Hell: Honesty sucks
Dating hell is standing outside your apartment on a freezing cold Friday morning smoking a cigarette and thinking about your actions of the past week, realizing that you're never going on that date with that really cool woman you met online.
Two days before she contacted me, I'd gone overboard and taken 100 digital photos of myself in order to find the perfect one for my profile. The first 98 weren't any good, but then I captured that angle in the right light that highlighted my playful nature and downplayed (eliminated?) the appearance of my double chin.
Because she was out of town and with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, we arranged to meet a week after that first e-mail. The ensuing seven days saw a flurry of e-mail from both parties. As they tend to do, expectations got out of control. I tried to inject subtle hints that we think about reality, but I didn't let on that I'm overweight. I debated mentioning that I hadn't been to the gym in the past two months but then thought better of it. Was it an active deception? I think it was. And carrying out that deception would only lead to disappointment on both sides of the computer.
But the e-mails were funny and flirtatious and I think she'd really gotten her hopes up that the string of meeting guys online who just weren't right was over.
After a long Thanksgiving evening of eating turkey and drinking wine I got home late to find my in box empty. We'd exchanged phone numbers earlier in the day and I figured she'd tracked down my name and used it to find pictures of me on the Web. My worst fears were confirmed just seven hours before we'd arranged to meet. She responded that morning asking if I'd lost a lot of weight or if my Nerve photo was deceiving. I was honest about the deceptive photo and I cancelled our plans to meet for that first drink which had been discussed ad infinitum.
On a lighter note, in an earlier e-mail she didn't know who Bonnie Fuller was, so I've decided that since our interests don't match up 100 percent, it's best we're not actually going out.
-- Marc, New York
Heaven: True love comes to Galveston
I don't really remember when I first wandered hopefully into Salon personals. I do, however, remember removing my photo, certain that all those amazingly hip men with brilliant careers wouldn't be interested in an attorney from an island somewhere off the coast of Texas. Granted, I'm attractive, witty, a fervent defender of the Bill of Rights, love muscle cars and Leonard Cohen, but "Galveston" lacks the cachet of "NYC" or even "Brooklyn."
I was also stumped by the use of the word "healthy" in many of the ads. Did they mean "healthy" as in "goes to gym regularly" or "healthy" as in "no AIDS, Hepatitis C or cancer"? I decided on the latter, and unilaterally determined that I was hopelessly crippled by geographic undesirability and having had breast cancer before I turned 40.
July 9, 2002. I remember. That was the beginning of the e-mail correspondence between a sharp 47-year old music lover in Austin and me.
He responded to my photo-free ad, stating that he was over the age limit I'd set, but he thought a woman who liked Martin Amis was worth an e-mail. I made a full disclosure of the precarious state of my health about a week later, and he told me that wasn't a factor for him.
We met in person three weeks later. Our first date in Austin stretched into a first weekend, during which he met my closest friends and passed their inspection with flying colors. We declared our mutual love a couple of weeks later, both admitting to thinking it was insane.
He was apologetic and a bit frantic when I was hospitalized two days before he was due to leave for Burning Man. He returned safely to me, having survived the comical neo-Luddite poseurs of Burning Man, while I survived the removal of a breast reconstruction gone bad.
He is intelligent, warm, loving, generous, and funny. We've booked my rabbi for June 1, 2003.
-- Elizabeth M. Camp, Galveston, Texas
Hell: Three strikes and I'm out
I'd tried online dating casually in the past, but this time I had a mission. I would date and date until I met someone with at least a passable resemblance to my model breeder: cute, smart, and geeky/cool. Sylvia Ann Hewlett had shattered my rosy, "can't hurry love" notions with her hateful "Creating a Life" debacle. Suddenly forced to consider my fertile years, I grew determined to find my brood boy as quickly as possible. The candidates:
1: Gene. We met for a drink at a Williamsburg [Brooklyn] dive, and though he wasn't my usual type, he did seem thoughtful and appropriately nerdish. I gave him my number, and three days later, I trekked to his apartment in Midwood. We drove around in his green Jeep. Though our musical accompaniment was the Grateful Dead and he had an air freshener shaped like a pot leaf, I tested his make-out skills at the end of the night. He passed.
A few dates later, between the sheets, Gene grunted, "Lay still."
"Wha'?" I whispered.
"You're shifting around too much. It feels better if you don't move." I fled, shocked. If he wanted to screw a dead body, he could buy himself a blow-up doll.
2: Albert. In his profile photo, he wore a cute vintage jacket and a sexy smirk, but when he met me at Mooney's Pub, he was all beady eyes, timidity, and heinous wire-rimmed glasses. He spoke with a faux-Brit accent, though he had never been to England. We discussed painters and art exhibits until he suddenly squeaked over his Midori sour, "So many women are indifferent to art. It's like all the beauty they need is right there in the mirror!"
I practically sprinted home.
3: Ron. He also looked nothing like his picture. I didn't notice him when I scanned the bar, but he recognized me at the jukebox and sauntered over. Ugh: tucked-in plaid shirt with high-waisted black jeans, plus a skimpy blond goatee. He told me he'd met his last lover, a kinky 46-year-old, online. They had tried orgies, role-playing, and public sex of all flavors.
"But I'm not just looking for a lay," he assured me. "I'm looking for something real."
I told Ron I sometimes felt a lack of community in New York.
"I'm in a gang; I don't have that problem," he replied.
I tried to keep my drink in my mouth. "A gang? A gang gang? Like the Crips?"
"We're called Satan's Shepherds. We're not too violent. We dress in costumes and we carry pocket knives."
Needless to say, my days of Nerve dating are done. I learned my lesson the hard way: boyfriend first, breeding later.
-- Laura Barcella, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Hell: Don't touch my stuff
I e-mailed Steve on Match.com because I liked his picture. In his profile he claimed to be a "gentleman and a scholar." Perfect.
Upon closer inspection I found out that Steve was 6'4", liked to read and watch old movies, and had a close relationship with his family. Even more perfect.
And when I read his warning that he was "very selective," I concluded that we would most likely fall in love on the first date.
How could we not? We had all the important stuff in common. Further, his was one of the only profiles I had read that didn't boast an avid and exhausting interest in outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, water skiing, snow boarding and sky diving. Steve seemed decidedly more sedentary and that was just fine with me.
We exchanged e-mails and eventually decided to talk on the phone. As usual, I was nervous before and during the conversation, my anxiety turning me into a stand-up comedian looking for a laugh. He played along and chuckled at the appropriate times, but made no jokes himself. When we got off the phone 30 minutes later I took note of this, but decided that it must have been due to my overly enthusiastic jabbering.
The next morning I received an e-mail from Steve inviting me for drinks. My interest had waned after our conversation, but I hoped that sparks would fly when we met face-to-face.
At a bar the next night we fumbled through the awkward conversation between two adults trying to size each other and be witty at the same time. We talked about work, family, and eventually the conversation turned to the subject of moving. Steve told me that he had recently bought a condo and would be moving within the next two weeks. I asked him if he would be hiring professional movers or getting his friends to help him.
He shifted uneasily in his chair. "No. I'm going to do it all myself. I don't like people touching my stuff."
I nodded, noting a freshly sprung facial tic, thinking I must have missed something. "Oh, so you have a lot of antiques or breakables then?"
He leaned in closer as if to emphasize his point. "No, I just don't like people touching and messing with my stuff. I like things the way I like them and I'm very particular about who touches my stuff. I really don't like it at all."
I paused, and then said, "I see, and how long have you been like this?"
That question effectively ended the date. He no doubt spent the rest of the hour imagining in horror my first visit to his apartment where I would go through his kitchen, drawer by drawer, fondling all the utensils and touching all of his stuff.
For my part, I was busy engineering a way to get invited to his place so I could do just that.
-- Gena Saracino, Chicago
Heaven: The things I do for my mom
It all started when I suggested to my mother that she try online dating. Widowed, and a bit lonely, I thought that she could stand to get laid if not find a nice gentleman friend to spend time with. But Mom needed a guinea pig:
"If it's such a great idea, youdo it. And if you don't end up in 35 pieces in some wack job's freezer, maybe I'll give it a try."
How could I resist a challenge like that? I had been in a blissfully single stage, but was starting to tire of serial dating, so I put up a profile on a few different sites and let the Internet as Cupid do its work.
I received many, many responses. Most were boring, with a few direct solicitations for blow jobs or anal sex. But a few, a select few, did strike my interest. I responded to them, and set up several first dates.
All of these dates were horrible. The only good thing that came out of them was the amount of liquor I caused my girlfriends to snarf as I told stories of these dates on our weekly girls' night out. And worse yet, the online dating service was going to start to charge me money if I wanted to continue.
Of course, I didn't, so I politely declined and waited for my membership to expire.
And then, I received this funny, poignant e-mail. I was traveling for work, a bit bored in bland corporate hotel rooms. I figured that I had no intention of meeting this man -- he lives four hours away from my city -- but I could at least strike up a correspondence while I traveled.
His e-mails kept getting better. He offered a phone number. I though, what the hell, and gave him a call. We spoke for hours on end each night. My trip ended and we made plans to meet. He would come to my city in a few weeks' time and stay with friends, so no pressure if it didn't work out.
I figured that after all of my experiences, there was no way in hell that I was going to be attracted to this man. We were going to meet and that would crush the little infatuation I had with his e-mails and phone calls. That would be the end, and I would be sorry to see it go.
We continued talking, the anticipation mounting for the first meeting. My dread grew. So much so that the weekend before he was due to visit, I up and drove the four hours at 11 p.m. so that we could just get the meeting over with.
I got lost trying to find my way there, and didn't show up until almost 5 a.m. I even rang his neighbor's door by mistake. But I finally got to his door, take a deep breath, and push the bell. He opened the door ...
And he was perfect. We talked all through the next day. He jumped me the next evening. He took half of the next week off to spend a long weekend with me in my city. We went between sweet, sexy romps in bed to impassioned political discussions. We laughed until we cried and we barely left the house.
That was over a year ago and not much has changed. We see each other every weekend. We speak for hours each night we aren't together, and I am still amazed by his e-mails. We plan to move to the same city in the coming year and he's recently told his family that he intends to marry me (his mother has a big mouth and told me).
And yes, my mother, seeing my happiness, has decided to try online dating. I helped her put a profile up this past weekend and I expect that she'll soon have some entertaining stories about the men she meets and their idiosyncrasies.
This is a good thing, because my girlfriends are starting to get bored of my stories about all the cute things my significant other does ...
-- Katherine, Atlanta