When I am giving counsel to people who are new to online dating, I always advise meeting in person as soon as at all possible. Why is this a good idea? Because it sometimes happens, when there are volumes of emails sent back and forth for weeks or an exceptionally well-written profile, to start to crush on an ‘idea’ of a date and not who the person is in the actual real world. And is also quite possible to really want to date that ‘idea’ and not the flesh and blood real-life person. This sets up a very unfortunate situation and is exactly what happened with my next man in the dating rotation, Dana.
Looking back, I don’t really recall exactly what drew me to Dana – I cannot, for the life of me, remember one thing about his profile or his pictures – but I do know that I was very excited to meet him based on what I had somehow managed to learn. Dana lived in Seattle and was a writer in a pretty large news department. I could only hope to come close to his knowledge of local politics and happenings. Dana seemed to have his finger on the pulse of the city and was in possession of all kinds of insider knowledge. How incredibly daring and exciting! He also seemed to have excellent taste in music and books and restaurants and drinking establishments. With all of that going for him, what could possibly be wrong with Dana? I just knew we were going to be a love match!
Dana was waiting at a table in the bar when I arrived and, when he stood up to shake my hand, I was neither weak at the knees nor did I want to cry. He was… fine looking but nothing too exciting. We ordered our drinks and commenced on what was one of the more boring and mundane conversations in my dating career. Our topics of discussion would normally knock my socks off with excitement – the best concerts we had been to, our favorite places to get a cocktail, our thoughts on the most recent presidential election – but Dana was just bland and talked as if he was almost bored. If it was possible to have a conversation with vanilla pudding I was on a date with a creamy dessert. What did it take to get this guy excited about something? It apparently was not was what I was bringing to the table.
We only stayed for one drink – we both had to work early in the morning – and we exchanged a nice hug and pleasantries in the parking lot. There was no mention of seeing each other again and, as I drove home, I was pretty disappointed that the date had been so lackluster. Dana was so perfect for me and, while I wasn’t overcome with lust for him, I also didn’t find him foul. Not the most ringing endorsement of a date but I really, really wanted to like him. I had all but planned our exciting urban future together!
I was shocked as hell to get an email from Dana the very next morning saying how much he enjoyed meeting me, that it was excellent to find someone that he shared so many interests with, and he wondered, could he take me out again soon? What, what, what? Had we been on the same date? Had online dating totally warped any sense of social skills that I had? I was absolutely baffled but, at the same time, kind of excited. Maybe this storybook romance just needed a little time to mature. Dana asked to call me so we could set up our next date and, even though I am not a fan of phone conversations, especially since our date in person had been so not-thrilling, I agreed. Really, how bad could it be?
It should not be surprising that my rule about not talking on the phone unless someone is dying didn’t get thrown to the wind after talking to Dana. It was not a painful conversation, exactly, but I found myself after about five minutes saying, “So. Next date. The plan. Have we got one?” I felt kind of rude but, for a guy that had so many dazzling things he could discuss with me, he was kind of rambling about the threat of impending snow and whether he should get studded tires and the importance of a good ice scraper and… if it went much longer that way I was going to bang my phone into my forehead.
Luckily, my request did not fall on deaf ears and Dana laid out his plans for our next outing and they sounded fun enough to talk me off the cliff. He suggested that we try a trendy new restaurant I had been reading about followed by a sold-out hip hop concert at a cool venue nearby that I had just been reading about in the newspaper. Ok – now we were talking! Dana was being the edgy, savvy Seattle insider that was supposed to be stealing my heart. Finally. Before things could once again go awry, I brought the call to a close and told him I would see him in a couple of days. Sweet lord, please say it wouldn’t be awful.
I got to the restaurant five minutes before Dana and quickly ordered a cocktail. Even though I was crossing my fingers that the date was going to be amazing and the start of a whirlwind romance, there was an almost sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, perhaps a sense of impending doom, while I waited for Dana to arrive. I just had a feeling.
Dana finally did arrive and it did…not…go…well. We were at an amazing Japanese restaurant with plates of delectable deliciousness and quaffable cocktails streaming past our table and Dana told me planned on ordering a Diet Coke and steamed rice. I almost couldn’t believe it. I tried suggesting sharing something wild and crazy like chicken skewers but Dana waved me off. “No,” he said, “I think I am good.” Boy, a ball of crazy this guy was. HE was the one that suggested the restaurant and all he wanted was rice!?! For god’s sake. Whatever. I would make the best of it and get something beyond rice and, for the love of mankind, another cocktail.
I knew even before we left our meal, or more accurately, my meal since all Dana had in front of him was a cup of rice, that hell would freeze over before I went on another date with this guy. Talking to him was like watching paint dry. I knew that he had all kinds of things that he could pontificate on but he just sat there, drinking his Diet Coke, and decided tell me a twenty-minute story that I involved a road trip and his extended family in Iowa. I kept myself occupied eating to keep myself from banging my head on the sharp edge of the table. It is a bad sign if conversations with a prospective boy kept making me want to injure myself rather than continue talking. I had discovered a new dating rule!
We made it to the concert which, thankyoujesus, was so loud that talking was impossible. As soon as the lights went up, I was ready to get out of there before Dana suggested a nightcap of Diet Coke somewhere nearby. I thanked him, gave him a hug, told him we would talk soon and practically ran to my car. I felt bad – he seemed like he was a decent guy – but there was no way we were meant to be together. I would die of a conversation-induced head injury before we could ever get married.
I got an email from Dana the next day thanking me for the ‘wonderful’ evening and inquiring about when he could see me again. ‘Never, never, NEVER!” seemed a bit harsh so I was honest and told him that I just didn’t think there was a spark between us. To put it mildly. He graciously thanked me, said it was good to at least meet and wished me luck with the future. How…nice.
I didn’t hear from Dana again but actually saw him almost a year later while on a date with my boyfriend at the time. There was a contentious issue on the ballot in Washington and we had gone to have a drink and hear a debate from opposing sides. The panels were introduced and brought out on stage and there was Dana. I actually got nervous for him, thinking he would be as drab and unexciting as he had been on our dates but, holy hell, the guy actually nailed it. He was witty and sharp and quick-witted and all kinds of dashing up on that stage. Where had THIS Dana been on our dates? Was I not as excitement-inducing as a ballot initiative? What a pleasant thought.
Even though my ‘romance’ with Dana was ultimately disappointing I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t email him for another month, strike that, another week before I met him. By then I would have been head over heels for the ‘idea’ of my future husband and what a cruel blow that would have turned out to be, most likely to my head.