Dates 12 and [-4]: The Telephone Is Your Friend

Last night, even though I shut my dating-website profile down (again), I received a call from a guy I’d briefly traded messages with a couple weeks ago. I felt kind of bad about not remembering him better (“What’s your name again?” “How old are you?” “Oh, yeah–the straight-edge/agnostic/vegan guy with the one-hit-wonder-’80s-band screen name. Now I remember you!”), but we had a nice conversation anyway.

Although I kind of doubt we’re ever going to embark upon an actual date, we had an interesting discussion regarding the peculiarities associated with online dating. When I related to him how I’d been stood up on a coffee date this week by Date [-4] (who, in hindsight, I’m strongly suspecting is actually that same lesbian chick who played me twice before), he asked, “Didn’t you talk by phone first?”

“Um, no,” I was ashamed to admit. But then, about half of the dates I’ve gone on haven’t involved phone conversations beforehand, just an exchange of email and/or text messages. Not to mention I have talked to certain guys beforehand, but then meeting them in person was a total bomb (see Date 1.1). Some guys just aren’t as comfortable chatting by phone, so the fact that Dates 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 18, 21, and I didn’t converse telephonically before our respective first dates didn’t strike me as odd. Now, however, I’m starting to learn.

Better late than never.

Because, let’s pick apart the above situations…

Date 2 – If I’d insisted on his calling, he’d have declined, because I’m pretty certain (after the fact) that he’s married, so sharing his cell phone number (because I’m also pretty sure he’s an amateur, part-time cheater, not a guy with a secret disposable cell phone for extramarital escapades) would have been a no-go. Now that I’ve moved back to my previous suburb (where Date 2 also happens to live), I’m just waiting for my opportunity to make him sweat. One of these days, we’re going to run into each other at a school or social event. I won’t rat him out, but I will say something like, “You look familiar. Where have we met? I can’t quite place it…”

Date 4 – Extremely resourceful and horny, if I’d insisted on a phone call, Date 4 would have made it happen, so maybe he’s not the best example of why this should become a nonnegotiable dating policy. Plus, he called and face-timed me after we were already dating, so even though he wound up being kind of a flake, I really don’t think he has anything to hide. Then again, maybe he’s still married, too, and not in the process of getting a divorce, like he said. Never can tell, especially when someone just up and disappears.

Date 5 – Just in case he happens to be reading (since he’s one of the two guys who know about this blog), I’ve got a message for him: I love you, babe, but you’ve got intimacy issues. Had I insisted on a pre-initial-date phone call, I might have been able to sniff out this fact. Maybe it’s just me Date 5 doesn’t want to get close to, but his hardcore avoidance of real-time phone conversation makes me wonder what’s going on beneath the surface. Could be why a great guy like him is in his late 30s and has never been married. Just saying.

Date 7 – If I bored (or overwhelmed?) him so much he didn’t want to go out with me again, and all we did was have drinks, appetizers, and conversation together on our first date, perhaps we could have scheduled a phone call beforehand and skipped a step? Again, just saying–everyone’s time is precious.

Date 8 – Guy was legit, so a pre-dating phone call wouldn’t have changed anything. However…he was late to our first date, and we’d only been communicating by email prior (and I didn’t yet have a smart phone), so it would have been nice if he’d called to let me know he was caught in traffic but on his way.

Dates 9, 10, & 11 – They probably would have called if I’d insisted, and then I’d be more clued in about their personalities and priorities. Not a dealbreaker, since I’m usually up for meeting new and unique people, but also not a bad thing when you’re agreeing to meet a stranger off the Internet for the first time.

Dates 12, 15, & 18 – Could have saved myself some trouble if I’d talked with these guys beforehand. Dates 15 (communication-scrambling accent/rotten tooth) and 18 (sex maniac/control freak), you know about. Date 12, I’ll get to in a minute.

Date 21 – Not sure a phone call would have changed the outcome, but at least I’d have been forewarned about how passive he wound up being, which didn’t ultimately wind up giving me what I was looking for that night.

If I had engaged in a longer telephone conversation with Date 6 (he kept catching me as I was running out the door, so we never got to talk much before meeting in person, though I have to give him credit for trying), I would have known that (like the guy I chatted with last night), he laughs like Scooby-Doo. I also would have gleaned how freakin’ boring his life was (like another random guy I’ve met online, talked with on the phone, but have no plans to ever meet in person), so I might have nixed our plans and saved him a drive from East County.

But let’s get to Date 12 already, shall we?

All right. This is going to make me sound like kind of a mean person, but I want to tell it like it is, so here’s the thing: Date 12.1 was probably my worst date ever.

Before I get to what made Date 12.1 so bad, let me just say that, as an nonphotogenic individual (almost all my dates have told me I’m better looking in person–still trying to decide whether this is truly a compliment, since I think the pics I’ve posted are accurate and decent, but whatever), when I see guys’ pictures online, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. That said, on paper, Date 12 sounded like a stand-up guy: good job, already had a kid, my age, reasonably active lifestyle, etc. His photo, however, wasn’t the greatest. In fact, it made him look downright ugly. Because he had only posted one picture, though, and it was kind of blurry, I just figured he must be new to the online dating scene, not realizing the importance of a flattering image. Aw, I thought, that’s kind of sweet how he’s so clueless. I’ll bet it’s just a bad angle.

But it wasn’t. He looked exactly like he did in that picture when I met him in person. In fact, he almost looked worse, with deep wrinkles crossing the bridge of his nose, making me positive he’d lied about his age, since there was no way this guy was in his early 40s. Late 40s is more like it, I thought, but really, I was prepared to hear he had already begun his 50s.

Compounding my issues with his looks was the fact that he had way too many buttons unbuttoned, revealing (get this–I’m not joking) a gold chain around his neck. Now, in his defense, he grew up in New Jersey. But here’s a tip for any East Coaster guys who might happen to be reading: we don’t do this in Southern California. Not since disco was popular, anyway.

I’m generally a pretty friendly, nonjudgmental person, though, and in his pre-date texts, he’d asked me what kind of wine I liked. I told him, and he said he’d have a bottle ready for us when I arrived. Nice gesture, right? So even though he wasn’t Prince Charming, looks-wise, I figured we could still enjoy a worthwhile evening.

But then he opened his mouth. Within two minutes of meeting each other, we were already fighting. How do you start an argument with someone you’ve barely met? you might ask. In this case, it started with a discussion of public-school API scores (a standardized testing measurement employed statewide in California). I don’t want to call out where I live, but the schools in my area have the highest scores in the county. This is a fact, one backed by data available on the California Department of Education website. But this guy wanted to argue with me that the schools in his neighborhood were better (although his ex-wife lives in my district, so let’s all do the math here).

Moving on, conversation got creepier and more skeezy, with Date 12 alluding to the fact that he knew I was sexually submissive based on the dating-website personality questions I’d answered. Only with people I like, I wanted to point out, but I just kept changing the subject. In the course of finding benign things to discuss, the reason he looked vaguely familiar to me was revealed: we had been part of the same scout troop, meaning we had tons of mutual acquaintances.

Talk about making a bad date worse! Now, instead of just being able to get up from the bar and leave, channeling my inner bitch, I had scores of people to answer to for my behavior. This is why I enjoy online dating so much–if it goes badly, there aren’t any real-life social repercussions. In this case, however, I had to find an alternative means of escape.

I decided to broach all those subjects people aren’t supposed to talk about on first dates: my divorce, my custody battle, the kid from scouts who died of cancer, the heart-crushing details of his funeral. Yeah, I know it was wrong for me to exploit that kind of information, but I kept shooting pleading glances at the bartender at the same time, trying to telepathically send him the message, Check, please! Only the bartender kept ignoring us, finally bringing over the tab after three grueling hours of disastrous date time.

The worst part, I have to admit, though, was when Date 12 asked me about my astrological sign. “Yes, I’m a ________,” I admitted.

After asking what my actual birthday was, he wanted to know, “And you’re really 42?”

No, I’m really 36, I wanted to say. I just tell people I’m 42 so they’ll think I’m more mature.

“Yes,” I assured him, then asked, “What about you?”

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said, digging into his back pocket for his wallet, then producing his driver’s license for my inspection.

Know I don’t like to cuss, but, Fuckin’ A!!! Dude had the exact same birthday as me. Exact same year and everything.

You, me, and [insert name of goofball hair-metal-era lead singer who’s repeatedly been kicked out of his band], I couldn’t help thinking. No one cool ever has my birthday!

Date 12 tried to get me to go back to his place with him after we left the restaurant, using smooth lines such as, “I really didn’t think I was going to like you.”

Yeah, well, thanks but no, thanks, I wanted to tell him. Because we had so many mutual friends, though, I made excuses about having lots of work to do and drove away vowing never to see him again. He did, indeed, wind up asking me out again, but I pulled the Date 17 card, saying someone from high school had recently come back into my life, and I wanted to see where things were going. True, that, but still–sometimes it’s best to just shut up, be diplomatic, and chalk the whole thing up to being a learning experience.

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