The Nondating Life

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Part Sixteen: A lot of Nerve

(Previous Post)

A recent Friday night found me meeting friends at Iggy's Keltic Lounge on the Lower East Side. They'd given me the name and the location and I thought nothing of it. Maybe I'd been there before, maybe not. I don't typically bother remembering names of bars in Manhattan unless I really like a place.

But as I stepped out of the cab and looked up at Iggy's, I remembered. Oh, yes. I'd been there before. Not for long, but I'd been there before. In fact, Iggy's was the location of my very first date arranged through the wonderful world of online dating.

You've all heard of online dating, of course, the service that, in major urban areas at any rate, made personal ads acceptable again. Acceptable? Hell, for a while, sites like Nerve.com, Match.com, Lavalife and others made personal ads downright cool. Out were the days of lying about yourself through the use of random letters. SWMWASLOMAVLT ISO WWSY (Single white man with a shit load of money and very long tongue in search of woman who'll say yes). Thanks to sites like these, you can lie much more specifically about height, income, weight, hobbies, pet peeves, and more. Hell, you can create a completely different persona. And, best of all, people can post photos, so you know, at the very least, that when you do finally move beyond the flurry of witty emails, the person who'll show up at the bar will not be an albino dwarf.

If I'm not mistaken, the night of which I will speak was three or so years ago. I was still controlled by the vision of myself as Ken Wheaton:Band Geek. I had yet to realize the potential of a 30-something guy with a job, most of his hair and most of his original teeth in a city of so, so many drunk women. Ken Wheaton:American Badass had not yet been born and I was having problems meeting women, didn't know quite how to go about it, thought there was some great mystery or science. Flipping through an online catalog and picking women seemed like an excellent solution to the problem.

So I settled on the personals site being advertised on Modern Humorist at the time. As anyone who's used these things should have realized by now, the Modern Humorist personals, The Onion personals, a whole host of other personals tie into the same Nerve.com database, run by the fine folks at Spring Street Networks. I filled out the profile. I snapped a photo. Posted the thing.

Then I waited a few months while nothing happened. Even online I was overly passive. I was waiting for someone to contact me. But that wasn't happening. So I swapped photos and received a few winks, nudges or whatever the hell they're called these days. But nothing that piqued my interest. Yes, friends, beggars can be choosers.

Still nothing. So I got myself good and drunk. Even online I needed false courage. But you do need a few drinks before you do the online equivalent of walking into a room of complete strangers, going up to one lady at a time, tapping her on the shoulder and saying "Please. Please, for the love of God, will you talk to me."

I sent out quite a few emails that night. During the process, perhaps to prove to myself that I was the kind of guy not to judge a book only on its cover, I clicked on the profile of a girl who had a blurry photo taken from a distance. (Granted, she looked cute from a blurry distance). The profile seemed cool, so I said what the hell and fired off an email.

And, lo, she responded. A brief email flirtation was followed by some phone time. I hate the phone, but I do need to know what a person is going to sound like. Weird voices and overly annoying laughs are deal breakers. The girl had a pleasant voice, an almost soothing presence on the phone.

Eventually, we decided to meet.

We decided on a Friday night, which perhaps wasn't the smartest thing in the world for me. Friday's the worst day of the week at work. And, as hinted at previously, I get nuclear-powered first-date jitters and this was, basically, my first date in forever. I think it was perhaps my second or third "real" date (discounting the weird world you fall into in college and grad school). Not the best combination.

Friday rolled around and I found myself in a high state of agitation, snappish, unwilling and unable to eat (the surest way to prevent a scene from South Park was to not have any food in the stomach to throw up). I called her from work and she said she was on Houston Street. We'd go somewhere on the Lower East Side, but I could meet her in a deli on Houston.

I should have found that odd, I guess. But I was too nervous to give too much thought to the fact that a girl was suggesting that I meet her under the glaring lights of a dirty little deli on Houston Street. The cab ride took, literally, forever, the Friday night traffic on Second Avenue conspiring to drive me insane with panic and anxiety. This could be the girl of my dreams. This could be my future bride. This could be the next woman to give me head. She could be the next woman to reach deep, deep into my chest, massage my heart gently, lulling it into a false sense of security immediately prior to ripping it out and playing hackey sack with it for five minutes before kicking it into the East River.

I rolled down the window, tried to gulp down some air.

I exited the cab and started walking down Houston street, up to the deli, telling myself to remember to breathe and to remember not to puke. It was what you'd expect from a Houston Street deli. An unclean, well-lighted place. There were two women sitting in the joint. One was smoking hot ... and Chinese.

The other. Well, she wasn't an albino dwarf but she wasn't what I was expecting either. Not hardly. She was facing away from the door and eating a muffin while reading some sort of women's magazine. I walked down to the corner, thinking seriously about bailing. Yes. I'm shallow, a horrible human being and I knew this wouldn't progress beyond tonight, so why get overly embroiled in something from which I'll just have to extract myself at the end of the night?

I turned around and walked back to the deli. I try to be decent (sometimes) and I know how heart-broken I'd be if I was stood up. I also felt that ditching would just invite a world of bad karma (you know, because since that night, I've had nothing but the best of luck in dating). I walked into the deli, said hi and sat down.

And things sort of went downhill from there. She wouldn't make eye contact with me. Weirder still, she now had a lisp. How one manages to hide a lisp through three or four hours of phone conversations will forever remain a mystery to me, but there it was. So we stumbled over our words while she picked at her muffin.

"You want to get a drink," she finally offered.

"Oh dear lord, yes," I managed not to shout out. "Sure," I said. "That sounds good."

And there we found ourselves at Iggy's Keltic Lounge. We snagged seats at the window and I offered to go up to the bar.

"What are you drinking?"

"Captain Morgan and lime juice."

"Say what?" I managed not to say and then headed up to the bar. "Double Jack on the Rocks and a Captain Morgan and lime juice."

"Say what?" the bartender said.

"Hey, I'm just ordering it, I'm not drinking it," I should have said. "It's not mine," I actually did say.

So there we sat, sipping our drinks, making small talk. By this point, I'd shaken the nerves and was treating the entire night as practice. I needed to learn how to date. I would show this girl a good time. I would manage to have a good time. I tried very hard not to think about how this would all end, about the possibility that she might become smitten with me and I'd have to figure out a way to let her down without coming off as a complete jerk. She was nice, if too mousy and shy and mumbly. If nothing else, I'd have yet another friend out of this.

"Well, I have to wake up early tomorrow so I should go," she said.

I blinked. My jaw probably dropped.

She was actually looking at her watch.

"Uh. Okay. Sure," I think I said. I was frozen.

On the one hand, I was being given a gift. I didn't have to ditch her. I didn't have to be the bad guy. There would be no tears, no stalking, no "Why don't you love me, Ken?"

But on the other hand, I was being ditched. Me. And by someone I'd sort of slapped into a category of "Not quite up to USDA standards." This couldn't be happening, could it.

We exited the bar, split up at the corner with empty promises to call one another. It was 10:30. I called up my usual Friday night company at that stage in my life, a married couple of friends from Louisiana.

"What are yall doing?"

"We're going for drinks at Two Boots. Hey, when's your date?"

"It's over."

"What?!" Much laughter. Then he told his wife. Much more laughter.

"Yeah, I'm gonna come meet you guys."

"Great."

And so would begin my new life as a constant source of entertainment for my married friends. Ken in the City. Because I would provide a constant and steady source. Because I would, from time to time, get frustrated with attempts at bar hookups and go back to the online personal--sometimes with decent results. One girl, I dated for about a month. And then, of course, came the infamous M.

Some of the others? Not so good. But nothing so far to scare me off of online dating forever. I might not use the services of Nerve.com so much anymore and I haven't yet reached the point where I'm going to fill out the 100-page colonoscopy that is the Eharmony profile, but it's still one of many tools in the dating toolbox.

Sort of like a blog.

(Next post)

18 Comments:

  • ug, never ever ever will I ever do that online thing again (she says with just a little sliver of doubt). It's a terrible terrible thing. I went on exactly ONE date after a few weeks of witty emails back and forth, so deceptive isn't it?, and about then minutes into the date the guy was grabbing at my boobs. I'm sure it works for some people. somewhere. somehow.

    By Blogger citygurl, at 2:11 PM  

  • I hate online dating. But you knew that, didn't you?

    On another note, "why don't you love me, Ken?"

    By Anonymous Esther, at 3:28 PM  

  • I've never tried online dating. For some reason it just freaks me out a bit. But I think it might be different in NYC.

    A lot of my friends do it there, and one guy swears by it.

    Good luck with the questionnaire.

    By Anonymous MALA, at 5:33 PM  

  • I've been on Jdate since 1999. When I first logged onto the "chat" it was free, and there were maybe 50 or so women from Toronto, and five of them might have had pictures. I have seen online dating go from a place to meet crazy people to a place to meet lazy people. In Toronto, there are over 500 profiles with pictures from people aged 25-31. I've tried Lavalife and Lemontonic, but it always seems to go better on JDate. Like with anything online, it helps if you know what you are looking for.

    By Blogger Rye, at 8:42 PM  

  • "he 100-page colonoscopy that is the Eharmony profile"

    You can say that again. Ånd then they send you smarmy psychobabble emails every week. I think every guy on e-harmony is a therapist or a minister. If you hate relationship self-help books, this is not the place to be.

    By Blogger Judith, at 1:34 AM  

  • Speaking of eHarmony, I found this humorous rant via Dawn Eden.

    Ken, I think you should sign up for eHarmony and write about the entire process. It would be like weeks and weeks of diversity training. It would be very funny.

    By Blogger Judith, at 2:13 AM  

  • heh.. yes.. online dating - it's the thing we all tried, but it's the thing that has bitten us all back. i've scarring memories from it and i'm hopefully never going back into that land...

    By Blogger writersbloc gal, at 8:59 PM  

  • I did that whole eHarmony questionnaire thing about a year ago -- just for kicks -- and you don't even want to know what it said about my personality. (Hint: It wouldn't surprise you.)

    Let's just say I think I'm now on some kinda fuckin' FBI watch list.

    And Captain Morgan's and lime juice? Good God, man. Instead of dicking around with the kind of stupid crap they've been dealing with since January, why don't those buttheads in Congress actually make themselves useful for once and ban this type of dangerous behavior? Drinking tall glasses of Captain Morgan's out of a one-gallon bottle and chasing each glass down with a shot of tequila is the best way to go.

    Then again, I'm the guy who wakes up under a toilet every time I drink Captain Morgan's, so what the hell do I know?

    By Blogger The Insurrectionist, at 3:13 AM  

  • I am pleased to say I've never tried online dating. One can meet people everywhere they go, I don't really get the appeal of seeing a picture and random information. I prefer the chance meeting and the first conversation in person.

    By Anonymous Karol, at 10:37 AM  

  • Opelousas, huh? Interesting.

    By Blogger ccs178 (Chris), at 1:16 PM  

  • Rye, Great line about the lazy people. It amazes me that so many people can't even be bothered to fill out a one page form.

    Judith, once, while drunk and lonely, I started the eHarmony process. Then I realized I was neither that drunk or lonely and used my computer for it's primary task--porn.

    Insurrectionist, that you're still a free man shows that the Patriot Act obviously isn't working.

    By Blogger Ken Wheaton, at 12:48 PM  

  • I think ranting about the horrors of online dating has become my mission in life. I've closed the door on it for now, but it's not locked and I may try again. It's just a matter of exactly how bored I get. (Self promotion warning: I have "rules for internet dating" & "problems with internet dating" posts on my blog--mostly there for humorous purposes.)

    By Blogger Jamy, at 2:19 PM  

  • Well, if you kiss the asses of the people who made the Patriot Act, you can get away with more than you think.

    For every rule politicians make, they make five exceptions for their friends, underlings, and -- most important -- financial contributors.

    By Blogger The Insurrectionist, at 5:46 PM  

  • Don't waste the time on eHarmony. Everything said and posted is directly on target. Besides. You will likely meet even more "not quite USDA quality" people that will give you every opportunity to build even more cosmic karma that you will never get to spend....

    [To quote Match.com: "I'm not bitter because I'm single; quite the opposite." Which really means: I'm single because I'm bitter.....]

    I still think the best way is to see someone you like, introduce yourself like a normal human being, and chat a bit. If you are interested in the woman, and she carries on a conversation with you, and you'd like to talk further with her, take the leap and ask.

    If she's spent any time talking to you with any degree of animation, you have nothing to lose - even if she says something patronizing or lame, at least you've made intelligent conversation and expressed an interest in your conversational partner. What's wrong with that? :) It's good practice for when you meet someone who actually wants to play with you!

    XX

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:28 PM  

  • This is a excellent blog. Keep it going.

    This may be of interest to you I have a free online dating service. It pretty much covers dating stuff.

    I'll be sure to come back.

    By Blogger alena, at 11:03 AM  

  • Very nice blog, hard to come by these days,

    If you have a chance, can you visit my Dating Ideas site


    Thanks

    By Blogger TexasDude, at 10:33 PM  

  • Ahhh, the proverbial online-dating LIAH story. Never trust a fuzzy picture. Do not waste more then 15 minutes of precious phone time with someone you've never laid eyes on. I once had an attractive, well-adjusted guy (according to his pic/profile) respond to my profile. He said he loved my profile and wanted to consider meeting me. We talked on the phone for about 5 minutes. That evening he sent me an email request for more pics of myself. The specs were outlined: Frontal, rear and side views! Now, I know what you're thinking, he wasn't being perverse, there was no request for nude shots. When I told him I did not have a portfolio of myself he emailed me that he had to many online LIAH experiences. Contact him when I could fulfill his request. He was not willing to waste another dime on a beverage for anyone he wouldn't consider in the bedroom. Now, most women would probably be offended and completely put off by this. I commended him for being picky and not wasteful. Time is precious.

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