Dating, humor

The Worst Kind of Date

I twisted the last strand of hair around my curling iron, staring into the bathroom mirror. Every time I did my hair, I felt like a teenage boy trying to unclasp a bra.

Okay. Not bad.

“Bing!” my phone sounded. I walked the short distance through my bedroom into the living room to check it.

“Hey! I’m so sorry. My roommate is in the hospital.”

Dennis, my 20-something Hinge (first) date for that evening, had just thrown me a curveball.

“Oh no! Are they okay?”

“Yeah, everything is fine. But I’m afraid I won’t make it tonight. I hope you’ll let me make it up to you.”

I chewed the inside of my lip. On the one hand, I wanted to sound supportive. On the other hand… I snapped a selfie and sent it.

“I’m so glad they’re okay! But you’re buying the beers next time because I did my hair and everything.”

“Aw man, you look so pretty. And absolutely.”

A few days later, we made plans to meet at a local food truck lot for happy hour. Once again, I stood in the bathroom curling my hair – one of my least favorite activities, but one that turned my fine, straight hair into something a bit more alluring.

Or so I continue to tell myself.

As I got ready to leave, my phone chirped. I looked at the screen and saw a text from Dennis.

“Hey, just got home. Don’t think I’m gonna make it tonight.”

My mouth sagged and tears pricked my eyes.

“Why?” I wrote back after a moment’s hesitation.

“Just not feeling it.”

My stomach fell along with a tear. My mind raced with a thousand things I wanted to say and continued to do so for the next 24 hours. Instead, I decided to say nothing.

“I’m really sorry about last night,” Dennis texted the following morning. I never wrote back.

“Of all my worst dating stories,” I recently told Henry, central Oregon’s last remaining gentleman, “the absolute worst was this guy, about a year ago, who basically stood me up – TWICE. The second time because he ‘just wasn’t feeling it.'”

“You’re kidding,” Henry replied in shock.

“I think it was social anxiety, but still. It REALLY hurt my feelings.”

This week, I received a new Hinge like. It was Dennis. A year after he’d stood me up. I finally seized the opportunity to say what I hadn’t said before.

Maybe I was wrong to lecture him, but I wanted to shake him out of his own self-centeredness. How many times had I rallied to meet a friend or first date so I wouldn’t hurt their feelings? Seeing Dennis on Hinge reminded me of a similar dating story earlier this year with “Craig Who Cancels,” one of the strangest dates I’ve ever had (and you know that’s saying something)…

“I’m actually a stand-up comedian,” Craig explained as we messaged back and forth via Bumble.

“No way!” I replied, gearing up to geek out on our favorite stand-up comics. After a few more messages, I invited him to meet me for Friday happy hour. “I’m going with some girlfriends, but it sounds like you can hold you own.”

“I love working a crowd,” Craig fired back, agreeing to meet me at the brewery at 4pm on Friday.

Around 2pm on Friday, I received a bizarre message:

My girlfriends and I attempted to decipher the confounding note.

“Maybe he has Covid and doesn’t want to say.”

“Maybe he panicked.”

“Maybe he started seeing someone else.”

Disappointed, I wrote Craig off and turned my focus to other activities and matches. A week later, and despite having my phone number, I received a new message from Craig on Bumble saying he had two extra tickets to a comedy show. It wasn’t clear whether he was offering both tickets to me or fishing for a date.

While waiting to see if my friend was available to join us, I switched our conversation back over to text messaging. Which is when things got even more interesting:

When I got to the comedy club, Craig greeted me with a hug. He was more nervous than any date I’d ever met, his voice trembling.

“Whew, I’m really blowing it,” he said, stumbling over the bartender’s name while trying to place our drink order.

Turns out the nerves were date-specific and he was a regular performer at the comedy club. He began introducing me to everyone in the small venue and I sunk inside my cold shoulder sweater.

Because I knew three of them.

Because I’d gone on first dates with them.

Apparently I have a type.

“Congratulations on a [recent promotion I saw on a Facebook group we have in common],” I said to Marty, an older guy I’d gone on a walking date with several months earlier (who then ghosted me after I turned down his second-date-booty-call proposition).

“Oh thanks,” he grinned, his overconfidence nearly balancing out Craig’s nervousness. “We went on a date in…December, right?”

My eyes darted over to Craig, whose expression I couldn’t read. “That sounds about right.”

Marty looked at Craig and raised his eyebrows.

“As I recall, I didn’t make it to a second date.”

I raised my eyebrows in return.

“That is correct.”

Unfazed, Marty chatted with Craig for another moment before flitting off to someone else; he was the MC for the night and clearly enjoying his role. For a small local comedy club, the show was surprisingly tolerable. Funny, even.

“I’ll call you,” Craig promised after walking me to my car at the end of the night.

I never heard from him again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor

It Finally Happened

“Has anyone ever brought me a gift or flowers on a first date?” I wondered, driving slowly through quaint downtown Bend, Oregon, careful to dodge the pedestrians who often crossed the street willy-nilly. “Do people even do that anymore?”

Making a mental note to survey my girlfriends, my mind drifted to the previous night’s date…

***

“Hi Paul!” I greeted with a wide grin.

Paul was ten minutes late, a bootleg version of his Hinge profile photos, and unsmiling.

“Hey,” he replied, not making eye contact.

We sat at a picnic table in one of my favorite food truck lots and, sensing imminent disaster, I blurted, “Should we get a drink?”

“Okay,” he agreed, his face unreadable.

“Have you been here before?” I questioned while Paul stared at the beer menu.

“Yeah,” he deadpanned. “Like a year ago.”

“I’m gonna grab something from the cooler,” I said, walking away to procure a can a.k.a. half bottle of sparkling wine, which apparently I was going to need to shotgun in order to survive the next hour.

When we sat back down, I immediately took charge of the First Date Starter Kit questions: work, hobbies, family. With each query, I got a one line reply with zero return questioning.

Twenty minutes in, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped talking. Paul stared at the ceiling.

“So do you live with roommates, or…?” I casually began again. I’d learned that that was the most tactful way to ask about a first date’s living situation. Especially one in his 20s. (Hey. I’m open-minded.)

“I moved back in with my parents to save money,” he replied and I kept my expression neutral.

Oh, Paul. That’s wonderful.

“Smart,” I answered. “Houses are so expensive here.” I paused. “I saw on your profile you like Harry Potter. I LOVE Harry Potter. I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway last December and it was the best show I’ve ever seen!”

“I’ll have to check it out,” he replied in monotone.

‘Check it out’? In central Oregon? Does he not understand where Broadway is?

After ten more minutes, I surrendered and pulled out the Ace I’d tucked in my back pocket: A subject I had no interest in, but suspected would light him up.

“So tell me more about motocross! Is it moto-cross, without an ‘r’ in the middle?”

“Yeah, mo-to-cross,” he replied. I couldn’t tell if any enthusiasm was building.

“That trips up my brain! Tell me everything; I know nothing about it.”

“Well,” he began, shifting in his seat and staring over my left shoulder. “It’s on a closed course, and…well. Um. Yeah. I don’t know. I guess it’s hard to explain.”

“Allllll right everybody!” a booming voice announced from the back of the room. “Trivia is just about to begin so make sure you submit your team name!”

“Yikes,” I grimaced at the volume, but then immediately sensed a golden opportunity. “Gosh, I think it’s going to be too loud to talk now. I’m sorry I had no idea they had trivia here! You finished your beer so we should probably call it, huh?”

Paul moved his head in a way that was neither a nod nor a shake. I stood up, chugging my wine. I didn’t even care that I’d have to sacrifice more than half the can by leaving 25 minutes into the date.

As we walked outside, I quickly turned the opposite direction while calling out, “Thanks for coming out tonight!” I made a beeline for my car, relieved he didn’t suggest we go anywhere else. I instantly dialed a friend’s number.

“Holy forking shirtballs.”

***

I shuddered. I was now two minutes away from my current destination, on yet another Hinge date. After recently dipping a toe back into central Oregon’s shallow dating pool following a six month hiatus, I was somehow still feeling optimistic about the night.

Tonight’s date, Henry, seemed to tick all of The Jules Boxes and then some: My age, liberal, vaccinated, didn’t want kids, active, smart, social, good job, lived alone, dog owner – and “98%” vegan. On the voice recording accompanying his profile (Hinge lets you add audio and video), he sounded gently masculine, thoughtful, and eloquent. In the few messages we’d exchanged, his responses had been fun and sincere. When I’d mentioned seeing local live music that week, he’d looked up the musician and then sent YouTube clips of other songs he’d thought I’d like based on my taste.

When I walked inside the wine bar, I was sure he’d already be there. Instead, he wound up being a few minutes late and a knot in my stomach began to form. Maybe I was wrong… Three minutes past our meeting time, I looked to my left and saw a well-dressed man walking towards me.

Carrying a bouquet of long-stemmed roses.

*mic drop*

“Hi Henry! Are you a hugger?” I said, walking towards him and going in for one.

“Hi Jules! I am!” he said, wrapping his arms around me. He was solid, and at 5’11”, a few inches taller than me. He didn’t even lie about his height!

“Thank you SO much!” I exclaimed, taking the roses and admiring them. I felt several sets of eyes on us as we walked back to our table. “They’re gorgeous!” I put them to my nose. “And they smell amazing!”

“There’s 11, because you said 11 was your favorite number,” Henry explained, taking his coat off and draping it over the back of his chair. I instantly noticed his shirt.

‘No one dresses like a grown-up here,’ I had lamented to friends a week earlier. ‘Like what ever happened to a nice button down shirt?’

Henry’s button down shirt was impeccably tailored, pressed, and tucked in; white, with tiny blue stripes. You could tell he worked out by the way it hugged his torso. My stomach started to flutter. Was I prepared for an actual date? With a fully adulting human male?

This was a first.

“So how’s your day going?” Henry asked.

The conversation flowed from there, though I occasionally tripped over my words.

“Oh no no, you go,” he said every time we spoke at the same time.

Henry never interrupted, asked questions, listened, responded appropriately, and there was never a lull in conversation. He didn’t even bring up his time in a mental institution, his alien blood type, or his shotgun collection. I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone.

“I don’t understand why people would put up a misleading photo,” he said at one point, when the inevitable ‘online dating’ topic arose. “You look exactly like your photos.” He smiled, clearly giving his approval.

I definitely didn’t stress all day wondering what to wear and then put on the outfit I always do, Henry.

“I also don’t understand when people roll into a first date like they can barely bother to be there,” I replied. “I feel like you have to treat every first date like it’s special.”

“Because you never know!” we both said at the same time.

When the date ended a few hours later, Henry walked me to my car and gave a solid hug goodbye.

“I’d love to do this again sometime.”

“Me too!” I answered.

“Send me your number through the app, if that’s okay?”

“I will!”

Shortly after I’d gotten home, Henry’s first text arrived.

“Such a wonderful evening! I wish it would have gone longer!”

After a few more exchanges, he said, “I have to say this was an awesome first date. So, I’m pretty much free anytime to see you again so whatever date works for you, I’m totally available.”

Single men of the world? I hope you’re taking notes.

~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor

Fruitless Effort: My Dating Saga Continues

“We’re sorting zee last fruits of zee year today, and these, they go together at zee same time.”

“Uh-huh.”

The 6-foot-3 French Hemsworth swaggered towards us carrying two bunches of grapes, one white and one red, leisurely popping the small orbs into his mouth.

“It’s our last day of sorting today,” he repeated, casually spitting seeds off to the side.

“Uh-huh.”

The three of us stared at him, mouths agape, borderline catatonic. A flash of bright white blinded us when he smiled.

Erin, Babs (mom) and I had been finishing a winery tour in the Willamette Valley when we’d spotted two bald eagles flying overhead.

“Look!” Erin had exclaimed, catching the attention of a tall, brunette Adonis sorting grapes. He’d sauntered over.

“What do you think zey are looking for?” he had asked, his elegant neck craned skyward.

Upon hearing his French accent, Erin hadn’t wasted time in replying, “I think they spotted a tasty treat.”

“Do you agree?”

He had torn his gaze from the sky and laid a set of smoldering eyes on her.

Paint me like one of your French girls.

Babs and I had watched the scene unfold in a state of disbelief. Was this a real human? Did men like this exist outside of Hallmark holiday movies? Was he about to tell us he was inheriting the winery from his late uncle and the only thing missing was an awkward blonde to share it with?

“Here, try,” he said, offering us the two bunches of grapes cupped gently in his masculine palm.

So much wine and no one to share with it.

I attempted to gracefully pluck a red grape from the bunch closest to me and it fell apart in my fingers. Not unlike every time I tried to pluck a man from the shallow depths of central Oregon’s dating pool

After a six month dating hiatus following Cameron Who Cancels and Wasn’t Even Worth Blogging About, I evidently hit my head and decided to fire up Hinge. Again. Living in central Oregon -an island of sorts, surrounded on all sides by forest and desert-y nothingness- I knew I was bound to see some familiar faces. When a cute, new, outdoorsy guy sent a like, I cautiously accepted.

“Hey Jules, how’s your week going?” asked Walter.

Not exactly a panty-dropping opener, but I decided to reply. After a few brief and normal-seeming exchanges, we agreed to meet up the following week after he was done hosting his parents. He was about my age, liberal, had a good job, a dog, and a solid grasp on “you’re” versus “your.” He even picked our meet-up spot instead of punting the decision back to me. What more could a tired, 40-year-old divorcee ask for?

When our 7pm Thursday Date Night arrived, I put on a new cream-colored turtleneck sweater and light wash jeans, arriving a few minutes early.

Jules Schnedeker (b. 1982). Fruitless Effort, 2022. Google Pixel photo on blog. A self-portrait captured before the artist fell into another writer’s block.

Shortly after 7 o’clock, I caught a man waving at me from outside the restaurant. Walter came inside looking frazzled.

“Jules? Hi. I think I left my oven on.”

His eyes held a wild, frantic look.

“Oh no! Okay. Well, you should definitely go check.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course! You don’t want to be worrying about that the whole night! I can go meet you nearby…wherever you live,” I offered, realizing I was about to reveal that I’d already stalked him online and knew his last name and a few other key details.

“Oh, but this place looks so nice,” he lamented, gazing around the restaurant.

“Why don’t I get us a table outside by the fire and you just come back after you check,” I suggested.

Walter looked relieved. “Okay, I live about 10 minutes away. Thank you so much.”

“No problem!”

I sat down outside, eager to get a glass of wine. As the minutes ticked by, I started to wonder if I’d just been ditched. Nah. He wouldn’t have bothered to come inside if he was gonna bail. A half an hour later, Walter finally returned. The moment his rear end hit the chair, he popped back up.

“Need anything?” he asked, gesturing towards my half full glass of crappy Prosecco.

“I’m good, thanks,” I said, my brows furrowed. We had a waiter…

He returned a minute later with a glass full of amber liquid. I’d later find out it was a double shot of whiskey, presumably to make it easier to interrogate me calm his nerves.

“So why did you get divorced?” he asked without missing a beat.

“Well,” I began, my Spidey sense tingling. I knew I was talking to a jilted man. “As sad as it is to say, we fell out of love.”

A horrified look crossed his face. “What do you mean?”

“We were 21 when we started dating,” I explained. “People change…?” It felt uncomfortable dissecting a relationship that had ended nearly a decade earlier with a perfect stranger.

No one invited you inside my past, Walter.

“Whose decision was it?” he pressed. Every time I thought the topic was spent, he found another probing question. “Did you go to therapy? How did you know he was unhappy?”

Before long, my insides screamed, I don’t want to be here! Walter later revealed that he’d had an engagement called off earlier this year, confirming my suspicions.

“I feel like I’m off my game,” I admitted about an hour into the date as I continued to falter from his inquisition.

Rather than offer reassurance, he replied, “Why?”

“The conversation got a little…intense.”

“I like to go deep,” he said and I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “You’re doing better than the one other date I’ve had here. She cried for most of it.”

Why am I not surprised?

“Yeah,” he went on. “I asked about her dating history, and she said she keeps getting used by men who wind up being married and just use her for sex because she’s ‘so good in bed.’ The only other woman I met since I moved here [earlier this year] was from Salem [three hours west]. She came to visit for the weekend and I had to work for part of it. Instead of exploring, she just sat in my living room the entire time. I was attracted to her, but that was such a turn-off.”

I nodded, my inner voice growing louder. I don’t want to be here!

I want to be here!

“A sense of humor is the most important thing,” he repeated several times throughout the night while not actually saying anything funny. “And how you reacted to the oven situation was a good test; you were really nice about it.”

Notoriously bad at exiting, the date lasted two and a half hours – which probably meant I passed another test. When we asked for the bill, the waiter automatically brought two separate checks. At least someone read the room tonight. I slowly took mine while Walter made zero attempt to intercept.

“Well,” I said, standing up. “Thanks for having your shit together.” It was the nicest thing I could conjure.

“Thanks for not crying,” he replied, inspiring my first chuckle of the night.

The next day Walter messaged me through Hinge, saying he’d had a good time. “It was nice meeting you,” I replied noncommittally. He then asked “what I was up to” that weekend without making it clear whether or not he was asking me out. I never responded.

When friends asked how it went, I told them the truth.

“The only thing turned on that night was his oven.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

humor, Lists, PSAs

PLEASE STOP SAYING “JOURNEY”

Have you lost weight recently?

Gained weight?

Tried a new wellness product?

Had children?

Sold a house?

Adopted a puppy?

Stopped eating meat?

Farted in the wind?

You have?! That’s wonderful! And? That is NOT A JOURNEY.

You do not need to “curate” (dry heave) the “seasons” (gag) of your life by calling everything a “journey” (help).

The only three times using the word “journey” is acceptable:

1. You have traversed a great distance – literally.

2. You made it into American Idol’s Top 24 and are explaining to Ryan Seacrest that your late/ailing grandmother is the reason you auditioned in the first place.

3. You’re at any Jersey wedding, ever, and someone asks, “Who sings this?”

Still confused? Please review this definition:

Image courtesy of Google

Notice how neither example includes crystals, yoga, or rich white people.

And to my journey-uttering readers: know that there is still hope. Allow me to illustrate through a few recent stories from my life. May this empower (wretch) you to consider (vomit) three alternate suggestions to your favorite word.

#1 – My Dating Journey A Ceaseless Dumpster Fire on the Slow March to Certain Death

DISCLAIMER: Name(s) changed.

“So do you want to meet for a drink…?”

“I don’t think so.”

I stared at my phone in shock. Michael and I had been texting incessantly for the past week after meeting on Hinge, the only dating app with which I seemed to have any luck. (I didn’t say it was good luck.)

“Or coffee…?” I offered. Maybe he doesn’t drink.

It was rare that I’d text someone this much, but he’d been traveling for work over New Years, so we’d had no option to meet in person. Until now. Michael was back in Oregon and I’d assumed he was as eager to go on a real date as I was.

“Nah,” he replied.

“I’m so confused, lol,” I finally replied after several minutes, almost near tears.

“What’s confusing?” he asked.

“I figured you’d want to meet when you got back…”

“Wellll I don’t drink, and coffee dates are so awkward and I always wind up getting ghosted.”

This guy gets ghosted? Nearly 6’4″, 30ish, muscular, with thick hair and kind eyes, Michael’s abs butt face could’ve sold out theaters. He looks like a g.d. Avengers character!

“I have a facial tick,” he explained and I almost audibly sighed in relief. “Sometimes I blink a lot and so coffee dates aren’t good for me. I’m feeling really blinky today.”

“Well I’d just be trying to get to know you better, so I can promise you that that wouldn’t bother me at all,” I replied, my mind racing for alternate options that didn’t involve my apartment.

Michael was a van lifer, so suggesting we meet at his place wasn’t exactly a good choice, either. After going back and forth a little more, I finally caved.

“Okay, why don’t you just come here,” I said. Originally a Jersey girl, my two and a half years in adorable, innocent central Oregon had lowered my defenses. Or maybe it was just those abs that smile.

When Michael arrived and I heard his voice, soft and sweet, I knew I had nothing to fear (at least in the you-want-to-see-my-head-unattached-to-my-body kind of way). I created a distraction that I hoped would put him at ease: dog tricks! I’d filled Uncle Jesse’s puzzle with treats in preparation.

Did I mention he’s pursuing a degree in applied physics in the fall?

“You’ve gotta see this,” I told Michael as he took off his jacket and sneakers. I stared at the giant shoes now sitting by the front door; they somehow managed to dwarf my size 11 sneakers. Though I loved solitude, the sight made me feel warm. Safe.

After Uncle Jesse showed off his puzzle, I got Michael a drink and tried to avoid direct eye contact; I could see he was blinking and didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. He was right. If this had been a coffee date it would have been incredibly awkward.

We eventually sat on the couch and he downed glass after glass of water. I’d been on enough first dates recently to appreciate that there might actually be a universe in which I wasn’t the most nervous person in the room.

After about an hour, Michael made a move, and I wasn’t surprised that he suddenly found his stride. Apparently he was just fine on first dates when they didn’t involve talking.

In a matter of weeks, we were “exclusive” and I texted friends, “I think I have my first boyfriend in four years.”

Fast forward a few more weeks…

“We’re just in different places in life.”

I was the one who sent the text. Michael and I had agreed that we communicated better and more openly via text messaging, so it seemed like the right way to end things. I explained that his lateness, lack of balanced conversation (turns out he liked to talk…a lot), and failure to contribute to anything financially had been part of “a pattern of inconsideration” that I couldn’t ignore.

“I’m truly sorry things didn’t work out,” I ended my lengthy note, my heart in my throat. “And I wish you all the best things that life has to offer.”

And…

…I never heard from him again.

#2 – My Freelancing Journey Toxic People are Everywhere and I’m Very Tired

Dear Toxic Boss,

It is with sadness unadulterated glee that I submit my resignation after just one week of working for you. In our short time together, I experienced a level of unprofessionalism usually reserved for public office.

You may recall that during my interview, you:

  • compared the freelance hiring process to dating
  • told me how much you paid your other freelancer (double what you were willing to pay me)
  • explained how you knew I was motivated to do a good job because you had the power to leave a bad review on a public platform
  • said the word “p***y” when quoting Donald Trump
  • compared giving feedback to employees to “redirecting a child” who’s gone astray

You hired me to help promote a completed product for which you hadn’t “any idea of” the intended buyer. I enjoyed billing you for the hours spent revising the same five paragraphs. When I suggested that it may not be wise to include those 650+ words in 5-point font on a half-page print advertisement, you made it clear that you knew best – despite having had no previous success in selling similar products.

Shoot. Now you’re not gonna finish reading this post because you’re too busy racing to buy this product.

During our initial days together, you asked that we not engage in lengthy email exchanges since you were paying me “by the minute,” then proceeded to send no fewer than five emails per day at a length that would make James Joyce swoon. I appreciated the opportunity to hone my reading comprehension whilst deciphering your unformatted, stream of consciousness, mansplain-y missives.

I wish you nothing but the best in spending your undeserved investment fortune on your passion product that absolutely no one would ever purchase without your monetary incentives.

Warmly Hotly,

Go Jules Go

#3 – My Running Journey Why Privileged White People Should Be Institutionalized: Part #437

I’m currently mentoring a wonderful local running group and we have our big 5k race this weekend. The best part has been that I’m required to email the group once a week. This means that they have had no choice but to admire my cleverness and Uncle Jesse’s head tilts as I’ve assaulted their inboxes with these photos over the past eight weeks.

Last week, I also imparted my pearls of wisdom about “race day mentality.”

HAVE FUN,” I wrote in boldfaced caps. “When you see people on race morning who look like they’re about to go into 17 hours of brain surgery and they’re THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN SAVE LITTLE JOHNNY, enjoy knowing that you have the appropriate mindset. A celebratory one! You’re outside! You’re moving! Encouraging others and making new friends! You’ve already succeeded and this delightful romp in gorgeous Bend, Oregon is just icing on the cake. Mmm. Icing.”

When it comes to formal athletic pursuits, I’ve definitely taken myself WAY too seriously in the past and then had to remember: I’m not curing cancer here! I’m part of a bunch of middle-aged, privileged, white people who pay to get up at 5am, crap our brains out in disgusting port-a-potties, sweat for hours on end, and then get an ugly shirt we’re never going to wear.

Is that brown or gray? Or both?

Tell me we don’t all deserve to be institutionalized.

~*~*~*~*~*~

What are your trigger words (and is “trigger” one of them)?

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging, Dating, PSAs

It Was Me All Along

DISCLAIMER: Names changed or omitted.

“The Starfish poem brought you to me. And I think there’s something really important to that. This week, I want you to remember: If nothing matters, it’s just as likely that everything matters.”

The blinds were drawn over the huge corner windows, but even in winter, the high desert sun made the room feel bright and warm. Several starfish paintings dotted the light blue walls.

I nodded, tears pooling in my eyes. I looked at the ceiling to try to keep them from spilling over. The inside of my mask was already wet with an hour’s worth of feelings.

My therapist, Denise, got up from her chair and walked over to her computer, which sat atop a large wooden desk in the far right corner. Our meeting that day had been unlike previous ones. Instead of regaling her with my ridiculous dating stories, as I’d done during the previous two sessions, I had finally caved.

“Sometimes I just don’t see the point of any of it,” I had confessed. “Sometimes I just don’t want to be here anymore.”

Denise promised she would push me harder in future sessions so I wouldn’t avoid the most painful feelings and confessions. I carried her parting words with me as I faced another long week of uncertainty and self-doubt.

Over the past few months, I’d thrown myself back into the dating ring with a fervor usually reserved for boy bands and baked goods. The experiences ranged from barely noteworthy to fascinating to gut wrenching, and my self-esteem wavered at every turn.

Will I ever find my person? I wondered day in and day out. I couldn’t possibly put forth more effort. Between scouting out potential matches on dating apps to getting gussied up every other night to actually going on dates, it was as though I’d taken on another full-time job. Surely it was bound to pay off.

I’ll pray. I’ll light candles. Sweet baby Jesus take the wheel.

As the weeks passed and nothing quite took off, I found myself returning to a well worn narrative: I’m not good enough. I’m too old. Too fat. Too broken. No one wants me. This is impossible. After my divorce and two soul destroying break-ups in 2014, this belief had taken a new, more powerful hold on my heart, and even years later, I struggled to break free of it.

Following my latest therapy session, I suddenly stopped in my tracks. I considered Denise’s parting words, which I’d begun to apply to everything abstract: If you think [x extreme belief] is true, then you have to give equal weight to the possibility that [y exact opposite belief] is true.

If no one wants me, then it’s equally possible that everyone wants me.

I chuckled, and from this new objective standpoint, I reviewed the past three months. There was the adorable Canadian. The 20-something “Darren Criss.” The rock climber. 6-foot-4-four “Brody Jenner.” The engineer. The guitarist. The professor. One of them even gave me a [much-needed] vacuum.

That date didn’t suck. Ba dum tss!

In my mind, they had all been out of my league. And they liked me! They wanted me! By and large, I had turned them down because we just weren’t a good match. As much as I hated the need for external validation, I couldn’t help but marvel at this new, shiny evidence.

For the first time, I saw just how much credence I’d given to untruths. For so many years, I’d taken myself out of the Love Game because I was absolutely and utterly convinced that anyone worth dating would never want to date me.

“How does, ‘I am worthy of love’ sound?” Denise had asked back in October, during one of our initial therapy sessions. She had been helping me uncover my core issue, which appeared to be rooted in worthiness.

I nodded and she handed me a contraption that I jokingly referred to as The Ovaries. One of Denise’s methods was EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), something I’d never heard of or tried before until coming to see her. Supposedly by holding these small, vibrating disks while thinking of a triggering memory and repeating my new mantra, “I am worthy of love,” I could begin to rewire my brain.

For just $457, you too can feel worthy of love! Source

“I’m open to trying anything,” I had assured Denise when we’d first met. Aside from traditional talk therapy, over the years I’d experimented with everything from hypnosis to reiki healing to past life regressions.

As I felt the plastic disks gently vibrate in my palms, tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought of chubby, smart, stubborn grade school Jules, bullied by the girls who used to be her best friends. I am worthy of love. The family and friends who shunned me after my divorce. I am worthy of love. The grown women who bullied me as an adult. I am worthy of love.

“Okay,” Denise said after a few minutes. “Take a deep breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth.”

I obeyed, feeling like I’d just run an emotional marathon. We repeated the exercise a few more times.

“Now how would you rate the emotional charge when you think of [your most recent triggering experience], on a scale of 1 to 7. We started at a 6,” Denise reminded me.

“Um,” I thought for a long moment. “A 2?”

“That’s a big change,” she replied softly, nodding.

“I’m just looking for that feeling again,” I wept later in our session. I had been describing a person I’d met several months earlier who’d completely taken me by surprise. While it ultimately didn’t get off the ground, it had shaken me to the core and opened my eyes to romantic possibility in a way I hadn’t seen since my divorce. “It was effortless and I didn’t question any of it.”

“You know that had everything to do with you and nothing to do with him,” Denise said, a notebook resting on her left knee.

I furrowed my brows and started to protest before going silent. That can’t be right. It was him. He was amazing. He made me feel that way.

The longer I sat with this new, opposite, y-type idea, the more it made sense. As the weeks passed, I thought about the poem that had brought me into that office in the first place. A poem I’d memorized in first grade and that I’d lived by ever since. Two months earlier, I’d spotted that same poem on Denise’s website home page and knew I’d found the right therapist.

I found a tiny starfish

In a tide pool by the sea

I hope whoever finds him next

Will leave him there, like me!

And the gift I’ve saved for you?

The best that I can give:

I found a tiny starfish,

And for you, I let him live.”

Dayle Ann Dodds (excerpt)

Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are always about us. We choose to love or hate, regret or move forward, consider others or turn a blind eye. We can save every starfish or none at all. Each of us has such power and such inherent worthiness.

Why not choose to believe it?

Foster Reservoir, Foster, Oregon. Dec 2021.

~*~*~*~*~

Dating, humor

“You Picked THAT Photo?” The Time My Face Was Used to Catfish

You have (1) unread message.

“Ugh,” I groaned. Another spam message. This particular alert had been popping up in my inbox for days and I decided to finally open a new tab to log into LinkedIn and deal with it.

It’s, like, SO EXHAUSTING to open a WHOLE NEW TAB.

What I didn’t expect to see was this:

Hi Jules, someone is using your photos on an OkCupid profile [profile link]. Was recently messaging this person claiming to be Hannah in LDN and googled the photos and they’re actually yours, and you don’t live remotely near. Just warning you so you can report it.”

“What kind of holy high hell specific spammy sh*t is this?!” I wondered. Afraid to click on the link, I instead clicked on the sender, David’s, profile. His intro, connections, and credentials seemed far too specific and normal to be fake. I bit the bullet and clicked on the OkCupid profile link he had provided.

“Log in to view singles in your area!” the website shouted when I tried to view Hannah’s profile.

Farts. I have to create an OkCupid account just to see this?! Hmm. Maybe it’s a sign I should try OkCupid! After all, my recent dating experiences using other online apps had been largely abysmal.

Seriously. Abysmal.

I quickly created a profile, adding the bare minimum requirements, and retried the link from David.

And there she was.

“She picked that photo?!” I marveled.

I mean I guess it made sense. You’d want to use ‘real’ looking images if you were gonna go full catfish. I scrolled through the profile. I’d just watched Love Hard on Netflix and felt catapulted into its plot, wherein a 30-something guy, Josh (who, oddly, looked a lot like David from LinkedIn) creates a fake dating profile to lure in a cute, unsuspecting journalist, Natalie, whose job was to write about her love life fails.

I’ve got you beat, Natalie.

In the movie, Josh tells Natalie that everything else besides the photos was really him: the voice she talked to on the phone every night, the favorite foods and movies, the sense of humor. Hannah’s profile was a full throttle Josh. The details depicted a real, living, breathing person – who was absolutely nothing like me. I was half tempted to let her* keep using my photos.

*I’ve chosen to use she/her pronouns since that’s what “Hannah” used.

You really committed to the OkCupid questionnaire, Hannah.

I get it, girl. I wanted to write. It’s a sh*t show out there.

On the other hand, I empathized with David and anyone else getting duped. I’d personally seen everything from wildly inaccurate photos to fake phone numbers.

“Oh, wow, this is a first!” I replied to David. “Thanks so much for the heads up – am reporting now!”

After reporting the account, it was swiftly removed by the OkCupid overlords. I wondered how the whole process worked.

Maybe Hannah was a scam artist trying to score money or a pathological liar. Or maybe she was a stone cold fox and just didn’t want her image out there. Her profile mentioned that she was into “persuasion, hypnosis, and mind control.” Maybe this was all part of some grand experiment that we’d someday see on Netflix’s latest special, Love Hard and Catfish Harder.

Wow, Hannah and I are an 81% match! PLOT TWIST.

And how could the OkCupid team be sure I was the woman behind the photos? Did Hannah put up a fight? While my ego was stroked by the incident (“Ooh! Someone chose MY photos!”), I also couldn’t help but be curious about how deep David had gotten with her before uncovering the truth. How must it feel to fall for someone and then discover the ‘real’ person behind the photos? It’s disappointing enough to meet someone [after any online exchange] and not click in person, let alone after weeks or months of messaging.

In the end, the whole thing left me a little sad. Whatever the specifics, surely at least one person got hurt. Because of this blog and my business, I have no choice but to be utterly upfront. Simply search “Jules” + any number of other basic terms and there I am in all of my dorky glory.

Oop! You found me!

After Hannah’s profile disappeared and within days of joining OkCupid, I discovered a potential match. Our message exchange was uncharacteristically delightful, and we wound up arranging to meet. After setting the time and location, my match sent one more note.

So, just a heads up, I was looking at your profile again and noticed that you are 5’8″. I’m 5’6″. For me personally, that is absolutely not a problem. For some people it is, some people it isn’t. Online dating can be a harsh world. But I didn’t want that to be a surprise in person tomorrow. If that changes anything, just let me know.”

I quickly responded that it wasn’t an issue for me if it wasn’t an issue for him, and jokes ensued. I couldn’t help but wonder, though… was that a Catfish Lite? He hadn’t listed his height, so technically hadn’t lied.

“When you go to the doctor’s or wherever and have to fill out forms,” I recently asked a few divorced female friends. “Do you check the box that says ‘single’ or ‘divorced’?”

“Oh, ‘single’!” they unanimously replied.

“I always check ‘divorced’!” I said, surprised I stood alone in this survey.

Did it matter? Weren’t they both accurate? I thought about how many first/second/third/fourth/fifth dates I’d been on where the guy suddenly revealed his ‘in progress’ divorce, kids, or the woman living in his spare bedroom (that one happened twice!).

Where’s the line between omission and deception?

*~*~*~*~*~*~

What do you think? When it comes to the early stages of dating, do these details even really matter? When is it okay to withhold information and when is it not?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

What Women Want Single Guys to Know

“You’re buying [next time] since you made me put on pants and do my hair, right?” I texted, attaching a selfie.

“Absolutely! You’re so gorgeous,” Jake replied.

I put my phone down and sighed. I’d just spent 90 minutes on my First Date Fabulosity Routine, only to have my date, Jake, bail at the last minute.

Bad move, Jake.

“I had to run my roommate to urgent care. Kidney pain apparently. Doing okay, on meds now but still stuck here. I feel so bad!” he had explained.

I took his word for it, and we rescheduled for the following Tuesday. In the meantime, he texted daily. When Tuesday morning rolled around, Jake wrote,

“Another belt snapped on my car last night.”

“So it sounds like we should postpone,” I replied, not wanting a repeat of last week, where I sat alone on my couch with perfect hair.

I debated throwing in the towel, clicking over to Jake’s Hinge profile. Dammit, he’s really cute.

“So now that your car is back in action, should we try this again?? Third time is the charm?” I texted the next day.

“Yeah! Tomorrow night? I have an orientation tomorrow morning and don’t want to be groggy.”

“Tomorrow works for me!”

In the early afternoon [on the next day], I texted,

“Hi! How did orientation go? Just confirming plan for this evening. …5? At [a food truck lot]?”

“We just finished, 5 might be a bit too early. I’d like to take a shower and all that when I get home.”

“No problem – just let me know what time works for you!”

Since I had the green light, I hopped in the shower around 4pm and began the plucking/curling/poofing/pulling [on tight pants] routine.

“I’m pretty nervous to be honest,” Jake wrote at 4:30pm.

He wasn’t the first guy to admit this and I responded with my usual reassurance.

“Aw really? I’m really chatty and bubbly and have lots of great (terrible) dating stories and I ask lots of (easy) questions if that helps. As long as you don’t show me YouTube clips of you surgically removing your big toenails or say that you have an alien blood type that doesn’t get COVID*, you’ll be golden. *based on true stories.”

“The f*ckkk,” he wrote back.

“See? Nothing to worry about.”

“I’m still nervous.”

“Well then let’s get you a beer, stat.”

“I’ve still gotta shower… Had a little [outdoor ski] fun [after the orientation]. Just got home.”

I looked at the clock. It was 5pm, so I figured I had an hour to kill and poured a small glass of wine. My phone binged again.

“I hate to even ask this but I’d do the same time tomorrow at [the same food truck lot].”

I stared at my phone in disbelief, a series of possible responses flying through my head. What came out was,

“Lol ummm.”

When he didn’t reply right away, I added, “What happened?”

“Just not feeling it right now,” Jake said.

I felt heat rise from my neck to my face. Is. He. F@&%#. Kidding. Me?!?! I immediately started texting my friends. A few minutes later, my phone sounded again.

“Nothing personal, just not feeling like drinks and people,” Jake added. It was now 5:19pm.

I thought of a hundred different responses – all of the things I wanted him to know about how inconsiderate, selfish, and hurtful this was. I wanted to tell him how many times I sucked it up and SHOWED UP -for dates, concerts, work events, birthday parties, bridal showers- when I wasn’t “feeling it.” How many times I was dying on the inside, but smiled, asked questions, and tried to make the other person feel valued. This guy couldn’t put on pants, drive seven minutes away, and spend 90 minutes letting a cute blonde carry the conversation? After already bailing twice? To make matters worse, he’d even had a glimpse into my beautification process after the first time he’d bailed.

At least the crazy ones showed up and bought me a drink, Jake!

As my mind raced with potential replies, I realized the best thing I could do was simply unmatch him on Hinge and archive our text message thread. Any of my emotional responses would just make me look like as much of an asshat as he did.

However.

There’s a reason I love having a blog.

And thus, I give to you:

Thanks to the wonderful women [of all ages and marital statuses] who shared their utterly badass advice. We hope you’ll pay it forward and pass this along (and share your own advice in the comments section)!

Men, please do the following: 1) Be on time. 2) Do what you say you’re going to do. 3) Be kind. 4) Know yourself (as in, don’t string me along if you know we aren’t a match).” -Lora L.

Be honest, be yourself, don’t play it too cool (i.e., three day waiting period on follow up communication). If looking for a relationship, give reasonable time to get to know a person before rushing to judgment, but be upfront about not being into the other person so you don’t waste their time. Oh, and come with your own condoms. (I would tell the woman to always have her own, too.) Get your junk checked between partners. And expect to be asked.” -Anonymous

Advice for men dating women in their forties: Forty-something women generally have their shit together and have low tolerance for men who are not self aware. Bring your best self and we are good to go. :)” Signed, Jen O.

Don’t do any of this.

1. Don’t show up in sweatpant shorts on the first date 2. Don’t cry about your ex on the first date 3. Be funny 4. Ask your date questions 5. Clip your fingernails 6. Dont say offensive things like “trump is a gift from heaven” or “COVID isn’t real” unless you are certain the other person feels the same way 7. Don’t talk about how much you miss living with your mother 8. Learn to play the guitar 9. Be open to new experiences 10. Show kindness to animals and waitstaff 11. No whining or complaining on the first date 12. Don’t flake when you make plans unless there is a bonafide reason 13. Don’t say you’ll call/text when you have no intent to do so 14. View dating as an adventure and have fun with it! 15. Meet in a public place in case she’s a psycho 16. Don’t be clueless, learn to read social cues 18. Do not, under any circumstance, send a Dick pic unless clearly requested.” –Pam @ I Choose This

As some f&@&* questions. Don’t make her carry the conversation. Be more interested than attempting to be interesting.” -Taryn D.

Don’t misrepresent yourself. Don’t paint yourself in the light that you think the woman wants to see, so that you seem perfectly compatible. Be honest about who you are. She’ll find out anyway.” –Donna Rubin Design

Oh. Is that your singing voice?

1) Don’t put photos of your children on your dating profile. They have rights to privacy. 2) Asking questions about your date’s interests, hobbies, skills, family, life, thoughts, etc. is a nice, human thing to do and shows you’re interested. 3) I feel like a bad feminist for saying it, but pay. Pay for the first round. It shows respect. 4) We don’t care how many animals you have killed. We don’t want to see the dead fish pic. 5) Is it time to get sexy? Make sure she comes first. Period. If I just want you to pound out my sadness, I’ll tell you. Otherwise, I prefer real, reciprocal sex.” -Anne K.

1) If you know what you’re looking for, be upfront about it. The worst we can say is no. But, isn’t it better to be on the same page? It’s definitely a dick move to pretend to be looking for something more serious when you really just want to hit it and quit it. There are people out there of all genders looking for anything from one night stands to long term monogamy…find the one that wants what you want! 2) It’s okay not to know what you want. But be honest about it and/or try to practice some impulse control and take things slow until you figure it out. 3) Consent is sexy…informed consent is sexier. Have the conversations about birth control, protection, and STI testing. And (obviously!) be respectful about boundaries there. 4) Don’t be afraid to start the conversation. I don’t remember the last time a man I dated initiated any conversation on the above topics. It’s exhausting to always have to be the one to bring these conversations up! I would hope that -even if we’re just banging one out and going our separate ways- that you would care that I don’t get hurt emotionally or physically. It’s just basic human to human decency and dignity. 5) If someone (doesn’t matter if it’s your wife or one night stands) sends you the gift of a nude, UNLESS SHE EXPLICITLY TELLS YOU TO SHOW THE WORLD, you keep it to yourself! I want you to see my tits – not your weird best friend!” -Allie D.

Don’t lie about your height.” -Anonymous

Be clear about your intentions and feelings. If you intend on just having sex and not getting emotionally involved, say so. A dick such honesty does not make. The dick move is in making us think you’re interested in an emotional connection and over time hurting us by not giving it. Also, be willing to pay. Unless your date is clearly in a better paying job than you (which statistically is unlikely), the person who makes more should be willing to pay more. Since that is likely you, respect our plight with glass ceilings throughout time and plan to pay. Lastly, respond to messages within 24 hours and include a reciprocating question or follow-up item. Stop assuming women will lead every bit of a conversation. It’s exhausting.” -Shawna W.

The first word that came to mind was respect.  I don’t know if I’d say ‘treat your date with the same respect as you would your mom,’ but something like that.
Respect covers a whole lot of things like honesty, being on time, knowing how to listen, and not talking about weird stuff or your ex (at least not at the beginning, unless it’s really funny, then maybe). Hygiene does come in a very close second, though.  Maybe even that comes under respect; respect yourself enough to take care of your body and think about how that will impact your date.” -Babs S.

It all just boils down to: be nice and don’t be a jackass.” -Anonymous

Hear that, Nick?

1.  We don’t need you, so calm down. 2.  Manners go a LONG way. 3.  We don’t want a mental dump of your life, let’s start with your favorite food. 4.  If something turns you off on the first date, we feel it too, so be honest. RED FLAGS: 1.  Mentioning a bad relationship w your family, it is fine if it exists, but let’s not jump to what Christmas w the in laws could turn into on our 1st date. 2.  Disrespectful behavior while out on said date (rude to waitstaff, impatience, etc.). 3.  Odors…. In general….  A shower and scrub is always needed pre-date. 4.  DO NOT BATHE in your cologne. Things that are well received: 1.  Genuine smiles. 2.  Sharing of stories, letting the convo go where it goes. 3.  Showing a picture of your fur baby (if you have one). 4.  Talking about something you have passion for (hiking, outdoors, photography, your work, etc.). -Dorothy Z.

Recurring Themes

Buy (at least) the First Round

Be Upfront About Your Intentions

Help Drive the Conversation

As for my advice, well… here’s what I would have said to Jake [if I’d thought he’d have been receptive to feedback]:

As someone in her late 30s who’s been married and dated a fair bit, perhaps I can impart some wisdom from down the road so you don’t miss another opportunity with another amazing woman: If you’re absolutely forced to cancel on a woman (whether it’s at the last minute or not), do everything in your power to make it up to her. She has likely arranged her entire day around meeting you and put extra effort into looking nice. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance to try again, show up with bells on. In the initial dating stages, don’t ever, EVER tell her you’re ‘just not feeling it’ when you have plans to hang out. She’ll have put her cutest outfit on, done her hair, and been ready to carry the conversation; the least you can do is show up. Canceling last minute, no matter the reason, conveys selfishness and inconsideration – hardly the hallmarks of a stand-up guy. If she has any self-respect whatsoever, you’ll send her running for the hills. Best of luck, [Jake]. I’m sure you’re a great guy and smart enough not to make the same mistake tw- ah, four times.”

Really, though? I think it all boils down to this:

Figure out how to make her feel safe and seen, and she’ll gift you with her whole self.

~*~*~*~*~*~

What’s your advice?

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

The Gloves are Off: Another First Date Flop

Last week I told you about Mr. Saturday, Kyle: our shining star in the latest round of, “How Much Worse Can It Get? Dating Edition.”

What you couldn’t have known, even if you’d read every word of that post with your jaw quickly migrating south, was that I’d been on the heels of another eyebrow-raising first date, Mr. Friday, Nick.

Nick was also a cute guy in his 30s with whom I’d texted back and forth for a few days before meeting up. He mentioned that he didn’t drink, so we made plans to meet at a local park.

Oh, you don’t drink? ha ha, yeah, I don’t really either. Before noon.

It was fairly chilly in central Oregon, especially by 6pm, and I wondered how to look cute and warm at the same time. I settled on black sneakers, black winter leggings, a black crop top turtleneck, and a puffy jacket that hugged my waist so I (hopefully) didn’t look like a shapeless blob.

I stuck gloves in my pockets and pulled my hair into a low ponytail, anticipating a breeze with bite.

“I’m leaving now,” Nick texted once I was already sitting in the parking lot waiting. (In case you’re curious: out of the past nine first dates, only one has shown up before me.)

When he finally arrived, about 15 minutes late, he gave me a hug hello. He looked like his photos…mostly. A little rougher around the edges, with pockmarked skin, but tall, good hair, and he’d clearly just showered. (Sadly, that last bit is noteworthy.)

“Are we going to box or something?” he said as I pulled on my gloves.

“I think you’d win,” I replied in a chipper voice, my stomach dropping. What the hell kind of joke is that for your opening line? These gloves aren’t even big! “You know, I’ve never punched anyone.”

Will that change tonight, Nick?

“Why are you wearing gloves?” he pressed, his voice laced with sarcasm.

“It’s like 40 degrees!” I laughed, still trying to make light of it. Are we going to keep talking about this?

We walked over a scenic wooden bridge and Nick paused to take photo. He didn’t make eye contact and seemed on edge. My stomach continued to plummet.

“I hate this town. Everyone’s so clique-y,” he snarled as we walked down the sidewalk, heading downtown.

“I’ve heard a couple of people say that,” I replied, making an effort to catch his eye and smile to see if he’d soften. “I got really lucky because I had some friends when I moved here.”

“My friend is a bouncer over at [a bar],” he said as we got closer to town. “Do you know where that is?”

“I think so,” I answered. It was becoming clear that Nick, a California transplant, didn’t know our town very well, underscored by the strong scent of cologne trailing behind him. No one -no one- in central Oregon wore cologne. “I always get the two main streets mixed up, but I think it’s this way.”

Does he want to go to a bar? He said he didn’t drink.

“Nah, he’s not working tonight. Let’s go this way,” he steered us to the left. “Did you hear about the guy who just got shot downtown?”

“What? No!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, my friend saw the whole thing. Some black guy was beating the sh*t out of this white guy and finally the white guy shot him and now everyone is saying it’s like a black lives matter thing, but the dude had it coming.”

Nick’s voice had gone from sarcastic to chilling and I swallowed, wracking my brain for a reply that wouldn’t trigger him.

“That’s awful,” I breathed. And so are you.

Only 25 minutes into our date, I started trying to figure out how to make a break for it. We were now standing in a brick-lined courtyard near the river, several vendors and a band setting up beneath white tents. Nick started walking towards a coffee shop.

“I didn’t bring a mask,” I said.

“Me either,” he replied, and proceeded to poke his head inside the coffee shop.

“Excuse me, sir,” a sweet-faced security guard cautioned. “You can’t go in without a mask.”

“I’ve got my skin mask on,” Nick growled, but came back outside.

I stared at the security guard with wide eyes.

“Help me,” I mouthed.

Did he just say “skin mask”?

His eyes twinkled as he laughed and mouthed back, “Blind date?” I nodded.

Soon, people filled the courtyard and the band started playing.

“I can’t wait to get out of this town,” Nick moaned. “I sold my house and I’m moving next month.”

“Oh wow,” I replied. “Congratulations. Great time to sell.” Good riddance.

“Yeah, this town is ridiculous,” he went on. “One time I was watching TV at like 4am and I heard this noise. It was a couple of tweakers in my garage, robbing me. So I called the cops and they were like, ‘Well you’re a vet[eran], right? Can’t you take care of it?’ So I’m like, what the f*ck, and all of my guns were upstairs. Eventually they left and the cops came, but they thought I was making it up! Like some PTSD bullshit. So they wanted me to get a psych evaluation and I was like, fine, and then I was stuck in the hospital for four days. And when it all finally went to court, the cops never showed up, so the whole thing got dropped.”

“That is an unbelievable story,” I replied, my mind spinning in circles.

“Do you have any crazy stories?”

“Uhhh, not that crazy,” I said, no longer even trying to make eye contact. “I went out with this guy once who showed me a video of himself surgically removing his toenails. While we were eating dinner.”

Nick’s face was blank in response. I started to panic. How do I get out of here?!

“This band sucks,” Nick snarled. “A bunch of white guys playing reggae. God.”

“I’m gonna take off,” I blurted before I said something I might regret. Not realizing what was to come the following night, I had just ended my quickest date of all time: 40 minutes.

“Okay,” Nick replied, looking surprised. To his credit, he didn’t ask questions. But he did follow me a solid half mile to our cars – because he couldn’t remember where we’d parked them.

I pulled away quickly and beelined for the supermarket to buy a bottle two bottles of wine. With my gloves on, thankyouverymuch.

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

I Was Working in the (Dating) Lab, Late One Night…

I have a confession.

I LOVE TikTok!

Assuming you filter for funny, likeminded people, this app can restore your faith in humanity. So many positive, hilarious, creative folks are putting their silliest feet forward and, unlike Facebook and Instagram, I walk away feeling more optimistic about myself and life after scrolling. One of my recent favorite TikTok videos involved a woman conducting a dating app experiment. She asked her matches, “What’s your most controversial opinion?”

The results were… troubling. And fascinating. Naturally, I decided I needed to conduct this highly scientific experiment myself. Which meant once again downloading dating apps on my phone, a practice that in the past had been entirely scarring and short-lived.

I’m not sure if it’s because I live in a relatively small town, or people in central Oregon have learned from their mistakes, but no one, absolutely no one, was willing to give a less than P.C. response. My favorite? “Pumpkin pie is actually not good.”

Another excellent submission.

Before I knew it, my experiment was turning into actual dates. Three four five six in a row. Hang on. This was just for giggles! I texted one of my girlfriends, Sara.

“This is Mr. Thursday. Do you know him?”

I had learned the hard way to vet any first dates with my single girlfriends. I had also learned the hard way not to get too excited before the first meeting – and to arrange said meet up as quickly as possible. Text messages do not an accurate impression make.

Take, for example, Kyle.

Kyle was Mr. Saturday Night. Kyle had a great smile. Kyle said allllll the right things.

Even if he didn’t spell them correctly.

I was sure -absofreakinglutely sure- this date would wind up in Smooch City. I wore my date-iest shirt and assembled my date-iest hair. When Kyle got out of his car (15 minutes late…), I was still sure. Kyle looked like a young Bon Jovi.

If you remembered that I’m a Jersey girl, that should explain everything.

“Do we need to wear masks?” Kyle asked as we approached the bar.

“Oh, yes, everywhere inside,” I replied, trying to cover my surprise. Geesh, he really doesn’t get out much. “But you can take it off as soon as you get your drink.”

We ordered our drinks and quickly went outside and stood near a picnic table, not far from the raging fire pit. It was a chilly, drizzly October night in central Oregon’s high desert. I stuck my free hand in my coat pocket, wondering why we weren’t sitting down. Radiating nervous energy, Kyle immediately blurted,

“My sister has COVID.”

“Oh no!” I replied. “Is she okay?”

“Yeah, no symptoms. After a week, she was going stir crazy, so today she came into town and went shopping.”

My jaw dropped ever so slightly.

“I’m not vaccinated. I have a rare blood type that doesn’t get COVID,” he went on. “Are you vaccinated?”

Soooo I’m thinking making out is off the table.

“Um,” I paused. “Yes…fully vaccinated…” Holy f@%* how did I miss this on his profile?

Just as I tried to recover from this news, Kyle dropped another bomb.

“I have a 10-year-old daughter,” he said, pulling out his phone to show me a photo. “I didn’t know she was mine until she was five. I dated this woman 10 years ago who was engaged to a guy who couldn’t have kids, so she was using me for my sperm, but I didn’t even know she was engaged.”

“10, wow, well, that’s a great age…” I said, peering at his phone and gulping my wine.

Instead of sitting down, Kyle kept inching closer and closer. I shifted back ever so minutely as the conversation continued.

“I don’t believe in abortion,” he said without missing a beat. “I’m pro choice, but I don’t believe in abortion for me. And women wouldn’t need abortions if they didn’t sleep around. How about you?”

“Well,” I replied, unwilling to part with my wine in order to toss it in his face. “As a woman, I believe women can do whatever they choose with their bodies, including sleeping around.”

Unfazed, he released his third bomb of the night.

“Have you ever seen those TV dramas where the kids don’t realize they were raised by their grandparents?”

“Uhhh…maybe…?”

“Yeah, that was me. I thought my grandmother was my mom. My mom had me when she was 16, so we have more of a friend relationship.”

Before I could comment, he unleashed Bomb #4.

“I was at my brother’s funeral this summer with a friend. She’s 6’4″. All of my guy friends were asking about her because I guess they thought she was hot. I just don’t think women that tall can ever be hot. Yeah, my brother died in June. We think it was a drug overdose.”

“I’m so sorry. Wow…you’re giving me a lot to process here,” I stuttered. “I was thinking we’d start with our favorite pasta shape.”

“Well I don’t really care what you think,” he said.

“That’s kind of a rude thing to say,” I said, my eyebrows threatening to reach my perfectly coiffed hairline.

“I only really care what you think of my brother dying. I don’t want you to think I’m not ready to date yet because of that.”

“That’s definitely not what I was thinking,” I answered honestly.

DEFINITELY not what I was thinking, Kyle.

“I’ve had other girls message me on Bumble, but you’re the only one I’m interested in. If this doesn’t work out, I’m deleting the app.”

“So what if I said I just wanted to make out?” I questioned, strictly for research (*cough* blogging) purposes.

“If we made out, you’d definitely want to go out with me. I’m an amazing kisser. I’m very confident. I know what I like.”

“You are not like your texts,” I confessed, my brain continuing to slowly turn itself inside out. “You seemed so shy.”

We had now migrated halfway around the picnic table in my efforts to stand as far away from him as possible. He hadn’t noticed and continued to invade my personal space.

“What do you do for a living?” I asked.

“I work in cryptocurrency,” Kyle replied, and then began to describe something that, in fact, sounded like a pyramid scheme.

“So you work from home?” I asked and he nodded. “Do you live alone?” In a town like Bend, Oregon, this question often yielded unexpected results.

“I rent out two rooms.”

“Oh, so you own and rent out two rooms?”

“I don’t want to talk about my living situation.”

I almost choked on my drink. That’s the topic that’s off-limits? He gave me a dramatic once over, leaning to look at my backside.

“I like what I see. I love thick girls.”

“Um, so, I’m going to go,” I said, the two of us now standing a full five feet from where we’d started our conversation a half an hour earlier. “I don’t think either of us is going to get what we want from this.”

The last thing I saw was his taken aback expression as I bolted through the bar, placing my half full glass of wine in the plastic wash bin near the door. I debated shouting, “Six feet from that man, people! Or maybe sixty thousand!!!!”

On the upside, he unmatched me before I even got home.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~