humor

The World’s Worst Buffet: Another Dating Fail

DISCLAIMER: Names changed because we already know people I go out with once like to read this blog and leave comments six years later.

“Oh wow, someone else just recommended that book to me,” Carl smiled. “You know when you hear something twice in one week, you’ve got to pay attention!”

I grinned and nodded, sipping my can of sparkling wine. The gas fire pit cast a faint glow across our faces.

“It’s the book that got me into hiking!” I went on.

The conversation meandered from food to family to the outdoors, just as it had done the night before, on our first date.

“You guys, I’m so, so sorry to do this,” a head popped out of the tent behind us. It was my friend, Sara. “I can hear everything you’re saying; I’m so sorry. But it’s 1am and I can’t sleep.”

Photographic evidence that I actually went camping again after this experience.

“Oh my god,” I whispered back, mouth agape. “I had no idea! I’m so sorry! We’ll wrap things up right now.”

I glanced at Carl, mortified.

“I seriously thought it was like 11,” I grimaced. “Do you know how to turn this thing off?” I gestured towards the gas fire pit, which was fastened to a large propane tank.

“I think so,” he said, leaning his long, lanky frame forward to unscrew the tank.

I got up and turned off the twinkle lights that another friend had set up in the surrounding trees. Oh man, I have to pee. What is this goodbye gonna look like? I wanted Carl to kiss me, but not here, in the middle of the woods, with five friends’ tents within earshot, my bladder bursting.

“Thanks so much for inviting me to come by,” Carl said sweetly as we walked over to his car, our phone flashlights illuminating the path. “Let’s hang out again this week.”

We hugged, much less awkwardly than when he’d first arrived that night. On our first date, the evening before, we’d realized we were camping in the same location the following night. It felt like Fate, so we seized the opportunity to meet up again for dinner at my campsite. He was clearly nervous, walking into a group of five strangers – and a blonde chick he’d just met.

When I’d handed him a plate full of homemade food, I had noticed his hands were shaking.

I get it. Vegan food sounds scary – except when my friends and I are behind it. (Pictured here: one of my famous sandwiches complete with homemade muhammara. You can find the recipe in the cookbook I wrote. #crossovermarketing)

I hadn’t been on a date in over a year, and found his timidity endearing and comforting. In fact, my last blog post was about how I prefer the long game, and Carl certainly seemed like a long game kind of guy, letting me take the lead and not making any swift moves. The only downside was that we’d met on a dating app.

Somehow, in between these two blog posts, I found myself on Bumble. Okay. I strategically placed myself on said app in the hopes that I would virtually ‘bump into’ my current crush and present him with an easy way to ask me out.

“Because that’s the kind of s%@& that can happen in a small town.” -Boca Betty

Instead, I matched with Carl. His profile and photos were positive and sweet and stood out amongst the men holding dead fish, looking for a ‘swing’ partner, and/or living in a van.

And better yet, my other single girlfriends hadn’t already been out with him. #smalltownwin

By day three on Bumble, my crush no where in sight, I was about to throw in the towel when Carl sent a follow up message. I realized I couldn’t find a single good reason not to meet up with him.

“I hope this doesn’t seem too forward,” I wrote. “But I don’t think I’ll last much longer on this app; do you want to meet up for a drink tomorrow or Thursday?” We settled on Thursday, and our first date then quickly became our second.

Feeling confident that “First Date Selfie” might lead to “Second Date Smoochie”

“Oh my god, I felt so bad,” Sara said first thing in the morning, as we all sleepily emerged from our tents.

“Me too!” another friend, Rachel, chimed in. “I was trying so hard not to eavesdrop, Jules, and then I remembered I had ear plugs!”

“Are you kidding?” I laughed. “This is a dream come true! Witnesses and firsthand feedback on a date!”

“[My partner] Dan kept gripping my arm,” Sara laughed. “It was like listening to a soap opera. He thought Carl was going to invite you back to his tent!”

“So how are you feeling about him now?” Rachel asked. “What else did you talk about?”

“Oh I can tell you!” Sara said with a smile. “There was a long part about kitchen appliances.”

“Yeah, it was another titilating conversation,” I chuckled. “But I think he’s really cute.”

And I’m not just saying that because I could talk about this blender all. night. long.

“And he said he wants to see you this week,” Rachel’s fiance, Tim, added. “The fact that he specified ‘this week’ is a good sign.”

“He’s definitely into you. I can’t believe he stayed until 1am!” everyone concluded.

When I got home, I kicked myself for metaphorically sitting by the phone, twirling the phone cord, waiting for a boy to call. I’d been down this road so many times; it was impossible not to count the hours between dates and texts.

On Monday, two days after our campfire marathon, Carl texted.

“How’d the rest of your weekend go?”

We entered into a painstakingly slow back-and-forth over the next couple of days, each waiting hours before replying to the other. When is he going to ask me out for this week?!

I texted a few softballs his way and he let them crash to the ground. I tried again. In response to his sadness over summer ending, I wrote:

“So what needs to happen on Carl’s list before he can part ways with summer in peace? ;)”

“Not really sure,” he replied. “I don’t plan things out more than a week at a time. Maybe another good hike or two and another weekend of camping. Then bike riding in the fall is always amazing.”

Really? We’re going with that response, Carl?

I slapped my forehead. Good god, Carl. Help me help you. Since I’d already dated a Carl, I knew what I needed to do. I waited until the next day and took a deep breath before texting:

“I feel like you’re forgetting something important on this list… Like, I dunno, ‘hanging out with a hot blonde’?”

I included a couple of smirking emojis at the end. Less than an hour later, he replied.

“Well I would like to spend more time with you. Definitely good company to be around!”

I stared at my phone, wearing the same expression as when watching people in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Is that a bathing suit bottom or actual shorts? Before I had more than a moment to consider my reply, he sent another text.

“Although I should be upfront and say I’m not sure I feel a romantic connection between us. If being friends works for you, then great… if not I understand.”

Tears pricked my eyes and I closed them, feeling that old familiar nausea pool around my stomach. The One-Two Sucker Punch. I knew it well. I laid down in bed and let it sink in. How in the ever loving chipmunks did I -and five of my good friends- read this guy SO wrong?

I decided to share the news sooner rather than later. After unmatching him on Bumble and archiving his message thread so I didn’t have to see it in my text feed, I sent a screenshot of Carl’s final messages to several girlfriends.

“Oh thank god,” Sara wrote back. “Now I can finally say it. THAT GUY WAS SO BORING, JULES. That’s why I kept saying, ‘Yeah….but do YOU like HIM?'”

“I just told Tim and he was like, ‘Wait, HE said that to JULES?'” Rachel added.

Two days later, I deleted Bumble, not caring that I left several people hanging. I immediately felt re-centered and relieved. I can’t help but think that the gamification of dating, the endless carousel of two-dimensional profiles that we can dismiss with the flick of an index finger, created this entire experience – along with so many similar ones for so many people.

Thanks to technology, we treat dating like a crappy buffet, wading through one disappointing dish after another. We don’t stop and savor. We don’t wonder what’s behind each ingredient. And why would we? Every second there’s another tray wandering by, and we don’t even care that it’s turning our tastebuds numb.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Do you think dating apps are the devil’s work? Discuss.

*~*~*~*~

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.

~*~*~*~*~

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?

~*~*~*~*~

humor

ORBITING: Is This Really a Thing?

“Sometimes I put up a story [on Instagram or Facebook] just to see who’s watching.”

“Wait. Tell me more,” I stared at my friend.

“Yeah, you can totally see who views your stories [that disappear after 24 hours]! It’s a great way to see if an ex is still creeping on your social media.”

As my friend explained more, it made sense. Unlike with normal feed posts, stories capture who has viewed them, so you actually get some insight into not only the total view count, but into exactly which followers have been checking out your stuff. In other words, anyone silently lurking on your social media, never liking or commenting, is CAUGHT. Watching you.

Amazing.

Terrifying.

Intriguing…

As a long-time blogger, I’m well aware of the depressing statistic that only 1% of readers ever leave a comment. 10% might like your posts, if you’re lucky. So even though you can see how MANY people visit your site [via behind-the-scenes analytics], you never know WHO’S reading.

But I’ve always assumed at least three exes, two bosses, and my father are reading every post. Hence the consistent lack of truly juicy details.

This was brand new territory.

Over the past few weeks, as part of building my [alter ego] The Vegan Dollar YouTube channel, I started regularly posting and sharing stories on my associated Instagram account. Right away, I noticed a familiar face checking out every. single. story. Sometimes within minutes of hitting publish.

Don’t mind if I do.

Wait. Didn’t he follow my account like a year ago? I thought that was an accident…I guess it wasn’t! I clicked on his profile image. His account was private. I didn’t follow back.

BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE INSANE.

BECAUSE HE DUMPED ME SIX YEARS AGO.

AND WE HAVEN’T SPOKEN SINCE.

Yup. That’s right. The infamous fellow who texted heart emojis just hours before asking for his apartment key back is now watching every single story…on my vegan brand account…

And I wasn’t even vegan when we dated! BECAUSE THAT WAS SIX YEARS AGO.

What. The. Actual. Fudgcicles.

I immediately snapped into research mode. After about an hour, I stumbled on a post that referred to this exact phenomenon. “Orbiting,” the article called it. (And apparently I was late to the scene.)

The definition provided by Urban Dictionary.

With this new phrase in my back pocket, I dug deeper. Unfortunately, I soon discovered tale after tale of people -women, especially- with experiences just like mine. In one case, the woman reached out to her peeping-Tom-ex-who-had-dumped-her-years-ago. “Hey, I noticed you’ve been watching my stories,” she messaged. “What’s up? How are you?” The guy never wrote back and immediately blocked her.

Even reputable sites like Psychology Today provided little helpful guidance. “If it bothers you, block them,” said the majority. “Don’t read into it,” common counsel advised. “They’re probably just curious.” And my personal favorite, “Get over it.”

But…

But…

But…

Is this okay? Are we okay with leaving it at that? Forgiving stalking just because it’s (arguably) passive? And furthermore, putting the onus on the stalked?

Does having a public social media account give implicit permission for any and all lurking? Are we signing a contract that says, “Sorry, pal, you asked for it”?

In fairness, I am asking for it sometimes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve creeped on a page or two in my day. Truuuuust me. And there are certainly instances where exes can remain friends on social media, even if they need to take an initial pause after a break-up. But consistently checking out the content of someone you dumped years ago and with whom you haven’t exchanged a single word, like, or comment since?

Are we really okay with that?

What about a family member with whom you might have had a fallen out, but then notice they’re watching every story of yours on Facebook, while refusing to have an actual conversation?

Is that okay?

Where is the line between curiosity and cruelty?

…Is there one?

~*~*~*~*~*~

Um. So. Hey. Don’t forget to leave a comment ūüėČ

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating

I Dodged a Bullet. Possibly Literally.

DISCLAIMER: Names and identifying features have been altered or hidden to protect… ME. TO PROTECT *ME*! ME, okay?!

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Dodged a Bullet Possibly Literally_31JUL2019

“It was the best first date I’ve ever been on. …Not that that’s saying much,” I shouted in my friend’s ear.

Sara turned away from the stage and grinned at me.

00000portrait_00000_burst20190726205501233
I swear. There’s live music EVERY. NIGHT. in this town.

“Let me see his picture!”

I hesitated. “They don’t really do him justice… He’s REALLY cute. And tall! And has great teeth.”

I thought back to the previous evening. I had walked into a popular restaurant, the usual butterflies-or-is-that-just-dread filling my stomach, and a handsome guy had grinned at me expectantly.

Nope. Wrong color hair. Not him. …Shoot.

Further down, I had spotted a familiar face.

“Jules, hi!” the man had greeted.

I had been pleasantly surprised by his, well, everything.

“So you just moved here?” he had begun, and the conversation had flowed from there.

I had been in shock. A tall, attractive man, in his 30s like me, financially and hygienically sound, AND he had known how to ask questions? Well, I’ll be. A normal first date!

I had had to shake off the memory of my only other first date in my new hometown. Maybe the Oregon dating pool really would put New Jersey’s to shame! Please don’t do anything weird, please don’t do anything weird

The date had lasted a record-breaking four hours, and ended on the promising note of future hang-outs.

“But my gut is still saying no,” I had texted to a few friends. “It was like hugging my brother goodbye.”

I had wanted to slap myself. What was wrong with me? Over the next 24 hours, I wrestled with whether or not to text him. He had left the ball in my court, and the decision to reach out felt like trying to decide between Oreos or Nutter Butters.

Misfortune-Cookies-all
Don’t make me choose my own Fate! DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE MY OWN FATE!

“Come on, show me his picture!” Sara insisted.

I reluctantly pulled out my phone and found his online dating profile, holding it out to her.

“JULES. OH MY GOD. NO. NO!” she shouted, staring at me with wide eyes.

“What. What?!” I replied, my heart stopping.

“THIS IS THE GUY I TOLD YOU ABOUT,” she said. “HE’S. CRAZY.”

Sara started recounting details – details fresh in my mind because she had indeed told me the tale several weeks earlier when we’d first met and exchanged dating war stories.

Yup. She too had been out with my tall, handsome, “normal” guy.

“He’s the rage-a-holic who told me to buy Magnum condoms and badmouthed his ex the ENTIRE TIME! MY WORSE DATE EVER! ”

mvimg_20190715_175229
I found this while walking home from another local concert. Apparently I’m not going to need it.

I scooped my jaw off the floor. “Oh my god! I’m showing you every photo from now on! Jesus. This IS a small town.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“What? Are you kidding? HE HAS GUNS. You saved me!”

Her face crumpled a little more.

“I’m so sorry that was your best first date!”

I burst out laughing. “I told you it wasn’t saying much.”

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

What do you think? Should I give him another shot (pun, um, actually NOT intended, but now that it’s out there…)?

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

Dating, PSAs

My “Eep” Dating Moment: What Would You Have Done?

Last week, I was tricked back into online dating.

IMG_3017

Okay fine. No one promised me candy if I climbed into their van, but someone from Match.com texted me out of the blue.

“Hey!¬†Would you be up for a cup of coffee sometime? I know you said you’re in a relationship but nothing wrong with friends. This is George, the goofy guy from [nearby town].”

George and I¬†had made it to the texting stage back in early April, when I was in the middle of my ’10 first dates in 10 weeks’ phase. We were all set to meet for First Date Coffee when I decided to cancel to pursue a budding romance with someone else. George was very understanding.

His text, now three months later, threw me for a loop. My budding romance had turned out to be anything but, and I’d since sworn off dating with the type of fervor¬†usually reserved for monks and fruitarians.

I mean do I HAVE to be the apple (or grape or banana or whatever the hell that is) of someone's eye?
I mean do I have to be the apple (or pineapple or coconut¬†or whatever the hell that is) of someone’s eye?

I stalled for two days.

“Hi George!” I eventually texted back. “Good to hear from you! That sounds fun – although as friends, we can meet for a drink instead, because who cares about first impressions?!”

Drinking-Champagne
I may have a reputation.

We quickly settled on meeting date and location. He suggested¬†the very place I was going to recommend, which seemed to bode well.¬†But¬†did he really think I’d meet him if I was actually in a relationship?

“No f^&*# way,” said my girlfriends. It was a hot topic over happy hour that Friday. “He saw you were back on Match.”

It was true; after a 10+ year failed marriage, two eHarmony heartbreaks and several Match.com face palms (about which I hope to eventually tastefully blog), I had recently logged back onto Match, browsing the bottomless pool of misguided selfies. Each time I thought about messaging someone, I came to my senses.

Match-misguided-selfie

Leading up to the non-date date, my anxiety morphed into full-on dread. I reread our text exchanges from early April. They were pretty funny. Was I going to have to start shaving my legs again?

On the big day,¬†George and I arrived at exactly the same time. He was tall, nice smile, put together, friendly enough. Definitely nervous and trying to hide it. I was always nervous, too, but if there was one thing I’d learned over the past year: I rocked at¬†first dates. The formula was simple, and had nothing to do with any merit or attractiveness on my part:

dating-formula

“Are you a drinker?” George asked as we walked toward the bar. I shot him a¬†look and he laughed.

B*tch please.
B*tch please.

He never asked if I was, in fact, seeing anyone, and throughout the night, kept leaning his arms across the table. At one point I had to¬†put my hands in my lap¬†to avoid contact. Which meant I couldn’t reach my wine. Bad move, George.

In response to several of my comments about food, music¬†and movies¬†he replied, ¬†“You’re earning points with me.”

Comments like that used to make me blush and giggle; now I just wanted to go home and watch Little People, Big World.

I thought the restaurant closed at 10pm and I could make a smooth escape after two hours, but we wound up talking until nearly midnight.

I feared an awkward hug goodbye in the now-deserted parking lot, so I waved, shouted something about owing him a few book titles and bolted. He looked so taken aback that I wondered if I’d ever hear from him again.

He texted twenty minutes later.

He said he was glad we’d met, and sent a few Instagram clips of him singing. We’d talked about his¬†musical pursuits, but I was surprised to receive¬†four 15-second videos.

All you could see in the videos was his phone, while he earnestly sang over the likes of Seal and Extreme.

Make it stop.
Not exactly like the time I ate that pepper…

After a few moments’ debate, I replied, “NICE!! The last one was my favorite.” Technically, it was true.

The next¬†morning, he texted,¬†“I wanted to ask you, are you booked up over the long weekend? I’m thinking that I could be coaxed to sing you a ditty for a payment in fine wine.”

GIFSec.com
Apparently, I’d earned enough points to convince him to sing Kiss From A Rose while I bought¬†all of our drinks. Photo credit: GIFSec.com

“Usually I pay based on performance,” I cheekily replied, agreeing to meet for a second date on Sunday, my next available evening.

I ignored his LinkedIn request.

On¬†Wednesday (two days after our initial meeting), he texted, “For today’s entertainment, here’s a humor article I wrote in 2009 for [website name].”

He had never mentioned an interest in writing, but I dutifully clicked on the link de jour.

“The website was blocked by my work filter!” I replied,¬†secretly relieved.

“Hilarious,” he said, and then copied and pasted¬†the entire article¬†into a text message.

I didn't even know you could do that.
I didn’t even know you could do that.

I was running late for a meeting, so put my phone away, planning to read it that afternoon. Which I did. And. Well. Okay. So.

Here’s the thing.

It just…

Well it isn’t that…

You see what I’m trying to say is…

Sigh.

Okay.

It doesn’t even matter how good or bad the article was. Right? Do people do that? Should I pass¬†out blog business cards on first (non-date) dates?

Because you know I've got 'em.
Because you know I’ve got ’em.

And here’s where I need your help. How would you have responded? I’m not sure I made the right decision.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blonde Moments, Dating

Dating and Hot Wax Don’t Mix

If you thought my year of eHarmony heartache (as evidenced here and here) might have deterred me from online dating, guess again.

For the past several months, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of¬†Match.com. Stay tuned for future posts, Your Facebook Profile Says You’re Still Married and No, Thank You, I Would Not Like To See A¬†YouTube Video of¬†You Surgically Removing Your Toenails.

One might consider these experiences a sign. Take a little break, Jules, a little step back, they might suggest.

Ha!” I say.¬†“Show me a REAL sign.”

Last night, I was getting ready for a third date with a delightful gentleman who discovered my blog before we ever met, so let me just again say he is especially delightful (and owes me a guest blog post).

He was picking me up for dinner, so I straightened up the house, got all dudded up, lit a few candles (to cover up any Eau De Dog-who-really-needs-a-trip-to-the-groomer) and anxiously awaited his arrival.

Ten minutes before he was due, I blew out the candles. One of them was the sort that has a tea light heating a scented wax cube.

wax-warmer
Apparently they’re called wax warmers. Well. That’s disappointing.

It was resting atop a wall sconce. I lifted it down, let’s just say, a tad carelessly.

Suddenly, all the hot, melted wax sloshed out.

Onto my face.

Onto my white dress.

Onto my couch.

It was red.

crime-scene-couch

crime-scene-couch

Have you ever had any last-minute blunders while getting ready for a big night out? (Come on, I know for a fact one of you has had a run-in with a curling iron.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, PSAs, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 4: Crash Landing

“I can’t believe that was you in those pictures,” Frank slurred from the passenger seat of my car. We were sitting outside of my parents’ house after a night of playing cards with my family, where drinks had been flowing.

He hesitated and then added, “I know this sounds bad, but I never would have dated you if you still looked like that.”

“I know,” I replied. Oh, you wouldn’t date a girl who was 120 pounds overweight?¬†Knock me over with a freaking feather, Frank.

In hindsight, I perhaps jumped the gun here. Perhaps.
In hindsight, I perhaps jumped the gun here. Perhaps.

“I do love you, Jules,” he said next, and I burst into tears.

“I didn’t know what to do or think when you wrote it in the sand [last month when you visited me on base],” he continued. “It really surprised me.”

“I know, I know, it was too soon,” I blubbered. “I’m still afraid to say it out loud. I’m just really scared.”

Frank was a Navy pilot and newly divorced like me. We had met on eHarmony three months earlier, and despite a 3,000-mile gap between us, romance bloomed. (For the rest of the story, I give you: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.) He was smart, driven, handsome and creative, and showered me with attention and affection.

Also there were cool jets.
Also there were cool jets.

Meeting him felt like destiny, making sense of all of the winding, fragmented roads that had led me to that point.

I can't believe I don't own this sheet music,
I can’t believe I don’t own this sheet music.

In March, Frank and I met face-to-face for the first time in Seattle. It was sublime. Now, in late-April, he was on my turf: New Jersey.

This really happened.
This is an actual screen capture of the itinerary I made.

I had planned a jam-packed agenda for his visit, including trips to New York City and Philadelphia, and then a flight to Chicago for BaconFest 2014 to ring in my 32nd birthday.

Chyeah. It's a thing.
Chyeah. It’s a thing.

After¬†my meltdown in the car outside of my parents’ house, we carried on as if nothing had changed.

During the 3-hour, traffic-filled drive to Philadelphia (Day 6 on the itinerary, in case you’re keeping track), Frank was chattier than usual. Maybe he was bored, riding shotgun instead of piloting my Hyundai Sonata. He¬†suddenly started talking about his family and religion.

“I am bat-crap crazy,” he drawled, “and so is everyone I know, and you usually only hear about people like me on the news.”

[Editor’s Note: I may be paraphrasing.]

His¬†Tennessee accent was strong, even after eight years in Washington state. I swallowed and kept my eyes on the road. Sure, we were very -very- different people, but after all, I didn’t want to date myself, did I?

eHarmony-Frank-Jules-Lady-and-the-Tramp
Although…

“This is fine,” I thought. “Maybe I could be the kind of girl he grew up with. Maybe I could drink the Kool-Aid.”

eHarmony-Frank-Kool-Aid

By the time Frank kissed me goodbye at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, I was spent (and sweating bacon grease). Eight¬†days straight with someone you’ve only met once before would have been exhausting for anyone, but when you’re an introvert? Grueling.

When I got home, I still wasn’t sure how to feel. Something was definitely off, but so many things were on. For the next four weeks, I fretted over¬†where we stood. Another nibble fell through on my house, which had now been on the market for over five months, and with no new¬†job prospects on the horizon, I started babysitting. To make matters worse, Frank’s texts went from nonstop to frequent to sporadic.

“Going out with the guys tonight for drinks and then unknown fun,” he said¬†one night in mid-May.

“Enjoy your mystery fun,” I wrote back, my heart sinking.

“I will,” he answered, and I imagined him cackling evilly, relishing in¬†this torture, this test to see how far he could push me. I wanted it¬†to work. I wasn’t ready for the alternative.

A week later, I woke up to an email entitled, “[No Subject]”. Frank had sent it after midnight Pacific Time.

“Jules, I¬†hope you have enjoyed a fun and relaxing weekend with nice weather.¬†There is no easy way to communicate what I need to communicate so I’m being straight to the point…” it began. It was a very nice letter.

Super nice.

So nice it almost covered up the fact that I got dumped.

Via email.

eHarmony-Frank-someecard

All right – your turn! Terrible break-up stories: GO!!! (You can even tell them in 4 parts if you want. I’ll bring the Ben & Jerry’s¬†bacon Bloody Marys.)

I'm TELLING YOU. It's a thing.
I’m TELLING YOU. It’s a thing.

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

Dating, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 3: High Altitude

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” I texted to one of my closest friends back home.

I was sitting on a piece of sun-bleached driftwood, my feet in the sand, staring west across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The water stretched between the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, where I was planted, and Victoria, British Columbia, approximately 25 miles away.

eHarmony-Frank-naval-base-beach

Every five minutes, a deafening roar pierced the silence. I looked up. This time, two fighter jets soared across the horizon. It was like they were performing synchronized swimming in the sky.

“Cooooooolllll,” I thought. “I’ll have to ask Frank about that move.”

Just a few months earlier, I separated from my husband, got laid off from work, and had no idea where my life was headed. Thanks to the wonders of online dating and a penchant for making the first move, I now found myself 3,000 miles from home, on a 3-day-long first date with a Navy pilot named Frank.

We had met face-to-face in Seattle just two days before (for more, check out Part 1 and Part 2!), and¬†by then, I was pretty sure I’d met my soul mate. I mean, what were the chances my second eHarmony match¬†would mention a love of bacon, hiking and dental floss all in one profile?

I dug my toes a little further into the sand, smiling. The¬†earth was rockier than at Discovery Bay, where we’d been yesterday, serenaded by a nearby¬†group of musicians. We had sat mostly in silence, in between bouts of making out, punch drunk and¬†full of chocolate from a tour of Theo’s – one of the many surprises Frank had had in store for me.

eHarmony-Frank-Discovery-Bay

Earlier, we’d ridden the Seattle “Ride the Ducks” Tour, shivering beneath a tiny blanket, while we ventured from land to sea and back to land. Frank had sung along to the corny soundtrack -especially when it was a country song- which did a much better job of warming me up. His voice was on key, deep and rumbling, making me giggle and blush.

eHarmony-Frank-duck-tour eHarmony-Frank-Duck-Tour-2

That morning, Frank made green smoothies at his house and brought one for me for breakfast. It was delicious.

The Auld Holland Inn complimentary breakfast leaves much to the imagination.
The Auld Holland Inn complimentary breakfast leaves much to the imagination.

We had time to kill before he had to report to base, so Frank drove us up to Deception Pass.

“Do you know why they call it that?” he asked.

I shook my head, still not comfortable enough to make my usual jokes.

“The original explorers had trouble finding their way around Whidbey Island and thought it was a peninsula. But we call it that because some pilots try to fly under the bridge, which looks deceptively easy.”

I shuddered at the thought of trying to fly a fighter jet under the tiny archway.

eHarmony-Frank-Deception-Pass

“I was hoping you’d get to see my last flight on the Prowler [before we officially retire it],” Frank apologized. “But now it’s not scheduled until Thursday.”

“That’s okay,” I replied immediately.

“You’ll still get to see me fly today, though,” he added, while I wondered what the heck a Jersey girl with almost zero understanding of the military wore on base. My running outfit? Sneakers?¬†I had only packed¬†one small suitcase.

I tried not to ask too many questions¬†as¬†Frank explained that I needed to keep his¬†I.D. on me in order to get around base. He¬†introduced me to everyone, and some of his squadron shot him a knowing glance when they thought I wasn’t looking. The base reminded me a little bit of a college campus,¬†a self-contained community with its own hotel, McDonald’s and gym. In my bright red raincoat and running shoes, I was sure I’d get thrown out any minute.

I camped out in a large room with movie theater-style seats and a projector screen, trying to look busy with my phone, while everyone else went behind closed doors to discuss top level security clearance-y type things. I glanced around surreptitiously; the back wall held the¬†coffee mugs, each emblazoned with a¬†flight name (think “Maverick” and “Goose”).

“When do I get a flight name?” I asked Frank later.

“You have to earn it,” he¬†replied with mock solemnity. “Want to see us get suited up?”

I’d never been a sucker for a man in uniform, but snapped about a hundred pictures as Frank¬†pulled on one thing after another from his locker.

eHarmony-Frank-flight-suit
I am no longer immune.

After missing both his ascent and descent (thanks to my sheer blonditude), Frank led me over to the tarmac to snap this photo:

IMG_6204
I was THISCLOSE to getting my picture inside.

That night we shared another romantic dinner and tried not to think about the inevitable.

Our goodbye the next morning was bittersweet, standing in front of my red rental minivan, my age-old insecurities threatening to spill over: How does he feel? Did he have a good time? Does he really want to be with me? As he walked away and put on the final piece of his flight suit, his cap, I thought,

“Nothing will ever be the same.”

I was right.

eHarmony-Frank-I-love-you

Stay tuned later this week for the final edition: Part 4: Crash Landing!

~*~*~*~*~*

Dating, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 2: We Have Lift-off

Less than two months after I started corresponding with Frank, the Navy pilot I met through eHarmony, I volunteered to fly 3,000 miles, from New Jersey to Washington, so we could meet face-to-face. (You can read more in Part 1!)

Frank
The profile pic that launched a thousand ships (or, you know, one airplane).

“I should have been the one to invite you!” he moaned, which proved how little he knew me.¬†He was the first person I met on eHarmony, and I had been the one¬†to reach out. My middle name might as well be Sadie Hawkins.

Frank and I were communicating endlessly by that point, and I couldn’t bear the suspense any longer. We made plans to meet in Seattle, where we’d spend a night (“IN SEPARATE ROOMS,” I clarified repeatedly) and do some sightseeing, before heading north, closer to base, where I’d spend another two nights, he at home, me in a hotel. He hinted at a few surprises while I shopped for clothes and got my hair cut, both of us more excited as each day passed.

The weirdest part about the whole thing¬†was that no one told me¬†not to go. Not my parents, my siblings or my closest friends. Was I that stubborn? That in need of adventure? It was as if I’d been single for years instead of months; the ink was still wet on my divorce paperwork and I hadn’t been on the market in¬†over ten years, yet I felt¬†ready.

The flight to Seattle went smoothly, unlike picking up my rental car. I was delayed two hours, and wound up with the only thing they had left: A giant red minivan.

IMG_6134

“I got this,” I told myself as I drove into a city I’d visited only once before. ¬†“No big deal. Just driving a MINIVAN into downtown¬†Seattle¬†by myself, about to meet¬†my soul mate.”

“Is there any chance I can check in early?” I asked the front desk once I arrived at my hotel. My Pre-Soul Mate Meeting Plan definitely included¬†a shower and change of clothes.

“No, I’m sorry,” the receptionist replied.

I went outside, suddenly feeling panicky, and texted my best friend.

“YOU GO IN THERE AND TELL THEM YOUR SITUATION,” she fired back. I obeyed, stomach in knots.

“I’m sorry,” the receptionist said, unmoved by my romantic tale. “There’s nothing I can do. But I can give you a free parking pass.”

I wound up changing in the¬†main¬†bathroom, right before Frank arrived, two hours early. It looked like I’d be making my¬†grand entrance in the lobby,¬†a la Kate Winslet on the stairs of the Titanic.

eHarmony-Frank-Titanic-stairs
Make it count, Frank.

But somehow¬†he¬†had been able to check in (must’ve been the Southern charm of a native Tennessean).

“I can come down or you could meet me up here,” he said, from the shroud¬†of¬†his room.

“I’ll come to you,” I replied, taking a deep breath and heading to the third floor, eager¬†to avoid an¬†audience.

Moments later, I knocked on his¬†door and he swung it open, looking as nervous as I felt. I had worn my black wedge heels, striped cotton dress and yellow cardigan from Old Navy because I knew he liked them, but now was cursing my decision. I felt huge, standing nearly six feet tall, and probably not much lighter than him, though I’d finally hit my goal weight that month.¬†In heels, we were almost the same height, blue eyes anxiously meeting blue eyes.

We awkwardly embraced. Oh no. Oh no. This isn’t how I expected this to go. Will¬†we really click? Was this a mistake? Does he really like me? Does he still think I’m pretty?

We walked the short distance to the Space Needle, struggling for conversation. The March weather was mild compared to temperatures back home, but I shivered anyway. I relied on the people skills I’d honed through my work as a project manager, trying to keep uncomfortable¬†silences at bay. Once atop the Needle, Frank pointed out various landmarks, his command of the territory impressive. He must be used to seeing it from up here, I thought.

IMG_6056

I listened to the slow, calm way he spoke, as if this kind of conversation could go on for hours with nothing more pressing to get in the way. A vast contrast to the animated, hyper speed I was used to, having grown up a breath away from New York City. I nodded and pretended to listen, while my head and heart and breath continued their intrinsic rhythm: Go-go-go.

IMG_6062

Eventually, as we toured Pike Place Market, accepting the samples of exotic fruits and vegetables offered to us, he took my hand.

Oh thank god. Relief flooded my body. He likes me! 

eHarmony-Frank-first-pic-together
Our first photo together. Beautiful, no?

eHarmony-Frank-Pike-Place-Market eHarmony-Frank-Pike-Place-monkfish

We shared¬†a candlelit dinner followed by drinks at one of a million hipster bars in the city, where we both finally started to relax. We sat knee to knee in a cozy red booth, staring into each other’s eyes while he occasionally murmured compliments in my ear. I flushed from head to toe. My experience with romance up until then had been young and sweet and tongue in cheek, then familiar, comfortable and tongue in cheek.

I had never been so earnestly wooed.

It was working.

eHarmony-Frank-candlelit-dinner

Next up:¬†eHopeful Part 3: High¬†Altitude! (Don’t worry. I’ll wrap this shiz up in Part 4.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 1: The Ascent

Meet Jim Bob¬†Frank. Let’s call him Frank. Because frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Okay, yes I do. I soooo do.
Wait, yes I do. I soooo do.

When I joined eHarmony last year -because it seemed the most upstanding of the popular online dating sites- Frank popped up as a match almost right away. For those of you unfamiliar with eHarmony: a) Lucky! and b) They don’t trust¬†you to wade through¬†the man pool on your own. You take what they send you, and what they send you is¬†based on their road-tested algorithm.

Sometimes they even have faces!
Sometimes they even have faces!

It was slim pickings out there, I could already tell, so the fact that Frank lived 3,000 miles away was of little concern. He was my age! And flossed!

I chose the least pushy of my options and sent Frank a smile, then¬†waited with bated breath. By the next morning, we were¬†corresponding¬†through the protective nest of eHarmony’s guided email program.

THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.
THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.

I soon learned Frank was a conservative Navy pilot from Tennessee (stationed in the Pacific Northwest). I was a liberal project manager from New Jersey (stationed in suburban New Jersey).

Frank grew up with debutante balls and sweet tea, dogs roaming the family farm (and constantly getting hit when they wandered too close to the¬†highway…seriously, how many times did this have to happen before you did something about it, Frank?! Don’t they make leashes in Tennessee?!). I grew up with Green Day¬†and Trader Joe’s, roaming any one of the six mega malls near my house.

But if eHarmony said we were a perfect match, who was I to argue?

eHarmony-Frank-starfish
Did I mention he was an excellent speller?

We’d both recently endured¬†traumatic divorces, but felt ready and excited for a¬†new relationship. It took three weeks of novel-length letters before we exchanged actual¬†email addresses, and another two weeks before we chatted in real time.

The first phone call was abysmal.

Our emails¬†had been full¬†of clever subject lines and sweeping romantic gestures. Our first phone chat? Stuttering and sweaty palms. The conversation felt forced, dry and unsatisfying. (Er, that’s what she said.) This is never gonna work, I thought.

After we hung up, two and a half brutal hours later, his nervous laugh echoed in my ears. My stomach flip-flopped. There was just something about it. Deep, sincere and rumbling. It reminded me of an old friend.

I couldn’t imagine not hearing that laugh again, and two¬†weeks later,¬†found myself¬†saying, “Why don’t I fly out to Seattle so we can meet?”

IMG_6140
Okay so maybe patience isn’t my strong suit.

 Stay tuned for eHopeful Part 2: We Have Lift-off!

How long would you correspond with someone before forcing the issue volunteering to fly 3,000 miles to meet?

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