Dating at the Speed of Life

I’ve decided to exhaust every possibility of finding”the one”.  To say yes to more things, to take more risks and to be open minded, knowing that finding You, may no longer be the strait and narrow path I imagined as a boy, but some per-chance-happenstance unexpected twist of date.

So… I signed up for an evening of speed dating.  All I’ve known of speed dating, is what I’ve seen in the movies and on television.  It’s always some comical plot point:


So in truth I had no idea what to expect.  I get to Bar 35, and the back area is partitioned off for a private event.  The place is beautiful, the right mix of dimly lit atmosphere and interesting architecture.  A tiki-styled bar with pseudo-thatch roofing.  A raised area with low booths and chic’ glass tables, counters and high stools lining all the walls and bamboo.   High surfaces and low tables, open spaces and closeness, organic expansiveness and solid brick and mortar.  I make a mental note to add this to my list of places to bring a date… assuming it’s not a girl I meet here.

bar35

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The hostess greets me warmly.  I give her my name and she gives me a name tag.  She asks me if I have a preferred nickname, and I wisely decide against “Optimis Prime” for the evening.   I look around and  I notice there is just one other guy standing there holding a beer awkwardly.  Yikes, I’m too early.  Should’ve hung out in my car and sung more karaoke.    But I’m already here.  At least it gives me more time to acclimate to the situation.  So I start chatting up lone-guy-with-a-beer.

“What’s your name?”

He hesitates.

“JP.”

“It say’s Patrick on your name tag.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Where does the J come from?”

“Umm…

“So what do you do? ”  I ask him.

“I work at a hotel. ”

“What do you do there. ”

“Just… hotel stuff.”

I hope you’re slightly more forthcoming when ladies talk to you. I suspect he is some sort of janitor.

More people begin to trickle in.  Guys, one by one, looking frightened and overwhelmed, and girls in pairs or trios clinging to each other for safety like gazelles entering the lion’s den.  I introduce myself to everyone.  People start forming into protective huddles of conversation.  I  wander aimlessly, never staying one spot for too long.  Like oil separating from water, the crowd inevitably shifts with all the guys panning to one side, and all the girls to another.  It’s beginning to look like a freshman dance.  I point this out to the guys, and they chuckle nervously.

Finally everyone arrives.  Thirteen girls and thirteen guys, and lucky me I’m starting on table thirteen.  I love it.  The hostess explains the rules of speed dating: each person has seven minutes with their date, at the sound of the bell it means there is one minute left.  Each person has a card; if you like the person you’re chatting with check yes, and if they check yes for you then your contact info will be exchanged the next day.  So paper-and-pencil-Tinder.  Got it.

And we’re off!

It’s funny, how you can boil down what a person is, into five short minutes.  It’s funnier still, how after saying this abridged version of who I am over and over I begin to question what it is exactly I’m doing with my life.

“I’m a manager/server at a restaurant.  Kinda fancy-ish… steaks, pork chops, beef cheeks.  Have you ever had beef cheeks before?  It helps if the cow smiles a lot…”

“I’m writing a Vampire novel.  It’s about how being 200 years old and hanging out at a high school makes you a pedophile, not a teen heart-throb…”

Everybody is extremely nice and polite.  No weirdos, no psychopaths, no crazy cat lady like on TV.  Everybody is strangely normal.  As I’m on my third or fourth “date”, I begin to get the sneaking suspicion that I’m the weirdo, the hyperbolic characterization of comical-crude and intrusive-incarnate: I’m the one asking the workplace safety inspector what’s the most horrific injury she’s ever seen.  Limbs?  Toes?  Noses?   I’m the one asking the civil engineer is there some conspiratory plot to keep the roads in disrepair so the people who repair roads are forever employed?  And I’m the one starting the date with, “Hey let’s do shots!”  Well I did that one time, as she recoiled in horror, clutching her water to her chest, and squeaking out a tepid, “No thank you”, as if I had offered her rat poison.

And the I met The Ringer.

What happens if somebody has zero matches?  Thirteen new potential loves-of-your-life in the span of two hours and nobody likes you back.   That must be a soul-crushing realization: out of all these strangers– nobody likes you.  Nanny nanny boo boo.  But it must happen, I’m sure.  There must be a way to give each person at least one “match” so they can walk away from the experience with positive feelings and a sense of hope.

This girl was gorgeous.  Prettier and more put together than most of the other girls at the event.  She sat with an air of confidence, with her back leaning against the wall and her chin tilted in the air.  Why didn’t I see her earlier?   She had spent most of her time chatting with the hostess of the event.  That was my first clue.

We start chatting and she’s friendly and charismatic.  I ask her questions about herself, and she keeps giving me short, concise responses before turning the questions back on to me.  I can’t really figure out too much about her, but she seems interested in me.  Like really interested.  I feel the spark of hope ignite in my stomach.  I begin to imagine standing at the end of a long aisle as she slowly approaches me in a white dress with her face veiled and our friends and family on either side.  I imagine how our children would look.  I imagine her naked.  Okay, maybe I imagined that first.  But still.

The Long Aisle
(Funny how in my own imagination I still create the girliest of weddings)

 

I start talking about vampires, and she doesn’t recoil in horror.  She doesn’t burst into peals of laughter either.  She just says, in a very soothing and encouraging voice “Oh that’s very nice.  I think you’ll do very well”  Or something to that effect.  It’s reminiscent of  being in pre-school and showing the teacher my finger paintings, and she ooh’s and aah’s over how good it is.  Up until this point I was lapping up all the good feeling and encouragement, but this sits funny with me.

I start giving her all the gory details of my writing.

“He doesn’t survive by biting people on the neck, no instead he tricks high school girls into letting him go down on them on their period…”

“Oh and there’s another vampire, she looks twelve and all she does is spend all day masturbating and luring men to the house to eat– Chris Hansen style…”

She doesn’t flinch.  She’s not grossed out.  But she doesn’t get excited the way fans of my work do either.  She just endures it, like a power point presentation on the migratory habits of the red breasted finch.   At this point I’m pretty sure I’ve tanked any chance of getting a second date with this girl.  My mouth has a way of doing that.  I’m trying to come up with more ways to weird her out when the bell rings, and I’m off to the next table.

– – – –

I go through more people.  I’ve got my canned questions down now, and I’m hitting a cadence and a stride with these dates.  Ask her about that thing she just said.  Okay laugh now at her joke.  Okay now a funny anecdote.  What does she do again?  Oh crap.  Ask her about hiking, and waterfalls…

Everybody is polite.  Everybody is nice.   But nobody is that right mix of proverbial freaky-fuzzy to stick to my wall of emotional Velcro.  They just roll down the side and are soon forgotten as soon as that bell rings.

– – – –

Finally  I’m at my last table.    I’ve had three beers so I’m at that right mix of honest and brave, but with no bathroom break, so I’m just waiting to make a mad dash to the restroom.  This girl is cute, with an easygoing smile.

“Drinking Guinness?”  She asks me as I sit next to her.

“Yeah how’d you know?”

“I’m a bartender.”

“I’m an alcoholic.”

“We’re going to get along great.”

What unfolds is perhaps my most genuine conversation of the evening.  No canned material.  No pre-conceived questions.  We just talked about beer, and the service industry.  Heck, I didn’t even ask her who her favorite Disney princess was.  Maybe it’s because I had to pee so badly, but time has snarled to a slow crawl.  I’m literally hanging on her every word, each syllable one second that separates me from that blissful stream of urine exiting my body in a torrential hiss.  I’m torn between my urge to soak her up like a sponge, and my urge to unload like said sponge twisted and wrung dry.

The bell rings.  I thank her for a lovely evening and make a mad dash from my seat.  When I return the hostess is giving everyone directions on how to fill out their cards.  Check anyone you want to talk to again.  At the end of the night I checked three yes boxes.  The Ringer, The Bartender, and one engineering girl who was mousy and boring, but had really nice big pair of… eyes.

I hang out for a bit.  So does the Bartender.  We sit we talk and we laugh.  I offer to buy her a drink.  She says she’s got a long drive home, but she hopes to see me again soon.  That’s got to be a good sign, right?

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– – – –

I got my emailed results the next day:

The Bartender and the Ringer would like to hear from you again.

I’ve yet to reply to either.

Bump it with:

Blind Date: Now You See Me… Now You Don’t.

I walked out on a blind date.

I think this might’ve been the single most asshole thing I’ve done since I’ve been single.Ten  minutes in, I just realized “nope this isn’t for me” and there was no pleasant way to say all that without needing a significant amount of explanation, so I just walked out, got into my car, and drove off.  This may need a little back story and explanation to really understand the whole experience.

So I’m semi-active on two dating sites, Tinder and OKCupid. While on OKCupid matches people on algorithms and levels of compatibility, Tinder pretty much boils down to:

“Does your face want to fuck their face?

[  ] Yes
[  ] No”

And for the most part my response to this is,  “Meh… what the hell.”  I read somewhere that the way to optimize dating with Tinder is to just like every single person’s picture, which statistically expands your dating pool to everyone who likes your picture, and from there you can prune down your matches to people you actually like, all while getting a slight ego boost from the ones you un-match.  So I do that.  Because maths.

Tinder Unicorn
Unmatched.

This girl, was a Tinder girl.  Our conversation was very light and easy at first.  We talk about beer, and about our careers and any number of that small chit chat people do. Within the first day, she was already talking about meeting up.  Suddenly I became acutely aware of that slow sneaking, heavy musky reek of desperation.  Most girls exercise a bit of caution before meeting with a stranger, y’know there are crazies and serial killers on the Internet too.  Heck, I’ve had to submit a credit report, a blood sample, and a carfax before getting to go on a first date, (not literally, but you get the picture).

But she was completely gung-ho: “Hey stranger I just met on the internet, and know inherently nothing about aside from a picture and a little blurb about yourself (remember this, because it will become important later)… lets meet up!”

That was red flag number one.

I’m off the next day, and she’s been pleasant so far and again she asks me if I want to meet up… I figure heck why not. So we start figuring out where to go for dinner, and she begins rattling off the names of a few high end sushi places in the area. And now I’m thinking to myself, I like her, but I don’t necessarily $150 worth of dinner and drinks like her… maybe not even $75 and a Groupon.  Which to me should have been a good warning that subconsciously, I was already trying to minimize my losses, like a part of me had already made up my mind how much I wanted to date this girl, and that monetary sum was somewhere between ramen and happy hour.

That was red flag number two.

So we settle on a ramen shop that’s in the area.  And as I’m driving over I get a series of three texts from her almost simultaneously.

“Oh by the way, I don’t drive.”
“Can you pick me up from work? ”
“Oh and I picked up juice for my dad because he’s sick.  Can we drop it off to him afterwards?”

Christ, I’m not a taxi cab.  Again, I should’ve trusted my gut.  Because instead of feeling like I was given the opportunity to curry favor with my potential future father-in-law, I’m feeling irritated and used.  I google her work place, and it’s two blocks from the ramen shop.  How hard is it to walk two blocks?   Wait what’s that guts?  More foreshadowing of the impending doom to come?

That was red flag number three.

So I get to her work place, and inside are two male patrons, and a girl behind the counter and another girl leaning on the counter from the opposite side.  It’s in these first few seconds, I realize– I’ve been duped.

– – – –

Now I will be the first to admit that my profile pictures on these dating sites show me in the most advantageous light.  It’s the picture where my hair looks awesome, and my chin looks chiseled, and for some reason my biceps look extremely ripped like I was lugging telephone poles around all day.  It’s the picture where I’m at the top of a mountain, or skydiving, or surrounded by a bunch of friends.  But in truth, I’m not that muscular, I hike infrequently, I’ve been skydiving twice and I screamed like a girl the first time (and most of the second time too), and I don’t really hang out with people that often because… well I’m an insufferable dick.  My profile pictures are a glossy, hyper-saturated representation of my life, but for the most part that is me.  If you see me walking down the street, and someone where to show you my profile picture, you would recognize that it was clearly me.

I will also be the first to admit, I’m a shallow person.  I know what type of girl I find physically attractive, and I know what type of girl I find physically un-attractive.  The media has attempted to guilt men into believing liking one type of shape over another is somehow a form of shameful discrimination, but honestly it’s like getting mad at someone for saying their favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip instead of rocky road.  You can’t argue or reason why you like one more than the other… you just do.  And in the grand scheme of things there are people who really love themselves some rocky road, so by all means more for them.   As for me, I know what I like and I know what I don’t like– and I like mint chocolate chip.

But… what I got was a gallon tub of cookie dough, with a bunch of red warning flags sticking out the top like she was a double black diamond ski slope.

Looking back, her first few profile pictures were strategically cropped photos of just her face and cleavage,  so I already knew she was a bigger girl coming in to this.  But her third or fourth picture was a slightly out of focus shot of all of her her doing some sort of cheerleader-esque pose in a t-shirt and shorts.  Not quite big, more like Penny from Big Bang Theory when she puffed up a bit in the later seasons.  (which coincidentally, is how I figure out how far along into the series I am when I’m catching a random episode) That’s who I was expecting to meet today.  In retrospect, that was probably an old high school or college photo, at least five years and fifty pounds ago.

The Bait     And Switch
The bait…                                              …and switch.

You lied.  That’s my first thought.  I’m not angry that she’s big, I’m angry that what little information I know about this girl, has been falsified.  That picture was you at some point, but it’s definitely not you now.  You know what you look like.  You see you in the mirror every day, and that picture, is – not –  you.  That little picture, that little blurb… it’s the twist of the truth; it’s an omission and misrepresentation of facts.  I’m reminded of the days of picture brides, where middle aged women would send a picture of themselves in high school, but by the time they arrived, “ha ha too late Husband, I already here.”  I’ve been tricked.

I lock eyes with her.  She looks away and busies herself.

“Hi” I say.
“Hi.” she says back.

And I stand there awkwardly.  At this point I’m already committed to the date.  I said I would do it so I’m going to do it, pride, wallet, time, and happiness be damned.  She makes no effort to continue the conversation, and resumes talking with the girl across the counter.

So I walk five feet off and flop down in a chair by the door, fumbling with my phone absently.  Maybe she’s busy.  Time passes, and I’m stuck sitting in this chair ever aware of each passing second and the growing discomfort in my guts.  What else has she been dishonest about?  What else will she be dishonest about?  “daddy’ is just the nickname of my drug dealer, and ‘juice’ is what we call our meth, you didn’t ask” or  “You asked if I had AIDS, technically I only had HIV… should’ve been more specific”

I look over at her.  There is so much more of her to look at than I was expecting.  Am I an ass?  Yes I am an ass.  But still… I am an honest ass, with an ass the same size as my picture.  She makes no effort to end her conversation with the girl at the counter.  I stand up again, and walk over to the register.  I hover there awkwardly, like a fourth grader trying to find the right moment to interrupt the teacher from correcting papers at her desk, before returning to my seat unacknowledged yet again.  I’m still willing to bite the bullet and take her out for some food and chock it up to poor reconnaissance on my part.  All she had to do was say something.  Just make some eye contact– something!

I saunter back to my chair.  It’s at this point my guts I’ve been suppressing all this time, begin to take over.  Like a trapped animal, the fight or flight instinct begins to take over me.  Maybe I can pretend like I didn’t see her in there, because I was looking for a girl half her size like in her pictures.  Ha ha.  Yeah that’s fucked up.  Is it?  But if I had told her I was 8′ 2″ and she didn’t see me because I’m actually 5’7″, that would be the same thing right?  All I want to do is not be here, not in this uncomfortable awkward situation with this person I am beginning to resent more with each passing second.  Maybe tell her I’m sick?  Tell her something came up?  A family emergency?  I don’t want to drive extra to give her dad juice, or meth, or whatever it is.  

And then a turning point.

Fuck it.

…I don’t need to spend the next hour talking to someone that I already don’t like.

So I stood up, and I walked out.

And that might’ve been the worst thing I’ve ever done on a date.  And I’m pretty sure the Universe  will be punishing me soon.

Bump it with:

The Porcupine and the Pine Cone

I loved you the way
the Porcupine loves the Pine Cone.
kindred hearts
sharing shape and form,
pressed together for warmth
through the night’s chill.

But between my spines and your spurs’
one of us was bound to get hurt.

So I kept my distance,
closer though you inched
in the growing days.
We wore a groove
in the ground as our tiny legs
made plans upon the looming hills.

But in my heart,
I knew we could never reach them…
and I know we never will.

I miss you,
the way the Porcupine misses the Pine Cone.
I’d carry you with me if I could.
But being born of barbs and bristles,
it’s hard to shoulder anyone’s baggage but my own.

Soon you’ll be taking roots
and kissing thistles to the wind.
So you take the high road,
and I’ll take the one less traveled,
and we’ll see if it makes any difference
where we come out at the end.

Bump it with:

Robert Frosting all over the top of this cupcake.

A Chance Encounter

“Do you know where the longs is?”  She asked me.  Her eyes peering over large sunglasses, her breasts, peeking over her close cropped top, an unlit cigarette in her hand.

I was dressed in my dress shirt and tie having just slung some resumes and done some interviews; she was mistaking me for somebody worthwhile.

“It’s right this way” I said with a smile.  “In fact I can walk you there.”  As we walked, we spoke.  Her name was “Joanne” on vacation from the mainland her luggage in tow.  This was her last night in, but she the hotel had under-booked her reservation so she was a day short.  She stopped right outside of the doors of the store, “do you mind if I smoke?”  I didn’t so she did, and I waited.  And she laughed at the jokes that I made, and we were good company so I exclaimed:

“Would you like to get a drink, somewhere?  …with me?”

“Sure.  The things I need, I don’t really.”  She was clever.  And over a pitcher of beer at a tiki-tourist-bar I became all the more enamored.  We spoke about politics and art, and hikes and beaches, we talked about eating animals, and the potential flavors endangered species.  And the more we spoke the more, I smiled and the more she twirled her hair.  One pitcher became two, and then food.  As the sun was setting across the water, and the masts and sails like a thousand little toothpicks sticking out of the glowing sea.  With an equal red glow on her cheeks she whispered, “You might just be the best thing so far about Hawaii.”  To which I replied, “Volcanoes.”  The red was creeping up both our faces and we leaned in closer with each of our exchanges until our stools were practically intertwined.

“So that hotel?” I asked.
“If you don’t mind, if I could get a ride.”   And we drove.  And in the morning I awoke to unfamiliar paintings, and unfamiliar settings and  a tangle of her.  Grateful she had asked me that one question, that changed absolutely everything.

– – – –

“Do you know where the longs is?”  She asked me.  Her eyes peering over large sunglasses, her breasts, peeking over her close cropped top, an unlit cigarette in her hand.

“That Way.  I pointed.”  And she walked away, stopping once for a long moment to look back at me.  And by the time I realized the opportunity I missed, she was already gone.