At this point in my online dating shenanigans, I was feeling very cynical and questioning my life decisions. I mean, I’m always cynical and always questioning my life decisions, but having an OKCupid account was really exacerbating my usual existential crisis. Why was I even on here? What was I looking for? Why hadn’t I found it, whatever it was? Why wasn’t I the kind of girl who could have a meet-cute with some guy and live happily ever after? Why did I just inwardly cringe at the idea of having a meet-cute and living happily ever after? If I was so terrible with men, why was I straight? Why did men look so good to me, when dating them was so bad? What was it, exactly, that I wanted???
None of these questions were answered when, uh…Gabriel messaged me. (This was…fuck, almost 2 years ago–December 2013.) Gabriel was yet another nerdy white guy with a 90something match percentage with me. However, he was unusual because 1) he was 7 years older than me, and 2) he wrote in his message the following: “If you’re anything like Hannah, you’ve caught my interest. I actually went to school with her.”
By “Hannah,” he was referring to Hannah Horvath, played by Lena Dunham, who is the main character on the HBO show Girls, which Lena Dunham also writes/directs/created. He wasn’t bringing her up out of nowhere, though–his message was a comment on something I wrote in my OKCupid profile under the section that said “What I’m doing with my life”…which went something like this:
What I’m doing with my life
I’m basically like Hannah Horvath from Girls right now. Except not white. Or middle class. Or getting laid and flashing my modest-sized tits on a periodic basis.
Heh. Honesty is the best policy, right? (Wrong, but it makes for an engaging profile, apparently.)
Anyway, the fact that Gabriel claimed to know Lena Dunham was what intrigued me most about him. (This was back when I liked Lena Dunham in spite of her racist microaggressions and before that weird pedo stuff came out of her memoir.) If he hadn’t mentioned Lena Dunham, I probably wouldn’t have replied. Not that his profile was terrible or anything. It was a very generic dude profile: sparse words that attempted to be witty but mainly revealed he didn’t know how to write about himself, plus an admission of crying at cartoon movies for the section “the most private thing I’m willing to admit,” presented as proof that he wasn’t an embodiment of toxic masculinity. As for his pictures–he seemed kind of cute, if a bit too feminine-looking for my liking.
Then there was the age thing. I was 22 at the time, and I was completely baffled as to why a perfectly reasonable-sounding 29-year-old would message me. I was still feeling like I was a 16-year-old trapped in a little girl’s body at the time, and had only recently landed my first full-time job pushing paper. (Exciting update: I now feel like a 20-year-old trapped in a 16-year-old body, and am still pushing paper at the same job. Woo.) My adult life had barely begun, and I barely had anything figured out. He was almost 30. I’m sure he had his shit together, his own place, a direction in life, some sense and purpose, was probably looking to settle down, buy a house and have some kids and shit. What was the appeal to him here? He must be kind of a creep, I thought. Oh well! He knows Lena Dunham.
So Gabriel asked me if I wanted to grab a drink with him and I was like okay sure and he proposed some bar in Lakeshore and I was like all right cool and then he gave me his number and that was that. The night of the date, I was feeling a little more nervous than usual, because this was an older dude and I felt/looked like a little girl and I wanted to not look/feel that way but I couldn’t help myself so in the end I was just like, fuck it and drove over there still trying to squash all the worries zipping around in my head. I got to the bar first. Some hipster bar with only a number as a name. It was incredibly loud and crowded. He texted that he was walking over. I waited inside.
Soon enough some guy was headed my way, a look of recognition in his eyes. Ah, shit. It was him. Gabriel. And he was hot. WHAT. He was a hot bearded dude, goddamn him. I tried to keep calm and composed. We greeted each other, hugged (I’m fairly certain, cuz hot dude), and sat down at the bar. He ordered a cocktail; I already had a beer in hand. It was trivia night, but we couldn’t hear the questions over the cacophony of drunk people having a good time.
It took a minute to adjust to his hotness. In person, he looked a lot like a brunette version of Brian, the dude from OKBye Story #4. But wait…”I thought you had blonde hair,” I said stupidly.
“But it looked blonde in your pictures!” But then I realized I had barely scrutinized his profile.
“It might have been the sun,” he offered (to be kind, I’m sure).
His hotness was making me uncomfortable. Obviously, the appropriate thing to do was to make him uncomfortable as well. I very pointedly asked him about his age, and commented on how surprised I was that he would message me. (I know, I know…it gets worse.)
I asked him how he knew Lena Dunham. He said he had a class with her back in college. So he didn’t really know her. I was somewhat disappointed. What else did we talk about? I remember furiously trying to fill in the gaps of our conversation, trying to prove to him that I was quirky and cute and witty, when I was not really feeling any of those things. Because sitting there with him, listening to him talk about how he was the chief creative officer of some company whose objective I pretended to understand, made me feel like a stupid, naive young girl who was way in over her head.
Obviously, the appropriate thing to do was to attempt to undermine him. “Can you define rape culture?” I asked.
He gave an answer that I don’t remember at all, except for it being adequate in the moment.
“Do you know anything about white privilege?” I challenged.
“Know? I live it,” he said.
“How do you mitigate the effects of having white privilege?” I asked.
He talked about getting acquainted with his neighbors, and blah blah blah. He asked me if I knew about environmental racism. I admitted I did not. He took care to elaborate without being condescending.
I had not prepared myself for his thoughtful responses. If he had been an ignorant, colorblind bigot, I could have snarkily argued with him and stormed off. But how to have a dialogue about white privilege with a white person who is already aware of it? I realized I was ill equipped to facilitate any kind of discussion on the matter and regretted asking. The subject was changed to something trivial instead.
I had had only one drink, but being the lightweight that I am, it was hitting me hard. “I think…I think I need to walk off the alcohol,” I said.
I went outside; he followed. “I’m just gonna walk around the lake,” I told him. “Feel free to leave,” I added, unsure of how the date was going. “I promise I won’t get offended.”
“I’ll walk with you,” he said. And off we went, with only the glowing lamps to light our way. I felt nervous from walking alongside a hot bearded dude who had his shit together, and giddy from the one beer. “I’ll race you,” I said suddenly.
“Um,” he said.
“One two three go!” We started running. I was amused to see that I, a short and scrawny Asian chick, was faster than this tall white dude. Then I felt bad. Maybe he thought I was trying to emasculate him or something–although if he did think that, he wasn’t the kind of guy I should be into, right? I stopped running and let him catch up. He admitted he wasn’t the most athletic. We resumed walking instead, side by side.
This is supposed to be romantic, I thought. Why isn’t this romantic? I brought up more random things to converse about. Whether or not guys exaggerated their height on dating profiles. Introversion versus extroversion. What, exactly, are the differences between gender and race. I don’t even know why I bothered to mention the last one, given that he was a cis hetero white dude, which is pretty much the last identity on Earth I should have struck up that conversation with. But I guess I was still trying to impress him with my pseudo-intellect. I don’t know. He considered the question I posed, and admitted he had no answers. He seemed very introspective, quiet, soft-spoken. I had no idea what he was thinking, except maybe that I was an idiot little girl he pitied.
We had come full circle around Lake Merritt, and still, there were no sparks I could discern. Sure, he was physically attractive and sociopolitically aware, but could I see myself in a relationship with him? I tried to imagine him meeting my no-fucks-given, brutally honest and broke ass dysfunctional family in the crappy apartment I grew up in. His well-to-do-white-maleness got in the way. I tried imagining hooking up with him instead, like Hannah Horvath probably would if she were in my shoes. Was that even a possibility? I wasn’t a sexually empowered chubby white woman though. I was a sexually repressed thin-privileged Asian chick. Why did I make that comparison again? I felt confused. And maybe a little buzzed, but not really.
He walked me to my car. I smiled. He smiled back. “Well…it was nice meeting you.” I tried to say this as sincerely as possible while very slowly motioning my hands into what I thought looked like a request to hug him.
He smiled back and reached out his hands accordingly. We ended up doing a weird kind of hand-embrace thing.
“Oh! Uh…sorry, I was trying to hug you,” I said stupidly. “Unless…you want a high five?” Ugh. I should have shut the fuck up.
“We can hug,” he assured me. We gently embraced and said good night. I left feeling like I maybe had a fighting chance to…to what? I didn’t know.
I gave the details to my roommates at the time. They thought it sounded like an awkwardly sweet first date, which made me more hopeful that I hadn’t totally ruined it with all my word vomit. A few days passed. I didn’t hear from him. I grew kind of worried. My roommates suggested I just text him if I wanted to see him again. “But I don’t know if I do!” I protested. Conflicted feelings aside, I was still stuck in this mindset of winning. Winning meant he proactively expressed interest by asking me out again. But he wasn’t doing that. I caved and ended up texting him first.
Me: ‘Hey! Would you like to hang out again sometime?’
Gabriel: ‘Hey. I’m in Pennsylvania visiting family right now. Afterwards I have a business trip and will be out of town again for 1-2 days. Maybe when I get back we can meet up, race each other, and talk about gender again? :)’
I was at a New Year’s party when this texting exchange occurred. Maybe this is dumb, but it was the smiley face that did it for me. He didn’t HAVE to add the smiley face, right? He included an emoticon because he LIKED me, right? So I win! Right?! I showed my friend Elizabeth. “He likes you!” she shouted/confirmed over the loud, pounding music. I texted him back, feeling elated.
Me: ‘Sounds great! Just let me know when you’re back in town and available to hang out. How’s the east coast?’
Gabriel: ‘Good. Talk to you later.’
I was taken aback by him ending the conversation so abruptly. My roommates pointed out that maybe he was just busy and wanted to focus on spending time with family. I conceded to their point and mostly let it go. A few days passed. I didn’t hear from him. A couple of weeks passed. Nothing. He was supposed to have let me know by now, if my estimated timeline of his schedule was right. But all I got was silence.
I agonized over this to my trusty, solid roommates, who patiently said I should just text him. “No!” I was adamant about this. “I told him to text me when he was available. It’s on him to hit me up!”
He could have just forgot, they reasoned. Or maybe he was really busy? “Then that means he wasn’t interested, in which case why did he even bother saying he wanted to hang out?!” I exclaimed in frustration.
“It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to him again if you really want to see him,” one of them said. Except that it would hurt. My pride. And in spite of all my agonizing, I still wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to see him again. I mean, that badly. For the umpteenth time, it was about winning. Why couldn’t anyone understand that? Why wasn’t anyone I talked to as irrational and calculating as I was?
Days turned into weeks turned into months. He never texted me again. I never texted him again. A good while after, I pored over the details of what had unfolded, trying to figure out what happened. I realized it was what didn’t happen that mattered. I should have gotten over my ego and just texted the damn guy. At least I would have had more confirmation that he definitely wasn’t interested, or something.
Whatever, I thought. He was too well-adjusted for me anyway.
tl;dr Boy messages girl, girl and boy meet up at bar, girl spews word vomit, girl and boy take a walk and girl spews more word vomit, girl asks boy to meet up again, boy says yes, girl never hears from boy again