HELL: He was all man. Actually, he was all men.
Michael and I met without the intermediary of the Internet. I noticed that some of his friends called him different names and different variants of his name. When I asked him what name he preferred, he said he had no preference and rattled off a dozen names I could choose from. Odd. He also had an unreal number of e-mail addresses.
Once we started dating, I found out that the reason he was no longer in the military was because he'd had an episode of "lost time" while in charge of the armory keys. It had taken him three tries to pass the psych exam for Special Forces training -- and the results were way different each time. And he had really weird mood swings -- his entire speech pattern, grammar, tone of voice, etc., would change.
He worked in a gun store, kept a hand cannon under the mattress of the bed we shared, plus a large knife and a deadly-weapon-sized flashlight next to the bed. One night he got drunk and to "test" me, he put the gun in my hand, pointed it at his head, and told me to pull the trigger. If I pulled it, I didn't value his life. If I didn't, I didn't trust him.
After that little episode, pieces fell into place. Michael had multiple personalities, and he -- they -- didn't know it. Breaking the news to him didn't work, so I broke up with his melodramatic side. The next night, he called me up to go see a movie. I reminded him we'd broken up. This was apparently news to this bewildered personality, so I had to go over to his house and break up with him again. The next night, I had to break up with the macho one. And the next night, the depressed one. And the next night, the sweet one I think I'd fallen for originally. I had to break up with him five times -- once for each personality who cared.
After that, I wanted a way to thoroughly screen dates before meeting them. I turned to online dating. After a few weeks, I browsed through my "closest matches," which were just dreadful.
A few pages in, I noticed a screen-name that seemed familiar. I read the profile, a melodramatic search for "true love" and "unconditional trust"... which was awful, but at least it was a change from the "I like beer and am looking for a chick with nice tits" profiles I'd been flipping through. Something about the writing style looked familiar, too.
I read the rest of his stats. How many recently heartbroken Chinese ex-Navy Goth hackers could live in this town? It was undeniably Michael. The writing style fit the first personality I'd dumped. I signed off so fast the server nearly crashed.
I have since met a delightful man -- one personality, no guns, no online dating service necessary.
-- Carey Oxler
HELL: "Watch out for alligators!"
In retrospect, there were many warning signs. He had mentioned in one of his e-mails that he'd spent an entire day lying on his couch watching "DiGrassi Jr. High." During a phone conversation, he talked nonstop about things like the portrayal of women in the Bible and a friend who liked midget porn. Chalk it up to my inexperience and optimism that this didn't send me screaming to the hills But he had charmed me with his extensive knowledge of random television facts and his sweet demeanor.
I sure wish I had run.
After agreeing to meet, we began the intricate negotiations regarding time and place. Though I made my preference for a quick coffee meeting known, he was convinced that a movie, at an inconveniently located theater, was the only way to go. For reasons that are still a mystery to me, I agreed.
During the first 20 minutes of our date, the following events took place: 1) my date told me he'd recently moved back to the area after dumping his fiancée, who was cheating on him with most of the guys in town; 2) we went to a restaurant that served roast beef and hot dogs exclusively (I'm a vegetarian); 3) once we found a restaurant I'd eat in, he ordered my dinner for me; and 4) he explained that he had a learning disability that made it hard to look at anyone while he was talking to them.
Unable to get a word into the conversation, I sat back and waited for it all to end.
And it did end ... eventually. In the meantime, he'd jumped in the air at the end of an escalator and yelled, "Watch out for alligators!," told the guy behind the popcorn counter that the date was going well, talked loudly throughout the movie, and complained that I parked too far away after insisting on walking me to my car.
Exhausted and demoralized, I fell into bed at 9:30, resolved to meet men some other way. Any other way.
-- Name withheld
HEAVEN: Or wherever agnostics go when they die
While there may be naysayers who claim it is best to meet your true love face-to-face, it gets kind of hard when you are looking for a sarcastic female atheist autopsy specialist in her early thirties. Luckily for me I found one online who was looking for a humorous male amblyopic agnostic writer in his early forties. To top it all off, she already had a great kid and I wanted children but didn't want to reproduce.
Both of us used well-crafted ads that were specifically designed to repel 99.9999 percent of all prospective suitors. While lively debate is entertaining, who wants to explain that evolution is not a theory for the millionth time?
After two years of binge drinking and generally bemoaning the lack of skeptical thought in this country, we got married. Our second wedding anniversary is coming up this May and the only way we could be happier is if they removed the words "In God We Trust" from the coinage.
I'd thank a God which may or may not exist for online dating services, but my wife would hit me on the back of the head for saying it. Some things never change.
-- Matthew Smith
Hell: At least my day was better than his
"Peter" responded to my ad about two months after I'd last updated it, but the fish hadn't been biting lately, and intrigued enough after a couple of quick e-mail exchanges, I decided to set aside a Sunday afternoon for a brunch date.
I met him at his cavernous apartment next to the park on a crisp bright day. We sat down and started chatting.
My being unemployed didn't faze him, a failing movie producer. He had an interesting story about a film he shot in Morocco. He was candid enough to let me know that bad things happened to him in threes. In the last few months, he had a bomb of a movie, broken up with his boyfriend, and dealt with his father's death.
Cheery, I said "Well, it will be a while until your next bad thing then!"
We were comfortable enough to move on to brunch, so we went to the parking garage, and he put the top down on his new Volvo. We zoomed down Sixth Avenue, toward the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel. Zoomed so much we rear-ended a poor guy in a rental car.
Angry at the victim's suggestion of handing over his license and registration, he asked me, "Do you see any damage?!" I shrugged my shoulders.
We got back into the car. He apologized profusely and admitted he was a little nervous. "No problem," I said. "I hope this isn't your first bad thing!" We sped through the tunnel at 60, headed toward his friend's Italian bistro in the East Village, and dined on some fantastic scrambled eggs with tomato and basil, a few cigarettes and another mimosa (which he wouldn't let me pay for, saying airily that he'd put it on his "account").
Then we decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood and found ourselves at one of my favorite record stores. He immediately began searching for the records I'd mentioned listening to and the ones I'd wanted to get. Unbeknownst to me, he bought me a copy of a record I'd been saving up for. He said he'd enjoy spending the rest of the afternoon at his apartment reading the paper and getting high. I hadn't smoked in a while, and hadn't finished reading the paper, and was still vaguely interested in him, so thought it'd be a nice way to end the date. At his place, we took a few hits off his joint, talked some more about its paranoiac effect, and leafed through the Times.
Suddenly, a smoke alarm went off and he jumped up to see where it was coming from. He raced to his bedroom and screamed -- a fire next to his bed was blazing and blowing bits of soot and smoke through the air!
I threw him some wet towels. He said he'd have it under control, and asked me to go back to the other room while he cleaned up.
Moments later, the front buzzer buzzed. Eight burly firemen, responding to the alarm, trudged through the huge loft, checked the room out, and looked around the rest of the place. He told them he'd handle it from there, sighed, apologized, and made sure I was OK. We both gulped down some water.
"I just don't want to be around for the third one," I joked.
That's when his cellphone rang.
"Whoa, this is heavy," he said, looking at the number.
"Who is it?"
Clearly, it was time for me to go. But I'd had a fun ride in a convertible, a delicious free brunch, an "A Certain Ratio compilation CD Id had my eye on, and some pot. Plus I saw a fabulous apartment and I got to finish the paper. Not bad for a Sunday, actually. Especially compared to his Sunday.
-- Name withheld