For those of you who’ve known me awhile, or have read some of my other blog entries, I often find online dating, if not particularly successful, at least amusing. But lately, I have less and less energy for it, and my bullshit tolerance meter is showing a lower reading than usual. I can take the overtly sexual messages, or the moronic ones. I usually respond to them, and it gives me a chance to vent my frustration on deserving targets, rather than on my friends, family, or coworkers. And it is virtually consequence-free, assuming that I am able to brush off any nasty responses, which I usually am. Most of the time, they’re just funny. I can even handle the boring “hey” messages, if by “handle”, I mean “ignore”. Disappointing, sure, but unmemorable. It’s the exchanges that actually go on for more than a few messages that are draining what little sanity I have left.
Sometime in July, I heard from a guy in Pennsylvania – I’ll call him Sparky. A few years younger than I am, but he seemed nice enough, and was able to hold up his end of the conversation. We talked for maybe two weeks, and then he stopped responding. I assumed he lost interest, or met someone else. Not a huge deal. Three months later, Sparky messages again asking how I’m doing. He had been “busy with work”. Uh, for three months? Unless you’re the president, or are off in a spaceship, you’re not so busy at work that you cannot send a message once in a three month period. So I responded with something incredibly witty, like “seriously?” And he went on to tell me that while I seemed really cool (nope) and fun (okay, yeah, maybe), that I might be “too much work”. A message in three months is now considered “lots of work”? I don’t even consider someone to be close friend if I don’t hear from them for several months at a time, unless there are extenuating circumstances. While I take my relationships (romantic and otherwise) seriously, I don’t think I’m terribly demanding with my expectations for contact. And, frankly, it pissed me off that he thought I would just wait around and be delighted by his very belated response. You’re not my doctor – you don’t get to make me wait inordinate amounts of time for your professional services (I don’t like when my doctor does that either, but in that kind of professional relationship, I can’t just leave and find another doctor. Thanks a lot, Obamacare!)
I met another guy in NYC -Luigi, let’s say – he lived in the Bronx. In my experience, most guys in the city don’t want to date outside of the city. Some of them won’t even date outside of their borough. This is already frustrating because I live less than 50 miles from NYC, and roughly 90% of my high percentages matches live in the city. So the fact that this guy message me at all was surprising. So we meet up during the day, in an ice cream/pb&j restaurant, and it seems to be going well enough. The restaurant gets crowded, so we bail and take a walk. It’s also the hottest day of the summer, and after taking a bus and spending 20 minutes in the steamy subway station waiting for the train, I am not the most fragrant or comfortable I’ve ever been. Fifteen minutes into the walk, Luigi stops. He points towards the subway entrance and says he has to go. I figure he’s trying to get out of the date, though I’m not sure why, so I’m about to try to part as gracefully as possible. But then I realize that I have to take the same subway uptown to meet my friend. Which I mention. “Oh!” he says, “then we should ride together!” He doesn’t seem annoyed about this. We get on a very crowded train, and I sit next to a wall, which makes me more claustrophobic. I must be sweating or shaking, because Luigi tells me that he can see that I’m anxious. He holds my hand. We get off at my stop and he comes up the stairs with me, so I think he’s going to stay with my while I wait for my friend (who won’t be in Harlem for another hour or two), so I go out through the turnstile. He stays on the other side, and we say awkward goodbyes and wave. Guys, do not end a date on a subway. It is never not weird. So I stand out in the 98 degree air and wonder what the hell just happened. He tried to bail (I think), but then he seemed pleased that we were taking the same train. He held my hand. He didn’t say anything about meeting up again. After mulling this over for an hour, I text him and, later in the conversation, ask if he wants to go out again (because this seems like the best way to decode his mixed messages). He says yes, and over the next week, at the pace of roughly one text per day, we make plans to go for a hike near my town the next weekend. As that date gets closer, Luigi’s responses are more spread out, and he’s too busy this weekend, but would really like to try for the next weekend. Uh huh. At this point, I tell him I don’t think this will work out for me. I should have figured – New Yorkers just don’t want to leave New York!
The next guy I meet is one I messaged first – so far, the only date I can say this about. Felipe is one of…maybe two guys who have responded to me, at least more than once? He sends a message maybe once a week, claiming that his work schedule is busier than usual, and that he doesn’t want to send half-assed messages. Not wanting to come off as needy or anxious or, heaven forbid, not “laid back”, I try not to take it too personally. (Side note: I’m sick of trying to pretend like I am this super laid-back, casual person. In reality, I care about stuff, and I care about some of that stuff, and people, a lot. Why is this such a terrible thing? I gave up trying to be cool at…age 14?). Eventually we make a date for a Greek place in Princeton, where we have an okay date. I do most of the talking. This happens to me quite a bit. I talk more when nervous, and a fair amount of the guys I’ve gone out with are on the shy side, and tend to talk less when nervous, leaving more dead air for Jess to fill. I give Felipe the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he is more interesting than he came off, that he was just having first date jitters. I ask if he wants to meet again, which he does. After some prodding, he chooses a day, a place, and a time for the next weekend, and we meet again. On the second date, we talk over tea for about five hours (again, me still more than him). I’m a little more comfortable, more animated, and a little better at leaving him space to talk. He doesn’t use it. At the end, we stand out in the cold, and Felipe fumbles over his words for fifteen minutes. He really enjoys my company, and wants to be friends, but doesn’t think it will go beyond that. He offers me his number. I tell him that I don’t know that I need a friend who requires this much extra work on my part. After a few minutes, he says that he’s not saying we would NEVER date. Um, what? I don’t really think the Friendzone is real place, but if it is, it’s right here, in between this guy’s words. No, guy, I don’t want to hang around with you and never know if you’ve changed your mind and want to date me. It’s not as if there were tons of sparks flying anyway. I turn and walk to my car.
Most recently, I talked to a guy who liked to race cars, who I’ll call Jean-Claude. That is not remotely a turn-on to me, and it was actually one of the things that kept me from messaging him first. But besides that hobby, he seemed like a smart, funny, kind person who was genuinely interested in what I had to say, and who was also interesting himself. Maybe four or five weeks into talking with him, I ask if he wants to meet up sometime soon. He agrees, but then changes the subject. I finally bring it up again, and Jean-Claude tells me that he’s not really in a place in his life where he should be dating. He’s going through financial and emotional stress, he might be moving for another job, and he doesn’t want to start something he can’t finish. I guess that didn’t apply to our conversation. At this point, I was pretty fed up with OKC nonsense. Really, dude? You talked to me for over a month knowing that you shouldn’t really be dating? I basically told him, “oh, well, great, thanks for telling me now”. He apologized a lot, but it didn’t really make me feel better. The same way that, when one of my exes broke up with me because he “was never going to feel the same way I felt about him”, his apologies didn’t make me feel better. If anything, they made me feel worse. This guy’s apologies brought me right back to that time, when I wanted desperately to be mad, because it would have given me so much more to hold onto than just being devastated and sad and collapsing in on myself until I was so small that I could get stuck in the cracks on the sole of someone’s shoe.
Here’s the thing: dating is exhausting. When it’s long term, it can be great, especially at first. But when it ends, it takes so much out of me, and I’m running out of things to use to patch of my holes. So now, every almost-relationship, or date that goes nowhere, is another sliver of my emotional energy siphoning itself out of my body. And many days, hitting my head against a brick wall in the online dating world, while simultaneously doing the same with my career, is giving me a life migraine.