When I think about the next man in the dating rotation, Howard, two things immediately come to mind. The first is that a girl should wait and withhold judgment until she has met a man at least twice with a minimum of one of those times being in a well-lit location. The second is that, for all of the good things I would say about online dating, my chief complaint is that I sometimes feel that it sucks the humanity right out of a person.
The constant flow and supply of new dating material, just by the very nature of how it works, has led me to be a little more callous and hard-hearted than I am in real life. I am not sure that is what is exactly to blame with what I did to Howard but I have a sneaking suspicion.
Howard emailed me first and, initially, I was not sure that I was interested in even meeting him. He was about eight years older than me, exactly my height (if he was being honest), Jewish (I am not a religious girl so any stated affiliation is a bit of a turn-off), sported annoying facial hair and he just seemed kind of…pushy. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I could just tell that this guy was going to be assertive. Really assertive. I am always fond of a challenge, though, so after a few emails where Howard proved to be pretty smart, funny and successful, I agreed to meet him for a drink. What the hell?
When I walked into the dimly-lit restaurant to meet Howard, he was already sitting down, having a glass of red wine. He was at the bar and didn’t stand up to meet me so I couldn’t tell if he was really at least as tall as me. Dang it. But, aside from that, he was fairly cute. He did have a weird soul patch beard thing, but he had a shaved head, was nicely dressed and smelled good. Over the next hour or so, we had a couple of drinks and I had to admit that I kind of liked Howard. He was definitely a Type A personality – there was nothing shy about him – but he was gregarious and friendly and talkative and kept me on my toes. We talked about our careers, living in Seattle, movies, good restaurants and, before I knew it, Howard was asking me if I would meet him the following Saturday for some of the best sushi I had ever eaten. I was a little taken back – I hadn’t even seen him stand up! – but I was intrigued enough that I agreed. When the check came and Howard put his credit card down and said, “Let’s split it,” I had pause for thought but maybe it wasn’t such a big deal.
Howard walked me to my car and hugged me goodbye. He was not nearly as cute once I saw him under a streetlight, was about two inches shorter than me and, between that and the splitting of the check, I was feeling a little less excited about Saturday. But I had already agreed! He had suckered me in! But it was one date. I could do that.
We agreed to meet at the sushi restaurant and, when I walked in the front door, I was in for a little shock. It was January in Seattle, i.e. cold as hell, and the inside of the place felt no warmer than it was outside. I looked around and everyone, and there were only about six people eating, was wearing coats and scarves while they stuffed sushi in their mouths. I was still trying to process what was going on when Howard jumped up from a nearby table and waved me down. “We are in for a chilly meal! Their heat isn’t working! Our conversation will have to keep us warm!” Sweet lord – was he serious? It was 35 degrees in there! I honestly thought Howard was kidding but, no, no, he wanted to stick it out. Why didn’t I just leave? Why, why?
What followed was one of the most miserable meals I have had in my life. Besides the fact that it was sub-arctic – I could see my breath! – the food was awful and Howard, well, his assertiveness and confidence quickly turned into cockiness and bragging. How had I not seen how obnoxious he was? He went on and on about what a big deal he was in Seattle and all of the people he knew and how important his family was and what a ladykiller he could be, if he wanted to, and his amazing cooking skills and…it seemed to never end, his pleasure with himself. When the meal was mercifully done, I escaped to the bathroom just to make his voice stop in my head for a minute. I don’t think I have ever felt something as cold as that toilet seat but it was worth it to get away from Howard. It was almost over, it was almost over.
I got back to the table and Howard was standing up and readjusting his scarf. “I took care of this bill but that is only because you are going to buy me a couple of drinks at this bar near my house.” I almost laughed out loud at the horror my date was turning out to be but, honestly, the thought of being somewhere with heat and alcohol overrode my absolute dislike for Howard. Two drinks and I could be done with him and, apparently, I owed him.
Even though there were cocktails and I could once again feel my limbs, I was almost starting to despise this Howard. He was borderline obnoxious. By the time our first drinks were finished, I was about done being nice. I could see the bartender looking over at us and I could tell that he saw that it was a very one-sided conversation and he kind gave me a small smile. Hmmm…and he was very cute. Howard finally did something right and got up to go the bathroom. As soon as he walked away, the bartender came right over and stated, “You look like you need another drink and I know exactly what I am making you.” Oh, my. Swoon!
By the time Howard got back, I had a personalized libation in front of me and John, the bartender, and I were going back and forth about the NFL playoffs. Howard, not a sports fan, just kind of sat there, speechless. Finally. But he quickly changed the subject back to himself so I just kind of smiled at John, he smiled back, and I once again listened to the Howard show.
We finished our second drinks and I could finally escape. The bill came and Howard went to the bathroom again saying, “I love it when a girl buys the drinks!” John heard and he and I tried to hide our laughter. What a prick! I did pay for the drinks and, when I signed the credit card slip, I wrote my phone number at the bottom for John and quickly got up to go before Howard could see what I had done.
As we walked back to our cars and Howard chattered away, I couldn’t believe what I had done. Picking up on one man while on a date with another? That seemed wrong on so many levels but I was not feeling bad about it at all and I think online dating was (partly) to blame. Howard is not someone I would have ever dated had we met in the ‘real world’ and I think that made me a little more cavalier in my actions with him. Having talked to other online daters, I have heard the same thing, that the normal rules don’t apply because you didn’t know them first and you don’t ever have to see them again. It just doesn’t seem like that can be a good thing, right?
I wrote Howard an email after our date telling him that I was not interested in going out again. He, of course!, wrote me back to tell me that I had not ended it properly and that he was a magnificent catch and I would be sorry about what I missed. I was feeling absolutely no guilt about anything I had done and my bad behavior was actually rewarded when John the bartender called to ask me out for a date. A man from the real world? Yes, please!
Want to hear how my date with John the bartender went? I am only a little embarrassed that it included me in a men’s bathroom. You can read it in my book – click here to get yourself a copy!