men

Okay, Cupid: a story in three parts.

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Before I had even an inkling that I'd ever meet men on the Internet, I joined a once-pointless site called OKCupid.  This must have been in high school. The entire site was built on personality quizzes you could then post on your blog or e-mail to your friends, who could take the quizzes themselves. Three AmigosFriends would (supposedly) share their answers; giggling hysteria ensued.

There was a question from one of those quizzes that has stuck in my mind all these years later, a two-parter:

"Do you have crusty bangs?" "Are you a crusty bang?"

I had no idea what either of these meant. Still don't, come to think of it. But I'm pretty sure I answered no to both. Giggling hysteria ensued.

 

Years later, after two failed stints on Match.com — I barely recouped my membership fees, which is kind of the point anyway, isn't it? — I was living in Queens, bored with my social life, and resurrected my profile.

I met an opera singer, and I fell hard. He had an exotic name and shiny, curly black hair. He had a big apartment in Sunnyside, and the ringtone on his flip phone was the Looney Tunes theme song. He sang so loudly in the shower that the one time I did spend the night with him, I couldn't fall back asleep when he got up early to get ready for an audition.

Just before I left for Christmas at home, we stayed up all night drinking wine with his friends at a holiday party. We got lost navigating the side streets to LaGuardia, and I was out of breath and still a little drunk when I found my seat on the airplane just before takeoff.

I was in heaven.

Then, one night shortly after New Year's, after a Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers concert in the Village, he broke up with me as we drove across the bridge back to Queens.

It had been only a few weeks, and I wasn't ready to sleep with him.

Teary hysteria ensued.

 

The few friends I have left in New York spot him in a concert program or around the city every so often and have threatened to do terrible things to him on my behalf. Which makes me smile.

But I swore off online dating.

(Unless you count Yelp as a dating service. But that, of course, is another story for another day.)

 

And then. Far too shortly after the Knight and I split for the last time, mostly to pass the time, I created a new account on OKCupid and perfunctorily built my profile. I think I copied my interests from Facebook — I've carefully curated them over the past five years — and entered the bare minimum of characters for each field. Wrote something snarky about requiring a tall man who knows how to write a sentence, then uploaded some photos knowing it's all anyone looks at there anyway.

Then I closed the window and waited. Because I'm not about to go trolling for men on a website. I'll let the trolls come to me, I thought, I'm a magnet for them anyway. (Trolls, y'all. Not men. Come on.)

But OKCupid has my e-mail address, and they use it often. Every couple of days, I get a message with my "quiver matches," three guys the site thinks I'll like based on the questions I've answered. I have to wonder what types of men I'd be matched with based on my answers to the crusty bangs questions. And whether my answers would change now.

So. Anyway.

The quiver: Late last week, a mildly foxy man caught my eye. (Be still my heart, only 34!) But then I saw the first sentences of his profile:

Greetings Earth Female,

Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead I feel it's safe to enter the world of online dating again.

 

Earth. Female.

I called the intern over to read the rest of the profile with me (yes, I do appropriate things at work) and prepared to mock this man mercilessly until something better came along.

And mock I did — the first words of his self-description are featherless and bipedal — until I realized my laughter was suddenly tinged less with derision and more with something akin to fondness. As I read, I was simultaneously interested, terrified and more enthusiastic at the prospect of getting back into dating than ever before.

On paper, he is hilarious and frighteningly smart and a little pretentious, but on our "IM date" (gag) Friday night it was pretty easy to see the layers of insecurity just below the smartass veneer

Every profile ends with "You should message me if…" Mine ends with predictable snark. His ends with "…you like the zoo."

How nice. I thought to myself, I've never been to the zoo here.

Tonight, I have a date. The first date I've had with a stranger since the breakup. We're not going to the zoo; we're having drinks. I recognize the possibility that he could be horrific. I have had awful dates before with men I've met online.

If that's the case, I will have no less than a fantastic story for my blog, which I will from here on out attempt to censor far less. Because I don't care anymore. (I miss ranting. [And if you're thinking, Dear god, this is censored?, you should probably just leave.])

But if he's not horrific, maybe I'll find out whether there are giraffes in Chicago. Or tigers.

More giggling hysteria in store? Stay tuned.

Breaking my own rule*.

I dated a lot last summer.Date is not quite the right word, but that's what I'll call it. It was't Peter Pan–collar-and-poodle-skirt, two-straws-at-the-soda-shop dating. It was not-many-clothes-at-all, happy-hour-and-stumbling-into-the-night dating. There were quite a few men in and out of my life (five, at one point), and I called it dating because there was no boyfriend.

Dating was exhausting. Because when you're seeing five people at once, there are bound to be complications — scheduling conflicts, at least. And white lies told to avoid hurt feelings. And too much information floating around. As much as I like attention, especially from men — the more, the better, usually — I started to feel cheap, spreading myself so thin. Dating became emotionally debilitating. Which was as much thanks to the men in question as it was the overscheduled, oversexed madness and my psychological state at the time.

And so, after the chaos and folly of last year — culminating in the flaming destruction of not one but two disastrous relationships in the frame of about four months — this summer was to be a time where I simply did not date. I had grand designs of rediscovering my sanity and enjoying a bout of self-induced celibacy, beginning with my solo transatlantic journey. But then I met someone. A couple of weeks before Paris, I met someone. Who started as this faraway figure I admired for reasons I only sort of understood. Who became a friend. Who kissed me unexpectedly. And I'm now…dating him. Fluid and natural and unnervingly…simple.

Gradually, I am learning a new, better definition of the word "date." (Related: The word "men" is taking on a more positive connotation as well.)

Date ˈdāt noun 1 a: the time at which an event occurs < the date of his birth> b: a statement of the time of execution or making < the date on the letter> 2: duration 3: the period of time to which something belongs 4 a: an appointment to meet at a specified time; especially: a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character b: a person with whom one has a usually romantic date 5: see also: Friday, May 29, 2009

At 7:15, my doorbell rang. After having changed my outfit four times, I gave myself one last glance in the mirror, nodded firmly and trotted down the stairs to meet him. Through the dirty glass of my building's front door, he stood waiting for me, shirt tucked in, cellophane-wrapped flowers in hand. Flowers. No one brings flowers. He brought flowers. I put them in water while he waited, then we walked to the Brown Line and rode downtown with our Trader Joe's bag filled with picnic food. At Millennium Park, night was beginning to fall, and Pritzker Pavilion was filling with Polish Chicagoans celebrating the fall of communism in their home country with music and dance. (We had no idea the concert was even happening.) We spread out our blanket — OK, a beach towel that was really too small for both of us — and made barbecue-pork sandwiches with cole slaw and carrot sticks and sparkling water. And chocolate-covered cookies (to die for) called Joe-Joes. We endured the music as long as we could then walked east to the lakefront and through the harbors. In and out of orange pools of streetlight, we kissed and talked about our families. Yachts (mine) and house painting (his) and grandparental quirks (both of us). We found ourselves looking across the Chicago River at Navy Pier, and I stared at the flashing lights on the Ferris wheel while we had a Very Serious Conversation about love and trust, and the past and moving on from it. I hope. Strolling along the river, I watched workers scrub down the decks and chairs of the tour boats from a long, sunny day full of tourists. Up the stairs and back to Michigan Avenue, we waded through a crowd of pedestrians and made our way toward the El again — it had felt like we owned the city, walking alone by the water. Maybe we still did, even with other people around. I nodded off on his shoulder and he brushed the hair from my forehead to kiss me as the train rumbled homeward. Fluid and natural and simple.

This is dating. Worth the wait to redefine.

"I'm scared to call you my girlfriend," he said. "Then don't," I said. "Wait until it doesn't scare you anymore."

* of no loveblogging.