It could have been the most perfect girl meets boy story ever, the kind of quirky and twisty tale that would be glorious enough to smack the crooked grin off of Meg Ryan's former face – the one she had during the days of When Harry Met Sally, before she met a plastic surgeon who is also clearly a sadist.
Sadly, the words "could have been" are absolutely key to understanding my tale at hand.
I started the year by tossing my vagina back into the online ring of dating. The rest of me went with it, of course, but I think giving it a special shout out is good for its self-esteem. Anyhoo, it was a new year and I had new goals and I decided that I was ready to meet someone great.
The problem is this: I’m not a good online dater. I get bored, and probably too quickly. I don’t give people as many chances initially as maybe I should, but there are just some factors and scenarios I will never be able to reconcile for the greater good:
1. If you’re a guy who posts a picture of yourself posing shirtless and trying to bulge out your bicep, I will laugh – at you. I know that it’s not a nice quality of mine, to be instantly judge-y, and I also know that this stranger is maybe just committed to being in shape, but it all just strikes me as so obvious. Look: unless we meet on a beach, I want the reveal of what you look like without a shirt to be one that is private and special because trust me – when I take off my shirt, it will make for a very nice moment for you.
2. I have a very serious problem with people who toss extra y’s into words in which merely one y would suffice. An example of what I’m talking about might be helpful here, so this is a standard greeting I get and it often leads me to contemplate voting for whichever presidential candidate in 2016 supports mandatory sterilization: heyyyyyyyyy. Are those extra y’s meant to be an indication of affection? Does the number of y’s used directly correlate with how many girls he’s slept with in the last month or how long he has been off probation? Did somebody once tell him that adding a letter that is sometimes a consonant and sometimes a vowel to a word will lead to his dick appearing larger in the moonlight? Because it does not. All those y’s tell me is that he’s twenty-five years old tops and we wouldn’t be able to get through one cup of coffee together before deciding that we hate each other to the very core.
3. If I’m not attracted to the guy, it’s kind of over before it starts, and when you’re talking about an online scenario, that means before the first email is exchanged. I know that what I find attractive might not be what everybody else does. I like scruff. I like tall. The smile and the lips matter way more to me than the eyes. The outfit the guy is wearing matters too, though I know that style can be tweaked in the way that the personal values of a man in his thirties cannot. I like edgy better than pretty and I’ve just recently started to not mind a bald head as long as it’s a head that’s symmetrical. I like a tattoo on a guy, but it has got to be a good one, which means that random Chinese symbols, badly-drawn tribal tattoos that lace around the tricep like a vine or a noose, and any licensed character besides Cookie Monster are out. And if a guy is way too tan and veers into Oompa Loompa territory, I know myself well enough to know that I will never disrobe in his presence.
4. If in the first few emails there’s no witty repartee taking place, I’m fucking out. I need to know that you can be funny and quick, and most importantly, that you can get sarcasm – and that means through writing too. I’ll know after a few emails if I want to give you my number and from there I’ll figure out if I want to meet you. It sounds simple, right? It’s not.
5. If the emails or texts veer too quickly into the risqué, I’m already bored. I mean, I have enough confidence to know that if we meet, you’ll eventually want to lie on top of me. But when the sexual innuendo takes hold too quickly, I find myself completely turned off. One guy, after maybe two emails, wrote me the completely unoriginal, “What are you wearing?” I almost wrote back, “A snow suit,” just to deflate whatever stiffness was starting to take hold. Instead I just didn’t respond, but I’m sure the guy wasn’t too upset; I couldn’t have been the first girl he posed that question to, but I take some pride in the fact that maybe I’m the only one who didn’t answer. The guy was gorgeous– chiseled jaw and bright eyes and over six feet tall and a doctor, or at least a guy who had the ability to get himself a set of scrubs for photos. Now that I’m considering it, it’s not a bad idea for a guy to do that; there’s a lot of girls out there who want to snag themselves a doctor, and I know that for a fact because I went to sleepaway camp with all of them. Anyway, I’m guessing some girl out there with less self-worth was happy to write back that she was wearing a G-string and a white tank top with no bra underneath when what she was really wearing was sweatpants and a hoodie.
6. There are just some things I know really matter to me when I’m considering a new man: I want a guy who went to college and has a job he doesn’t completely despise and I’d prefer it if he doesn’t own a cat. Not having a psychotic stalker in his life is also a plus, but I try not to be too picky.
7. When we do make plans for a date, I like when the guy actually makes the plan. I’m an up-for-anything kind of girl. I’ll do a drinks date, a dinner date, a hiking date – as long as I can wear heels on the hike because some things are simply nonnegotiable – but I don’t want to plan our first date. I’m all about equality, but dude: be a man and make a plan. I went out with a guy a few times who would say, “I don’t know – where do you feel like eating?” every single time we hung out and it irritated me in ways that almost don’t make sense, but all I wanted was for him to say something like, “Let’s grab sushi. I know a great place,” but he was just not assertive like that and it kind of made me gag – and not in a good way.
8. This one’s the ultimate deal-breaker-before-we-even-have-a-deal: if you ask me what I do and I tell you that I teach and that I write and you don’t ask me what I teach or what my new book is about, you’re dead to me and I will not even go to your funeral. If you can’t even feign interest, I have already lost interest.
I find that I go through phases when I hop back into dating with something that I think might resemble enthusiasm, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood for the banter or the choosing of outfits or the exfoliating and the lotioning and the application of perfume. (Actually, regardless of where I am in the dating process, I am always wearing perfume. These days I’ve been bouncing around between Tom Ford Velvet Orchid and Happy, which I used to wear years ago before moving away from the bright citrus scent. But I’m back to spritzing it into a perfect mist that I then walk straight into like it’s a rainbow because it turns out that Happy just makes me happy.)
Happiness should always be so easy to achieve.
My enthusiasm’s been up, but I’ve been sitting on the sidelines with orange slices instead of partaking in the Diving For Men game these last few days. I wasn’t feeling well, probably because one of my students all but coughed up his pancreas on me for three days straight while every other kid in my classroom either continuously sneezed or blew their noses or looked weary with a fever that my immune system chose to ultimately embrace. It fought the good fight for almost a week, but it finally said fuck it and it gave up and the weariness and the sweats hit me like a flash. And I figured that the best time to be charming and to feel desirable might not be while high as a kite on NyQuil, so I stayed offline as much as possible. Apparently though, I did go online at some point and I know this because yesterday morning, after I awoke from my cold-medicine-unconsciousness, I checked my email and found an order confirmation from Gilt.com for something I only vaguely remember purchasing in the first place. What did I buy while sweating out a fever, you wonder? You’d think it would be something like a fuzzy blanket to wrap myself in or a leather trimmed tank top that I could wear once I stopped sneezing, but you’d be incorrect – because apparently when I’m feeling sick, I crave workout equipment so arriving at my home in just a few days will be a mini trampoline and a workout DVD to go along with it.
I bought a trampoline. I spent $79 on something I don’t recall looking at in the first place, but when I searched hard through the medicine haze, I vaguely remembered the moment of clicking on the purchase button and I’m now thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have the Gilt app on my phone and that I definitely should not store my credit card information on any shopping site. I suppose, though, it could have been worse. Valentino handbags were also on sale, and I could have ended up with some crocodile skin purse that cost a fortune that I’d probably never even end up carrying because I really prefer a supple leather.
I think I made the right decision not to respond to guys while under the weather. Who knows what I might have said in my drugged stupor? Who knows who I might have shipped workout equipment to in my fog?
(By the way, should kettlebells or a cayenne pepper cleanse come your way, it’s quite possible that I bought them for you without my knowledge. Enjoy – or return to Gilt for credit.)
But while it seems that I entertain notions of toning up my calf muscles while I’m feverish, at least I maintained my wisdom about not responding to boys, guys, men, and everything in between while fuzzy-headed and blurry down to the tips of my toes. I was just feeling so tired. I didn’t feel like being funny. Plus, I hadn’t yet been able to Windex from my mind the event that took place just last week, the one that started me on what should have been my romantic comedy come to life, but it turns out that I don’t live on celluloid and that life moments that feel like they might become movie moments are the kinds of moments that are never real and will never go anywhere.
See, I started this year by deciding to make better decisions. I would drink kale smoothies. I would cook more fish during the week. I would stop letting bunches of asparagus go bad inside my refrigerator. I would respond to emails more quickly, especially ones that involved work. I would write more frequently. I would hustle my ass off and get my work read by a wider audience. I would teach my dog not to scatter her kibble throughout the house. I would begin each morning by making a marked change in behavior and instead of waking up before dawn and having my first thought of the day be “motherfuck, it’s so early,” I would elect to instead say, “I’m thankful for somany things.”
By the way, that last one – the crack of dawn expression of gratitude – has been the toughest one of all to throw into practice, though maybe it’s tied with the one about my dog because I stepped on a piece of Wookie’s kibble when I got out of the shower this morning, which means that now she likes to eat on the yellow bath mat. But the one that hasn’t been a challenge at all is a promise I made to myself as December shifted sharply into January: to only date guys it makes real sense to date.
Here are some examples of what doesn’t make sense to date:
· Guys who live with roommates
· Guys who refuse to eat anything but chicken parmigiana at a restaurant
· Guys who are incredibly religious
· Guys who watch VH1 or E! reality shows in a manner that’s not ironic
· Guys who call me and have nothing to say over the phone
· Guys who are currently dating other people
· Guys who say things like, “One day I want to live in the woods.”
· Guys who start sentences with words like, “Here’s what I learned in prison…”
· Guys who don’t actually enjoy lying in bed and watching movies on rainy Sundays or a sometimes-sunny Saturday for hours on end
· Guys who own ferrets, hamsters, snakes, tarantulas, or really any animal that’s not a dog, a hypoallergenic kind of cat, or an alpaca, which I’ve actually never encountered but I dream of it happening daily
· Guys who live in states other than New York
So when I got an email from a guy who said he was a writer also, I checked him out. He seemed educated, he had once been in a band (that’s like crack to me), he came off as respectful – and he lived in LA. We chatted a bit and he told me he was actually in my very town for the next week visiting his family, and I kind of liked that he emailed the very blunt, “What’s your number?” instead of asking if he could have it. I don’t give my number out all that easily, but I think I was so surprised by a boldness I hadn’t expected that I gave it to him without thinking of the geography issue. And so, part two of the pre-date scenario took hold and in flooded the text messages.
I was bored in five minutes flat. It was just too many messages sent way too quickly. I am not someone who plays games and measures how long I’ll wait before I will text you back, but this guy made me feel like I was drowning. But I decided to wade through that annoyance and to focus on what we had in common and I asked him about his writing and what his experience had been in getting representation, and I found out he did not yet have an agent or a manager and that he was writing a script about a lesbian stripper and that he waited tables in LA in a job he described as “soul-crushing,” and nothing is hotter than a man with a crushed soul. I know that I’m really fortunate that my current pay-the-bills job is one that I love and one that pays well and comes with things like health insurance. And I would never hold it against anybody who is chasing a dream or living out a passion that he might have to do something like be a waiter, but I also cannot deny that I’m just looking for somebody who is a lot more settled than that, and I can’t pretend to apologize for making that choice for myself.
I texted back and forth with this guy for a little while and we talked about movies in general and I asked him what kind of themes he explored in his work and he never once asked me about my writing, which is really just bad form. At one point, he texted that he was reading someone’s script and that it was terrible, so I responded, “Then that script will probably get turned into a tent-pole franchise,” which I obviously said as a joke, but then he responded with this explanatory text of the kind of movies that become franchise films and why studios make them and all I could think was, Bitch, please. I teach this shit for a living. And if you asked me what I did, you would know that.
During what might have been the first round of texts, before he became the kind of Film professor I would have had at a C list party school, I’d agreed to meet him for coffee on Wednesday at a place down the street from where I lived, but as the day drew closer, I decided not to do it. This guy lived across the country, and it wasn’t like everything else about him struck me as so perfectly matched to what I wanted that I grumbled and railed to the universe about the unfairness of his location in relation to my own. So I decided to make the very adult choice to make a better choice. I texted him early Wednesday morning that I wasn’t going to be meeting up with him that night because I wasn’t interested in getting into someone who lived in another time zone, and he responded that he understood, which I appreciated since it was a rational response and I am still experiencing bouts of post-traumatic shock from the time I told a guy I dated once that I wasn’t interested and he texted back, “Whatever. I think you are retarded.”
There’s something good about being honest and direct, I thought to myself. I’d avoided messiness and I felt proud of myself that my Big Girl attempts at responsibility had finally moved beyond arranging my boots by heel height and by color and had finally impacted the stuff in my life that mattered.
And that, I thought, was that.
But this guy – let’s give him a generic name and call him Billy – kept texting me. I thought it was a bit odd, but I’d just send back short comments here and there and the incoming texts weren’t any kind of big deal. But when I woke up at five the next morning and went downstairs and saw that Billy had texted me the night before at 12:32 AM – the scintillating message, by the way, was hi – I just shook my head and felt pissed off. I’d been honest and direct about not being interested in him and his response was to text me at 12:32 AM on a weeknight? What the fuck?
I texted him back once I got to work: Hey, kid. I was long asleep by the time your text came in. I get to work very early in the morning, so sending me texts that late is not advised.
His response? I didn’t realize you got to work so early. Good thing we didn’t have our night of sexual pleasures.
First, we had not discussed sex at all and I felt literally no attraction to him at that point because any residual attraction I might have had went missing because this guy clearly had no game whatsoever. I just decided to ignore him. But later that night, I got a message that apologized for the inappropriate text and included the lines “I know you’re not that kind of girl,” – which is kind of not true, you just have to be a different kind of guy to get to see that slutty side of me – and “I just like the way we vibe,” which also kind of confused me because I felt no real vibe existed between us. But I didn’t want to be an asshole, so I wrote back it was fine and kept any and all communication between us short and vague.
He continued to text me for a week. Most times he’d write hi and that was it, and I finally just stopped responding. His absence didn’t matter to me in the least.
Then I went out for dinner one recent night with my friend Nicole and over fondue, I asked her where her husband was that night.
“He’s with his friend Billy,” she responded, sticking a piece of broccoli into a vat of cheese.
“Who’s Billy?” I asked. “Do I know him?”
“No, he’s from LA. He’s a writer. He’s single too, and I’d suggest introducing you to him but you would never be able to imagine him on top of you,” she said, and she knew me well enough to know that one of my main requirements besides sense of humor is that I have to be able to imagine the guy writhing around on top of me. But I stopped cold as she was talking because I realized that this friend of Adam’s was the same guy I had been talking to for a week.
“Show me a picture of him,” I commanded, and she furrowed her brow at my weird request but whipped out her phone and went to the guy’s Facebook page and there he was, Billy, the guy who managed to make me lose all interest for him so fast that I wondered if he was a superhero whose superpower was lifelong virginity.
“I’ve been talking to that guy all week,” I exclaimed to her and I told her the story. She wanted to tell Adam immediately, but I asked her to wait because I really didn’t want them showing up or suggesting we all grab a drink or anything hopeful because, when it came to that guy, I felt like I just kept slipping on chastity belts on top of chastity belts and they were starting to feel uncomfortable.
“You know what blows, though?” I said to Nicole. “That this guy is this guy. Because how amazing and perfect and destiny-worthy would this story be if he had been the right guy for me? This could be a tell-your-grandchildren kind of story but it’s just not and that sucks.”
I did text Adam later to tell him the news and he laughed at my stories and asked if I was still talking to him.
I didn’t respond the last time, I said, and I figured it was over.
A few days ago my phone beeped and I turned it over and saw that it was Billy. His text? Whoa, Nelly. And so on went another symbolic chastity belt and I’m certain I’ve now cut off all blood flow to my symbolic clitoris.
But I guess what it all comes down to is that I don’t feel even a speck of disappointment, except for the loss of what could have been an amazing here’s how we met story. I don’t wish the guy lived closer or that maybe I could be easier to please and I believe that this guy will end up making some girl who is not me deliriously happy. None of that really matters to me, though. What does matter is that I saw the signs and I read the signs and I followed my instincts and I didn’t even wade in because the water simply didn’t look all that inviting.
I’ll wait for the right guy. And then I’ll go skinny-dipping with him under the stars because I really am that kind of girl.