Helen’s Horrors of Online Dating
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. At 30, I was supposed to be happily married with a couple of kids and have a loving, wonderful Ken-doll husband.
Instead, I found myself as a single mom with an infant, sitting home alone on a Friday night in front of my computer scrolling through the personals at Match.com. Oh, the horror! Don’t these people know how to spell check before submitting something that represents them? Seriously!
Now, before you go judging me, just know that I did it all “the right way” and ended up getting royally screwed. I was married at twenty-five to a fellow teacher and lover of kids. The thing is, he loved kids too much and after four years of marriage and while I was eight months pregnant, he ended up running off with a teenage student of his. Despite having three criminal charges against him and facing prison time, he got out of it all. The concubine’s parents condoned it all because he was a “good guy” and all charges were dismissed. Which brings me back to the single mom thing and scrolling the personal ads.
I hadn’t originally intended to get on one of these horrible dating sites. However, my co-conspirator in this ride we call life, my identical twin, had been having a good old time on a well-known site and created an account for me. When she told me about the account that she had created, I almost fell out of my chair. After seeing my long, blonde hair and own blue eyes smiling up at me, I read the profile she created for me. As I read, I nearly I choked on my soda and accidentally gave my infant son a bath with it, I was laughing so hard. She put things like, “Life is not about the breaths you take, it’s about the moments that take your breath away”. Although it was a very sweet gesture, (her paying to put me on one of these God-forsaken sites) she had done a nice job of painting the portrait of a walking cliché. Since it was already paid for and I was over wanting to go out to the bar, I went with it. The thing is, how does one say, “I enjoy a good drink or two, but can’t, because I am currently breast-feeding my two month old son?” Or, “Looking for a guy that wants to be friends first, but won’t mind eventually stepping into the role of being an excellent husband and father of my child?” It’s amazing how very quickly honesty flies right out the window as we create our profiles, our virtual calling cards, so that someone will begin a conversation with us online.
After one day, I had about fifteen responses to my site. Mostly, it was guys looking to get laid, but one in particular jumped out at me as an actual possibility. It was a guy from my hometown that sounded attractive. His name was Sam. He was a cute, dark-haired fourth grade teacher, with a nicely groomed goatee who seemed like an all-around nice guy. So, I agreed to meet him at a nearby park when my ex-husband had his chaperoned two hour visitation with my son.
Immediately, when I pulled up, I knew there was a tiny problem. I am not gargantuan in any shape or form (5’8”, leggy, blonde and slim to average build), but height in a guy is important to me. He has to be at least taller than 5’8”. Which is what his profile stated. It stated that he was 5’10”. Still a little short for my taste, but what did I have to lose? Perhaps I could, as the site claims, “Gain a friend if there is no attraction, what have you got to lose?” Well people, how about your dignity and two hours of your life that you will never get back?
Although he had clearly lied, I decided to get out of the car and be a good sport. After all, he was from my home town and could end up being a really nice guy. As soon as I came face to face with him, I had to look down. Seriously. He had to be at least 5’5”. I didn’t know whether to shake his hand or offer him a piggy-back ride down the nature trail that we were going to walk.
As we were walking along, Sam did eventually drop into conversation, “So Helen, you’re pretty tall, aren’t you? You are really at 5’8”, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Sam. I actually am. And you’re uh….” I let my voice trail off so that he could respond.
“Umm..“ he began nervously. “The thing is, Helen. You are a beautiful woman and I was afraid you wouldn’t go out with me if I told you my real height. I just thought you would get to know me and despite the fact that I am 5‘4“, it wouldn‘t matter once you got to know me. Is it a problem for you?”
“Yes, it very much is!” I wanted to blurt out. But instead, I said, “No, it’s alright”. What else does one say to something like that? “No, I think it is awful that you lied?” Or, “Well, it wouldn’t have been a problem back when I was in the fourth grade and hadn’t quite hit my growth spurt yet.” No, I couldn’t say that. So, on we walked down the nature trail and talking about our hometown.
Our date ended up going rather nicely, except that he had brought sandwiches and continued to get food stuck in his goatee. As if I wasn’t repulsed enough, the man leaned forward to do an old-fashioned kiss with his lips inching ever-so-closely and all I could focus on was the couple of stray hairs from his goatee that were way too long. I quickly jumped up as he desperately attempted to pull me to his side and hug me. As we walked back to his car, I tried not look as though I were in a hurry to leave, but I couldn’t help it. All I could think of were images of the green salad pieces dangling from his goatee and wondering how he couldn‘t have felt them.
Once we got there, he interrupted my polite goodbye and said, “You know how I told you how much I love Jimmy Buffett?”
“Yes”, I replied. (CHECK BOOKS TO SEE IF SEPARATE OR NOT)
Just at that moment, he flicked the battery on in his car and proceeded to play Jimmy Buffett’s Cheeseburger in Paradise as my face began to turn a flaming red. As he began to rock back and forth, he held his tiny arms out to mine and offered me a dance in the parking lot. He grabbed my hands and began to sway, but I just couldn’t do it. Kids and parents were looking at us, horrified, some laughing and pointing. I felt like I was at an eighth grade dance again, the only difference was I didn’t have to stuff my bra this time. I quickly made an excuse and left. After all, I had a two hour time constraint.
We did end up talking for a while after that date because he was so nice and a fellow educator. However, I soon told him that I couldn’t talk to him anymore because I had met a very nice guy with whom I had started a relationship. Of course, we all know that this isn’t quite the truth, but what else could I have said?
My next date was a coffee date with Fred, a guy who had gone to the same university that I had. I was again, excited at the commonality. In his picture, he was tall (6’3”), muscular and was in a tuxedo. Come to think of it, I am convinced it was his own wedding picture. That should have been a sign to me that this was an old photo. Instead, I naively thought that he had given me a recent picture. So, again, on my two hour window, I agreed to have coffee with him. I got ready, curled my long, blonde hair, primped as everyone should before a first date and strode on down to our local Starbucks.
I nervously waited for twenty minutes and barely recognized him when he walked in. He was a tall man (thank God!) who was noticeably out of shape and in work out clothes (work out clothes!). He had an obvious hare lip, red hair and acne scars all over his face. However, at this point, I was beyond just judging people based on looks. So, I stood up, and he stiffly stuck his hand out to shake mine. I took his in mine as he awkwardly pumped it up and down as though we were making a business deal.
It all felt oddly formal as we walked up to the counter to order our coffee. Just as I thought how lovely it was that he seemed like an old-fashioned gentleman, he notified the barista that we were going to pay separately. When I heard his words, I swiveled my head to look at him, and sort of tilted it to the side and ended up paying for my own coffee. The barista whom I had seen many times at this location just shook his head and rung us up separately. He gave me the look that said that this coffee date would probably be the last with this particular specimen. Now, just a quick aside, gentlemen, please at least offer to pay for the first date. I should have walked out with my mocha right then. Instead, I sat down and had the most uncomfortable, interview-like date I have ever had.
There we sat in the purple, velvet chairs in Starbucks and the first question out of his mouth was, “So Helen, tell me a little bit about yourself”. A quiet giggle slipped out of my mouth because I thought that he was joking. However, when I looked up from my cup and saw his stoic-looking face, I knew he wasn’t. After a half an hour of being drilled about the following: what I did, why I liked kids, why I thought teaching was fulfilling, if I didn’t mind not making a lot of money teaching, if I was going to get my masters and if so, what in and why, if I had a pension plan, what my heritage is, why my marriage had broken down (no kidding, he actually asked this), I was ready to go. Also, I felt as if I should have had my teaching portfolio with me because I would have rocked that interview! By the end of the date, I felt as if I should at least notify him of my blood type as that is about the only thing he didn’t know. Since he gave vague, short responses to my questions and would continue with his interrogation each time I inquired about him, I didn’t know much about who he was.
In the end, he came forward, shook my hand and said, “Well, this went well, Helen. I would like to get together again with you. It seems as if all of our criteria matches what our profiles said (yeah, right!), and I find you attractive. You seem normal and look pretty good for having just had a baby.“ My jaw dropped a bit as I sucked in my little tummy and stood up straighter. I wanted to say, “Well, I can always get back in shape, but you will be ugly forever.“ I realize how mean this sounds, but honestly, to say something like that to a woman who has just had a baby and fits into size six jeans even though she was a size twelve before her baby, is outrageous. Instead, I walked out and thought sarcastically, “Wow, if a man has ever swept me off my feet, that was it.”
I tried not to run out of Starbucks that night as he told me that he was going to go work out and extended the offer for me to join him. “Yes,” I wanted to say. “I would love to go work out with you in my skinny jeans, boots, cashmere sweater and vest.” I politely declined and was home within minutes. Part of me wanted to write on his match profile, “Beware, this is a really good picture from about ten years ago. He really has red hair, a hare lip and looks as if a cat sharpened its claws on his face.” Instead, I let it go, crossed him off my list and went and bought a second mocha. Thankfully, one of the baristas, Michael, a very handsome, but very gay barista sat down with me and we began to talk for about an hour about the disasters of online dating. It was nice actually having someone with whom to vent my frustrations. That day, I left my favorite Starbucks with a bit more of a spring in my step, as Michael adamantly encouraged me to keep trying. He reminded me that there was someone out there for everyone, even him.
More “treasures” awaited me that evening after tucking my son into bed, when I stumbled upon Stephen. Stephen was a pretty handsome guy who looked like he had his life together. He was not my usual type, but was decent enough to consider. After all, my philosophy is that even the most outwardly beautiful man can become ugly within a matter of seconds; and the most average man can become gorgeous in a matter of seconds depending on their personality or a particular similarity or occurrence. Stephen’s profile read that he loved spending time with his nieces and nephews and spent most of his free time helping his parents build an addition onto their condominium. Nothing can hook me faster than someone saying that they spend a lot of time with their family and has a generous, loving heart. He had no children and had been divorced once.
Onward I trudged, once again with hope that Stephen could be a possibility. Stephen and I spoke online for about two weeks. He seemed like a great guy. He owned his own landscaping business and could make me laugh. Enough time had gone by that I decided to meet him at Starbucks for coffee during my two hour window of free time. Yes, the same Starbucks where I had my previous dates. You may be wondering why I always go to the same location. The reason is, I now know the workers (who love to see what dating disaster will walk through the door next) and they have even asked me to start bringing a picture of my date, so that they too can compare them to the real thing. I have been tempted to begin making bets with them, but it hasn’t gone that far. Yet.
When Stephen walked through the door that day, I was happy to see that he resembled his picture quite closely. He was taller than me, (thank goodness!) bald, had a well-groomed goatee and was dressed casually, but nicely. We made eye contact and I gave a quick look to the workers to put his damned picture away, as they looked back and forth quickly from the picture to him to compare differences.
I smiled and reached my hand out as he approached. That day, folks, I had an experience that I have never had before because I am used to men looking at my chest rather than my eyes. For this reason, I was surprised that the first thing Stephen stared at were my feet. Because it was summertime, I was wearing sandals. I am not overly feminine, but I like to take care of myself. I love to give myself pedicures and facials and everything you can imagine to look nice. Apparently, I had done a nice job on my pedicure as I followed Stephen’s eyes down to my red polished toes. “Wow, you have really sexy feet” he said, as he quickly took my hand in his, but dropped it to continue staring downward.
I gave a look to my favorite baristas (with Michael as the ring leader) as they stood there, biting their lips trying not to fall over from laughter. They were elbowing each other and continued to do so as we ordered. As I threw them murderous glances, he continued to stare at my feet while I once again ended up paying for the coffee. As we would say in the online world, but I do not have the gumption to spell it out, WTF?!
My barista friends took torturously long that day in preparing our coffee as they wanted to hear every last word this man said as he continued to go on about how he loved feet. “Wow, again, I am really a foot guy”. He said. “It really turns me on when women take care of their feet and paint their toes, especially the color red.”
“Oh, why did I have to pick the color red this time?” was all I could think of as I looked at Michael, the most flamboyant of the baristas to hurry the hell up. I wanted to throw back my latte and get the hell out of there. All I could imagine was what a collection of foot fetish porn this guy must have in his apartment and wondered if his dear family knew he loved feet so much.
As we sat down in the familiar purple, velvet chairs I wanted to sit on my feet so that Stephen would stop looking at them and focus on me. Never before had I actually felt violated as a result of someone drooling over my feet. I guess, much like the animal encyclopedia story with Gigi, there is a first for everything, especially in the world of dating.
The date progressed as well as it could have, since I was already a little rattled by the whole foot thing. The fact that Stephen looked at my feet rather than into my eyes the whole time was perhaps another turn off. I snuck off to the bathroom after ten minutes of having my feet talked at, as Michael, the flamboyant barista met me at the bathroom door. “Hurry up and call my cell phone, so I can pretend that I have an emergency I have to get back to!“ I hissed at him as he almost fell, paralyzed with laughter.
“Helen, this is worse than the work out guy asking you if you wanted to work out in your booty gear. I will do what I can”.
“Thank you!“ I whispered as I headed back to Stephen and plopped down in my velvet chair. As my phone rang, I gave Stephen an exasperated look, apologized and picked up the phone.
“What? Is he okay?“ I said with the most worried tone that I could muster up. “Oh gosh, that’s terrible. I will be right there.“ I hung up and looked at Stephen whose eyes were once again staring at my feet. I wanted to put my hand under his chin and point it back up to my face, but I didn’t. “Well, I am sorry, Stephen but that was my Mom and we seem to be having a bit of a family emergency. It looks as though my grandfather is not doing well.“
I know that you are probably thinking that this is an awful lie to tell and that lies like this come to fruition when people fake deaths in the family. However, my grandfather has been dead for twelve years and I have already killed him off about twenty times to end bad dates. All I can very respectfully say to my grandfather is, “Thank you”.
I told Stephen that I had to use the bathroom, so I couldn’t walk out with him. I agreed that we would talk later as I nearly shoved him over the threshold of the door and headed back towards my audience of baristas. The moment Stephen walked out the door, the baristas began howling with laughter. “Oh, shut up you… you… baristas!” I laughingly yelled, as I strode past them and grabbed the picture of Stephen that I had printed off from his profile. I ripped it to shreds and threw it away as I crossed yet another potential psycho off the online dating list.
That day I went home and unplugged my computer. I was sick of online dating and needed a break. I swore to myself that I was going to get off of that stupid site and meet people the “normal” way. But, with everyone wandering around with their faces in their Blackberries and Iphones nowadays, how in the world are people supposed to meet, let alone make eye contact? I have tried the produce section and every other section in the grocery store to meet men and all I have caught were backward glances and heard, “Hey sexy!” from the meat counter guys. Geesh. Gigi has had the same bad luck which is why she says that she is thoroughly confused. This makes me see why she has entitled her stories The Adventures of a Thoroughly Confused Gigi.