0

Textual Chemistry

This one is for the boys who will remain unnamed
all the boys who thought they’d say hello
exchange a flirtation or two
punctuated by an emoji or three
get my heart high
send my brain into overdrive
parsing for desire from the limits of your characters
a thrill for every l-o-l and haha texted or typed back to me
I’m daydreaming about an idea
derived from a compilation of messages
I’m wondering if you’ve jacked off
to a collage of my words and pictures
imprinted on your mind like some manic pixie dream
until the image shatters with a sentence written too harsh
or a detail pressed for too hard
I bristle at the subtext
you shrug off the accusatory tone
we go back to square one,
only to realize we never left
you’re just another number, another email
I’ve been meaning to delete from my contacts
just another convo, another chat log
already half gone from my memory
we fade and we forget
you move on and I regret
I never saw your face
but your words will always be better.

2

OKBye Story #7: He’s All That

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.

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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.

“Nope, brown.”

“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.

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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.

“Okay.”

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.

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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

0

That terrifying moment

when you are texting some cute guy from Tinder and you accidentally send him an audio recording of a sigh that sounds like you’re moaning when all you’re doing is nonsexually sighing and at the end of it you burst into a Taylor Swift song and once you hear this recording you’re like holy shit I’m going to die of fucking embarrassment except thankfully your phone isn’t getting good reception so it’s still in the middle of sending so you head into the living room where you know you for sure won’t get service and there is your roommate whom you confide in and freak out to and she suggests switching your phone to airplane mode so the recording will fail to send and you’re like oh good idea! and switch your phone to airplane mode and you freak out some more and bother your roommate some more until your phone definitively tells you that the recording has failed to deliver at which point you can breathe normally and resume living life

0

OKBye Story #4: Sleepless in San Francisco

Let’s call this dude…Brian. Brian was your typical OKC dude (or, okay, my typical OKC dude): a white, nerdy tech-bro looking for love in all the wrong algorithms. It’s not like I was specifically looking for this demographic, OKAY. This demographic was looking for ME. I rarely messaged anyone, in spite of all the internalized feminist shame I’ve accumulated from this particular personal reinforcement of gender roles. I just figured, I’m kind of a weird person. An acquired taste, I would say (if it weren’t for the objectifying undertones). People are better off coming to me. That way, they had no one to blame but themselves if things ended badly. Right?

Anyway, back to this Brian dude. He messaged me something that threw me off: “You’re quirky and cute and I wish I could hang out with you and make witty quips but you live so far away :(”

According to OKCupid, we lived about 10 miles away from each other.

“Dude,” I messaged to him, “according to OKC, we live about 10 miles away from each other.” (Or something alone those lines.)

brian1

The geographically challenged statement was soon cleared up when he revealed to me that he was an East Coast transplant. (Yet another characteristic quite common in the tech-bro species.) Having realized we were in neighboring cities that spanned just one bridge rather than several thousand miles of road, he then asked if we could hang out. I responded with a sure, why not or something equally nonchalant. He seemed fairly nice, judging from his profile (which I quickly skimmed), although I wasn’t really digging the beard. But you know…we were a 90something percent! It had to mean SOMETHING, my early-onset jadedness be damned.

I wanted to do something DIFFERENT though. This was back in the day when I naively thought that OKC would be a great way for me to do fun things that my friends wouldn’t want to do with me or couldn’t do with me because life and work and blah or it would just be way more effort than it was worth to coordinate or whatever but the point is, I would do these fun things with random dudes from the Internet instead, not realizing that as a misanthropic introvert, doing boring things with people I know and actually like is way more fun than doing things I like with strangers who are probably boring and who I definitely did not like by default cuz c’mon, they’re strangers, we don’t know each other like that. Anyway, my misguided brain latched onto the idea of ice skating: YES! I’d been meaning to go ice skating again but all of my friends were too afraid of falling on their asses and looking stupid. I, on the other hand, was TOTALLY not afraid of falling on my ass and looking stupid! (Famous last thoughts.) I could TOTALLY go ice skating with this dude, who would totally say yes, cuz he wanted to get into my pants and stuff. So I proposed ice skating and he agreed (duh) and the date was set.

But of course, as the date got closer, I got my usual panic attack, the usual how-the-fuck-am-I-on-an-online-dating-website-and-why-the-fuck-is-this-happening-and-what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-me train of thought that chugs on zigzag tracks riddled with self-doubt and social anxiety. Also he had a BEARD. Dude looked, what, 10 years older than me? Make that 15, because I looked 5 years younger than I actually was, right? Didn’t that mean he was like, a pedophile or something? QUE ASCO. “How old do I look?” I asked my roommates at the time.

“Honestly Learkana, I think you look like a little girl with the way you dress sometimes,” said one.

“I knew it!” My fears were confirmed (and pride slightly wounded), then somewhat mollified when the other two said I looked my age, actually. They wanted to know why I was asking.

“Cuz. I have a date with this one guy and he has a beard and he looks way older and I feel like if we walk around together people are going to think I’m his adopted daughter,” I blurted out.

They all snorted and assured me that it probably would not look like that, but I could not be reassured. On the day of, I was seriously considering cancelling. Like, what was the point? The date was going to be terrible. I just knew it. I was totally over it before it had even begun. But even though I was a fucked up person with these fucked up thoughts, I wanted to pretend like I wasn’t a fucked person with these fucked up thoughts, so on the evening thereof, I drove to downtown, scored some free street parking, and power-walked the few blocks down to the ice center, heart palpitating and etc. Went inside, and there he was sitting in the lobby, waiting for me.

Oh my god.

What.

Dude.

He was HOT.

Possibly Pedophiley Bearded Dude was hot!

I really hoped my face wasn’t expressing my surprise at how attractive he was.

“Hey,” he said, getting up.

“Hey! Sorry I’m late.” I went for the hug, okay, not just because he was hot, but because I felt like I owed him at least that much for being late and secretly hating him for arbitrary reasons.

We went up to the ticket window and he paid for both of us. “You don’t have to pay for me,” I said.

“I’m the one who asked you out,” he said cheerfully as he handed over his credit card.

I decided to shut up then, because hey, it was his money and I was getting laid off from my minimum wage temp job pretty soon.

And off we went. Ice skating. No, it was not romantic. To my horror, I realized he was an exceptionally good ice skater because he had played hockey back east in Minnesota or wherever the hell he was from. My plan for us to bond over sucking at ice skating had totally backfired. Who cares if he was hot? I hated him again. I fell on my ass, like three times. He made motions to try and help me up but each time I stoically waved him off and got up myself, ignoring the throbbing pain coming from my legs and feet.

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My conversation with Brian didn’t seem to be faring all that well, either. As he glided along and I stumbled, he talked about music. Well, more like he talked about all the obscure hipster shit he liked to listen to. He disdainfully referred to Maroon 5 as “McDonald’s music: the kind of music you listen to from time to time, but it’s just not good for you.” I knew better than to bring up my proclivity for mainstream top 40 hits. I decided to change the subject to feminism, something he definitely couldn’t shame me about. “Oh yeah! I’m a feminist,” he said. “I took a women’s studies class back in college.”

I started quizzing him. We ended up arguing for some reason or another. It might have had to do with the fact that he mentioned how weird he thought it was that Bay Area women felt the need to identify themselves as feminists on their profiles (which meant myself included). I asked him why that would be weird, that’s a GOOD thing actually, and things kind-of-but-not-really escalated from there. He was offended by the suggestion in my tone that I was more knowledgeable than him on the topic of feminism. I was offended by the idea that a cis white dude was arguing that he could be a better feminist than me, even if it was hypothetically. Of course it went nowhere and we moved on to another topic.

The alarm sounded at 8:30, signaling the end of the public ice skating session. I hobbled off the ice, took off my skates, and discovered that above each of my ankles was a freshly bleeding jagged line–bloody skinned patches caused by friction and thin socks. Great. The cherry on top of a mortifying date. I slapped on some Band-Aids I got from the attendant and was all set to say goodbye and head out, head hung in shame, when all of a sudden he asked if I wanted to grab drinks with him at a bar nearby.

I was somewhat thrown off by his invitation to hang out further. It didn’t seem like we had much in common. It seemed like we would just argue a lot. Okay, whatever. I said sure. He started Yelping places on his phone. We ended up at a bar about a block away. He got a beer for each of us. He talked a lot, loudly and enthusiastically. I felt myself internally shrinking back from him a little.

NO! I was not going to let him steamroll me with his stupid extroversion. “Are you Jewish?” I blurted out before I could consider the politically incorrect ramifications of the question.

“No. Why?”

“You look like B.J. Novak,” I told him. “You know, the guy from The Office.”

He didn’t know who B.J. Novak was, but it triggered remarks on how girls didn’t find him attractive because he wasn’t super masculine-looking.

“That’s okay,” I said, “I don’t like really masculine guys anyway.”

He grinned. “See, it’s girls like you that make guys like me feel better about ourselves.”

And that was when I started noticing signs that he was actually interested. He complimented me on the dress I was wearing. He talked about the first girl he had met up with through OKC and how he realized he had nothing in common with her, which he pretty much saw coming, since they were only like a 60something percent match–then he mentioned how we had a 90something percent match, which I hadn’t even recalled at the time. (In fact, I hadn’t remembered all that much from his profile. Oops. He didn’t seem to notice or care, though.) He talked about how Reddit had greatly influenced him for the better. I couldn’t help myself, and made some offhanded, derisive remark. which lapsed into an argument over how he probably benefited from Reddit through his white maleness. He admitted defeat however, when I pointed out that the misogynistic and anti-black comments didn’t directly affect him. “And you’re smart,” he said approvingly.

We started talking about past relationships (or lack thereof). He talked about his one ex who, according to him, seemed to have no interest in doing anything except hanging out with him, which he saw as a turnoff. “I had no idea what she did all day,” he said. (The story was funny, so I laughed, although fine, it did seem kind of assholish in retrospect, as pointed out by my friends.)

I told him I had never had a boyfriend, thought that would be the end of that, but then he had to bring up my virginity, which he knew about because I am cringe-inducingly honest when it comes to answering OKC questions. “You know…my first time was when I was 22,” he said. “It was on that road trip I took. This older woman was really sweet with me, and made me feel really comfortable. I think that’s what intimacy is mainly about, making the other person feel comfortable. You should try it sometime.”

“Uh.”

“I said, you should try it sometime,” he repeated a little more loudly and way more awkwardly.

I avoided eye contact and said nothing. My (counterproductive) solution to awkward silence is awkward conversation, so next I asked him why one of his eyes kept randomly blinking. He immediately took offense. “Why would you bring up my twitch? God, now I feel self-conscious about it.”

“Don’t be! I was just asking.”

“Well, you have a lisp.”

I immediately took offense to that. We sat there in sullen silence.

He caved in first. “Well, now I feel bad,” he said, “since I’m having a good time, and you’re not. You can feel free to leave if you want. Sorry for being an ass.”

“I’m having a good time,” I said.

We sat there for a little while longer, until I decided that an acceptable amount of time had passed that would ensure he didn’t think I completely hated him, because I didn’t. He was an interesting dude. (And he was hot. Just sayin’.) I said I had to leave, as it was getting late, and I had work early the next morning, all of which was true. He said okay and walked me to my car (at his insistence, not mine).

“Well, this was fun,” I said, reaching out for a goodbye hug. His face fell.

“What?” I asked.

“I thought since we were having such a good time…that we would kiss,” he said.

Oh my god.

“Uh…I don’t know how to kiss,” I said, echoing the same words of trepidation that had followed the last OKC dude’s makeout request.

“It’s not really about knowing how,” this OKC dude said as gently as possible.

I was really starting to panic. “I mean, but out here? In public? I’ve never kissed in public.” I was suddenly hyperaware that we were in the middle of the street, where anyone could just literally walk by and see us swapping spit.

“Come on, it’ll be an experience.” He smiled at me, which made me freak out even more.

“Um–I don’t know. I feel weird. Am I supposed to close my eyes? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know–”

“You’re being kind of adorable right now,” he said, laughing.

“Uh–do you have any gum?”

“That doesn’t matter. Just…go with it.” He got closer to me, put his hands on my shoulders, closed his eyes, leaned in…I did the same. His beard slightly tickled. The kiss was kind of wet, but not slobbery. I had no idea how long it was. Too long. Was anyone watching us? My eyes flew open and I pulled away. “Okay bye,” I mumbled, my cheeks feeling flushed as I scrambled to unlock my car door and make my getaway as fast as possible.

“Bye,” he said, laughing again and kissing my cheek before I ducked into my car and drove away.

He texted me soon after, apologizing for how “heavy” things got. I texted no worries, it had been “an experience”–omitting whether it had been a good or bad one, because I wasn’t sure myself. Sure he was hot, but was there chemistry? The kiss hadn’t felt like anything much to me, other than being somewhat hairy and damp. (Like a sweaty armpit on a hot summer’s day, if you really wanted to get poetically gross about it.) A few days later, I deactivated my OKCupid account. I had a month left before my temp job would end and I needed to focus on finding other means of employment, not going on sporadic dates with tech bros.

He texted me: ‘Hey, your profile’s gone.’

I texted: ‘Yeah, I think I’m gonna focus on finding a job.’

He texted: ‘I know how rough that can be. Good luck.’

A couple of months passed. Summer became fall, and he became some faint idea tucked away in the back of my mind. I was still interning at the multicultural women’s press in SF, and the summer writing program for writers of color, but had yet to secure a full-time job that would sustain my subpar standard of living in the Bay. My life was teetering over the edge of sustainability, but I still managed to find pleasure in the little things, like going to a poetry reading that failed to capture my attention and pretending that I was actually listening when the friend that I went with gushed about it, then saying goodbye to the friend and spending a good two hours or so trying to find the right bus stop to get back to the 16th St. BART station so I could get the hell out of the city and back to my bed in Oakland. (This weirdly specific example has a purpose, I promise you.)

So I’m making my way down the platform, walking fast, faces past, and I’m homebound, right? That’s really all I was thinking about. Just making my way through the crowd and embodying the spirit of Vanessa Carlton’s one hit song, no big deal. Maybe I had spied a familiar face, but figured I’d be better off not doing an awkward double take. I found a good waiting spot and settled myself. Train would be coming in…

“Learkana?”

The anonymous stranger standing next to me had transformed into Brian, looking at me with uncertainty. Oh shit.

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“Oh. Hi,” I said. This was not happening. What. The Hell. “You remember me?”

“Well, yeah,” he said. I was suddenly and self-consciously aware of the fact that I was wearing the same dress I had worn when we first met each other on our first and only date. How the fuck was this happening?! Shit like this only happened in cheesy rom coms, NOT in real life. Right?

“I’m surprised you said hi,” I said stupidly.

“Were you just going to pretend you hadn’t seen me if I hadn’t said anything?” he asked.

Damn. His blunt knife could still cut. “Um. Well, yeah.” I changed the subject. “How have you been?”

We exchanged the usual awkward un-pleasantries. Thank god his train pulled up. “This is me,” he said. “Are you taking this train too?”

“No.” I responded with the truth. But I probably would have waited for a different train even if it had been the one I needed.

“Okay. Well, it was nice seeing you.” He boarded. Then–he stepped halfway out of the train, looked right at me, and said: “Wanna hang out tonight?”

A simple question loaded with all these presupposed intents, carried over to me in the crowd of people still waiting on the platform, still boarding, still waiting in their seats on the train for the next stop and some of them maybe looking out of their windows and briefly wondering what was happening.

I stared at him, thinking he was crazy, but also that this sadly was one of the most romantic things to ever have happened to me. “Sorry, I have four interviews tomorrow.” Also the truth, but this time both relief and regret washed over me as the answer left my lips and he said, “Oh–OK–” and quickly ducked back into the train without another word. I waited for the Dublin/Pleasanton line, already overanalyzing the moment in at least ten different ways.

When I got home, I texted him something along the lines of: ‘Hey, sorry I couldn’t hang out. If it weren’t for needing employment ASAP, I would have said yes.’

He texted: ‘No worries. It was short notice. Good luck on your interviews!’

I texted: ‘Thanks! We should totally hang out once I land a job.’

I did land a job, but it took a whole ‘nother month and by that time, I was pretty sure that I was the one who was just a faint idea tucked away in the back of his mind. But something told me I should reach out to him anyway (that “something” being my friend Nicole, ahem). So I worked up the nerve to text him: ‘Hey! Got a job. Would you like to hang out sometime?’

He didn’t text me back.

I felt very stupid. And annoyed. Then basically forgot about him.

Until three months later, I received this message out of nowhere: ‘Hey, sorry I never responded to your last message. I was seeing someone at the time and didn’t know what to say. Awkward me.’

My mind launched into a neurotic frenzy, as per usual. Why the apology now? What had caused him to think about me after all these months? Who was this someone? Was she from OKC too? Did things get serious? Did they break up? Whose fault was it? Did I care about any of these things? Did the fact that I was thinking of these things mean that I cared?

I texted something like: ‘Yeah, that was rude of you. But apology accepted. Are you still seeing that person?’

He texted: ‘Not now.’

What did that mean? I kept thinking there was some correlation between him apologizing to me now and what sounded like the ending of some kind of relationship I knew nothing about. He wanted to see me again, right? It was totally implied in the subtext, right? But did I want to see him? I realized I kind of did, but not necessarily on romantic/sexual grounds. That was no longer a possibility for me. In my petty mind, I was nobody’s backup plan. Maybe I should just leave it alone. But something told me I should take a chance (this “something” again being Nicole–damn her).

So I was like, fuck it and texted: ‘Would you like to get a drink? Just as friends. I’ll buy.’

He texted: ‘Sorry, but I think I need time to myself.’

This biiiiiiiiitch. I was civil enough in my reply though: ‘Okay, you do you.’

That’s it. No more exchanges after that, no ‘happily ever after.’ That’s real life for you. I ended up getting a new phone and number, and chose not to save his number to my new contacts list. What was the point? If he really wanted to reconnect, he knew where to find me. Social media had created a socially accepted form of stalking. He could just fucking Google my first name alone and at least 90% of the first page results would pertain to me. He never did reach out to me though. Once I tried to look up his OKC profile but couldn’t remember his username, and the messages we exchanged had been deleted long ago. There was no point in trying to locate him by his generic white dude name, either.  I know I know, why would I look him up if I wasn’t going to contact him? Curiosity, I guess. I still wonder about him from time to time. The thought of him is occasionally triggered by the scar I have above my left ankle from the night we went ice skating. It’s not like I felt that we had any special connection. In fact, I’m willing to bet money it would have never worked out between us. Still, he felt like a missed opportunity in some ways. In some alternative universe, I wouldn’t have been so quick to deactivate my account, or to push him away, and maybe we would have gone on a few more dates before finally calling it quits over the sociocultural disconnect. Or maybe that night at the BART station when he asked to hang out, I would have said yes, fuck it all. (And probably would have gotten laid–super important.)

I guess the main thing that gets me is, he seemed to have genuinely liked me. He saw me as someone he wanted to kiss under the dim glow of the streetlights, someone he was willing to risk getting hit by the automated train doors in order to ask out (okay, not that big a deal, but you know what I mean). It’s just, I don’t know, kind of sad. That he could put that out there while I went ahead and passively watched it shrivel into nothing. He moved on to someone else who did have time for him, while I’m sitting here reflecting on a hundred futile possibilities. Fuck.  This better not be the story of my life.

tl;dr Boy messages girl, girl is like omg a bearded pedo, girl meets up with boy for ice skating and realizes he’s bearded but not a pedo, girl regrets suggesting ice skating, boy asks girl to get drinks at bar, girl and boy bond over being awkward and offensive, girl and boy kiss and girl feels weird, girl chooses job hunting over dating and doesn’t see boy again until they randomly run into each other at a BART station, boy asks girl out, girl says no and kind of regrets it, girl gets a job and asks boy out, girl regrets asking him out because boy doesn’t respond until much much later, girl asks boy out again and regrets it again because boy definitively says no, girl and boy never see each other again

2

OKBye Story #2: Kissing in Cars with Boys

…totally not as romantic as it sounds. In fact, not romantic at all, but we’ll get there.

Anyway.

Not too long after Steven #1 (actually, this was probably happening during the Steven #1 thing–hey, don’t hate the playa, hate the game), I got a message in my inbox that was a perfect mix of witty and blunt:

RandomDude2 Jul 8, 2013 – 5:34pm
Hi. You seem interesting and adorably awkward. What are you up to for the summer?
I’m in [location withheld cuz I’m not a total dick] working for the summer and I still don’t know anyone in the area. I would maybe like to hang out. I’m an asshole but not a douchebag; there’s a subtle difference.

I checked out his profile. An 84% match. Not bad. He was younger than me (just by two years), which I felt slightly weird about even though I had jokingly if problematically referred to myself as a theoretical pedophile several times to friends, due to my always mooning over androgynous young lads but not doing anything about it. His–uh let’s call him…Todd–Todd’s pictures were a mixed bag. He looked really weird to me, but also like he could potentially be attractive. Maybe his skin didn’t look that stretched out over his face in real life. I took a look at the unacceptable answers he gave. Apparently he was even more shallow than me: he considered “no physical attraction” worse than “nothing to talk about” and “overweight” people to be unappealing (okay maybe the former is true, but fuck fat shaming).

Anyway, shallowness (mine and his) aside, he did write me an entertaining message. So it wouldn’t hurt to message him back, right? It’s not like I was looking for my soulmate on this loveforsaken site. (I mean, god, I don’t even believe in soulmates!) If he was a bit assholish, that was fine with me for the time being, so as long as he wasn’t boring. So I did it. I wrote that fat-shaming, self-proclaimed asshole back.

stangrlthecat Jul 8, 2013 – 9:42pm
Hi. You seem cocky and aware of it. Pray tell, what is your interpretation of the difference between an asshole and a douchebag? Imo, an asshole is worse.

RandomDude2 Jul 8, 2013 – 9:57pm
Thanks. A douchebag is like an asshole with a thick coating of bro-iness, backwards hats and generally toolbaginess. Assholes are generally more to-the-point about it. Assholes are also generally aware of their actions, where douchebags will vehemently deny being douchebags. Those are my thoughts at least.

stangrlthecat Jul 8, 2013 – 10:02pm
You know what? You make a fair point. I give you kudos.

todd1

We went back and forth like that for a while. Eventually he point-blank asked:

RandomDude2 Jul 11, 2013 – 12:14am
So what’ll it take to go on a date with you?

To which I responded with,

stangrlthecat Jul 11, 2013 – 11:53pm
Where would we go?


stangrlthecat Jul 12, 2013 – 12:04am
More importantly, what would we do?

He proposed dinner in SF. Mexican at 6. I accepted. It was on.

The day arrived. I wasn’t feeling all that nervous about it–at first. Mostly because I kept telling myself that he was an asshole, so who cares what happened. But you know, there was a part of me–the egotistical, fragile part of me that relies on what other people think and feel to affirm my self-worth–that was determined to WIN, and winning meant that the date went well, and the date going well meant that he liked me and I didn’t like him.

Evil girly games? Damn straight.

I was interning at a small multicultural women’s publishing press in San Francisco at the time, so at five, I walked out of the office with my fellow intern and friend Laura. I had an hour to kill so she kept me company at a nearby cafe–the restaurant I was going to meet Todd at was just a few blocks further down.

That’s when I started kind of panicking. “Oh God.”

“What?”

“I really don’t want to go on this date. Why do I do this to myself?”

“It’ll be fine,” Laura reassured me. After thirty minutes of mutual griping about shitty hetero cis dudes, she had to leave. “Have fun! Text me!” she said as she walked away. Then she was gone. And I was on my own.

Another half hour to kill. Ah, fuck it. I had done it before. I arrived at the date-scene early and ordered for myself–and a soda for him, just to be nice. I texted him that I had arrived. He texted he was on BART and was going to be late. He subtexted that it was a statement of fact and not an apology. I texted okay and subtexted that that was not okay (in spite of actually feeling it was totally okay because I have this weird thing of feeling superior when I’m early and someone else is late probably because I’m usually the one who’s late). He finally texted sorry. I texted that it was okay. And resumed happily eating my tacos alone.

He texted that he had finally made it to the restaurant, which was split into two areas: one for ordering and one for eating. We did the awkward thing where he was trying to find me and I was trying to find him so we ended up not finding each other until I stormed back to where I was eating and saw him. He looked better in person, I shallowly noted. I gave him a big smile and stuck out my hand–I had already decided that hugging was too intimate and hand-shaking, however weird and formal, would suffice. “Hi! I’m Learkana!”

He immediately avoided eye-contact and got all awkward. “Hi, I’m Todd.” I remember thinking it was kind of cute, and empowering for me. I had the upper hand, woo hoo!

“Well I already ate, so I’ll just wait for you here,” I said, sitting back down.

“Oh okay.” He abruptly turned and left to get back in line and order.

When he rejoined me at the table, I offered him the extra can of soda, which he accepted with thanks. I was all bubbliness and good cheer, he was reserved in demeanor but open in conversation. I mentioned I had gotten my degree in English. He said his mother also got a degree in English but decided to go into programming after college, and it was she who taught him how to code, which I thought was really awesome. We talked about online dating, and admitted to being each other’s second. “How was the first girl you met?” I asked.

“She was cool.”

“Are you going to see her again?”

He paused. “Yeah, probably.”

Obligatory moment of awkward silence.

“What about the first guy you met?” he asked.

“Oh, he was cool too. It’s just…I wasn’t really clicking with him. I mean it was fun hanging out with him, but…I don’t know. So I’m probably not going to see him again.” Oh god, did I really just bestow this second random dude a rambling, introspective answer about the first random dude I went on a date with? Wtf is wrong with me. “I don’t know what I want,” I half-assedly concluded.

He looked at me. “What do you want?”

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed. “I mean, that’s why I wrote it in my profile.” I changed the subject, and quickly.

We started talking about hobbies. He went on about how he loved playing bocci, and I was like wtf is that, and he explained it and it was only in retrospect did I realize that I did know what the fuck he was talking about given that I had played it once at a bar in downtown Oakland but at the moment I was just like, is that an uppity white sport? And he accepted that socioeconomic description of one of his favorite pastimes, and also awkwardly mentioned that he came from an upper middle class background, to which I wasn’t sure how to respond because I didn’t really feel it was the best thing to be like, “Oh, cool, I’m from a low-class ghetto-food-stamps-4-life kind of background” and I was definitely not going to be like, “Oh cool, you’re rich!” if that was what he was after, cuz to hell with uppity rich boys, including him.

When he was finished eating his burrito, I asked him if he wanted to walk around outside. He said sure. After the awkward ritual of waiting for the other to be done using the restroom, we set off into the gum-spattered, grimy streets of San Francisco.

Todd was from Washington state and wasn’t very familiar with the Bay Area; I had been here for 4 years but as a geographically challenged hermit, so we walked around very aimlessly for a while. In an attempt to be funny (read: attempt), I pointed to buildings and said obvious things like, “This is the movie theater.” “This is a grocery store.” “This is a cafe.”

He nodded and made affirmative noises, so I felt stupid and annoyed he didn’t seem to have caught on to the fact that I was giving a joke tour.

We talked about some other stuff. I asked about his ethnicity, which sounds really assholish and hypocritical of me, but I was really curious! Also, I was running out of things to talk about. Also, it’s not as bad when it’s a fellow Asian asking, right? “So you should totally feel free to not answer this,” I began, “but I was wondering what exactly your ethnic background is?”

He said he was half white, a quarter Japanese, and a quarter black. “Most people don’t think I look Asian or black, though.”

So most people thought he looked white? “Uh, you look really Asian,” I told him.

He shrugged.

He was going to MIT, and was only here for the summer. I asked him if he had been to any crazy parties at his school. He said yes. “How about you?”

“Oh yeah, we really partied it up at Mills,” I said. “Arts and crafts nights, you know.”

He made another affirmative noise. I wanted to kill him.

“Did you like Mills?” he asked.

“I loved Mills!” I immediately answered. “It’s just that once you go there, everyone’s douchiness increases tenfold. I can barely tolerate anyone anymore!”

Obligatory moment of awkward silence.

“Do you have a high alcohol tolerance?” I wanted to know.

“Not really.”

“Have you ever blacked out?”

“Yeah. At a New Year’s party.”

“What happened?”

“Um. I probably shouldn’t tell you.”

“Tell me!” I demanded. “Did you kill someone?”

“No.” He stopped walking for a moment. “I had sex.”

“What?” I stopped too.

“I had sex,” he repeated. “With my friend’s ex.”

“Um, was your friend cool with it?”

“No. He was pretty mad about it, actually.”

“Oh.” We resumed walking. “Was it consensual?”

“Yeah.”

“How do you know?” I challenged.

“We both woke up and decided to have sex again.”

I busted out laughing really hard at that.

He started talking about the startup he was working at and how it had something to do with ObamaCare, and blah blah blah. I stopped paying attention. I was very aware that we were walking towards the 24th street BART station, and that was all I could focus on–dropping him off and bailing. I mean, I had a fairly good time, but…god! Two hours spent on some random guy was more than enough for me. I didn’t care to be in his company any longer.

We reached the station. “Well, this is your stop,” I said, putting on a smile in an attempt to soften the bitchiness of my words.

“We could hang out a little longer if you want,” he said.

“Sorry, I should probably get home.” Aghhh the goodbye moment. “Do you want a handshake or a hug?” I asked, feeling only slightly stupid as I said it.

He smiled. “A hug.” We hugged and I left…to go to the BART station on 16th street, specifically to avoid taking the train with him.

I didn’t hear from him for about a week, and so assumed within that time frame that he probably wasn’t interested. I had overanalyzed the goodbye moment with friends, most of whom suggested the crazy idea that I just text him and ask him to hang out again to find out for sure. My friends didn’t seem to get that I wanted their opinion on whether he was interested as confirmation that I had won, not as reassurance so I could sum up the courage to ask him out. Did they not realize how manipulative and unsentimental I was (and am)?

So I figured I had lost this round and would move on to the next one, when all of a sudden Todd texted me as I was out and about somewhere, wanting to know if I was free to hang out with him and some of his friends who were in town. The following thoughts ran in my head, in no particular order: I won! He wants his friends to meet me wth weird. I won! Did he purposely wait a week? I won!

I was busy that day–or pretending to be, I don’t really remember. Either way, putting myself in the vulnerable position of being judged by his friends sounded like a really terrible fucking idea, so I made some (possibly legit) excuse and declined.

A couple of days later, Todd texted he was bored and alone at his aunt’s house. I texted throw a party. He texted he didn’t know anyone. I texted invite random strangers. He texted that wouldn’t be a good idea and what are you up to. I texted that I was stuck at my cousin’s, getting my craptastic car fixed. He texted let’s hang out. I texted does your aunt have a pool. He texted no, but she has a trampoline. I texted is that a euphemism. He texted yes the trampoline is my dick. I texted lmfao. He texted seriously though, let’s hang out. I texted ok but it will have to be at night because I’m still in Sonoma right now and also you should pick me up. He texted ok. I texted him (with mild reservations) my address.

He picked me up around ten thirty. Yeah I know, all bad. (Isn’t booty call time 9pm and after?) Anyway, I was aware of the implications of hanging out with a guy, at night, at his current place of residence, all alone just the two of us. But I trusted myself to be a good judge of character, which meant that I trusted him. Indirectly.

Jeez, this is taking forever. Sorry, lemme speed things up.

Got in the fancy ass car. Talked about cats. Got to his aunt’s bougie ass neighborhood and fancy ass house. Observed the framed pictures of his young cousins in the living room and commented on how ethnically ambiguous they looked (he laughed). Jumped with him on the trampoline. Took turns shooting hoops cuz a basketball hoop for some weirdly awesome reason was attached to the trampoline netting. Started getting too cold and awkward. Went inside and played Dance Central on his cousins’ Xbox 360. Had trouble navigating the motion sensor thingy and felt stupid. Motherfucker kept randomly tickling me until he finally got that I DIDN’T LIKE IT, STOP. Flopped on couch with him next to me. Started getting quiet and awkward. Talked about past dating histories (or lack thereof). Motherfucker “joked” that he was into pasty white girls and laughed at my lack thereof dating history.

trampoline

I said I wanted to go home. He did a double take. “Really? But it’s early.”

It was 1am. “I’m tired,” I said.

We got up to go. Before we left, he grabbed me, grinning, and shook me a little, like he was trying to reassure me that he’d still like to get touchy-feely. I was like, uh okay, and wiggled out of his grasp.

We got back in his fancy ass car and he drove me home. By this point I was very much whatever. I had fun, but it wasn’t specifically because of him. I honestly didn’t give a fuck what happened next.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked.

“Uh.” I paused. “We’re being honest with each other, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m going on another date.” Eyes straight ahead.

Double take. “What?”

“Nothing.” Avoiding eye contact.

“What?” Still looking at me.

“Oh nothing, I said nothing.”

Bitch still looking at me. “You’re going on a date…with me?”

I finally looked at him. “No! I’m not that presumptuous. With another guy.”

“Oh.”

Obligatory moment of awkward silence.

“So what are you looking for on OKCupid?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Nothing really. I’m just casually dating. So it’s not like I’m going to have high standards.”

BITCH OK WHAT. “Oh.”

He fumbled. “But I mean, that’s not to say you’re unattractive. Because you’re very attractive. You’ve exceeded my expectations for this site, actually.”

“How would I know you’re not lying?” I demanded.

“Why would I lie?”

“Because you’re an asshole.”

“A truthful asshole,” he corrected. We were almost at my house. Yessss. “I’m the kind of asshole who makes jokes about fat people, but I wouldn’t lie.”

“Why are you a fat shamer when you used to be fat yourself?” I asked. (His childhood chubbiness somehow got brought up in an earlier conversation.)

“Because fat people should just lose weight, like I did,” he said simply. Ugh. Grossgrossgross.

I changed the subject and observed he had a “dad voice.” He became somewhat upset at this. “Oh god, what does that mean? You mean like dad jeans?”

“Dad jeans?” I repeated, distracted. So close to home now. C’mon, c’monnnnn.

“In high school, I wore dad jeans, but no one bothered to tell me until later, when it was too late. Luckily I have a better sense of style now.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, by ‘dad voice’ I mean every time you talk it sounds like you’re lecturing.”

“Oh god.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” I lied.

Todd pulled up to the sidewalk across the street and parked crookedly. I pointed that out too. “Who cares?” he said, and got out of the car. Uh, why was he getting out of the car? I got out as well, as I should have, cuz it was my goddamn house I was going back to, ALONE.

“So…no random makeout session?” He gave me a sly look.

I froze in my tracks. The nerve of this dude! Why I oughtta…”I don’t know how to kiss,” I blurted out.

“I could teach you,” he said.

“You could?”

“Yeah.”

I thought about it. A(nother) kissing lesson?* YOLO. “Okay let’s get back in the car.”

“Back in the–? Okay.”

We ducked back inside his car, stared at each other in the darkness. My heart was haphazardly thwacking itself against my rib cage like a stupid fly crashing into a glass wall. It was the impending act and not really his presence that was causing it, though.

“Okay. First, you chew gum.” Todd gave us both pieces of gum. We silently chewed for a few seconds and spat out the gum.

“Then, we kiss.” He regarded me for another moment, reached his hand behind my head, leaned in and BLAM. Big, sloppy wet kissing. I tried to mimick him and found myself drowning in saliva. AGHHHHH.

I broke away and wiped off my mouth with the back of my hand. “Uh, is it supposed to be this wet?”

“Yeah.” He sounded so sure of himself. I should have known better.

“Okay.” I went in again. Slippery sloppy wetness. AHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG also did he just lick my neck?? UGUGUGUGUGUGUGH

I pulled away again. “Okay. I think I’m done.” I didn’t look at him.

“That was okay,” I said. No it wasn’t. “That was good,” I added. No it wasn’t.

“Okay.” He smiled and laid another wet one on my lips. Ughhhh.

“So, that’s kissing?” I asked, fighting my gag reflex.

“Yep. Chew gum and eat each other’s faces.”

“Uh, okay.” I got out of the car. So did he, although I rather he hadn’t.

He walked me to my door. I fumbled to find my keys.

“Need a light?” He whipped out his phone.

Lucky for me, my housemates’ dogs started barking.

“You should go,” I told him loudly over the ruckus.

“Oh–bye.” And he slunk off into the night.

The ick factor of the whole thing started building up from that moment on. I complained to my roommate. I complained to my housemates. I complained to my other friends. I was practically traumatized, in the most petty and melodramatic sense of the word. I needed French therapy! (Ba dum psh.)

“Ack! Ugh! Eek! I can’t believe I did that!” I cried. “Is kissing that horrible??”

“It sounds like he was just a bad kisser,” said at least 3 of my friends.

I couldn’t face him ever again. The horror! The shame!

A few days later, he texted how was your date (remember I had told him about another date with another dude). I texted not that great (and you will find out why in OKBye Story #3, coming soon to a blog near you!) He texted do you want to hang out. I texted hey I need to focus on finding a job right now so can’t hang, good luck with the upcoming school year! He texted okay thanks.

A month later he texted, how’s the job search going?

…to this day, he wouldn’t know.

(Unless he’s stalked my OKC profile again, or something. Ugh damn social networking)

tl;dr Boy messages girl on online dating website, girl finds him funny and interesting, girl meets boy, girl realizes he’s not that funny or interesting but makes out with him anyway, girl regrets making out with boy, girl never speaks to boy again

*Yes, I had received my first kissing lesson at a summer kickback long before this date, whereby I specifically and neurotically prefaced the makeout sesh with the question, “Will you give me a kissing lesson?” and the dude said, “Yeah,” then proceeded to give me his arbitrary pointers on how to kiss before our mouths went on to attack each other in one-sided glory (hint: I did not experience any glory). Please feel free to side-eye and judge me as much as you’d like.