Warning: this post is long.
Since I wasn’t going to start hanging around bars, and I’m not in college anymore, the only logical place for me to meet men was online. No stranger to online dating, this wasn’t difficult. But it carried different risks.
Mormon online dating, for me, meant months of emails and phone calls with the possibility of never meeting in person the men I met online since they never lived in Nebraska. Moving to a different site meant I would probably actually go to public places with any man I might meet online. This caused all kinds of hives and hyperventilation. Especially when, a mere 24 hours after making my profile live, someone contacted me.
I’ll call him James, and his emails were crazy long and offered a lot of information about himself, and I enjoyed emailing him. After a week, we moved to texts, and shortly thereafter, phone calls. But I never added him to my contacts–that seemed too permanent an action. The phone calls often went on for 60 minutes or longer, and after another week, he asked if I’d like to go to dinner.
Cue hives and hyperventilation.
Here’s something I’ve heretofore only admitted to a handful of people: I had not been on an honest-to-goodness, real-life date since 2006. This partially explained the rather visceral reaction I had to being asked out. But a friend told me that meeting earlier than later often prevented problems later on. See, it’s really easy to form emotional connections with people via email and text and phone calls. But sometimes meeting in person is a let-down for one of the involved parties, and then you’re emotionally invested, and you’ve gone on one date and you feel like you’re breaking up with someone. I’m now a firm believer in “meet as soon as possible.”
James decided sushi would be a great first date, and I agreed, though he did not pay attention to the fact that the restaurant was downtown the same night as the opening ceremonies of the College World Series. Nor did he seem to pay attention to the fact that while he could walk to the restaurant from where he lived, I would have to drive 10 miles AND pay for parking. But I like sushi, so I didn’t throw a fit.
The night before our date, we talked on the phone for 90 minutes. And when our conversation ended, I felt like something wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I chalked it up to my glacial feet. I made sure I let several friends know where and when I’d be meeting James, in case he was actually a serial killer and I disappeared.
When I walked into the restaurant, I was greeted by a former student. For most people, this might be disconcerting. For me, it was an important reminder that no matter the outcome of this date, people in the world love and appreciate me regardless of my relationship status. Seeing him immediately put me at ease.
I found James, he stood up to give me a hug, and he was easily 2 inches shorter than me. Not that it’s a bad thing, but for someone who is only 5’3″ on a good day, it felt weird. We sat down and our waiter appeared with a glass of water for me. Our waiter? A former speech student of mine, a student I was really close to.
When James asked how I knew our waiter and I told him, he seemed confused that I’d be so happy to see this student. I tried explaining that as an extra-curricular sponsor, I often have stronger connections to those students because of the extra time spent in that activity, but he really did not understand why I would still be happy to see former students.
As we perused our menus, he asked what kind of sushi I liked.
“Oh, I’m not too adventurous,” I replied. “I like the vegetarian ones, and I have a hard time with super-spicy so I try to stick to pretty mild ones.”
“Well, I like super-spicy and super-raw. So that’s what we’ll be ordering. If you do order a vegetarian roll, I won’t be eating any of it.”
I was nervous, because I have a chronic condition that can flare up if I eat the wrong thing, but that didn’t seem like appropriate first date disclosure. So he ordered some pretty spicy sushi, and I figured out what I could push my limits on and chose those, though they were certainly not what I would have chosen if I was there with my friends.
We placed our order and he began to talk. And talk. And talk. And 20 minutes in, I realized what bothered me so much the night before: this man did not want to get to know me. He wanted to tell me all about himself, and had no interest in learning anything about me. He asked me no questions, just told me story after story, complaint after complaint, while I sat there pretending to look interested, sipping my cucumber water.
I couldn’t wait for this date to end.
We had pretty much wrapped up eating our sushi, when my dear student brought out complimentary dessert–green tea ice cream with two spoons. It was so thoughtful of him, but my only thought was, “So close. I was so close to getting out of this.”
I picked at the ice cream a little bit and finally declared I couldn’t possibly eat any more. James paid the bill and we walked out of the restaurant.
“Well, I should get home–I have to make cinnamon rolls for an event tomorrow,” I said.
It was not yet 7 PM, my first date in seven years, and I could not wait to get home.
“Why don’t you just buy them? That’s easier. Why do you have to make everything?”
And that was the final nail in the proverbial coffin–this man clearly did not know me, nor did he even make an effort to. Telling me–ME–to purchase a baked good instead of make it from scratch? Please.
“It means more when it’s made from scratch,” I said with a bit of a light-hearted laugh. “Well, thanks for dinner!”
“Yeah, thanks for coming out with me,” he replied.
As I walked to my car, I pulled out my phone, found the text message thread from the previous two weeks, and deleted it.
I wouldn’t be needing his number again.
But I was glad for the experience, because it dusted off the cobwebs and got me “back out there.” Plus, he had set the bar pretty low for the next guy…if there was a next guy…(there was).