Photo Credit: carleyjayne photography
“Never put a bra back ON when it’s already been taken off for the night.” -Me
With some much needed re-cooperation time and a new notch in my self-care belt, I went back at it again. I let my three months of match.com go before 2017 hit. Why? Because I went on dates with only two different humans, spent 90 days culling messages and deleting creeps, not to mention having to block three of them. It’s safe to say I won’t be writing a stellar review of my Match experience anytime soon, the algorithms need work. Just because CUTIE4U and I enjoy eating out, both love dogs, and neither of us smoke, does not mean we’re a match to be life partners, but thanks for playing. Seattle Chad* was honestly the most normal name and man I came across. Some of the names that someone had deemed clever reminded me of my aol Instant Messenger days in high school. We thought our names were SO cool, spoiler alert: they weren’t. Three months seemed like a fair trial, I was out. Bumble was it for me for awhile and I wasn’t going to let The Director ruin my overall experience.
I’m not gonna lie, I went on A LOT of first dates. Some men were older, some my age, one barely younger. I left my “younger” in Australia in the form of a curly haired Englishman and decided then and there that THAT much younger (six years and worth every moment) could never happen with an American, sorry not sorry. I had started to lose track of how many humans I’d started conversations with at this point, messaged some clever line to inside the yellow themed app. Inevitably, boredom would hit, on their end and/or mine, that’s the name of the game, or I’d get distracted and paint my nails or clean my cottage, re-organize my closet, or couldn’t be bothered to tear my green eyes away from watching Friends for the millionth time.
Somewhere along the way, I actually managed to offend a 28 year old with my first language and realized I’d just locked in a solid opening line which would help me weed out the weak…algorithms can only do so much for you. “You seem terribly boring 😉 Hi, I’m Hallie.” or some variation became the standard. Most survived (for a time), while a few perished. Ain’t nobody got time for anyone who doesn’t speak fluent Sarcasm. #boybye
Thus far, I’ve only written about three stand outs and by “stand outs” I mean exceptional failures. There were others, but time has passed and they really don’t seem worth mentioning now. I assure you, dear readers, I’m not leaving gaping holes open in my dating saga. This also translates to most of the unmentionables never being first date worthy and ended up being sort of a waste of time to even message back and forth with. There were, however, some goodies in terms of storytelling that merited longer messaging moments which still resulted in no actual live dates, and a couple who got first dates, gave me the creeps, and were swiftly added to the growth rate of my “reject/almost/whatever the hell you want to call it” pile.
Enter Dex*, the memorizes your entire profile before the first date guy. Yes, believe it or not, there are those whose online dating strategy is to actually learn your profile information by heart and then toss it in your face like you’re volunteering in a bad carnival booth. I’ve been a carni…true story and it was WAY classier than Dex’s* apparent A Game; honestly, I’d have preferred all the pie in my face to what he was throwing at me. This guy, literally started every question with a nod to something he’d read in my 300 character count profile or seen in one of my six photos. It’s 2017, Dexter*, stalking is so last year. Please stop. I knew when I approached him, outside the front door of the bar that I wanted nothing more than to be back home in my shark onesie drinking a bottle of wine and feeling contented to not be on a date. Truth be told, I deeply and immediately questioned the fact that I agreed to a somewhat last minute date after having come home from work, taken my bra off only to put it back on with semi-cute clothes to go out and meet this guy. I had already said yes to the drink, I found prime parking, and I felt like I couldn’t run for Mount Rainier without sitting down for a drink. Plus let’s be real, after the losers and creeps that came before him, could I really afford bad dating karma? No.
Fremont was the neighborhood this time around and the atmosphere inside The Barrel Thief was my kind of place, it was unfortunate that my date couldn’t be. I’ll just take this time to say that I realize this whole “dating is hard” thing applies to both parties. We’ve got introverts trying to be extroverts and extroverts just wanting to be introverts and everyone in between. We’ve got people raw from their last break up and others who have been single and ready to mingle most of their adult lives (reasons unknown). We’ve got locals and imports and everyone is freezing because socializing in this city has turned icy AF. We get all kinds…this is a big city and it’s diverse in all the ways it should be. So when it sounds like I’m judging, believe me when I say, I’m storytelling based on my personal experience WITH the emotional sensitivity to know that dating is f*cking hard for ALL of us. Men, women, cat people, prematurely balding folks, BDSM enthusiasts, the socially awkward, the clingy types, everyone. You get the idea, the list goes on. Throw a history of mental illness in there, a lifetime of overcoming adversity or being sheltered in small hick towns, freshly wounded hearts, and the like and this city is a breeding ground for dysfunctional first dates and who can judge? I mean, seriously? We’re all humans with baggage and we’re just trying to do the best damn job we can to survive and occasionally thrive. Finding someone to go through the whole beautiful crazy mess with isn’t easy. When men like Dex* feel the need to memorize short drafts of profiles, I get that it could be the only way he knows how to get through the whole first date thing. I also reserve the right to strongly feel that I should have stayed home.
This experience happened to be an enlightening lesson in how to really gauge someone’s profile photos. I learned the red flags and used this insider knowledge in every vetting process from then on. When a man is mostly wearing sunglasses or a hat in every photo, you can basically rest assured he has shifty eyes and his aviators are hiding something and/or is likely bald or balding; when it’s a twofer, you may as well just swipe left. Only seeing someone’s facial profile in their photos is also cause for concern, as is when someone can’t smile normally (so I’m told since I failed 100% on that category. Consult my friends, I drive them crazy with my lack of smiling in photos, I can make a mean silly face though). False advertising came to mind when I first saw Dex* standing at the door. He was wearing a really nice wool coat, decent jeans, a graphic tee, and his black shoes were a vast improvement from The Director’s round toe lace ups, but sans sunglasses, there was zero attraction and the first awkward hug made me want to sprint back to my car and bolt. Again, that dating karma kept creepin’ and I decided I’d have a drink. We sat near the bar and I was surprised to see the entire establishment pretty busy for a Wednesday. I ordered my usual and a glass of water. I can’t recall what Dex* chose for his poison, but I promise, that detail doesn’t matter. As we sat there, I noticed the thinning hair he had spiked, 8th grade style, and the bulge of his eyes as he was sipping. He immediately went into question mode. It had the faint stylings of a job interview, but like, the one where you’re just showing up for practice and you know you aren’t interested in the job…at all. As I slowly sipped my Old Fashioned, not wanting a buzz at all or even the slightest drop in my coherence, I remember thinking, “How much time has gone by? When is it appropriate to call it a night?” This is when replacing batteries in watches comes in handy people. I am a strict, don’t check your phone on a date person and I think everyone should be too. So I couldn’t open up and check my lock screen. My watch collection had literally died at the same time, irony? So none of my watches worked. Plus, let’s be honest, checking a watch would have been just as telling (we could even argue rude?) as checking my phone. I felt stuck.
I let him guide the conversation, not that I had much choice since he’d clearly prepared talking points to get us through the night. After finishing my second glass of water and pouring a third from the jug the waiter had left on the table, he sort of aggressively commented on the fact that I drink a lot of water. Ummm? Is this relevant Dex*? Why does this need to be highlighted? Let’s stick to the cards, mmmkay buddy? If you know me, you know I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve and in the case of bad first dates, likely wear my thoughts and feelings on my face. I’m not good at faking anything, well…that’s not entirely true, but you get what I’m saying here. If I’m into it, you’ll know. If I’m not into it, you’ll DEFINITELY know. This applies to almost everything with me. This becomes a challenge when meeting strangers because I never want to come across as rude in anyway. I consider myself a kind person and don’t ever want someone thinking I’m terrible if I can help it. Good impressions count with everyone in my book, even creeps and socially awkward dates.
When we got to dissecting my fourth profile picture, I was pretty certain this guy didn’t know how to do this whole first date thing. I mean, regardless of how many I’d been on, did I even know how to do it? I was starting to feel like I’d digressed and maybe learned nothing. Clearly my “be open and say yes” approach was no longer serving me. It was time to reassess. Dex* continued to ask me about skydiving, how crazy I must be to have done that, my time in Australia, why spelling matters so much to me, what my first pet’s name was, the medical history of my extended family, where I grew up, why I’m not smiling in that photo, how I mentioned I like coffee, what book I first learned to read, how to pronounce my name, and once the bright light in the dark room started burning my retinas, I felt like I’d been under the spotlight long enough. This guy was aggressive, but also maybe nervous? I couldn’t really tell what was going on here, but I was so committed to leaving as soon as it felt respectful to do so, that I didn’t really care what his deal was. He had a facial tick and he made this noise periodically that I can’t describe in words. It would come at the end of a sentence or question, or even after a lingering silence. Perhaps out of nervousness? Or there’s a very good chance something else was going on there entirely, I just didn’t know what it was. We all have ticks and quirks, don’t we? Some are self induced, others we can’t control, and most are earned over time…mostly through dating failures, amirite? Regardless of all the things, Dex* and I weren’t going to ride off into the sunset together.
Perhaps the highest tragedy of this particular night, was that I left 1/2 an Old Fashioned on the table; this is how you know it was one of the toughest hours of my life to sit through. So now we have a different rating system to use in the dates to come…I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I was exhausted of being interrogated, judged for staying properly hydrated, and I was annoyed I’d gotten real clothes on to come out. So much that on the short drive home, the bra came off. I even unhooked it with one hand.
Dating is a little bit like cultural anthropology; confusing, fascinating as hell, full of unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries, and deeply thought provoking. The words “Well, we may never know why…” linger on your frontal lobe as you furrow your brow inquisitively and do a face palm for good measure. Once you’re immersed, you question why you took this road at all; it can be so overwhelming. That’s the thing about curiosity though, it may have killed the cat, but Alice seemed to have a pretty damn good adventure when she went down the rabbit hole. Dorothy met some amazing friends and found herself as she learned valuable lessons when she journeyed to Oz. As humans, we’re drawn to the unknown, it’s where the good shit happens. So even though dating can be a blackhole and cause a hell of a lot of, “What the f*ck?!” moments, self-doubt, and feelings of loneliness…it can also bring about, “Holy shit! I did that!” moments, intense self-awareness, and feelings of owning your alone time. It’s never all bad. It’s growth in some way or another…sometimes I wonder though, if maybe the growth could come at less of a personal cost.
Because after all is said and done, the check has been paid, the goodbyes have been said, you remember what you’re really looking for. You want someone who will hold your hand and kiss your forehead as much as they touch your ass and kiss your neck. Someone who wants to go to healthy grocery stores and farmers’ markets with you and meal prep. Someone who will dance with you in the living room, just because “this is a good song.” Someone who wants to cook Sunday brunch together in your underwear. You want someone who wants to listen to vinyl records all day and read by the fire. Someone who will have the car packed up for a weekend adventure because you’ve both had a long week and he knows you need to get away. Someone who at the most basic level is interesting enough, safe enough, and has the right chemistry enough for you to sit and finish a drink with on a Wednesday. If it’s not that and you can’t see it moving towards the other stuff…with two hands or one, you’ve got to unhook the damn bra.
Photo Credit: carleyjayne photography
*Name has been changed to protect identity of former date