downgrading the U.S. to some discoloration on the body of the world. Next was what I call education-preening: puffing up the school she went to (I forget), lamenting not getting into Harvard and detailing the reasons why she didn’t, then boasting about the grad school program she got into (Chicago or Northwestern). This would have been forgivable if she hadn’t proceeded to express extreme surprise, bordering on insolence, that I had gone to a relatively esteemed institution myself. (Seriously? Was it my controversial remarks about the quality of U.S. wines that disqualified me from being an academic pimp?)

This was the part where I should have let my pride beat out my fear of social impropriety and let her pay half of the bill. After all, she offered to contribute her share and even mocked me for “having to be a man.” Instead, I played the disenchanted gentleman and agreed to go walk off our meal along the water on the West side. Here she’d remembered that there were two of us on the date (not uncommon on first dates) and proceeded to ask me some obligatory questions about my life. Learning that I worked in marketing (at the time), she immediately slammed this as a job/career choice and informed me that while it may be fun, it’s a total waste of time in her eyes, falling well short of the social value offered by whatever post-modern Ph.D. program she was joining.

Usually comfortable with just about any date and more than willing to squeeze lemonade out of a moldy lemon, I had the very rare urge to just shut down. Lacking the wisdom and cajones to wish her a good night and bolt, I continued to subject myself to her grilling. Figuring that she’d gotten the answers she wanted and would do me the favor of ending it herself, I was pretty surprised when she said,

“Oh, my, God, do you like hookahs? I love hookahs. Let’s go to the village and smoke one right now.”

“Umm, I’ve got a lot of work to finish for tomorrow,” I lamely replied. At the moment, I hadn’t realized that despite her uncouth manner, this girl was actually into me. I figured she just really wanted me to buy her a session with a water pipe. My pride finally got the better of me and I set us on a subway path. But my Cupid was not satisfied.

“Aren’t you doing anything interesting with your life, at least, writing or something?” some rays of hopefulness cracking through the dark clouds of her pity. So not only was she judgmental, she was also kind of a b—h. I gave a tentative response, ignoring her comments about some author I just had to check out. The post-date hug couldn’t come fast enough. I raced down the steps into a wonderful MTA escape hatch, my wasted night and disappointment anonymized and thrown into a blender with my fellow passengers’ daily anxieties and preoccupations.

The Profile: Who Am I? (Part I)

1 Feb

Love Life, Hate Dating

So, you’ve created a punny username, secured your password, and uploaded some rad photos including your trip to Bali, karaoke night shenanigans, and scuba-diving underwater closeup; or, if you’re a guy, some shirtless hotpics and a shot of you in your striped button-down pounding a Rolling Rock. If you’re on OkCupid, you’re even answered some arbitrary questions about your personality, sex life, and moral judgment. Congratulations! You’re ready to be matched…Not so fast, you’re gonna need a profile. That’s right, that pesky little summary of your entire life encapsulated in a few sentences. This is where so many of you are totally stumped, as we can see from the very first lines of your profile. “Why am I being asked to fill this out?” “This is ridiculous.” “I can’t sum up my life in a few paragraphs.” “I don’t have time for this right now.” These are all reasonable reactions, but, like dishes, it has to be done.

This might be a nice time to take a deep breath, make a cup of tea, and take stock of your life. To me, what’s troubling is not that your life can’t be summed up in an online dating form, but that it can. Seriously, unless you’re thinking about the 75 academic publications you’ve got under your belt, or insist on listing every song in your iTunes library, it’s really not that hard to imagine a summary of your life to this point. For example: “Born, went to school, made friends, left for college, drank a lot, went to grad school, drank some more, graduated, had quarter life crisis, tried community theater, went to some live shows, left corporate law to be a midwife, enjoy yoga, read Murakami (more on this phenomenon in future posts), the end.” Your story may differ somewhat, with fascinating details like the model of your smartphone or your average running distance or your opinions on holistic living and dietary choices, but generally, with the exception of some TRULY quirky outliers, you’re going to occupy one of several social buckets that I will now attempt to “summarize.” (“But how can you summarize my social bucket in just a few sentences, pretentious blogger?” – It can be done.)

Leading off we have the Reluctant Online Dater (ROD). This is the girl (pardon my unisex references but I do speak from the other side of the fence) who will preface everything with a long, defensive explanation about why she’s here. “Long hours at the office,” “tired of the bar scene,” and “just moved here from ______, Not New York” are commonly spotted in these profiles. Unless they are an extreme ROD, they’ll move on to normal prose in the other questions. The extreme ones will vex you with more apologism until you quit on their profile altogether. Then we have the New-to-Towner (NT).  Admittedly, this is one of my favorite groups because these folks tend to friendlier, more curious, and less jaded than more seasoned New Yorkers. Everything is still fresh and new; even a ride on the subway is fun! Central Park at night? 5/$1 dumplings?  Free ferry to Staten Island? All of these will sound like great ideas to the NT. The downside of dating an NT is you can’t always be sure if they want to date you or use you as a city guide. But chances are if you’re down on your own city they might rekindle the fire in your belly that’s yearning for adventure and help you notice places and people again.

Unfortunately online dating gives rise to a subgroup of Cynical Daters (CCD). Here we have guys and dolls who, perhaps setting their expectations too high or not vetting their partners rigorously enough, end up meeting weirdoes, crazies, cheapskates, liars, and stalkers. I would love to solicit stories from guys on some of their strangest dating experiences, but I’ve heard enough from ladies to appreciate that they are very vulnerable to disaster dates. I’m always amazed with the wherewithal and poise of so many ladies when presented with awkward and unwanted situations (“Sorry I didn’t tell you about my paraplegia,” “I can’t wait to finally meet you. What’s your apartment number?” and “Suck me, beautiful” are not unheard of. OK, fine, that last one is from American Pie, but is it so farfetched?). All I can say is, more power to you, ladies. Stay strong. A non-stalking, bill-paying, mostly honest guy is lurking just around the corner. OK, not lurking…waiting in the open.

Check in soon  for Part II of “The Profile: Who Am I?”