Tag Archives: NYC

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

25 Sep

Child Idol

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

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

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

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

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

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Death Cab for Cutie

10 Sep

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

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

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

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

“Umm, OK.”

“Where you going?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dating Immigrant: Trying Something New

10 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

First Date Patterns, Part 1

7 Aug

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

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

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.

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.