Do not read any of this if you aren’t prepared to 1) hear some semi-braggy shit about my personal life, 2) revisit unimportant mistakes from my past, and 3) maybe learn a thing or two about my butt.
Back off, dudes. I’m taken.
Yeah, that’s right. I got a man. Jealous? You should be.
I’m getting that love and emotional support on the regular. We say the L-word. Sometimes even over FaceTime. In your fucking faces, sadness merchants. I. Y. F. F.
My Gentleman Caller (from here on out: MGC) is not a huge fan of me writing/posting overly personal stuff on THE INTERNET, so I imagine he’s even less of a fan of me writing about him on THE INTERNET.
With that in mind, I’ll paint in the broadest of strokes: Tall. Nice. Handsome.
But that’s not good enough. He’s like, really nice. And he cares about me. And I’m grossly attracted to him. Like, for real, you jerks. I love the physical structure of his body and am even more enthusiastic about how his face is shaped.
I realize the above sounds very similar to how a serial killer might describe a soon-to-be-corpse (s)he was about to carve into into a fuckable pillow. I can’t help it, y’all. I feel/talk how I feel/talk. That’s my shitty language of love. Blunt sentences clumsily wielded. Compliments served up on a caveman’s club.
Back when I was single, OkCupid even said so! I was quantifiably Less Suave and Less Polite. Don’t believe me? Here’s what scientists call “proof,” dumbdumbs.
That’s right. I went there. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to announce that, over a year and a half into a good relationship, I spent 13 furious minutes in a coffee shop doing the following:
I both miss and I don’t miss being single. Maybe not being single, but dating. Maybe not even dating. I miss the feeling of reaching for my SitCommiest Dreams.
You: Wait, what?
Me: Trust, my child. Take my hand. Follow me down memory lane.
When I was in my early 20s, I was in love. It didn’t work out. For a lot of reasons. Reasons like [HUGE PORTION OF PERSONAL LIFE REDACTED FOR THE SAKE OF NARRATIVE]. It hurt like the dickens. And not just because there was a sudden lack of dickings.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. This wasn’t my first failure at love. I didn’t exactly have a Hall of Fame career.
Starting at 18, I jumped from stunted-semi-abusive-obsession-love (Codename: Ol’ Cornfield) to healthy-puppy-love (Codename: Night Swimming) to prolly-shoulda-been-friends-college-love (Codename: Final Fantasy) to what-I-thought-was-adult-love (Codename: Springfield, VA of Dreams), and all of it in an incredibly targeted and (I thought) fate-driven manner.
It took me a couple years to get over the last failure. BECAUSE I’M HUMAN.
When I finally did, I was 29. But I wasn’t just gonna whole-hog fall in love, this time. No. I was older. Wiser. I was gonna do it right. I was ready to D-A-T-E.
Mostly because that’s what sitcoms taught me I should be doing.
Thank god for sitcoms! I’ve watched a lot of ‘em. Friends. Scrubs. Girlfriends. Seinfeld. How I Met Your Mother. NewsRadio. Will and Grace. Other shows I’m less inclined to cop to knowing intimately. The Nanny.
And if there’s one thing those masterpieces of American television agree on, it’s the following:
One problem, though: I didn’t know how to date. At least, not in this decade. Not in the Age of THE INTERNET.
True story: Sometime back around 2009, the real world died. Flirtatious glances died. Meet-cute died. Love at first sight died. Hitting on people in person died. And nobody bothered to tell me.
Not that I was ever that good at it. Historically, I was probably more lucky/persistent than anything else. Talking to people I don’t know in public is and will never be one of my strengths. My friend Alex, who is excellent at the lost art of meeting people in person, once broke it down for me. He simply smiles a lot and looks approachable. Apparently, I don’t. “Zach, when you’re in a bar, you look like you want to eat everyone at the bar.” Ask MGC. I tried to hit on him at the beach, once, a year before we got together. It didn’t go well.
So. I was 29 and Suddenly Susan. It was a brave new world. Instead of awkward smiles, ill-fitting pants and semi-amusing anecdotes, I had new tools to master. Grindr, Tindr, Growlr. Match, OkCupid, Farmers Only. Text-based, profile-based, Facebook-y-self-advertising-cum-dating-services, most of which seemed more oriented around sex than actually making a human connection.
Which was actually OK. Stella needed her groove back.
Sidenote: I refuse to believe that Coffee Meets Bagel isn’t an app where men and women of color go to meet Jewish men and women, and vice versa. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.
It wasn’t the sitcom I was training for, but I adapted. It was easier, actually. I logged on, got introspective, pressed save, and was on my way. Dates, dates, dates, dates, dates!
At first, it was fun. It made me feel like an adult. Getting out of the house. Going to bars. Splitting the tab. Giving my friends updates. Giving my dates secret nicknames. The chase was the most addictive part. There were literally hundreds of options, little boxes with smiling faces or headless torsos, sometimes less than a sentence of description. Possibility was nearly infinite. AND YOU COULD FUCKING FILTER YOUR RESULTS. Be still my boolean heart.
Then. The predictable fatigue. First dates without seconds. Blowjobs then blowoffs. Fucks with no fucks given. This has all been written about before, ad nauseam. Try this article from The Atlantic I barely skimmed. I’m sure it sums it all up.
Even though my experience was fairly systemic, fairly typical, and wholly unoriginal, it’s hard not to look back and feel like I was doing something wrong. Like, the way that I was describing myself led to a lot of wasted effort and $27.00 meals at Shaw Tavern (aka the bar just close enough to my place I could convince you to come home with me, but just far enough away that I’m not going to be forced to) I could have skipped.
Here’s the rub: I met MGC online. Then in person. Then online again.
We had a couple of false-starts. He claims that I initially blew him off. I feel like he was the one who wasn’t interested. And there’s probably some truth to both claims.
His version is likely MORE true, given that it’s something I’ve heard from other people. While my language of love may be blunt, apparently, my language of flirt is fragile. Ephemeral and confusing. Poorly executed. Like a paper airplane thrown from a non-dominant hand.
And that’s why we’re here, years later, revisiting the pitifulness of my ex-OkCupid profile, trying to figure out if I was doing something wrong. How I could have done better at first impressions. If I may have unintentionally turned a host of Mr. Rights into Mr. Swiped Lefts. If, it turns out, I was as bad at advertising myself on THE INTERNET as I was in any ol’ bar.
I chose OkCupid for a few reasons.
As a person who’s literally won AWARD for his writing, I figured from the outset of my singlehood that a site where I had more space to describe myself would be where I would meet the most quality men. Or at least get the most interest. I might not have the best face, but I do have the best words (no matter who claims otherwise). Turns out, I was wrong. I fucking bombed on OkCupid.
If you’ve been paying attention, it’s fairly easy to see why. At least, I think it is. I was trying SO hard. And it wasn’t cute.
I remember spending a lot more time than I’m comfortable admitting on answering those questions. On crafting the perfect answer for each section, something I thought would be glib and intriguing, mysterious and not too serious and kinda dorky-sexy. On setting myself apart. On trying to appear atypical.
Barf, barf, barf, barf, barf.
Turns out, I was the exact same online as I was in the bar. Standoffish. Aloof. Unfriendly. Holier than thou. Too cool for school. A fake-ass Ferris Bueller.
Sidenote: I miss that turkey hunting hat. I got it while working a fireworks tent in Natchez, Mississippi on Christmas Eve 2009 by trading a man two packages of bottle rockets.
I lost the hat by drunkenly throwing it at a (in hindsight, questionably) sexy man from Vancouver on my way out of a Cleveland gay bar, in the hopes that he would Cinderella me the next day, which he DID NOT.
Instead, I dropped my phone off the top deck of a boat into the Cuyahoga River, which was theoretically an unrelated incident, but felt very karmic, at the time.
Word to the wise: I wouldn’t suggest you go back and revisit your online dating history. It was everything I could do to avoid getting mired in the MANY failed correspondences that were waiting in my old inbox. All the Miguels and Dougs and Brads that were never meant to be. Fifties of small rejections. Little wounds ready to split back open. When I was done screenshotting, I deleted the damn thing. No take-backs.
Some of this is hyperbolic, but it’s also very much not.
True, during that period of my life, I was not starved for potential love/physical interaction. Still, I feel like that was more thanks to my sitcommy obsession/compulsion to date, treating it like it was my damn job, approaching dating as an endgame. Put enough lines out, you’re guaranteed to catch a few dicks.
But for every date that I went on, there were five guys I never heard back from. It sucks to be reminded.
Back before THE INTERNET ruled dating, we could let our failures slip away. We could laugh them off and forget. Unless you were Carrie Bradshaw and recording them was your job.
Now, we have timestamps and push notifications and message histories. Deadend conversations with Mark and Rick and Kamal that could potentially live forever, ready and waiting for you, a click and a password away.
But the successes live on, too. I mean, MGC and I got together thanks to a profile.
Here’s our story, as disagreed upon.
I remember him blowing me off in-person when I tried to lure him with my wiles over a sultry summer weekend in Rehoboth. He remembers me blowing him off when he tried to lure me with his wiles over a Location-Based Adult Gay Male Friend Finding Application called SCRUFF a couple months before the beach. Not sure who’s right. Memory’s funny like that.
Regardless of when it happened, it happened. He liked my SCRUFF profile, which was sparse and fairly direct. I don’t know if it was the words or the picture. Something about the small sense of self I managed to create in 300 words or fewer drew him my way. Thank god.
Here’s our story, as agreed upon.
He sent me a message. We started chatting. We clicked. Date arranged. Cue montage. Us getting tacos. Us laughing. Me smiling too much. Him kissing me while standing over my bike. Me riding off to soccer with a scary feeling something real might be in the works. Him walking home feeling whatever it was he was feeling. The rest of the story, yet to be told.
It’s scary. Not just the love part. The responsibility and the vulnerability and the effort it takes to make a relationship work.
It’s scary that our relationship is on the record.
Not the whole of it. But enough. Digital signposts. Pictures and movie tickets and maps. Our texts and emails. A story we’re writing without meaning to. Cached eternal.
Like the text I sent him ten minutes before our first official date.
It’s all there. Probably forever. Ready to be revisited.