I think I was on a dating spree at this point. I was responding to any guy who
- had a high match percentage with me
- had said at least one vaguely interesting thing, either in his profile or in his message to me
- had answered questions that suggested he was at least somewhat liberal
- had pictures of himself that at the very least made me think, “Well… he could be hot.”
This dude…let’s call him Ned. He messaged me first, of course. I checked out his profile. He seemed to fulfill all of the above requirements, although his match percentage with me was much lower than the guys I was used to meeting up with–somewhere around 70%. His pictures were terrible but I decided to give him and his face the benefit of the doubt.
We messaged and texted each other back and forth, exchanging semi-witty banter, cracking jokes. I remember enjoying talking to him. I liked that he was willing to have a conversation instead of asking to meet up right away, unlike all the other dudes I had talked to through OKCupid. Eventually though, the subject of meeting was brought up. (Probably by him, considering my default approach to dating is being annoyingly passive.) We made plans to do the Saturday art walk in downtown Oakland. Art walks could be romantic and fun, right?
I took BART from East Oakland; he took it from SF. We kept texting each other right up until we finally met in person on 19th Street. Was it love at first sight? Of course not. Was it even lust at first sight? Definitely not. He was okay looking. I wonder what he thought of me. Did I disappoint as well?
Using a handy dandy guide he somehow got his hands on, we went from gallery to gallery, perusing the art on display. I then realized how awkward it was, having to view art with someone I didn’t know, like at all. Whenever I went to an art museum or an art walk with friends, we usually split off and took our time looking at whatever we felt like for however long before regrouping. Or we’d start off together and end up apart. And maybe we’d bump into each other and exclaim over what we thought was awesome or weird. But in the context of a first date, I guess our physical proximity was the only closeness that validated our connection to each other as people. Ned kept following me from piece to piece, like a weirdo stalkerish loser. (Or, as a friend later pointed out, like someone who was on an art walk with his date. Whatever.) The forced synchronization of our art viewing felt very unnatural to me. Standing in front of a painting or a statue, I wondered if I was supposed to provide some kind of profound commentary on the work of art, to spark an intellectual discussion on what it all really meant, or something. I wondered, but offered little to no insight, partly because I thought it would be trying too hard, but mostly because I didn’t really have any thoughts that ran deeper than “Lol cool.” I soon realized that my worries were unnecessary, though. At one point he commented that the subjects of a painting we were viewing were not female like I had observed because “they don’t have any boobs.” He said this very loudly. A couple of people standing next to us giggled. I averted my eyes and hoped no one thought I was with him.
Mostly, we stayed quiet. We found that we did not have much to say to each other in person. The textual chemistry between us had not translated over to real life. The witty banter we exchanged had vanished the moment we put away our devices and were faced with nothing but our awkward, self-conscious selves. I found myself thinking that I would have enjoyed this art walk much more if I had been alone, and why oh why did I keep finding myself falling into the same trap of thinking I could enjoy stuff the same way when stranger dudes were involved.
The more we tried to make small talk, the less I liked him. He said he was part Indian, but had nothing more to say about it because it was irrelevant to him. He compared Portland to San Francisco. I decided this was a good opportunity to test the waters and work in some racially charged commentary by pointing out that there were probably more white people in Portland, but he simply shrugged off my comment. Okay, so race was a non-issue for him. I decided to take it a step further and asked him directly for his definition of rape culture, inspired by my mediocre date with Steven #2 (thus beginning my ill-conceived first date ritual of asking dudes to define rape culture).
Ned was able to define rape culture pretty decently. Hopeful, I plunged on to ask him about his views on feminism. He said he was cool with it, but not with the “really angry, extreme feminists.”
“Do you even know anyone like that?” I demanded, annoyed that he was spewing the same trash I’ve heard from misogynist trolls on the Internet.
He said he did, and started describing some friend of a friend who was purportedly some kind of feminazi. I could have argued with him and said he was in all likelihood being a typical dude who saw all women except his mother as one dimensional characters who were only relevant in so far as they pertained to his dick, but I didn’t bother. That was it for me. He wasn’t funny, or witty, or hot, or all that sociopolitically aware, and maybe I was being too critical on a first date but I was flawed and impatient and unkind and disappointed and still am, and I didn’t want to deal with pretending I liked him anymore.
I said I had to meet up with some friends (which was actually true, not that it mattered), so we walked back to the BART station together. I said it was nice meeting him, because even though I hate lying and superficiality it would be too fucked up to be honest and tell him any differently, right? What else could I have said? “I don’t think we’re clicking…but thank you for your time. Best of luck in your future dating endeavors”??? Bleh. I don’t know.
I think I made a conscious choice to not hug him goodbye. We parted ways. It was disappointing to learn that meeting up with a guy later rather than sooner was in some ways worse. I had built up an expectation of him, only to have reality crush it.
Ned later sent me a text, asking me how my weekend was. I replied with something vague and did not ask him in return–the hope was that my silence would be subtext for “go away.” He responded to my non-response. Whatever it was, it was short and devoid of wit and warmth. Its subtext gave no invitation to converse further. He had gotten the hint. We finally understood each other as strangers, and nothing more.
tl;dr Boy messages girl, girl and boy exchange semi-witty entertaining banter, girl and boy meet up and do not exchange much of any kind of banter, girl and boy never see each other again