Confession: I have been chronically single after an 11 year relationship that started when I was 21. It was a good relationship, we just outgrew each other. So, at 33, I had to learn how to “date” or whatever it was. In all honesty, most of my experiences were more like “hanging out”. In bars, I was having all the free drinks and flirting I could handle but not necessarily meeting a “Mr Right” or even his brother “Mr Right Now.” I mean, I’m in Florida, make all the jokes you want! There is a kernel of truth in what my friend says “there’s a little Florida-man in every guy here.”
A friend had bugged me for months about internet dating and I’d done it before, which netted me a boyfriend of a year. That had been fine, I was in grad school and we remained friends. Still, I’m not a fan of online dating and I stand by my truth: finding love on the World Wide Web is time consuming. And weird.
I signed up for ok Cupid and immediately started calling it ok stupid, for obvious reasons, including unwanted dick pics. I’ll tell you about “Chris” the pilot, who did not send me dick pics.
When I was in high school I used to like blond men but my level of attraction seemed to shift to more Mediterranean looks, where it remains. Anyway, Chris picked me, and wrote to me quite enthusiastically and often. He seemed nice and had his life together-ish.
He was blond. Oh well, you can’t have everything. His pictures showed him to be about 35–40 and a little overweight, the usual middle aged slight beer belly but nothing like obesity. He was a pilot for American Airlines, I believe. The uniform made him look more handsome.
What travel fanatic can say no to airline perks?
At his insistence, we moved the flirtation to phone calls. Oh boy, this guy was talkative, mainly about himself. He occasionally asked me questions about me. I mainly listened. Airline perks!
Then he started to ask to meet in person. I was traveling a lot and it turned out he didn’t live in my city, he lived 45 minutes from me. He didn’t list this on his ok STUPID profile but, ok, it’s forgivable, I didn’t do “strike number 1”, probably because of the airline perks.
In all honesty, I was in no hurry to meet him. I had other people to meet from the site and it was, as earlier stated, time-consuming. If I had to go so far out of my way, it wasn’t happening. But we kept chatting and, after about three weeks, I scheduled a presentation about 15 minutes from him so it could work. The talk was at 6 pm, which left time to go to the beach that I really liked but rarely visit because it is far-ish from me.
At any rate, we now had a plan! He would meet me at the beach, we’d have a drink at the beach bar and then I’d go to my meeting. The day after we made this plan, he called, sounding a bit nervous on the phone call and started asking me if we would have another date after this one. I was like “dude, wtf?” It was bizarre and kinda my first, second or tenth, clue.
But we continued with the phone calls and texts. Every day, I was less excited to meet him because I could sense his anxiety. I even told him that he was being a bit too anxious. Anyway to reward my own bravery, I decided to have a pre-swim drink when I got there.
While at the bar, my cell started ringing. It was him.
“Hey I see you!”
“Oh. Hi, I’m just getting a rum and coke…”
I look around and there are only 6 or 7 people and all are about retirement age, the men with beer bellies and women in big sun hats.
Dang, I forgot my hat. I am the youngest person here except for that cute bartender.
“I don’t see you” I say.
Yes, it’s dawning on me that he is one of those guys….
He says, “I’m here near the water.” I don’t even turn around, simply hang up to walk out to the surf.
He is still holding the phone and waving his arm, wearing a Hawaiian print shirt that is open and swim trunks. This guy is 300+ pounds and bald. I don’t know what to say so I just walk up, sipping my drink. It’s obviously him…the anxiety and voice.
He wants to kiss me but I avert the lips to my cheek. I ask him where he put his stuff and he says he didn’t bring anything. Le sigh. This guy has no towel or anything to sit on.
So I bring out my beach blanket and towels and set up my usual station at the beach. I sit and sip my drink. He is rambling about his last flight. I am just smiling and nodding, glad I got this rum and coke that is almost finished.
I decide I’m just going to do what I planned, enjoy the beach. So I say, “hey, I am going to enjoy the water for a few minutes.” He looks like I betrayed him. “Wanna come?” He does not. My date is now starting to remind me of one of those big friendly dogs that keeps jumping on you so you cannot ignore him but you aren’t sure what to do with him either. Thoughts like this, and other mean ones, are rattling my brain and I want to laugh because it’s not him but ME and OkStupid that got me into this.
I could have, should have, said NO, but yet, I still met him. Adulting, gurl, you got this. Ok, shit happens, people lie, but I’m at the beach!
The water is divine! So I swim and float until I know I have to come back and face the music. He is still on my beach blanket. So I sit down and dry off, “the water is amazing, you should try it!” But he says, “do you want to get our drink?” Geez, I just wanted to lay in peace and dry off in the sun, not get right back up and run all the way back to the bar. “Sure, why not?”
It’s super awkward. On the walk back to the beach bar, I just casually let him know, “You know, you don’t look like your picture at all. There is no way I would have recognized you”. I am not looking at him when I say it but afterwards I look over and I can see he is flustered. But he doesn’t say a word. I think, “wow, I have finally shut him up!” So I laugh to myself a little. Now I know I will get out of this crazy date easily. Back at the bar, I order a Piña Colada because I don’t want to get drunk before my presentation. He orders a beer. We sit down at the table.
He starts. “I didn’t realize that you were prettier than your pictures.” blah blah blah.
Oh, the things I wanted to say, like “you are 300 lbs and unrecognizable for God’s sake!” but instead, I just said, “Thanks.”
Awkward silence. I look at him, trying to be nicer, hoping he’ll ask me about the presentation or make some kind of small talk. I should know better, because this guy barely ever asks me anything. We sit there sipping drinks and I suspect he is near retirement age, by the lines on his face. He only vaguely resembles the picture he has online, which makes me mad again. WTF am I doing here? Calm down, it’s ok.
“Do you want to meet again?” Oh no you did NOT. I am really mad now because this is that same thing he keeps doing. So I say, “I don’t think so, it’s too far.”
We are sitting across from each other and his face tells me he is not used to not getting his way. But I don’t care, in that moment. I sip my piña colada and console myself with a beautiful beach view. Finally, he wants to know why I don’t want to meet him again and I just smile because he knows I know that he knows why. I figure that this is not the first time this has happened to him and somehow he must have gotten lucky before so he is rolling the dice. What a brave but misguided soul. He thinks I am going to give him a pass.
I did give him plenty of passes on the phone. He complained about his divorce and being alone. I told him at the time that he shouldn’t feel sorry for himself. He’s probably better off. When he brought it up again, I told him “I don’t do negativity” and redirected the conversation. But, by diffusing these situations, it protects his ego, you see. It’s kind. And it’s work on the woman’s part, which we do until we no longer can or want to. It’s usually a delicate balance as to when this “niceness” is no longer worth it. But now, I had already decided no more nice girl. I wasn’t even thinking about airline perks anymore. I was already at my limit and unimpressed with his “adulting.”
Nice girls aren’t supposed to say mean things and hurt a man’s ego. He figures I’m one of those, which normally I would be, but I was annoyed and it was my second drink, so maybe I was braver than normal. “Chris, you seem like a nice person but this isn’t going to work because I don’t feel like you were honest. You know that your pictures don’t match your actual appearance. You could have told me but you didn’t, we chatted a lot! Honestly, you need to lose weight and post recent pictures if you want a relationship. I can’t help you with that, but I wish you luck and thanks for the drink.”
He is stunned and the smile is no longer on his face. He simply asks me, “So, that’s it?” And I say, “Yes, but at least we met.” Awkward. I figured that there’s nothing else to say so I just got up from the table and walked back to my beach blanket. He didn’t follow me, thankfully.
I didn’t even feel bad. I’m sure when he tells the story I am some sort of bitch who wanted free drinks! Ha!
I still had another hour to spend at this beautiful beach before I had to shower off and get dressed for my meeting. I made the best of it, the presentation went well and I only had a few missed calls from him. I also decided to delete OkStupid, again. It remained uninstalled for a few months, but that’s at least five more articles.
Moral of the story: don’t pretend to be someone you are not, or once were but no longer are. The world is big but our time here is limited. You may find someone when you are honest, but your chances are much slimmer if you are not. Make the most of each and every day.
Don’t be like Chris.
Enjoy your self-care!
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com
Alayne Unterberger lives in Tampa FL with two dogs. She is an anthropologist, researcher, Hurricane Irma survivor, non-profit executive, adjunct professor and life-long learner who loves to travel. Follow me @ dralayne.
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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