I don’t know if anyone else does this, but sometimes, I’ll picture a room filled with all the people I’ve been on dates with. I try to imagine who would get along, who would size the others up and feel better or worse about themselves, and most importantly, what sort of conversations they would have about me. (Yes, I am realizing as I’m typing this that it’s a full-fledged exercise in narcissism, but bear with me, please.)
SETTING: a low-key bar in downtown Oakland.
“Yeah, I feel you,” Brian agrees. “I wanted to see her again but she didn’t seem to care much, so I ended up dating someone else. Of course that’s when she tried to come back into my life.”
“Yup. Like I said, kind of a bitch,” Todd remarks with a shrug.
Over in the corner, Steven #1 shoots the shit with Rishi over drinks. “She didn’t like me. I’m not sure why.” Steven #1’s brow is furrowed as he sloshes the beer in his glass, all the while shaking his head.
“Wait, who are we talking about?” Rishi asks.
“Learkana, the Asian girl on OKCupid we both met up with on separate occasions,” Steven #1 replies. “And the only reason we’re talking about her is because she’s dictating this completely self-indulgent and imaginary scenario. See? I wouldn’t say any of this stuff in real life.”
“Learkana? Doesn’t ring a bell,” says Rishi with cruel obliviousness. “Gotta go, don’t wanna be late to my anarchist meeting. Catch you later, man. Resist!” He puts up a power fist and strides away.
“She immediately lost interest in me because I didn’t know what rape culture was!” Steven #2 tells Eric. “Which is ridiculous, because most people don’t know what that is. Not knowing what rape culture is didn’t keep me from being a Stanford graduate, so how is it a big deal?”
“Oh, she asked me that too,” Eric replies. “She was kind of like a caricature of a feminist, almost. Anyway, at least she didn’t stand you up! We were supposed to meet up at a bar for our second date but she ditched me and claimed she didn’t see me waiting outside for her.”
“Well, at least you made it to a second date!” Steven #2 argues. “She rejected me an hour after meeting me!”
“Oh, Learkana?” says Jack from behind Steven #2, reaching over the pair for his whiskey. “I liked her politics even if she didn’t know what she was talking about half the time. Wasn’t down to fuck though. Her loss.”
“Did anyone have sex with this girl?” inquires Abed. “Just curious, not actually interested.”
“Honestly, I think she might have been a lesbian who wasn’t out of the closet just yet,” offers Sherlock.
“While I feel very indifferent about Learkana and have been happily married for over a year now, I doth protest at the sexist dialogue currently unfolding,” interjects Colin.
Okay, END SCENE before this starts taking a toll on my self-esteem.
So why have I indulged in weird fantasies like this? I don’t know, probably because I’m pathologically self-conscious to the point where I am always fixated on my self-image and the impression (or lack thereof) I leave on other people–in particular, what impression I leave on strange men I’ve met from the Internet. It was becoming apparent to me that most of the time, I didn’t leave a very good one. I was usually cold and distant, awkward and quiet. I never got to the point where I could be fully comfortable around a guy. By this time (Summer ’15), I had officially been on the online dating scene for 2 years and was still having mild anxiety attacks before each date. I thought dating was supposed to get easier, but that definitely hadn’t been the case.
I decided to take matters into my own hands, which simply meant tweaking my Tinder bio to more accurately reflect my jaded, misanthropic views and introverted lifestyle: Only doing half hour boba dates from now on.
I mean, 30 minutes was sufficient time to make a determination of whether we were interested in each other, right?
I was swiping on random dudes everyday. 90% of the time I swiped left. But on occasion, a guy would catch my eye. Sometimes it was a good picture, other times a witty one-liner, but most of the time, it was at least one really good picture and two really promising ones. A guy I will henceforth refer to as Charlie fit the latter profile. The one really good picture was of him twirling on a lamppost while wearing a dress that showed off his tan, muscled arms. A man of color with sexy limbs AND zero fucks about gender norms? Yes please. I swiped right. We matched. Yay!
I immediately messaged him, complimenting him on his choice of apparel. He warmed up to my flattery.
We moved from Tinder messaging to texting pretty quickly, so things were getting serious. (Just kidding, I’m a ho when it comes to giving out my phone number so it wasn’t a big deal. Speaking of which, there’s probably 10+ fuckboy numbers I still need to delete from my contacts…) Charlie was being really flirty and I was also trying to be really flirty back except when I was making things awkward for no good reason. Below is an example of this:
Also, if you couldn’t infer from the screenshot, I had asked Charlie out. We had already made plans to meet up at Woods Bar & Brewery in downtown Oakland, which was sadly and obviously not a boba place. I think I chose the bar because I didn’t really know of any quality boba places at the time other than my regular spot, and I didn’t want him to ruin my boba spot if things went poorly–which, statistically speaking, they probably would.
I was intrigued by Charlie because he was in some local pop punk band I had never heard of, and musicians were not a demographic I typically went on dates with. I was curious enough to look up his band on YouTube and watch an amateurish music video they had made a while back. Charlie played guitar, and his vocals were pretty decent. He sounded like that dude from Simple Plan, but less annoying. His voice did sound very juvenile though, which was honestly kind of a turnoff. (I have this thing about voices. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I hate my own voice so I compensate by seeking out dudes with voices I deem attractive. Who needs therapy when I can psychoanalyze myself?)
In person, Charlie was attractive. His voice and the way he talked, however, were worse than I thought. He sounded like a whiny white dude-bro. His life story was interesting enough to somewhat make up for this, though. Charlie was raised by a single mother whom he was pretty close to (an understatement, given that he had a tattoo of a heart with the word “MOM” inked in the middle of it on his arm–a stereotype of a tattoo I didn’t know people in real life actually got done). He was stuck doing some job he didn’t give a fuck about while trying to chase his dreams with his band, had worked as a freelance music critic by setting up his own blog and tricking people into thinking he had important things to say, and smoked a lot of pot because it made him more creative and stuff. He seemed to have carefully crafted a casual, cocky demeanor for himself–like, he knew he was pretty awesome, but like, whatever, dude. You know?
It occurred to me more than once that I was on a date with a high school girl’s wet dream. The thing was, I wasn’t in high school anymore, so the more he talked, the more I was conflicted about my interest in him. I looked at my phone to see that the timer I had set was now at the thirty-minute mark. (Yes, I was assholish enough to stand by the half-hour rule specified in my bio.)
“So, did I make the cut?” Charlie inquired. He actually looked a little nervous.
God, I felt like such a douchebag. He had been warned ahead of time, but still. “Yes, we can keep talking,” I told him, feeling my insides twist because I wasn’t sure whether I had said yes because I actually wanted to keep talking to him, or because I didn’t want to follow through with being a total asshole. (Probably a little of both.)
He exhaled in relief. “This bar is pretty cool, by the way. How’d you find out about it?”
“Oh. Uh…the answer’s kind of awkward.” I guess I could have lied, but I’ve always been bad at lying and really good at word vomit. (I blame my mom.)
“What’s awkward?” he asked.
“Well, uh, I know about this place because a different guy I went on a date with Yelped it,” I confessed.
Charlie shrugged, unaffected, and resumed talking.
After we were done with our drinks, we walked around downtown. “You know, I don’t know why you’re on Tinder,” Charlie said at one point. “You’re pretty dope.”
I just giggled and avoided delving too deeply into why I found that statement laughable. Mostly it was him talking and me half-listening. He told me none of his relationships had lasted longer than a month, which was a turnoff to me because it signaled emotional immaturity and assholishness in general on his part. (Well, that’s how my cynical ass interpreted it, anyway.) He also talked about growing up multiracial and how the black girls he went to school with used to make fun of him, which was why he wasn’t really interested in dating black girls. This tirade made me pretty uncomfortable because it reeked of borderline misogynoir to me, but at the same time, I didn’t want to invalidate his experience as a mixed-race black guy, so instead I just shut up and felt really weird.
I suggested we take a walk around Lake Merritt instead. He was down. For whatever reason, I drove us there instead of just walking the half mile or so from downtown. I guess it was because I was feeling some combination of lazy and rushed, and was hoping a change of scenery would set the mood better. By this time, it was pretty dark out. Perfect. The shining lake, the dimly lit pathway, the aesthetically pleasing landscape minus the ubiquitous bird shit…a recipe for romance! Or so I thought. I was still nonsensically clinging to the idea of Lake Merritt as a site for igniting sparks, as a catalyst for chemistry.
Third Fourth Fifth time’s the charm, right?
We walked for a bit along the lake. Charlie kept rambling on, while I was trying to figure out how to be smooth about holding his hand. I realized this was a pointless endeavor when there was nothing smooth about me (I mean figuratively, ok). “Can I see your hand?” I asked instead, very unromantically.
“Just let me see it,” I said impatiently and even less romantically (if that was even possible, because holy shit none of this was romantic).
He extended his hand towards me. I “looked” at it and held it in mine, feeling triumphant.
“Wow, you could have just asked to hold my hand,” said Charlie, rolling his eyes.
A few minutes ticked by. Charlie kept talking, seemingly unaware of how loud and obnoxious his voice sounded against the backdrop of the silent lake and brisk night air. I was trying to pay attention to what he was saying, but was soon overcome with the sinking feeling that my attempt at replicating what I had experienced with Anthony was failing, because holding hands with Charlie sucked balls.
I honestly didn’t even know holding someone’s hand could be so unappealing. His hand felt like it was chafing mine. Also, my arm felt like it was stiffly and awkwardly positioned, rather than dangling free. Was it because his arm was disproportionate to his body? Was my arm disproportionate to my body? Was it a combination of bodily disproportion happening? Was he just a shitty hand-holder? Was that even a thing?
I felt confused and disappointed. Out loud I told Charlie that it was getting late and we should start heading back to my car.
I drove us back to the downtown area, where his car was parked. I had both hands on the steering wheel when he tried to put his hand over my right one. I automatically flinched.
“Oh, sorry. I thought you’d want to hold hands.”
“Not while I’m driving,” I said in what I hope was a lighthearted tone.
I dropped him off and we said our goodbyes. The next day, he texted me, asking me if I wanted to binge watch some show with him. Ugh. That meant going over to his place, and that meant he was planning on having sex with me.
I texted him back, vaguely telling him I wasn’t in the mood to watch that particular show but would maybe be open to watching something else. He never responded. I wondered if he could sense rejection between the words I had sent, or whether I was completely oblivious and really he was the one who had rejected me. For the most part though, I was unbothered by this exchange and devoted my brainpower to fretting over other inconsequential things.
A couple of months passed. In one of my lonely nostalgic spinster moods, I looked Charlie up on Instagram to see what he was up to. A few of his recent pictures featured him and an Asian girl with punk-styled green hair. Ew. I mean, not ew at the girl, but ew at the increased likelihood of this dude having an Asian fetish. (Okay, so maybe I was being paranoid but still, when it comes to the implicit politics of desire…CONSTANT VIGILANCE!) Good thing I never met up with him again, I thought, and proceeded to move on with my life.
A few months after I cyberstalked him, Charlie hit me up on Tinder again.
Hey, are you still on this thing?
Weird. It was rare for me to have someone from my flimsy dating past try to reconnect with me. I decided it couldn’t hurt to respond.
Yup, still on here, unfortunately.
Wanna get a drink with me sometime?
Uh. This is very unexpected. Why’d you stop talking to me last time?
You didn’t seem interested in me, so I went with someone else.
Damn. So guys did know how to read between the lines.
Lol okay. Idk honestly I didn’t think we had chemistry
Well, you’re really hot so I thought I’d take my chances and ask you out again 😉
I was equal parts amused, flattered, and annoyed by this. When did I become a one-dimensional Hot Girl (TM) to cishet dudes? I wondered. Oh, yeah. When I started wearing makeup and became less modest with my clothing choices. Just a year or two ago, I honestly thought my appeal was rooted solely in my quirky personality and sense of humor. (HA. HA. HA.) Experience was now telling me that nah, my personality’s the boner shrinker, just be hot and literally nothing else.
I made a mental note to never call myself shallow again. Dudes were shallow AF, and shamelessly so. At least I had the conscience/social conditioning to be semi-apologetic about my superficiality, jeez.
Anyway, while I was flattered and stuff by Charlie calling me hot, I was fixated on one thing and one thing alone: chemistry. And I definitely didn’t have it with this dude. So I had to tell him it was a no-go.
Lol thanks but I would rather be friends
Okay. My band has a concert in February. Would you come out and kick it with me?
He never wrote back after that, and eventually he either deleted his account or unmatched with me. Guess he read between the lines again.
Damn. He should really teach that skill to other dudes.
tl;dr Learkana reflects on her ghosts of OKCupid past! Learkana learns someone can be shitty at handholding! Learkana is really hot!
Now it’s time for…
RATE THAT DATE VENUE!
Venue: Woods Bar & Brewery
Review: Um yes this place is awesome, mainly because their beers actually taste good. The setup is cool too.