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OKBye Story #15: The Fault in Our Date

A year ago, I visited New York and fell in love (with the city, not with an actual person, obviously.)

New York was cold and ableist as fuck, but everything there was invigorating and exciting and things were always happening. Save for the freezing ass weather, it really did feel like a second home to me. I didn’t visit New York for the sole purpose of seeing the east coast, though. I went to visit one of my good friends, Shana, whom I had not seen in a long time.

Being the high-strung individual that I am, I demanded we have planning sessions in advance via Skype in order to map out the logistics of what we would do for the one week that I would be there. She complied.  After careful consideration and some half-assed research, we planned to visit at least one art museum, go to Times Square for New Year’s, eat a New York bagel, check out Chinatown, see an off-Broadway play, and…

“You should go on a date in New York!” Shana exclaimed.

I gave a dismissive laugh or something, then moved on to analyze the best building to get to the top of for that incredible view of the New York skyline.

I thought Shana was joking about going on a New York date, but she wasn’t. A couple of days after I arrived at the Big Apple, she brought it up again.

“Ugh, okay whatever,” I said, and changed the location of my OKCupid account to New York. Within the span of 24 hours, I had received 5-6 messages from a flock of horny East Coast dudes who were drawn to my self-deprecating, cynical slacktivist OKC profile. I skimmed through their messages, most of which were unappealing. But there was one that caught my attention:

RandomDude15 I’m jaded, but I still believe gender and sexuality are constructed, and fuck the police 24/7. Wanna kick it?

This response impressively managed to be informative, succinct, and straightforward all at once, which I greatly appreciated. I showed Shana, who weirdly oscillated between gushing excitement for me and extreme annoyance. “OH MY GOD! This isn’t fair! You’ve been in New York for like two days and you get a guy who actually sounds cool!” She went on to look at his pictures. “AND he’s hot! I hate you! I hate you! Oh my god, you have to meet up with him! And write my OKC profile for me! Oh my god!”

I looked at…uh, Jack’s profile. He was 29 years old and a 90-something percent match. And he was white. He had all the trappings of the kind of guy I was trying to avoid. He was hot though, in a douchey sort of way. I felt a weird mixture of flattery, irritation, intrigue, skepticism, and insecurity at the thought of a conventionally handsome grown man taking an interest in me, a scrawny and rather androgynous-looking 23-year-old Asian chick (still sporting the glasses-and-no-makeup look at the time, plus a super short haircut that was a former pixie awkwardly growing into a bob). “I don’t know…”

jack1

Shana was having a fit. No seriously. She was crying and laughing so hard that our fellow subway passengers were glancing our way. “I’m…I’m flustered,” she gasped out as she wiped away tears of…I don’t know what. (We’ve had many moments together like this, whether it was just one of us or both of us in hysterics, moments I consider to be the highest mark of friendship.)

“Meet up with him!” Shana kept insisting.

I thought about it. What was the point? I was only visiting New York for a week. I would never see this dude again. But then it dawned on me: maybe that was exactly the point. It’s not like I had seen any of the other guys ever again, and they had been local to me. The one-date deal was something I should totally be used to by now. So what could it hurt, having a New York date? It sounded like something a spontaneous and optimistic individual would do, and didn’t I want to pretend to be a spontaneous and optimistic individual?

But what would we do? What activity could we possibly undertake that would be so awesome and kickass that it wouldn’t matter if this guy wasn’t awesome and kickass?

That’s when it hit me.

CrumpleHSnorkack Let’s do karaoke
Sent from the OkCupid app Dec 30, 2014

RandomDude15 lol what
Sent from the OkCupid app Dec 30, 2014

RandomDude15 How’d you know I love karaoke
Sent from the OkCupid app Dec 30, 2014

RandomDude15 Are you free tonight? I just got flaked on by a Tinder date 😀
Sent from the OkCupid app Dec 30, 2014

Tonight?! I was thrown off by his genuine spontaneity. (And his blunt admission of trying to hook up with other girls and failing at it, thereby making me his Plan B. In any other instance I would have been turned off, but given the circumstances, I let it pass.)

“He wants to meet up tonight,” I said to Shana, horrified. We were on the subway, having just gotten back from viewing the Statue of Liberty via ferry.

“Ask him if he’s free tomorrow for New Year’s,” Shana suggested. “Maybe he can party with us after midnight.”

He wasn’t free tomorrow.

Goddamnit. So it was now or never. I looked down at my outfit. I was actually being a sensible person for once and had dressed for comfort, not style, which meant a baggy sweater, heavy jacket, jeans, and a pair of childish-looking furry boots. I did not look like date-with-a-29-year-old material. Ugh.

“Could we take the train back to your place so I can change?” I asked hopefully.

Shana shook her head. “It would take too long. We’d miss out on Chinatown and Little Italy.”

I sighed.

Quit being so fixated on your appearance, a voice in my head criticized. Who the hell cares if you’re not dressed up? It’s this dude’s fault for being all spontaneous and last minute and shit. If he wanted you to look good he should have asked you in advance. Also, you are definitely never going to see him again, so dressing to impress is pretty pointless when you guys don’t have a future together. Stop being insecure and superficial, your internalized racism/sexism is showing and I think you–

OK SHUT UP LEARKANA I GOT IT.

So with my zero-fucks-given attitude and Shana as my unwanted cheerleader, I made late night plans to do karaoke with Jack at some lounge Shana had recommended. I wondered if I was going to regret this. I usually did. It’s not about him, I reminded myself. It’s about karaoke. Which was totally going to be awesome.

Although I understood that there was no future with Jack, I still wanted to look somewhat presentable. The headband I had been wearing all day had given me a really bad case of headband hair, which can happen if your hair is as thin and oil-prone as mine.  So when Shana and I ended up at a crowded Chinese restaurant for dinner, I excused myself to use the single stall bathroom, where I immediately began splashing my face and my hair with water. Then, using a travel size brush I had purchased at the convenience store, I attempted to smooth out my wet strands of hair while drying myself off with paper towels.

jack3

This was a rather long process. There was a lot of knocking at the door. Whoever was waiting to use the bathroom was getting really impatient. Ok, ok. I opened the door. The middle-aged Asian man waiting outside found himself staring at an awkwardly smiling, soaking wet prepubescent Asian Daniel Radcliffe who skirted around him to make her way back to the table where her friend was sitting and probably still sulking over the fact that the waiter had given her the “white people” menu.

“Wow, you look like you just showered,” Shana commented.

Success!

-:-

“So, I’ll text you when I’m done?” I asked.

Shana and I were just outside the karaoke lounge, saying our goodbyes-for-now. I suddenly felt awful and antifeminist for leaving her just so I could meet up with some dude. I briefly considered having her be the third wheel, like she had requested of me all those times back in college. Nah, that would be way more awkward. Anyway, this was all Shana’s idea and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be hanging out with this guy for very long.

Shana nodded. “Let me know how it goes!” We then parted ways: she to a random bar, and me up the stairs and into the lounge.

I requested one of the smaller rooms to rent and found myself sitting alone in the semi-darkness. Jack had texted that he was going to be a little late and I didn’t care. Not with a mic, sound system, and thousands of instrumental songs at my disposal.

What should I sing? I went with the obvious choice and tried doing “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. “New Yoooooooooork….yeah, uh huh uh huh uh huh…” God, I sounded terrible. I couldn’t imitate Jay Z’s rap style or hit Alicia Keys’ high notes. Oh well. At least no one was around to witness my fail. Halfway through the song I gave up. That was when Jack showed up.

He was a little bit different from what I expected. Somewhat shorter. Bigger head. A strong accent that was the opposite of sexy. (I wasn’t sure what it was. It sounded like the stereotypical Jersey accent my 8th grade history teacher would put on for cheap laughs.) He was still handsome enough to make me nervous, though. (Picture a less hot version of Adam Levine.)

Jack gave me a hug. “Already getting started?”

“Yeah….I’m gonna do a different song.” I grabbed the…um, karaoke controller to input a favorite, “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj. I’ve done this song a hundred times by now, and it’s consistently been a hit with people, probably because seeing a scrawny Asian girl rapping, “Yes you get slapped if you lookin’ ho” provides some pleasantly surprising entertainment.

Jack was fairly impressed. “Nice.”

“Thanks. What are you thinking of singing?” I asked.

He began rattling off the names of rap songs and artists that I had never heard of in my life. Must be the age difference. I politely smiled and nodded in response. 

We took turns performing. He was actually a pretty good rapper himself. I strained my ears and tried to catch him slipping up and saying the ‘N’ word, but from what I could gather, the slur never left his lips. Okay good.

While Jack kept doing obscure rap music, I kept singing really cheesy pop songs. At some point I became acutely aware of the overtly sexual lyrics of all my song choices. God. Why hadn’t I noticed how sexual they were before? I wondered as I self-consciously sang “Closer” by Tegan and Sara:

All you think of lately is getting underneath me
All I dream of lately is how to get you underneath me…”

Fuck, does he think I’m singing to him? That I picked this song to not-so-subtly let him know that I wanted him underneath me, when in reality I was leaning towards the side of “nope, definitely not”? (His bad breath was cancelling out his fairly good looks.) It’s just a song though! Right?! I was afraid to look at him, and instead kept my eyes trained on the screen.

jack5

I suggested we switch things up and do a song together. He was game. We did an enthusiastic rendition of a Backstreet Boys song. (Probably “I Want It That Way.”) I was totally down to sing 90s pop music all night, but Jack for whatever reason wanted to take a break and have an actual conversation so he could get to know me, or whatever.

I told him I hailed from California and was only visiting New York for the holidays. He seemed to take that news pretty well. He told me there was a small Southeast Asian community in the Bronx, which he knew about because of the immigrant rights group he organized with.

Okay, you’re probably gonna judge me for this next part. I wasn’t totally clear on what he meant by “organize.” (I don’t know all the functions involved with social justice work, okay–I’m just a slacktivist! Leave me alone!)

“What do you mean you’re an ‘organizer’?” I asked.

“You know, I help out with the cause,” he replied very vaguely and unhelpfully.

“Well…what do you organize?”

“Whatever needs to be done. Like putting on events, or promoting stuff.”

“Oh.”

The next half hour or so was spent discussing white privilege. “My people are treacherous,” he kept saying, which I found kind of funny because it brought to mind a mental picture of white people as pirates saying “Arghh!” which, I mean, is probably also historically accurate.

“How do you be an ally without letting your white guilt get in the way?” I inquired.

“I don’t have any guilt,” he answered.

“Do you think it’s racist when white people prefer dating other white people? I had this argument with some other white guy. I think it’s racist.”

“Nah,” he said, annoying me. “If you grow up in an all white community, of course you’re gonna have a preference for white people.”

“But–that’s racist!” I spluttered.

“It’s not something you can control, your dating preference. I have a friend who also does social justice organizing. Said he could never be with anyone other than a white girl. That’s just what he grew up with. What he’s used to. What’s he gonna do, try to find himself a black girl to prove he’s not racist?”

“Hmm.” Jack’s argument was kind of convincing me to see the point that Colin had been trying to make (See OKBye Story #13: When Awkward Met Awkward). In the moment, anyway. I now still think it’s racist to have a racial dating preference, especially if you’re white (exception includes any person of color trying to preserve their cultural heritage).   Race is a social construct, people! No race of people looks one type of way or acts a certain way. No racial group is a monolith, no matter what white people would like you to think. If you find yourself falling for the same race over and over again without consideration of anyone else you better think long and hard about why that is. Just because you can’t really control your racial bias doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. I’m just saying, fall in love with people without bringing your fucked up preconceived ideas of who they are, and what others are not, into it.

Anyway, it was getting kinda late and I didn’t want to be charged for yet another hour for the room if we weren’t going to be singing, so I suggested we head out. We ended up splitting the bill, which was cool. As we left the lounge, I started feeling nervous. As I’ve said before, I think the goodbye is the worst part of any date.

“So…I have to meet up with a friend…” Ugh. It sounded like I was lying, which I was not. Shana was waiting for me who-knows-where and I had to return to her to mitigate the irrational guilt I was feeling. “Where are you headed?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll figure it out.”

“It was nice meeting you,” I said. We were at the curb. I was hoping he would just go away.

“Yeah.” Jack grinned and walked the other way.

Whew. I texted Shana, asking where she was. As I was waiting for her to respond, I saw that Jack was coming back my way again. Goddamnit, the awkward see-you-again-even-though-we-already-said-bye scenario.

jack7

I put on a smile as he got closer.

“Went the wrong way?” I said lightly.

He laughed, then gave me a hug. Like, a forreal hug. He even buried his face into my shoulder. I held still, feeling somewhat weirded out. Then he was gone.

-:-

A few days later, Shana and I were planning an impromptu hotel party/fake wedding to celebrate our homosocial love. I invited 5 different OKCupid dudes in the area who had messaged me and didn’t seem like serial killers, because the more the merrier, right? One of them being Jack. He said he had gotten sick but would try to make it.

On the day of the party, we had a text exchange that went something like this:

Me: Hey are you still down to come to our party? It’s at 7.

Him: Can’t. Too sick. Coughing up phlegm

Me: Ew. Okay well, hope you feel better. It was really nice meeting you! You’re a pretty cool guy.

Him: I thought you didn’t like me lol

Me: Lol I just come off like a bitch when I don’t know people. Didn’t you read my profile?

Him: Thought you were joking. You were a 90 something match and the girls I match up with at 90 have radical politics and are DTF

Wait, WHAT?

DTF? As in Down To Fuck? Was he trying to say he thought I was down to fuck?

Me: Hahaha uh well I don’t think we’d be sexually compatible anyway

Him: Yeah sure lol

Wait a minute.

Was it possible that I could have actually gotten laid that night, had I quit with the resting bitchvibe and had he popped a mint?

Oh, well. I wouldn’t want my first time to be with some smug Adam Levine lookalike I would never see again anyway. Maybe for my fourth or fifth time (provided he brush his teeth), but definitely not my first.

Yeah that’s right, I said my first time.

If you don’t know me very well (or haven’t been keeping up with my blog), you might be gasping: Learkana, you were a 23-year-old virgin at this point in time? 

Oh, shut up.

The party was a blast (except for the part when it ended early because the hotel threatened to call the cops–not that exciting of a story), New York was a blast, and no, I didn’t get laid or fall in love with a tall, dark, and handsome New Yorker. However, I did end up crushing really hard on the short, dark, and handsome Californian I had already scheduled a date with the night after I got back from New York–which is another story for another time.

tl;dr New Yorker boy messages Californian girl who is just visiting, girl and boy meet up to sing karaoke and talk about white privilege, girl is cold and detached as defense mechanism against boy’s good looks and age, girl and boy never see or hear from each other again

2

OKBye Story #12: Bitch in Berkeley

My retelling of previous OKCupid dates might make it sound like I was done with white boys. But I wasn’t done with them just yet.

What’s with this fixation on white boys anyway, you might be wondering. Well, living in a white supremacist world helps a lot, quite frankly.

And to be further honest, I don’t think I cared for white boys much until I got to high school. Probably because I didn’t see very many of them. Once I was a teenager, however, those messages from the media about eurocentric beauty standards started sinking in, reinforced by seeing a plethora of cute white boys at my school. It was ugly and awful internalized racism, of course, but it didn’t really register as such at the time. Ironically, white boys were a foreign species to me. Except for my next door neighbors, I knew little of the ways of my white male peers, except for what I saw on TV. So perhaps that was the appeal for me: a nice and wholesome, good looking white boy whom I could project all my heteronormative, vanilla fantasies onto. (I know, I make myself want to vomit.)

Online dating had unfortunately become an entry point into better understanding the white male as an identity, an identity deeply entrenched in privilege and entitlement. The more I interacted with white dudes, the more I wondered why I was interacting with them to begin with. I guess I didn’t want to come off as “racist.” (Social Justice 101: you cannot be racist against a people who benefit from structural racism, aka white people.) But if a guy was cute, kind, sociopolitically aware, laughed at my jokes and just so happened to be white, would I really hold his race against him?

Well, no, I grudgingly admitted. I just had to really make sure that this elusive white boy was actually sociopolitically aware though.

Which was why when a seemingly cute, kind, sociopolitically aware white boy messaged me, I decided to respond.

connor1

Our conversation went exactly like this:

RandomDude12 Hey, just wanted to say that I found your profile entertaining to read. What do you find fun about writing an OKC profile? Most people seem to hate it. Sent 9/13/2014

CrumpleHSnorkack I think the fun is in being able to create an impression of myself that isn’t totally restricted by standard social norms. I’ve noticed other people (friends included) who treat their profiles like a resume and write to impress, but who am I trying to impress on here, really? I figure if I’m going to go on and on about myself I might as well try to make it kind of entertaining, even if I’m the only one being entertained.

Also I’m a writer and a social media narcissist so the OKC profile is both a good exercise in character development and an excuse to talk about myself without actually talking to anyone about myself.

Do you hate it? Sent from the OkCupid app  9/14/2014

RandomDude12 I don’t hate it. It stresses me out, but it’s an interesting challenge. I tend to post very little on social media, but since OKC doesn’t really work that way, it gives me an opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and try to differentiate myself from the hordes of other users. It’s a balance, I suppose, of writing to impress (shameful, I know), and trying to express the unfiltered me.

I find exchanging messages to be trickier, since I’m not only attempting to express myself, but also trying to emulate conversation in the absence of social cues. So to follow up on that, would you be interested in meeting up and continuing this conversation over coffee, maybe this Thursday? Sent 9/14/2014

CrumpleHSnorkack Okay maybe I’m interpreting your invitation too literally, but I don’t drink coffee lol. How bout drinks Sent from the OkCupid app  9/14/2014

RandomDude12 Sounds good! I’m less familiar with drink places in Oakland, how does Jupiter in Berkeley sound? Say at 6:00? Sent 9/14/2014

CrumpleHSnorkack Okie dokie. See you then! Sent from the OkCupid app  9/15/2014

RandomDude12 Cool, see you Thursday! I’m Connor*, by the way. Sent 9/15/2014
CrumpleHSnorkack Cool, I’m Learkana. Sent 9/15/2014

*name changed to hide true identity of generic white guy you are unlikely to successfully cyberstalk even if I had revealed his actual name, which is only slightly less generic than “Connor”–presuming you would even care to cyberstalk him, which you probably don’t, so whatever idk

I headed over straight after work. I ended up being kind of late because traffic was a bitch, trying to find parking was a bitch, and trying to find the damn pub was also a bitch (ugh, fuck Berkeley). Connor seemed pretty nonchalant about it however. In person, he was pretty cute. His voice was a little too squeaky, I noted. (I have this thing about voices. Don’t ask.) We briefly hugged, sat down at the table he had secured for us, ordered our drinks, and commenced with the awkward small talk.

God, what did we talk about? I think we went all over the place. We talked about all the boring stuff: work, family, school, interests. The more alcohol that went in me, the more I was willing to say whatever the fuck came to my mind.

“I really hate awkward pauses,” I told him. “Don’t you hate having pauses in the conversation?”

“I don’t mind them,” Connor said.

“Oh. Well, I just think they’re really awkward.” Thus making it all the more awkward, of course.

I wish I could blame it all on the alcohol, but all I had was a hard cider.

“So…can you define what rape culture is?” I asked. This had been my go-to first date question for a while now. A very straightforward approach to screening dating candidates. A method by which I have separated the decent guys from the rest. A litmus test for sociopolitical awareness and feminism (or a lack thereof).

Which was why I was completely thrown off when Connor pursed his lips and said, “I would rather not.”

“Wait, what?” I said. “Are you serious?”

“I don’t want to talk about rape culture,” he replied.

“But…why?” My mind was spinning. Obviously it’s an awkward subject to bring up on a first date, but it’s totally relevant! And if a guy knows what rape culture is, he’s less likely to be a thoughtless perpetrator of it, right? And if he was a feminist, he would totally be down to talk about it, right? Right??

“I just don’t want to,” he insisted.

I dropped the subject. For now.

We finished our drinks and a waiter came by with the check.

“Wanna split it?” I asked.

He said sure. He put down his card. I pulled out all the cash I had, but was short a couple of bucks. That was when I started counting out change for him.

“You don’t need to do that,” Connor said. “It’s fine.”

Still, I kept pulling out more change from my wallet. For some reason I was fixated on paying him the exact amount I owed him. It took a few minutes of him watching me helplessly as I very meticulously counted out pennies and dimes and nickels before I realized that I was being weird and should stop, immediately. “Uh. I’ll buy you a drink next time if you want,” I said.

He agreed to that. I got up. “I need to use the bathroom,” I announced. “Um. Feel free to leave if you want, I promise I won’t get offended.” Oh my God what the hell was I saying. Truth be told, I was kind of freaking out because this date seemed to be going terribly and I wanted to give him an exit if he needed one.

So I went to the bathroom, came out and couldn’t find him. Oh shit, he really did leave me, I thought. But then I spotted him waiting just outside the venue. Whew.

He asked if I wanted to take a walk and I said sure. We wandered through the streets of downtown Berkeley, talking about dating and relationships. Things quickly went downhill from there–figuratively speaking.connor2

I started ranting about how awful online dating was, and how I would go on dates with guys, make awkward small talk, then never see them again. All my pent up frustrations with being a heteronormative intersectional feminist came pouring out. I told him I was too awkward and neurotic and blunt to be doing this, then apologized for doing this while being awkward and neurotic and blunt. Nothing I said was charming, sweet, or alluring. Everything that came out of my mouth was enough to shrink the boners of the most sexually deviant and easily aroused men, and ward off any guy with even the slightest propensity for romance: just 100% unfiltered, self-sabotaging word vomit.

Connor kept reassuring me that he was having a good time, though, and that he was happy I was being perfectly honest with him. I was not convinced.

“You’re very interesting,” he said.

“Well thank you,” I said, somewhat gratified. “But it’s probably because I’m slightly inebriated right now. Although you did think my profile was interesting and I was sober when I wrote that, so actually I guess I am interesting without alcohol, so thanks.”

I started running out of things to say, so I brought up the subject of rape culture again. “Would you be okay with defining rape culture now?” I asked.

He didn’t seem upset that I asked again, and did a decent job of defining it (uh, don’t remember the decent definition he provided, but I would have definitely remembered if it was shitty).

After walking up and down and around several blocks for the umpteenth time, I offered to walk Connor to his car. On our way there, a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk looked up at us and remarked, “Cute couple.”

Awkwarddddd.

We ended the night with the lighthearted conversation topic of racism (he talked about racist microaggressions experienced by a friend of his). We finally reached the parking garage where his car was. Again, a brief hug. No sparks. My bitter feminist monologue had ensured there was nothing to ignite. Then I walked away as fast as I could before realizing oh fuck I don’t remember where I parked my car fuckkkk.

By the time I got home, it was late and I had already revisited the night a hundred times in my head. Every time I thought back to all the things I said to Connor, I cringed and groaned and facepalmed and probably smacked myself a few times as a reflex. But there was nothing I could do now.

Except apologize, specifically for nagging him about rape culture when he had explicitly stated he didn’t want to talk about it to begin with.

So the next day, I wrote him the following message:

Hey! I just want to apologize for being so pushy about talking about rape culture when you were clearly uncomfortable with it. I can be a pushy person in general but that’s no excuse. I usually bring up the topic as a way of screening out dudes who are ignorant/apathetic/disinterested in feminist issues, but I guess I’ve never really thought about other reasons why someone wouldn’t want to discuss it (aside from general awkwardness). So yeah, sorry for being a jackass.

To my relief, he responded soon after:

Hey, I totally get that if there’s a dealbreaker issue, you’d want to know as soon as possible. Honestly, I found it refreshing to have a completely honest conversation with someone, it made me happy. So you shouldn’t focus on the negative (says the eternal optimist).

Evidently our conversation didn’t make him that happy, because I never heard from him again.

Not that I was surprised or anything.

This may have been one of the worst dates I’ve been on. And the worst part of it is, ~I~ was the reason it was one of the worst dates I’ve been on. I wondered if Connor had secretly thought the same thing.

Then I wondered, is it possible to be even worse at dating than you were to begin with?

tl;dr Boy messages girl, girl and boy meet for drinks, girl word vomits all over boy, girl and boy never see each other again

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