Paradise in the parking lot

I called him from my cell right after he dropped me off. "I'm masturbating," he said. I'd found my true love.

By Salon Staff

Published July 9, 2003 6:38PM (EDT)

Uh, what went wrong?

For the record, I did provide him with a laundry list of my negative attributes: I'm agnostic, my nose is rather bulbous, I have a blossoming foot fungus, I drink beer like a man.

He was still interested.

So we met. I described it later as the date that was OK in the beginning, bad in the middle, and great at the end. We wandered around an aquarium for an hour; he claimed to be a biology major, yet knew nothing about the fish. He insisted we take his car to the restaurant, even though his air conditioning didn't work and the humidity was at least 95 percent. He asked me questions about my old boyfriend that I didn't want to answer, then gave me information about his ex-girlfriend that I never wanted to know.

But afterward he took me to a bookstore, because he wanted to pick out something that we could read together. Then we bought ice cream and made out in the back parking lot of an orthopedic surgeon's office.

He kissed me in ways that I had never been kissed before.

Before taking me back to my car, he declared (as if it had been his decision all along), "I think this will work. The distance thing will be a problem, of course, but otherwise, I think we will be great."

On the ride home, I called him from my cell.

He said, "I'm masturbating."

I was certain I had found true love. Then he e-mailed me a week later at 5 in the morning to tell me that he had decided not to take the bar exam. I said that was OK, his career choice didn't matter to me.

It's been over a month now, and I still haven't heard from my precious e-fling, though I've left more than one message with his answering service.

I miss him, I must admit. And I am sad that he has disappeared from my life so quickly. But the thought of him is still with me.

-- Aimee, Alabama

For all you young folks out there

It may come as a slight surprise to "the young" that online dating is not really new, just a cyber-form of the old personal ad. So, a word from one of the "more mature" might provide a bit of perspective: I was gay at 4, but at 18 I realized that it might be tough to live that life, and so I became straight until I was 30. Then the '60s hit and I was gay again. A lot of numbers.

I hated the bars, shunned the bushes, and eschewed the street. Personal ads were the only real option to meet people of "quality" and have more than the standard 20 minutes of fun before it was time to go. I had a lot of success in the free papers of the Boston-Cambridge area, and met my first boyfriend almost immediately. Mark -- an assumed name it turned out -- was a bit younger and slightly more inclined to the bisexual, but nevertheless we had a great time in and out of the sack. We lasted a year, when his determination to walk the bi path led me back to the ads.

At this point I did not want a relationship. I just wanted nice sex and something to talk about in the morning. After all, I was newly out and wanted to try it all -- or most of it. But John wanted 24/7, and I fought every bit of unwanted attention.

It took us awhile, a lot of cutting and slashing, but he worked his way into my house and my heart; then suddenly it was our house and one heart. Now it is 27 years. A lot of numbers. He is still a mystery, but there's no more holding back. We are on our fourth house (in Palm Springs, Calif., maybe the last one) and the hearts are big and fat and happy. A life second to none. Do ads work? Yes. Does it take work to make and ad-fantasy into real life? Sure. Is it worth it? Well, no matter how you start, it is all worth it. It is life. We still have a copy of the ad somewhere.

-- Earl Rose

It sounds so high school, and it was

I am 28 years old, and over a decade ago I had a dating experience so ungodly awful that I have never since allowed my friends to set me up. My friend Rhonda was dating Eric, a mild skater boy. I was between boyfriends and, at the time, had a liking for freaky, grungy, long-haired, heavily tattooed, pot-smoking boys-in-the-band types. Of course, these freaky boys were always sweet and charming and treated me like a princess. Things were about to change.

Rhonda and Eric decided that they knew the "perfect" guy for me. They spent weeks regaling me with their opinions about how absolutely perfect we would be for each other, so I agreed to a double date. The date was chosen; the activity would be dinner and a movie. Attire would be "date."

I dressed up in a cute little matched Esprit miniskirt and T-shirt deal, with perfectly matched flats and tights. High school date-perfect, even today. Rhonda and Eric were to pick up Michael and then come get me at my house, as Michael didn't have a car.

The knock on the door was more or less on time (15 minutes late) and it turned out to be Rhonda, not Michael. She said, "He won't come to the door." I assumed this was shyness. I assumed wrong.

I got to the car, and Michael didn't get out of the back seat. He also didn't take off the headphones from his Walkman, or cease singing/rapping along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers tape he was listening to. He had on cut-off jean shorts with more holes than fabric, combat boots and a very obviously dirty T-shirt. His head was shaved and tattooed. I didn't really get a look at his face, as he never turned to do so much as nod hello toward me.

Michael wouldn't take his earphones off long enough to express an opinion as to dinner, so we went to Hardees, where Eric could pick up his paycheck. He didn't pay for my "dinner" or even offer. Headphones still on, still singing, he was making no attempt to tone down the racier parts of the album for the other people in the car, or the restaurant. One doesn't, in Chattanooga, Tenn., sing the F word at top volume in a restaurant, even one as vile as Hardees. People were complaining. I was trying to hide in the booth.

After our dinner was complete, we got back in the car and headed toward the movies. I was quite certain that this was not the perfect man for me by this point, but I was still trying to be pleasant, as this boy was best friends with my friend Rhonda's boyfriend, and I didn't see any reason to be unnecessarily nasty. Yet.

Then, Michael took off the headphones and started talking. Between the obscenities, I was able to glean that he hated everything about me at first glance and that he considered me and everyone like me, including my entire family, to be the source of all that displeased him in the world. I responded that he was rude and inconsiderate of those around him and that he was obviously no friend to Eric, if he could treat Eric's girlfriend and friend with so little respect. And that was our only conversation for most of the rest of the evening.

We went to see "Hook" with Robin Williams and Julia Roberts; like salt being rubbed in a wound, I was being insulted by my date and bored by the movie. As the movie was beginning, I noticed Michael rooting around under his chair, then heard him eating something -- it was popcorn he'd picked up from the floor.

About halfway into the movie, which by this point had me both bored to tears and irritated beyond belief, I saw Michael pulling pieces of gum off the seat bottoms and putting it into his mouth. He soon began blowing bubbles and popping them loudly. The two girls sitting in front of us had small-town hair -- the smaller the town the bigger the hair -- that was teased and permed into a hairspray helmet. They turned and shushed him several times.

Indignant at their shushing, he waited until they had turned back around and started paying attention to the movie again. Then he removed the already-been-chewed gum from his mouth and broke it into two pieces, planting one squarely in the middle of the back of each girl's hair.

They each felt the thwap of his hand squashing the gum into their perms and turned to look at him, at which point he smiled, for the first time all night, and pointed his finger straight at me.

I dragged Rhonda and Eric out of the movie, insisting that they leave Michael behind and take me home. I refused to get back in the car with him in it, so Eric and Rhonda left the movie that, it turns out, they were enjoying, and took me home, apologizing all the way: "He's not usually like that."

Gee, I guess it was me.

-- Dana Loftis

Salon Staff

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