Tag Archives: first date

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”).

Broken Record

12 Jul

Among the various frustrations that come with becoming a Serial First Dater (a most ignominious title) is the tedium of having to talk about yourself each time. Recently I went on a spur-of-the-moment date via OKCupid locals. (Background: I was lying in a park reading a book. She was lying in a different park reading a different book. We’re both vaguely and indifferently Jewish. She’s from SF, and I operate on the assumption that most girls from SF are awesome.)

We met up and of course she didn’t look at all like her pics. She was also a fake San Franciscan having only lived there through grad school (doesn’t count if you’re going to insert the affiliation into your screen name). Not the point. As a “nice guy” (the bar is low these days, based on what other dudes have reported doing in this situation), even if my date does not look to be the person she portrays in online pictorial spreads, I still follow through and hang out. It seems rude not to, and who knows? This chick seemed sane and had interesting experiences living abroad (Africa include, obviously, as she’s on OkCupid).

After an awkward attempt to pay for her own popsicle on the High Line (come on, ladies, I can afford a popsicle, and I don’t even expect lurid sexual favors in return), she said, “I don’t know anything about you. Tell me something about yourself.”

“What an intimidating request,” I replied. Not because I haven’t had to tell people about myself a million times, which all SFDs are proficient at. But at least let it come out naturally in the course of conversation. Maybe I was being extra reticent on account of my disappointment in her appearance. I don’t know. But suddenly faced with a direct request to summarize/advertise myself, I kind of went blank. I threw out some obligatory facts and mercifully we soon went back to just shooting the shit.

This moment once again conjured up my always dreaded hint of potential SFD burnout: self-description fatigue. We’ve already laid out some details in our profiles. Now, unless broken up by some truly amazing person/experience/conversation thread, an SFD is always at serious risk for falling into run-of-the-mill dates with 20-question safety nets and boilerplate resume recitations. I, for one, bore myself to tears having to hear my own life story dozens of times. To every new girl, I’m a new story, perhaps at times even an interesting one. But to myself I’m a broken record, like that one book a poor peasant reads to his children over and over because it’s all they own.

Even when I try to put new spins on it, twist and turn it every which way, change the wording, bring in new characters, there are only so many times you can tell your life story. The person I “love” most—myself—is also the person I’m most weary of. Such is life. That’s part of why we go out and roam amongst others, that’s why we look for someone else to love, as much as or more than ourselves. So we beat on, and we give our elevator pitch and tell our stories over and over, hoping to find someone whose story we want to hear more than our own, maybe even over and over. And then? We’ll see.

Why I Blogged

27 Jun

Everybody Hurts…Sometime

In January of 2012, I decided, mostly on a whim, to start a blog about online dating. This was no New Year’s Resolution or sudden epiphany that I was born to be a dating blogger. I wish I could say my hand was forced by destiny…that my mind was pregnant with blogorrheic nuggets of wisdom handed down to me by the gods of online dating themselves. No, dear reader. Alas, this electronic rag was first inspired by an experience most mundane—rejection.

The cute Jewish political operative and I had hooked up on OkCupid and exchanged some very bland and decidedly unbantery overtures to meet. Not only was she a Jew, but a Jew from Florida, which meant no escape from the late-December visit to the panhandle. Fresh off an ugly breakup and a string of fruitless first dates (yay, online dating!), I had no expectations when we met up at a South African wine bar in Hell’s Kitchen. She was even prettier than her pictures and I was immediately attracted to her. Over the next several hours and many glasses of Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, the chemistry was palpable and the night disappeared in front of our eyes as only those really great first dates can. Halfway through the bottle, we both had to pee, only to learn that the bathroom was overflowing. This led to a somewhat memorable experience of being ushered to their sister restaurant down the block by the bartender through pouring rain. With no umbrellas, it was a nice opportunity to take charge and wrap my arm around her in a most manly fashion.

When the night was finally over, we walked to the intersection of our parting and she congratulated me on being her longest date ever. Then, she punctuated it with a clear opening for a kiss. We made out in the rain, not quite Spiderman style, but pretty intensely, neither of us really wanting to go home. We both knew we’d see each other again.

We swapped texts and set up another date for the weekend. Lamely, I suggested we see a movie and get food later. (They can’t all be winners, whatareyagonnado?) On Saturday, screwed by Brooklyn’s ridiculous weekend subway changes, I rushed from the train to the train to the shuttle bus, back to the train, just to cut my lateness by a few minutes. I sent her texts and she was perfectly understanding when I met her just as the movie was starting. She looked great again and I counted the minutes until we could just let go again. After Young Adult (which was an OK date movie I suppose), a fabulously amazing and fabulously expensive tapas experience was followed by a perfectly divey bar. Not long after some beers, I volunteered to cab her home. We got into a car and started making out in the back. I didn’t expect her to invite me in, but she asked me to come up and “meet her cat.” (Oh, ladies, how I love your subtlety.)

Upstairs, after a quick tour of her charming Hell’s Kitchen apartment, we were back at it until we both started falling asleep in each other’s arms. She was sorry for not asking me to spend the night but she wasn’t quite ready, and I absolved her of any guilt. It was totally understandable. As I left, I texted that I really loved holding her. It was a totally uncensored but (I thought) fairly harmless expression of my feelings. I was feeling good again, all was right with the world, there was magic in the air. The Times Square fumes smelled better.

Over the next few days, I was really excited. I texted, I even called. But all I got in return were delayed and tentative replies, with lame and well-worn excuses about having a “crazy week.” It’s not that I hadn’t been rejected before, but not like this. Not after two awesome dates where two souls, as different as any other two, seemed so perfectly in-sync. Not after we kissed the way we did. Not after I’d met her cat, for chrissake! What the fuck did I do wrong? Was I a bad kisser? Was I merely kiss-raping a very timid girl the entire time? Was she seeing someone else who was just a tad more special? It didn’t matter. Her steely response (or lack thereof) was pretty clear. She blew me off without an explanation; I was no better than some loser contacting her online for the first time. I thought of confronting her for answers, but what would that do? So she could fire off some template sandwiching a firm rejection between telling me how awesome I am and that I would find someone great? For the first time in a long time, I was hurt. Truly hurt. Start-a-blog hurt.

 

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.

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.

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.