Love came to the leather bar

It was a one-night stand -- until my shrink told me to follow the guy cross-country.

Published April 9, 2003 1:20PM (EDT)

HELL: Just can't forget that smile

After only a few minutes of trolling a dating Web site, I landed on the picture of woman who looked cute. I read her headline. "Funky Chick in Search of Brainiac Boy." Not horrible, I thought. It certainly beats "BMW Woman Seeks Mercedes Man." Or "Come On Baby Light My Fire." There was playfulness there, plus she allegedly sought intelligence over wealth.

Her objective was to find an educated, independent, professional man who was fun to be with. Well, I thought, she must have been thinking of me when she typed that up. I opened up her profile and read on. She wrote well, always important. It's difficult to fake intelligence when writing. She avoided clichés. No walks on the beach. No "snuggling on Sunday morning with the New York Times."

My response had it all: wit, intelligence and humility.

The next day "Funky Chick" responded. Oh, the excitement! What would she say? Would I like her? Was she smart, funny, perfect in every way?

She was. Nice. Definitely enough there to continue contact.

Things with "Funky Chick" progressed nicely over the next two weeks. We exchanged photos. Swapped two or three e-mails a day, got to know each other on the phone. And then we planned to meet.

She walked toward me at the designated meeting place. I recognized her short, funky hair immediately. The rest of her wasn't bad either. She wore a form-fitting black skirt that left enough room for her shapely legs to catch my attention. I smiled. She smiled.

Looking back at the pictures, it's easy to see why I had no idea that she was missing half the teeth in her mouth. In every picture she sent me, including the one she used for her personal ad, her mouth was closed as tight as a clam. I had been duped. I had been duped by a toothless Mary.

-- Doug Trattner

HEAVEN: Go west, young man

I was in a gay leather bar in Vancouver, far from the small Canadian prairie town where I lived. I was on vacation with my partner, who I'd been with for six years. I was just 24 years old: It felt like a long relationship. I was stuck in a punishing factory job. He was a TV addict who didn't read books. I knew if his job hadn't taken him out of town for a few months every year we would've split by now.

We had never really been monogamous, but we did have one rule: If and when we strayed, we promised we'd always have safe sex. Not that there were loads of opportunities for wild affairs on the prairies.

But this was Vancouver. It was a weeknight, and the bar, which was called the Shaggy Horse, was almost empty. I ventured upstairs, where there was only one man, a tall, dark, handsome type with intense eyes, unfussy grooming, and rippled forearms. I hesitate to say it was love at first sight, but there was instant electricity. We started to talk and eventually went back to his place. He said it was nice to meet a man who behaved like a man. "Same here," I said. We had safe sex, but I spent the night, a major rule-breaker that I tried to explain to my boyfriend the next day by invoking the Vacation Defense.

Shortly after I returned home, the man from the bar mailed me a copy of Bulgakov's novel, "The Master and Marguerita." He was holding down two blue-collar jobs and would write to me on his breaks.

This was 1990 -- our letters were in ink, on paper.

He excited and scared me, and he was a thousand miles away. It took months but finally I met him in Toronto for a holiday, and then returned home, where I agonized, weirdly paralyzed, for six weeks. I couldn't stop dreaming about him. I dreamed I passed a magic wand through him. I dreamed I licked a silver bead from his chest. My wary friends advised caution, but I was fit to burst.

Finally I turned to a shrink, who chided me for dithering. "Go west!" he said.

And I did. I bussed penniless over the mountains to this temperate rain forest of a city, to David. It's been nearly 13 years. The rain doesn't bother me. I'm the luckiest guy I know.

-- S.G., Vancouver

HELL: The bottomless margarita

Having been the recipient of 28 or 29 blind dates from the Internet in the past nine months, I feel that I can now choose the worst of those. It's a tough pick but here it is:

It was a short e-mail romance: We traded pictures, the guy looked fine, we had a few instant-message conversations and then one phone call where we set up a date at a Mexican franchise bar/restaurant (At least if he was a dud, no one I knew would be there to see!)

In his ad he'd said that he was a computer programmer for IBM. Well, maybe he was. He told me on the date that he was on disability because he had Menière's disease and was too dizzy to work, that, in fact, much of the time he was unable to even drive because of his illness. In fact, he could hardly do anything but lie down a lot of the time.

He spent the rest of the evening talking about how he was trying to take his ex-wife back to court to reduce his child-support payments.

What a great conversation to have with a divorced mother of two small children, I thought to myself. I had my keys in my hand and my legs half out of the booth within 5 minutes, literally, ready to dart the second he finished a seemingly bottomless margarita.

Should I even mention that he looked at least five years older and 30 pounds heavier than the picture? Seems small now compared to the rest.

-- Sharon D.

HELL: The Dealbreaker

A friend of mine set me up with a woman that he barely knew. Since my friend has good taste, I figured it was worth a shot. So I asked her out for a drink. We e-mailed pictures of ourselves so we'd be able to find each other. The picture was cute and matched her real appearance.

The conversation was reasonable and she seemed nice. I was thinking that I would ask her out again to get to know her a little better. As we were walking out to our cars she told me she was a little embarrassed about where she parked. I thought that was odd and tried to imagine how parking could be embarrassing. Did she double park? Did she park in a tow-away zone? Did she park on someone's lawn? So I jokingly asked, "Where did you park, in a handicapped spot?"

And she said yes.

Appalled, I paused for a few seconds, thinking of what to say, and finally spluttered, "Aren't you worried that you'll get a ticket?"

And she said, "No, because I'm using my mom's placard."

Earlier she had told me that her mom had died last year. I was totally shocked, having never met someone who used their dead mother's handicapped placard to park illegally.

I thought maybe it was a joke. But I saw that she had indeed parked her SUV with a placard in a handicapped spot. So I mumbled a good night and left wondering if she was collecting her mother's Social Security checks too.

-- T

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------