She had me from the time I typed LOL

We made a routine of waking up, making love like jungle monkeys, pausing for me to call in sick to work, and then back to the monkey sex.

Published February 20, 2003 1:02AM (EST)

HELL: I think I saw this movie

Always ask for a picture. No. Really.

I didn't, because his profile was so perfect: witty, light-hearted, sexy. How can you go wrong with a guy whose favorite musicians are John Coltrane, Tom Waits and Marvin Gaye? Whose favorite books are "To the Lighthouse" and "The Sun Also Rises"? Best of all, he described himself as 6 foot 4 and blond, just like my True Love in college.

He wrote: "I'm a man who knows how to listen."

He wrote: "I'll burn you CDs instead of writing love letters."

He wrote: "I'll make the coffee."

It was as if I'd made him up. Everything on his profile described the man I've been dreaming of for years. I e-mailed him immediately. We e-mailed back and forth for three crazy days -- I couldn't have imagined a more perfect correspondence. It was as if he could see into my brain. We made plans to meet for drinks. The voice was so hauntingly familiar, it made me believe in soul mates, past lives, all the stuff they promise you in the love poems. I even wrote him that in e-mail. He told me he agreed. I thought I'd found The One.

When I got to the bar -- I didn't see anyone tall and blond. But I did see an old friend of mine, medium-height, with dark hair, a friend I'd cut off relations with because he'd gotten, well, creepy. He was sitting by the men's room, drinking a Guinness, and smirking.

I approached him reluctantly. "Hey Jim, aaaah ... nice to see you."

He tipped his glass to me. "Nice to see YOU. What are you doing here?"

I was still straining my head, trying to see if any of the tables were inhabited by men who looked like they were waiting. "I'm, uh, meeting someone."

Jim smirked again. "Tall, listens to Coltrane, big Hemingway fan?"

It was starting to make sense.

"I always told you that I knew you better than you know yourself," he said. "When are you going to grow up?"

Needless to say, Jim and I don't speak anymore.

-- Name withheld, New York

HEAVEN: Better to have IM'd and lost

It's a good six months after my last relationship, it's late on a Friday night, I've come back from the bar: Time to go online. There are chat rooms for the naughty and the nice at this hour, but for some reason, I choose the nice. Sure, your odds of talking to a woman go down, but the odds that a woman is in fact a woman go way up.

I click into the "Pulp Fiction" room on Yahoo, and it's not long before I find myself trading one-liners with a Scottish redhead named "Pammy Winslet" (after her self-proclaimed resemblance to Miss Anderson and Kate, respectively). Our matching taste in movies is apparent. As is our mutual sense of humor, and our mutually growing fascination with the voiceless stranger across the continental divide. I check my clock and find that the minutes have become a two-hour chat session, at the end of which I've got Pammy's favorite movies, hopes and dreams, life story, and screen name committed both to my computer's memory and to my own.

Night 2 is more of the same, but this time, with some trepidation, we trade pictures. I find the very best one I've got, and downplay it as I upload it. Even though I've only got a lone digital representation of her on my hard drive, I can't get her out of my head. The picture is good, but it's got only the vaguest resemblance to Kate or Pam. Thankfully, I think: She's damn good looking as herself.

Good looking enough for me to want her phone number. In Britain. I get up the nerve twice: once to ask for her number, and then the hard part, picking up the phone. Nervous energy propels our conversation, as does the charm of a New Yorker's accent to a Scot, and vice versa. Maybe our love of movies contributed here as well; hearing a voice evocative of that "Trainspotting" chick certainly did it for me.

Next night, another phone call. Next night, another. You know it's getting out of hand when you change your long distance plan to "International AnyHour Savings." Days became weeks.

There's only one way to satisfy this, we decide, and that's with a British Airways ticket. I'd previously been to the U.K. She's never been to New York. She'll come to me.

The building anticipation of two months culminates with a delayed flight. It's more than I can bear, as I'm waiting in International Arrivals at La Guardia wondering what the hell I'm doing. She comes out of the tunnel and I instantly recognize her. She's dressed much better than I am. She looks much better in person, even after a bumpy transcontinental flight. "You look great!" I say, showing my poker hand immediately.

It turns out that didn't matter. We had each other well before "Hello." We'd had each other at "lol" two months before. What followed was the inevitable slingshot release of two months of built-up affection. A five-day whirlwind of tourism, food, sights, deep eye-gazing and sex. We made a routine of waking up, making love like jungle monkeys, pausing for me to call in sick to work, and back to the monkey sex.

One of our running jokes was that we were totally aware we were setting ourselves up for disaster; idealizing and building up the relationship in our heads at each step, but unwilling to check our emotions. What we didn't realize was that even as we were together physically, we were building up unrealistic expectations. Five days was too little time to become disillusioned, and we didn't.

Early in our phone relationship we agreed that it would be the best and worst thing if we still felt so strongly about each other after her visit. She would never live in America; I would never abandon my friends and family here. The last boarding call was a slo-mo replay of all the movies you've ever seen -- the waves goodbye and the tears. Even though we made plans then for me to fly to her, I thought through misty eyes that this could be the last time I'd see her. I was right. Still, I wouldn't give it up for the world.

-- Name withheld

HEAVEN: The stairway to heaven had 392 steps

It only took 392 e-mails to find heaven, with many stops in purgatory along the away. Several years back, I joined a fledging Internet dating service called I hadn't dated a Jewish woman in many years, but felt like it was time to return to my roots.

I had never met a woman in a bar (mostly because I did not have the courage to approach anyone, not even the bartender) and thought that JDate looked promising. For three years, I wrote any woman that piqued my interest. I wrote some with photos and some without. I wrote women in the area and even tried to write some far away.

The women were a fascinating group. Among them was a flight attendant, a pilot, a former "morbidly obese woman" (yes, I Googled her) whose photos looked like those Carnie Wilson "before" and "after" shots. Some women thought I was too short (at 5'6"-1/2). Others did not like me because I did not listen to NPR. I found that I wrote some women two and three times, not realizing I had written them months before. Once, I addressed an e-mail to a young woman using the wrong name. She turned out to be the sister of a friend. Oops. Other times I switched my photos and profile, but nothing seemed to change my luck.

When all was said and done, I had written 392 e-mails. Jdate is kind enough to keep records of that kind of thing. I heard back from about 85 women. That's a .220 batting average, not nearly enough to play in the big leagues. Of those 85, 10 turned into actual dates.

Why did I choose to ask out only 10 women? Fear of rejection was part of it. In addition, I found something wrong with their e-mails or they failed my Muppet test. This test, which I developed in a moment of desperation, actually helped narrow the field. I would always ask the women who their favorite Muppet was. Anyone who answered Miss Piggy was out. I noticed that those who loved Miss Piggy usually had the exact same persona. It was not one I found attractive.

Still, the Muppet test wasn't foolproof. Of my first nine dates, several were unmitigated disasters. There was the woman whose father had been a high-ranking official in the Reagan administration who did not own a TV and thought I was nuts because I did. There was the woman who did nothing but talk about how much money her father had and her ex-boyfriends. My favorite was the woman who hated Hall and Oates (who can hate them?), and slept with her childhood pillow because she liked the smell of her own drool. Oh sure, a couple of the dates went OK, but there was never a spark.

Meanwhile, I watched some of my buddies meet the loves of their lives on Jdate. Finally, around Halloween, I wrote a young woman with a simple yet elegant profile. She seemed down to earth, honest, and the pictures stole my heart. We exchanged e-mails for a month. We had the same favorite songs, she liked the right Muppets, liked Hall and Oates, and seemed to share the same values. It took me a week to work up the courage to call her. We talked for three hours the night I finally called. Our first date lasted many hours. C. is indeed the love of my life. It was worth every silly rejection and awful date to find C. She is everything I always wanted and a whole bunch of things I never knew I needed. Despite a minuscule batting average, all you need is one hit. It took 392 e-mails to find the one that will last a lifetime. And I would do it all over again.

-- Rob Wellen

HELL: Hell is a redheaded Egyptologist.

I met this girl on a Nerve date. A redheaded Egyptologist. We exchanged a few e-mails and she asked me if I'd like to go see Nick Cave at Town Hall. How could I resist? I was dying to see the show and was amazed by her generosity in inviting a blind date to accompany her. We arranged to meet at a nearby restaurant. I got there early and waited up front, by the bar. The time arrived and she didn't show. I waited and waited. I went outside to make sure she wasn't standing on the street, then went back inside. I instructed the waiter to direct any redheads looking for a dinner date to my table and contemplated the menu for a few moments. Finally, I ordered. I had planned on getting the fish, out of consideration for her vegetarianism but felt, given the situation, that a steak was in order.

Two bites in, fork raised to mouth, she materialized, wondering how I could have the indecency to start eating without her. I informed her of my wait and she began insisting that she had been waiting patiently, at the front of the restaurant, all along. I knew this was impossible. It was a small place and not crowded, but no matter, she was here. I apologized and hoped everything would improve.

But it didn't.

She looked disgustedly at my meat and ordered a vegetable casserole. She said she wouldn't eat anything with a face, even the dead inexpressive one of a sea creature. We ate mostly in silence. I tried drawing her out, asking questions about her studies, but she had little to say. We did go to the show. It was lovely. Nick was great, the venue was small and we had terrific seats. Afterwards, I asked her if she wanted to get a drink but, of course, she wanted to go home. I walked her to her train and bid her goodnight.

Months later I met another redheaded Egyptologist through A graduate student at the most prestigious art history department in the city. She asked if I would be willing to attend a lecture with her at Met. I said I would be delighted. On the way over she explained that her previous relationship had broken off because her boyfriend was uncertain about his gender. He couldn't decide which one he wanted to be. I figured I had to be an improvement.

We got to the museum early and I begged her to show me around the Egyptian collection. I had seen the pieces many times before, but never in the company of an expert. I figured it would be a good way for her to show her stuff. We walked around the galleries but she seemed oddly indifferent. She could barely talk about the work. We went to the lecture and sat down. A woman in the row ahead of us turned her head. It was the other Egyptologist. She was perfectly cheery and said 'hi' to me, then turned back to the friend she was with. My date leaned over and asked me how I knew this girl. I briefly confessed the truth, figuring they must know each other. Later, I learned that they didn't know each other as they attended different programs. After the talk, we got a drink at a wine bar, but there was no chemistry. I had struck out with not one, but two redheaded Egyptologists. Surely a record.

-- Stewart Friedman, New York

By Salon Staff

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