Twenty-five-year-old Elise Moreno is hoping to reach an ambitious goal by the end of summer: She wants to go on dates with 100 different men. And instead of opting to keep her exploits secret, the San Francisco native is writing all about it on her blog, 100 Dates of Summer.
It might sound like a prequel to "500 Days of Summer," and surely it will launch a thousand screenplays, but the blog doesn't aspire to the Hollywood ideal. You see, Moreno isn't looking for a Prince Charming. She isn't in search of a husband, or even a boyfriend. Having just gotten out of a long-term relationship following a long period of serial monogamy, she wants to meet all sorts of men, date around for a change, and learn more about herself along the way.
Adding depth to her project is the fact that her father, who could be brutally critical of her appearance, passed away five months ago. They had a complicated relationship, to say the least; as she wrote on her blog, "He told me that I was fat and boys would never marry a fat girl," she said. "This complex [led] to body [dysmorphia], bulimia, and a coke addiction." In the early stages of this project, she's come to realize that it was her dad's criticism that led her to avoid the dating scene and cling to less-than-ideal partners. "I would hold on to them because I thought that was it," she writes. "'Finally, someone likes me. Better not screw this up.'"
Now she is putting herself out there, risking rejection, and chronicling it on the Internet. Moreno and her revolving cast of prototypical San Francisco hipster boys have picnicked in the park, gone to yoga, mini-golfed, and read Shel Silverstein out loud. Of course, she hasn't hit it off with all of her dates -- there was “the stabbiest finger bang of my life," the guy who invited along his gorgeous ex-girlfriend and the professional dating coach (her worst date yet, naturally). As the project has amassed readers and gained media attention, young women have been flocking to the site to cheer on Moreno and seek her dating advice.
I spoke with Moreno by phone about asking out men, handling hate mail and carrying mace with her on dates.
Why did you decide to start 100 Dates of Summer?
I got out of a really long relationship of two and a half years and once I ended that relationship, I realized, hey, I haven’t dated, really. I’d had maybe four boyfriends that were mentionable, but with each one, we’d date for a long time and then I’d have a little bit of time in-between -- you know, sometimes a month, sometimes a week, in one case a day -- and go right to the next boyfriend. Which isn’t good, because you don’t get time to date people, which is very important, because there are so many people out there. You can get so much perspective from all walks of life.
The other reason is that I was living in Seattle for four years and I was moving back home and I thought, what a great way to reintroduce myself to the city as an adult.
Are you looking for something in particular or just experimenting and seeing what you find?
I’m seeing what I find. I’m not trying to get a boyfriend. I’m not trying to get married after this. I really am just meeting 100 different people and getting out there. I’m not really sure what the goal is, other than that I’m learning about myself.
So what have you learned about yourself so far?
My dad passed away about five months ago and we didn’t have a great relationship. Growing up, he had his ideas of what a girl should look like and he made that known to me. He told me that boys aren’t going to date a fat girl. He started making me train, I ran up sand hills and did all this stuff. So even in the relationship that I was in, I was hanging onto that, because I thought that if I wasn’t in a relationship I was going to end up alone. All of these relationships that I had, I put all of my eggs in one basket and I thought, this is the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. If some things aren’t great about this relationship I’m just going to have to look past that because they like me, so let’s hang onto this, because they can tolerate me. Even in these relationships I wouldn’t feel comfortable with my body and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with myself, because I would question, like, “You like me? What’s wrong with you that you would give me the time of day?”
From these dates I’ve realized that guys ... they’re people. And they like me for the person I’ve become, and the person I am becoming, and that’s kind of cool. I’m going out with guys I thought would have never given me some of their time. I’m going out with such a variety of people and, well, they like me and that’s a nice feeling.
It seems like such an intense project to be doing after your dad’s death. Is it difficult for you?
I didn’t realize the two were that closely connected. There was a lot going on. My dad passed away, then my grandfather passed away, I graduated and I was going through this breakup the whole entire time. I just went through a whole whirlwind of things, so this didn’t seem like that big of a deal. It was just me saying to my girlfriends, “I want to date people. I’m going to date 100 people and I’m going to write about it and you girls can read about it.”
How many of your dates know about your project going into the date?
I went on two dates without telling them, but then I couldn’t because my conscience was too heavy and it felt wrong. The first thing now on my OkCupid profile is that I’m doing this experiment called “100 Dates of Summer” and I explain it’s an exploration of myself, it’s a way for me to meet people. At the end of my profile I say, “Message me if you want to be part of 100 Dates of Summer.” So hopefully everybody knows.
It was funny, the other day I had a date planned and I called him and said, “Hey, so ABC wants to go on our date tonight, is that OK?” And he’s like, “Why does ABC want to go on our date?” I’m like, “Because of that project 100 Dates of Summer?” And he’s like, “What are you talking about?” I was like, “You didn’t even take the time to read the very first thing on my profile?” He canceled on me. But shortly after that I decided I didn’t want to do that, that’s totally not within the thesis of my project.
Do you worry about your dates reading your write-ups afterward?
At first I did. I don’t have a link to the blog on my OkCupid profile. If they were really interested they could look it up. And a lot of my dates do end up asking about it before we go out. Some of my dates have emailed me and say, “So I saw what you said. Cool.”
What happens if you really fall for someone?
I’m allowed to go on second dates, but I’ve discovered I can’t do much about it until the summer’s over and I’ve reached my goal. The guys who I have seen multiple times, they understand that. I did have to break things off with one person because they had stopped seeing other people. That wasn’t sitting well with me. Other men who I’ve gone out with, they love the idea and they’re like, “That’s only encouraging me to date more, that’s great!” I can’t keep dating if that person isn’t going to keep dating, that’s just not fair. I’m also meeting a lot of people. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen.
What’s been the best date so far?
I went to Carnival, which is a Latin heritage festival in the Mission, and I haven’t been there since I was a kid. We watched the whole entire parade and afterward went to SOMA StrEat Food, a parking lot with all these different food trucks. We got one thing from three different carts, and I love food. Afterward we walked around the city a bit and went by his apartment where his roommates were having a jam session. It was a sunny day. It was just really magical.
The guy was really sweet. He’s a musician and he’s into art and we sat together and looked at Shel Silverstein’s adult work and I was like, “Oh my god, you’re melting [my heart].”
You’re pretty open about what happens on these dates. For example, you describe receiving “the stabbiest fingerbang of my life.”
I have drawn back a little bit after all the media stuff. But that one I just couldn’t believe how bad it was.
Does that confidence and openness come easy, or is it nerve-racking putting all that out there?
I definitely write and then erase and then write. The whole idea was that this was a site to talk about my experiences with my girlfriends and now I have a much larger audience, and a much younger audience. Young girls are messaging me and saying, “I want to start dating, I don’t know how.” So I have to be more careful about what I put on there.
You’ve reposted a lot of reader comments from young women who are inspired and awed by what you’re doing. Is there a message you’re hoping to deliver to other single ladies?
People ask me all the time, “How do you get boys to ask you out?” I don’t. I ask boys out. I ask people to hang out with me. It doesn’t have to be as serious as people think it is.
The other aspect of it is don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. That’s just one person and they have all of their own stuff going on and maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with you. Rejection isn’t so bad. It stings and then you move on. Again, a lot of that rejection probably doesn’t have anything to do with you. That’s really important and it’s really easy to forget. Asking people out gets a lot easier.
The other thing is I get really frustrated when people tell me about situations they’re in and it’s obvious that they’re playing games with other people. I don’t play games. I’m really straightforward with people. I think that game mentality needs to stop. It’s not fair for anybody involved. You need to treat people like people and realize these people have feelings. I realize that you could make the argument that that’s counter to what I’m doing, but in my opinion it’s not. I’m upfront with people.
Have you gotten hate mail?
Oh, for sure. A lot of it is from people who haven’t even read my blog. This guy was like, “I’m trying to decide whether you’re datable or not because I read that you were fat and I want to make sure that you’re not fat anymore.” I responded, “I don’t think you’re ready to date any female or any member of the human race.” I stopped reading comments, because that’s just stupid to do. Most of it is just ignorance. A lot of people thought I was playing a trick on men, but it’s not that way. I do get “slut” comments. That’s going to happen. I can’t get upset about it.
What’s your hope for yourself by the end of this summer? What would make this project a success?
If it were to stop right now, it’s already a success. I’m getting messages from women who are like, “You really inspired me, I signed up for OkCupid and I’m going on a date this week. I guess that isn’t really a goal for myself, but I am happy to see women getting out there.
I’m so happy that people are reading my story and saying, “Yes, I can date, I don’t have to be miserable and single.” Online dating isn’t that scary. Of course there are the horror stories. I carry around mace and my brother is giving me a taser. It’s kind of funny, I was on this date with this guy -- I met him through a mutual friend -- and I had the opportunity to go on another date afterward, and he’s poly so he’s totally like a do-what-you-want kind of guy. So we have a nice time and he knows I have another date that evening and he’s like, “You met this guy online? OK, stay right here, don’t move.” He runs off into the night and comes back and hands me gum and mace and he’s like, “Peace be with you.”
Back to your question, though, I’ve already gained so much confidence. I used to cringe at pictures of myself when I was younger and then the other day I went through my photos and posted this picture of me with a tub of ice cream as a kid to my blog -- and I didn’t have that cringing feeling. Because I’m realizing that was a part of me, it’s made me who I am today and it’s made me a stronger person. These tiny revelations all throughout the experience, it’s amazing.