Friday, May 9, 2014

Chemical Inactions and the Date-Time Continuum

One of the most obviously difficult aspects of online dating is the issue of chemistry. Without a screen and the…shall we say forgiving response time texting affords acting as intermediaries (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—anyone can be clever if given five minutes to google), and with the presence of pheromones, chemistry—or the lack thereof—is usually readily apparent in person.

However, things get a little murkier when you take that dance online. Too often, I’ve felt an initial spark (witty banter is my catnip), that failed to kindle in person, and sometimes fizzled out before a real life date could even take place. That’s probably why most of those who have success in online dating start with a large pool of potentials—however, I tend to pick one person with whom I’ll conversate exclusively for a number of weeks before finally meeting him for drinks or a disappointing dinner, quickly (sometimes with reason, sometimes without) lose interest, and then delete my account. This cycle will repeat the next time Venus is in retrograde, or it’s the week before Valentine’s Day and I find myself once again without anyone but myself to buy me chocolate and a hideously lurid bear that was likely born in a Honduran sweat shop. The odds are never in my favor.

So after (mis)reading the signs from Facebook’s great Server in the Sky that HowAboutWe could potentially lead me to He Who Has Not Yet Been Named, I followed my formula: I found one guy, Paul, whose date suggestion involved neither binge drinking nor violating international laws but was still interesting enough to catch my eye (though apparently not interesting enough for me to remember what it was eight months later). I sent him a message and then waited with bated breath for his reply. In this case, messaging transitioned quickly to texting, and even a phone call or two.

Sidebar: I’m convinced that this fact alone made Paul something of a unicorn in the online dating scene—a magical yet rare creature that allows you to hear the sound of his voice before subjecting you to the inevitable awkwardness of your first meeting.

Before too long, I was giddily getting ready for a drinks date with a guy who, according to his profile at least, was tall enough that I could wear five inch wedges without worrying about deflating anyone’s sense of manhood.

And we actually had a pretty great date, at least as far as first dates go. I got there first and perched myself daintily on a barstool. He didn’t keep me waiting and arrived soon thereafter, more bearded but no less towering than he appeared in his profile picture.

He did, however, bear a striking resemblance to a friend of mine. A friend on whom I may have had a tiny crush several years prior and who at the time was preparing to become a Man in Black—no not that kind, this kind.

I’ve touched on the rabid incest that took place within my group of college friends before, and so the uncanny physical similarities—he didn’t just look like my friend, he sounded like him, had the same mannerisms, and was possibly his long-lost twin—between Paul and Sean made me feel a bit…weird. He also did this bizarre thing where he would push his lips out, squint, and nod emphatically in agreement with something I had just said—Sean, for the record, has been known on occasion to make a similar face, although always in jest. With Paul though, I couldn’t tell if the expression was sincere in its vigor or if he was making fun of me. 

Odd facial contortions aside, we still managed to talk for hours, all but closing the bar where we met. He walked me to my car, and even though I didn't exactly feel that zsa zsa zsu, I was prepared to kiss him, but instead he went for a hybrid hug-handshake—a peculiar choice following his gallant gesture, but one I went with.

Unfortunately, I tend to have remarkably poor timing when it comes to relationships (shocking!), and so this date came right before I went out of town for a glorious and heartbreaking weekend of football. Then Paul was out of town. Then I was swamped with papers, had a League commitment, and was out of town again. However, before our game of scheduling tag reached epic proportions, Paul called me up and asked if I wanted to go to a concert with him—the catch was that the concert was four weeks away. Against my better judgment, and breaking another one of Barney’s rules (You never make plans with a guy further in the future longer than the time you've been going out), I agreed. And then before I knew it, two and a half weeks had gone by and not only had I not seen Paul, I’d barely spoken to him. 

(Please excuse my jury-rigged video capturing--how was this not already on YouTube?)

Panicked, I quickly arranged a brunch date for the following Saturday. The morning dawned cold and decidedly damp and my bed was perhaps the most warm and comfortable it has ever been; the morning was tailor-made for rereading The Thirteenth Tale and drinking mug after mug of Earl Grey while snuggled under the covers. Hopeful, I texted Paul to see if he wouldn’t rather postpone our date in light of the gale-force winds, leaving me to my book and hot tea, but Paul refused to let our plans get rained out. Longingly eying my cozy duvet and pile of pillows, I dragged myself out of my room and into the bathroom to get ready.

Sidebar: If I’m being honest, I’m not sure my preparations included a shower. I’m not proud.

Brunch was okay, but honestly, it was already over for poor Paul. Through no real fault of his own, the lack of momentum after our promising first date killed my initial interest, lulling me into a state of romantic ennui. Plus, Boise State was playing at home on the screen just to the right of his head and I simply could not. Look. Away.

He talked, I focused most of my concentration on trying to pull my eyes off Dead Smurf Turf, we ate, I paid.

Sidebar: It’s usually not a good sign if I insist on paying on the second date. This means that I have no intention on going on a third date with you, and this is my way of paying you back for dinner.

He walked me to my car, and I clutched my open umbrella, thankful that it prevented tall Paul from attempting to up his game from hug-handshake to a more urbane, double-cheek kiss while he cluelessly asked if I wanted to come to his place for dinner the next day.

I replied automatically: I didn’t…I had church?

Sidebar: I did actually go to church that night, so not a lie, just convenient scheduling. Plus, Paul was still a near-stranger, and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being alone with him at his house.

Later that week, I contracted some kind of hideous mini-cold—perhaps I caught it while standing out in the rain that weekend, but more likely some darling germy teenager infected me at work. The concert was still a few days away, but the forecast for the weekend included more freezing rain, and the last thing I wanted to do was pretend to be excited about Josh Abbott Band when I felt so icky. 

I texted my sister for advice—she rightly told me I couldn’t cancel outright—tickets, after all, had been bought—but I could tell him that I’d been sick and didn’t know if an alfresco outing (Paul wanted to hit up the carnival beforehand) would be wise. So I gave him the option to ditch me for someone who could do both things—the outdoor fair and the indoor concert.

Paul gave me the out, which I took gratefully.

Then he replied, “No worries. I’d prefer not getting sick from making out afterwards anyways ;)”

You and me both, Paul. You and me both.

So what’s the moral of this story? I teased last week that Paul only seemed normal, but he probably was—though I doubt his parting words to me inspired the reaction he intended. No, what I took away from this dating interlude was that for being a despicable human being much of the time (and a fictional one always), Barney Stinson’s rules for life are usually pretty on-point, and so if ever I find myself once more on the receiving end of an invitation from a man I've only been out with once that requires me to flip several pages in my datebook, I believe I will politely pass in case the relationship doesn't last without the zsa zsa zsu. 

//image via Pinterest//


  1. so where did the name paul come from? i always love your back-stories of the guy's names!

  2. Haha, I believe there was a Barefoot in the Park connection :) This backstory wasn't as thought out as some of the others though--more just an alias of convenience!