I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
The equally great and awful aspect of internet dating is the fact that you can be practically anonymous. Sure, you may have uploaded pictures of yourself and written a carefully worded profile accentuating all of your best attributes while obscuring all the bad ones, but really, there are no consequences for your actions and rarely will you have to explain your behavior. With the ability to swipe left or X out of an opening email, you are basically nothing more than amorous spam with a picture and three paragraphs of backstory. Because essentially, you don’t build yourself into a real person until you have the opportunity to demonstrate yourself as an individual with personality by flirtatious back and forth via text, email, and ultimately, in person.
The fall out of this is that the trolls, hidden away for eons in dark basements now have a voice that has an equal opportunity to be heard. Attractive charming guy holds just as much space in your inbox as does creepy misogynist. And if you haven’t heard, there are plenty of awful human beings in this world that have little knowledge, and even littler desire, of how to communicate effectively. This brings up all sorts of issues with openers like: “Nice tits.” “Wanna fuck?” And the eloquent, “Sup.”
The benefit of this is that clumsy assholes are terrible liars and you can usually point out red flags a mile away and hopefully give them as little airtime as possible.
But the wonderful part of this is that it gives the normally shy, apprehensive, and introverted people the ability to hide safely behind a computer screen or phone app and express themselves without the added pressure of wondering if we have a booger hanging out of our nose. For those of you old enough to remember dating before the internet, you’ll know it was hell. Now you can spend thirty seconds crafting a confident, witty, and humorously self-depricating email and possibly end up in a relationship within a few weeks. I know this only because it has happened not only to me, but to more friends than I can count. I guess what I’m saying is, thank you to whomever created online dating otherwise me and my crew of misfit toys would have a significantly more difficult time finding someone to cuddle with under blankets and to touch our privates.
All I remember is that I made some slightly snarky comment about one of her pictures. It was slightly cocky yet had an underlying compliment. Luckily, she thought it was funny enough to begin an email back and forth. This lasted for a few days until we began speaking on the phone. I always found moving to the phone helpful. Personality gets muddled between emojis and long breaks in texting. You need to hear the inflections of a voice to truly begin to understand the charisma of a person and if I can get you on the phone, I can make you laugh. And if I can make you laugh, there’s a pretty good chance I can talk you into being seen with me in public with a drink between us. And that’s just where I found myself one week later.
I was in full swing of my online dating career. With hundreds under my belt and at least two dozen that month thus far, I met up with her for drinks. She was disarmingly attractive. I looked over her pictures more than a few times and even went so far as to ask her to send me a more recent picture because I thought she was far too attractive to be talking to a guy like me and I had been catfished before. That afternoon, I actually put some thought into my outfit which was a slight upgrade from my normal black band tshirt and black jeans combo. I walked in five minute late and she was already sipping on a drink at the most visible table in the place. While I’m usually not one to care much, it was nice that the most attractive woman in the place was waiting for a guy like me. I sat down and was a little more cautious with my opening conversation than normal. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? The more attractive people are, the more we take them seriously. It really is unfortunate but it’s an ugly realization I made during those days.
She was thin, athletic, and tall. Taller than me and she wasn’t even wearing heels. She was dressed casually in expensive distressed jeans and a sleeveless top that had an adorable Peter Pan collar but showed just a touch of her side boob and red bra straps. Everything screamed, “I want you to think I put very little thought into this outfit but really I want you to see just how sexy I can be without looking like I’m trying but I really am trying.” Either way, it was working and I found myself wondering if I would be able to find a good wedding photographer that would be able to hide my forehead wrinkles.
Her pictures didn’t do her justice and she was in the very small category of people who actually looked better in person than they do online. We sat and laughed and joked and she really did seem pleasant and easy to get along with. Well, that was until a homeless man in a scruffy white beard walked up to the outside window and began banging his dirty fists on the glass and yelling that we were all going to hell. He only stayed a few seconds, shouted a few more unrelated obscenities and moved on but it was still long enough to startle everyone at the tables.
“I fucking hate bums.” She said.
Her response was sharp and cut through our conversation like a spike.
“Yikers,” I said, chuckling to diffuse the vulgarity and hoping she would backpedal.
“No, I’m fucking serious. This is why I hate coming to the city. All these fucking degenerates and lazy assholes terrorizing people on every corner.”
It was like she wanted to solidify her stance and that her hatred would not be misunderstood or danced around.
“Whoa. Did someone do something to you to warrant that kind of response?” I said.
“Yeah, every time they ask me for money.” She said, “I work hard for my money. So should they.”
This particular homeless man was a staple on that corner for a few summers. He was large and very aggressive and oddly articulate. Well, until the next thought came in his head and made him shift gears. Some days we were “sodomities”, other days we were the, “bastard sons of Abraham.” But most people were regulars and knew that if we just let him shout, he would be gone in a few seconds with no harm. No more annoying than a passing ambulance. But the truth was, he needed serious help and care. I knew it, most rational people could could see that but because it was a sight foreign to her in her upper middle class suburb, she took great offense.
“Let me ask you this,” I said. “Do you think your job would hire a guy like that?”
“And do you think he could even get a job at McDonald’s as a fry cook?”
“Of course not.”
“Well, do you think he needs help?”
“Sure, but what does that have to do with me?”
She said it like a legitimate question. Not rhetorical. Like how dare I even attempt to justify his mental illness like it was valid. I took a sip of my drink, set it down, and grabbed my messenger bag.
“Well, it was nice meeting you.” I said while standing up.
“What, you’re just going to leave now?” She said throwing her hands in the air.
“I just know we are not compatible.”
“What, because I think people are lazy?”
“No, because I feel like your profile sold me on a different person.” I pushed in my chair and said, “Have a good night.”
Sometimes you can be friends with someone for years and never truly get to know who they are as a person. And sometimes you can meet someone for drinks and after 10 minutes know everything you need to know about them. While online dating has changed the face and style with which we flirt and interact, it still can’t weed out narcissistic and ignorant people. Sure, we can look at a person’s profile for political affiliations and religious preferences and agree to not meet but most people will show their true colors the minute they feel passionate about something. Good and bad. And to their fault or betterment, they will slowly begin to build their person right in front of you and we have the option to stick around or to push in our chair and walk away. No one will ever believe everything exactly the way you do but for me, I fall in love with the core of a person. Their taste can vary and their responses questionable, but my heart no longer has the capacity to tolerate insensitive people who lack compassion.
As I walked home, I erased her texts from my phone because people like that deserve as little space in my life as possible. In order to make more room for the good ones.