“Jules! You have a radio voice!”
I clicked on the Hinge dating app message. It was always nice to see some text on the screen instead of a lazy ‘like’ with no accompanying message.
Greg’s profile photo was slightly menacing -dark beard, unsmiling, his face filling the entire frame- but I was intrigued by his comment on my voice prompt. (Hinge allows us
hopeless romantics gluttons for punishment to add video and voice memos to our profiles.) I quickly scrolled his profile and saw that he ticked all of my major boxes: non-smoker, vaxxed, liberal, didn’t appear to live in a van. He had also included a voice prompt and when I clicked on it, I heard him say, “You can tell a lot by a person’s voice. In fact, 90% of your connection to someone is through their voice.”
“So does this mean I’m already 90% golden and I can coast from here?” I replied.
Witty banter immediately ensued.
“Oh wait, you like to meet up,” Greg wrote after a couple of back-and-forth messages.
I decided to shuffle a few plans that evening so I could reply, “Yes! The snag is that I’m only free tonight or after next Monday.”
“I could meet tonight at 7:30,” he immediately responded, offering up a couple of locations.
We solidified the plan and exchanged a few more funny messages throughout the day. When I walked into the bar just after 7:30, I felt flushed from the bitter cold central Oregon air, my hands shoved deeply into my trusty brown puffy jacket.
I immediately spotted Greg at a large table and he greeted me with a prolonged handshake and big smile. He looked like a stand-up guy with his act together and I inwardly unclenched. He was a bundle of nerves, but in a charming way – the kind of person who has a million things to say when they’re excited.
Before we got too far into our frenetic conversation, Greg popped up.
“I ordered at the bar, but let me make sure someone is coming over to the table.”
Point one for Greg, I noted. My most recent first date had been sitting with a drink when I’d arrived and didn’t offer to get me anything, which always gives me pause.
“So you’re a writer?” Greg asked after confirming we had a waitress.
Greg offered up lots of questions and though I never quite got to finish any train of thought before he bounced to something else, I was flattered by his interest.
“I’m a lightweight,” he said when ordering his second hot toddy. “I usually only have two drinks.”
“I’m German and Irish. And I don’t have kids [like you]. Don’t try to keep up with me,” I teased.
I could tell he was feeling a little loose about an hour into the date and I wondered if things would get sloppy.
“Do you have any celebrity stories?” he asked and we both launched into our best tales.
“I usually don’t tell the story like this,” he said while I was on the edge of my seat. “You must bring out the writer in me!” He had built his story so that I was left guessing the celebrity the entire time. I loved it.
Throughout the night he dropped dozens of compliments and I wondered if there could be any romantic spark. I knew I liked him a lot and could definitely see us having fun as friends.
Two hours into the date, I got up to use the bathroom and when I came back, I noticed how buzzed Greg was and knew I was ready to go home.
“It’s so freezing in here,” I said and we both pulled on our jackets.
“We could go have another drink back at my place,” Greg offered with a grin.
My heart sank and emotion took the wheel.
“Noooo, Greg,” I moaned.
“It’s totally innocent! We live in the same neighborhood!” he said, still smiling, trying to warm me back up. “Damn. I can see you’ve put up a wall now.”
“This keeps happening!” I explained, only partially teasing. “Every first date, guys keep asking me to come home with them. It’s not cool.”
He continued back pedaling and I continued spiraling, not having the energy to recover gracefully and smooth things over. I just wanted to go home. I was exhausted from the endless dating rollercoaster: the adrenaline rush of meeting a perfect stranger, the ensuing trickles of hope, nightmares, occasional magic and inevitable let down.
“I was married for 20 years; I understand women,” Greg said in a last ditch effort to win me over. “Like I know you took your purse to the bathroom because you have your period.”
I blinked. After a long beat, I blurted,
“I’m really uncomfortable and I’m gonna go.”
“…Okay,” I heard Greg reply, flabbergasted, as he watched me bolt into the frigid night.
As soon as the cold air hit my cheeks, I felt a flood of relief. …Immediately followed by shame and regret. Did I just completely overreact? Am I going to be “the crazy blonde” he tells his friends about? Should I apologize? This was a small town and we were practically neighbors, after all.
I suddenly realized I had ten minutes to make it to the grocery store before they closed, securing the much-needed lemon I’d forgotten earlier that day.
By the time I got home and opened Hinge to apologize, Greg had unmatched me. When you’re unmatched, you lose all access to your chat history and their profile. The ultimate slap in the face in the online dating world. He had sent his number in the Hinge chat right before we met, but I didn’t save it.
So, “Greg.” If you’re out there, I’m sorry I didn’t handle that more elegantly. My bad. But maybe stick to two hot toddies next time.