By Kelly Seal
I got suckered into another Match.com subscription, falling for the good-looking guys I’d seen in the promotional email. But once I joined I didn’t hear from them. Instead, the balding late-forties divorcees were responding to my ad, with emails like:
“I like ur pix. Wanna chat?”
I guess it was too much to ask for online men to avoid text speak. Just when I was about to log off out of frustration, a new email from John72 came through. One with real words and complete sentences. My heart soared.
I looked at John72’s profile. He was in his thirties and had never been married. He was a good-looking guy with a nice smile, which I’d come to appreciate. I’d noticed that many online guys liked to pose in the following ways:
A. Next to their expensive cars (or likely a friend’s car)
B. Shirtless, to show off the fact that they work out and are slightly vain about it
C. In a group photo, so that you could mistake him for his hot friend in the foreground, when really he’s the geeky Hawaiian shirt-clad guy in the back
D. In a photo with another woman (likely an ex) who has been cropped out, save for the bits of blonde hair still resting on his shoulder.
But John posted a normal picture with no props, extra people or gratuitous body parts. I responded right away. After a few flirtatious emails back and forth, we agreed to meet at a bar downtown called “The Bitter End”. I liked his sense of irony.
He agreed to meet me on a Tuesday evening after work. I wore a new outfit, which got me a lot of compliments at the office like, “wow, you clean up nice” and “do you have a job interview later?” Note to self: dress better for work.
I found the restroom at The Bitter End quickly, applied more lipstick and made sure my mascara hadn’t smudged. I was nervous. I took a deep breath, reminding myself that this was only a brief drink with a man I didn’t even know. There was nothing to lose. I swung the door open with a new surge of confidence, surveying my surroundings. I hadn’t noticed how empty the bar was when I first entered. Aside from the two guys playing pool and one older man slouched over the bar, I was the only one there. The Bitter End indeed. I decided to order a drink and check my voicemail.
John72 came up behind me a few minutes later, blaming his tardiness on the parking situation. I turned around to see a man with a flushed face and wearing a bright red shirt. He was also sporting a thin head of hair. Thinner than the picture I’d gazed upon at least ten times, just to make sure I knew who I was meeting. I smiled, covering my surprise. “That’s okay. Nice to meet you,” I offered.
“I don’t know about this online dating thing,” he said after ordering a beer. He sighed heavily. “My friend at work convinced me to do it.” He laughed and looked at me for agreement, as though we were co-conspirators. I hated it when men pretended that online dating was the last thing they needed. Why bother signing up if you can pick up women so easily? But I would give him a chance.
“I shouldn’t admit this but I haven’t dated much the past few years,” he continued. “I had a girlfriend for about five years, but she really screwed me over.”
“How long ago did you break up?” I asked.
“Three years ago,” he admitted, looking away. “I know that sounds like a long time, but it took me a long time to trust women again. She was a complete bitch.”
Three years? “I guess since you’re on Match you’re over her now?” I didn’t really want to have the ex-girlfriend conversation, but he’d started it.
“Totally. She’s a fucking piece of work. No thanks.”
I tried to change the subject, but the next hour felt like a therapy session, only I was the therapist and wouldn’t be getting a fat check at the end. He seethed when he spoke about her, as though it only happened last week. I had to escape.
“She threw my things out the window from our second story apartment! When I pulled up to the place, I saw my shirts, dishes, movies, everything in broken piles across the alley. Then she acts like nothing happened. She was completely nuts.”
I nodded my head sympathetically for as long as I could. Then I decided to bolt. “I’m sorry to run out,” I said getting up and downing the rest of my beer. “But I have an early morning tomorrow. I better get home. Nice meeting you.” I reached out to shake his hand before he got any romantic ideas.
“You seem like a nice person,” he said leaning over to kiss my cheek. “I mean, you don’t seem crazy like most women. I’d like to take you out again.”
Seriously? John72 had spent the last hour bitching, and thought I’d be into another night of doing the same? Plus, he called my gender crazy, based on the actions of his ex girlfriend? No thanks. Life is too short. Dating should be more fun.
My encounter with John72 taught me that I would never, ever turn my dates into venting sessions, or stereotype men based on a few lousy experiences or angry ex boyfriends. Also, it was a reminder that exes are best left in the past.