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.

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humor

I Lasted 48 Hours on Tinder

“We met on Tinder!”

“…And now we’re engaged!”

“It’s really not just a hook-up app anymore.”

In recent years, I’d heard testimonials trumpeting Tinder as, “No Longer the One Night Stand Dating App You Used to Love to Hate.” Nevertheless, given that I wasn’t a big fan of dating apps (or, let’s be honest, dating), I’d steered clear.

Two years ago, when I moved to Oregon from New Jersey, I’d been single for two years. Free from marriage, Corporate America, and east coast humidity, I decided it was time to fire up Bumble (a dating app similar to Tinder in its swiping, but where only women have the power to send the first message). Let’s see if the scene is any different now that I live 3,000 miles away from my hometown.

Arguably, it was far worse in my new, small town (as the story linked above will prove). In New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S., you could go weeks without bumping into a familiar face. The likelihood of running into an ex or bad first date in Bend, Oregon, however: 113%. (Give or take.)

I quickly gave up and resumed my usual lifestyle: Friends, food, fur babies.

If only I could date him. Side note: My fur baby is famous now.

There was always the nagging thought that perhaps I’d “given up” versus consciously deciding to bow out of the dating scene.

“You’ve gotta put yourself out there!”

“It takes time to meet the right person.”

“Give him a chance!”

Despite honing my gut instinct over the past 38 years, the din of the masses still got to me. Maybe “they” all knew something I didn’t. Maybe everything I thought was right for me was just a way of protecting myself from getting hurt. Maybe I was going to DIE ALONE OH MY GOD I DON’T WANT TO DIE ALONE.

And that’s how I got sucked in -AGAIN- to downloading a dating app on my phone last week. This time, I bit the bullet and chose the infamous Tinder. I swiped right, I swiped left, and I periodically put down my phone to hide under a blanket.

As matches and messages trickled in, my heart raced. Not in the good way. More in the clammy, “it puts the lotion in the basket,” low-level dread kind of way. Okay, Jules. Maybe you’re just talking yourself out of a good thing. Maybe you need to just get a post-COVID date out of the way. Break the seal.

I fired back a couple of overly clever replies to two men. Ugh. No. I can’t do this! I don’t want to meet any of these people! Who knows who they really are?!

I’d been on enough online dates to know that, no matter how many photos and phone calls you exchange before the first meeting, you’re still going on a blind date. And does anyone really want to go on an endless series of blind dates?

NO. BECAUSE IT’S WORSE THAN SYPHILIS. Or so I’ve heard. From a friend.

Let me put it this way. The best online date pales in comparison to Netflix and pasta. And involves far more prep time.

Do you think this just happens?!

Within 48 hours, and long before I could exchange more than two short messages with anyone, I deleted my Tinder account. I briefly entertained the fantasy that some of my matches fell to their knees, shaking their fists at the heavens, crying, “WHERE DID SHE GO? WHERE?!?!?!”

A few nights later, I shared drinks with a couple of girlfriends, and the conversation turned to our exes.

“I just got this random Facebook message from my ex’s new girlfriend. Look.”

She showed us her phone, which displayed a long string of messages: “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I know you dated [him] a while ago and I just have to know… did you experience anything like this? He’s gotten really emotionally and verbally abusive, accusing me of cheating and calling me all of these names and I just don’t know what to do.”

My friend was too afraid to say much in response for fear that this ex had created a fake account and was in fact the one messaging her. “Oh my god he’s been doing that to me!” the new girlfriend wrote. “Creating fake accounts…stalking me…”

“I still fear for my life from one of my exes,” I chimed in. “Everyone knows who to arrest if I go missing.”

Hint: It’s not Uncle Jesse. Even though I know he’s still plotting his revenge after this haircut.

“Yes!” my friend exclaimed. “Every woman I’ve talked to has a story like this!”

A familiar feeling rose in my chest. A mix of nausea, compassion, and curiosity. All of the “scary ex” stories always made me think, “What are we [as a society] doing wrong? This can’t be the result of testosterone overload. If our male counterparts could express hurt, sadness, and fear freely, would any of this happen?”

The very next morning, I woke up to a ‘New Blog Comment’ alert. Someone from Match.com, with whom I went on one date six years ago, had commented on a blog post from 2015. I had written a post about our first (and only) date and… apparently it didn’t land well with him.

He also took the time to create a fake email address and website to leave this comment.

I scratched my head. How did he even FIND this? I don’t think I ever mentioned that I had a blog, I always change or omit names, and I try REALLY hard not to say anything seemingly cruel… In fact, I had intentionally framed the post as, “This bizarre thing happened on a first date: what would you do to handle it?” to avoid coming across like I was maligning the man.

(In a nutshell: After our first date, this fella started sending me a cappella karaoke clips he’d recorded on his phone, and some other things I wasn’t quite sure how to react to, like a LinkedIn connection request and an article he’d written many years earlier [which he copied and pasted, in its entirety, into a single text message].)

After rereading the story several times, I definitively concluded that the post was funny – and harmless. Also, half the reason I’ve suffered through dating is for the stories.

PLEASE DON’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

Still, I cringed. I’m sure it can’t be fun to stumble on a blog post about you, even if it’s innocuous (…and six years old). More than that, though, I felt that same swirling concern. Why? Why do we exist in a world where hurt and pain (or simply bruised egos) become violence, cruelty, stalking, and aggression?

Here’s a situation where I spent a few hours with someone -a perfect stranger- six years ago, never saw him again, and now I feel unsafe. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that my inner monologue shouts, “Well. You blogged about him. YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT.”

Sigh. If anyone wants a pasta and Season 4 “Breaking Bad” binge, hit me up.

Ah. That’s more like it.

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I almost don’t want to ask this, but: Any similar stories or concerns you’d like to share? Or, what do you think we can each do to create a safer, kinder world?

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