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Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try: 5.9.12

As much as I complain about the sorry state of my love life, it is not from lack of trying. About three years ago, I had one of those 'Mohammed/mountain' moments and decided to accept my fate. It was time to try online dating. Really, it's been fairly painless. Heinously unsuccessful, but painless. After all, I genuinely like people and can be entertained briefly by practically anyone. I have even added a few more dudes to my friend roster, despite my stomping around and huffing, "I'm not doing this for friends; I have those." But really, it's been very low investment-low yield, all things considered. Yes, it's taken gallons of shower water, probably bottles of conditioner and tubes of hopeful mascara, but all things considered, I've been fairly...unaffected? Sigh. But even though I dip in and out, sometimes going on hiatus for months at a time, it's still kind of a drag and a timesuck. So, as I consider throwing in the online towel once and for all, I look back on the past few years and give you these, my Top 5 worst online dates.

#5 Math Problem
Let's ease into this list, shall we? No need to dive right in to the horror stories. Math Problem was not a bad guy, per se. He was just horribly self-involved. And unfortunately, he was paranoid. However, I'm sure he really was very smart. When I met him, we spoke in great detail of his demanding work...except he couldn't tell me which employer was benefiting from his mathematical mastermind. This was rather silly. In this area, when someone gives you the equivalent of ye olde "I could tell you but then I'd have to..." in answer to your workplace query, it points you in the direction of one place: the NSA. Of course that's where he worked. And all of his seriously secretive smoke and mirrors only served to make it that much more ridiculous when I was out with his friends on our third date, and they casually let it slip that he was indeed employed by this arm of Uncle Sam's corporation. Big deal, right? He did something with eyeball imaging and brave new world identification technologies. It was a teensy bit scarily impressive. If not a secret agent man, doesn't every girl secretly want to date a mad scientist? Maybe not, but it was still intriguing.

I actually hung out with Math Problem for several weeks. He was a good cook. He was into the requisite cool music, books and movies. He was remodeling his row house himself, and liked to periodically walk me around the place excitedly showing off each project. He had a cat named Elephant Man that immediately endeared me to him (the cat, not Math Problem). He is one of those rare people who have two different colored eyes. And he was wild about math and science. This is not inherently a bad quality. But when mixed with his self-absorption, it became something I could not overcome--like that brawny lumberjack on the Bounty roll with the same claim to fame. He liked to talk endlessly about theoretical conundrums of scientific and mathematical varieties, which would have been endlessly fascinating, except that I am not endlessly interested in that type of thing. Passably so, in a Richard Feynman, Schroedinger's Cat kind of way. But beyond that, I kind of give up on the stuff. I don't know if he did it to show off or if my glazed expression didn't even register. But a fun night out would habitually end in some sort of esoteric lecture and I was starting to want to skip class. He even downloaded some horrifically dense mathematics paper he wrote for me on my laptop. Homework? It wasn't going to happen.

But you know how it is. You want to give someone a trial run, a few laps to see if your bet is going to really stay the course. But things were winding down for me and Math Problem. We had been hanging out, a.k.a. going out, a.k.a. whatever for about three weeks. One night, we spent a fun evening at his neighborhood bar, having the kind of time that left me thinking, "Sure, this could actually be cool." Especially when he pulled back from whatever conversation we were having and said, "Hey, you have really cool irises." "Gee, thanks," I said, probably batting my lashes and blushing. Except then he used it as the segue to jump back into to yet another riveting monologue on eyeballs and lasers and blah, blah, blah. That was it. I was pretty sure I was ready to withdraw from Dating Self-Involved Scientists 101. And then, the final straw. We stood in his foyer saying goodnight. "Wow,' he said, "I always forget how much fun it is to kiss you." I decided to let that one go without commentary. Why bother? Then he said, "You want to spend the night, right?" His syntax was irksome, but it didn't matter by this point. "Nah," I gracefully declined. "Oh," he said, distractedly, "Well, in that case, you know what will happen." He looked me in the eye. It felt more like a challenge than any kind of romantic overture, given our conversation thus far. "Not exactly..." I trailed off. Math Problem then proceeded to explicitly (and rather scientifically) describe what he would be doing later that evening while thinking of me. Um, ew? And of course, it still was all about him. That was the last time I saw him. Paranoid secrecy was one thing, but that TMI was much more than I could handle.

#4 Writer not Reader
Me: So, you're a writer? Him: Yep. Me: Cool; I am too. So, what do you like to read? (Long Pause) Him: I said I'm a writer not a reader. (Fade Out)

#3 Gag
To be fair, I am not without blame in this scenario, the one-shot wonder that came to be known as Gag. Gag seemed promising. He was witty and charming in email, he was keen to get together, and once we did, he was fairly easy on the eyes as well. He transitioned well from paper to real time. We met up for the classic mid-week drinks date. For whatever reason, I didn't have time to eat dinner before jetting uptown. No problem, I thought, this won't take too long. I'll eat after. But then, it did take a long time. It took a long time to sit at the bar getting to know each other over a few rounds of drinks. And then, since that was so much fun, we decided to move on to a second, quieter bar for another few drinks. Which also took a long time. So that by the time it was time to go, I was that uncomfortable kind of tipsy on an empty stomach that never goes well. I don't know quite how it happened. I may have been so taken by Gag's prettyboy looks that I simply forgot to eat. But now Prettyboy needed to get home and we were going to share a cab downtown. We laughingly piled into one and swooped down St. Paul. In the back of my mind, I was counting down the timeline to downing several pints of water and eating something hearty back at home. And this cab appeared to be making an inordinate number of sharp turns that kept my empty, sloshy stomach on the rails and my head dizzy.

Gag and I were still having a fine old time, laughing and joking. And under normal circumstances, I would have welcomed his advances. So when he leaned in for a kiss, I didn't initially classify that jumpy sensation in my belly correctly. But this was not romantic butterfiles fluttering against their nervous net. This was a sloppy, drunken kiss that needed to end immediately because I couldn't even enjoy it. If I closed my eyes, I could feel those dreaded slow spins start up, swiveling my brain like it was rotating on a lazy susan inside my skull. Yuck. I had to quit the kissing, which--if you know me--is not my preferred M.O. Poor Gag. He went in for another, but it was then, dear friends, that he earned his nickname. I just couldn't manage this in the back of a moving cab, since every time it turned, my guts were already on their way about three blocks in the opposite direction by the time we'd straigtened out again. Too bad. He tumbled out of the cab, we waved. But when he emailed me again, I knew that he needed to stay a one-off wonder. He was fun, he sure was goodlooking...but he had a complicated context with an ex-wife and a kid and etc. Not my scene. Apparently, Gag knew how to intentionally look good on paper and save the more interesting information to share four or five drinks in. Again, too bad. It had been easy to stomach this new information while getting a bit soused; but in the end, perhaps my stomach went with its gut, and I am glad things went no further.

#2 You Don't Have to Wait
This one does not get a lot of airtime. He is but another one-date wonder, and may simply fall under the banal category of "Incredibly Rude People" or more to the point, "Jackasses." Yet, it is his impeccable rendering of that characterization that lands him here on the list. I don't recall too many details regarding You Don't Have To Wait. Perhaps he had some finer qualities. We'll never know. This interlude occurred at a critical online dating juncture for me, one where I had finally begun to recognize that this business was not about your emotions or ego. No, time was the primary commodity at stake here. It became a simple opportunity cost equation for me. (You may know I am a little geeky with the econ/love analogies! ) No more emails endlessly bantering back and forth only to discover upon meeting that your potential life mate was disconcertingly prone to muttering asides (to himself) or waited to tell you in person about his ex-wife or pet rats (so he could watch your reaction). Apparently, looking good on paper is absurdly easy. No more of that. I limited all email exchanges to several volleys back and forth merely to establish the basics: fluency in the English language, a command of sarcasm, and several key points of mutual interest. Then it was off the races. Meet often, meet early is my online dating motto.

You Don't Have to Wait and I met out at a coffee shop/wine bar on one of those fantastic fall Sunday afternoons. If this went well, how perfect would a little stroll around the neighborhood be in the crisp air and bright blue sunshine? If this went south, it was still a fantastic fall Sunday afternoon. We arranged ourselves behind our warm beverages and chatted easily. I recall we talked about school (he was a post-doc in something or other), travel, languages, etc. It wasn't like the cherubs were peeking around the corner taking aim with their arrows of romance, but it certainly wasn't horrible. We switched from hot to alcoholic beverages. We each had a glass of wine. It was pleasant. No one ran screaming. He suggested we get the tab. That was fine. We had held each other's attention for a polite and respectable duration. There was no need to go overboard. This probably wasn't going anywhere anyway. We stood up. I asked, 'Where did you park?' He told me around the corner. I nodded and smiled. We stood silently. Why did things feel awkward suddenly? Him: "I think I'm going to run to the restroom." Oh, that's why. Me: "Sure." Why were we still standing there, blinking silently at each other? Him: "You don't have to wait." Oh, that's why.

Clearly time was also of the essence for this guy. Not much more to it, really. Except for the fact that I am so pathetically polite that I sort of shook my shock off like a wet dog getting dry, and then lamely extended my little paw for a goodbye handshake. I mean, can you believe that? I should of just rolled on out. But that felt too rude. Thank goodness it was still a fantastic fall Sunday afternoon.

#1 Save Me
I love a good story. Even more, I love to tell a good story. And this one has served me well. It's always on the playlist and is frequently requested. So here it is. Save Me and I quickly exhausted the 4 volley email rule. He was a history teacher in the County (cool); he had excellent taste in things (read: similar to mine; there is no point in pretending that this is not what we mean when we compliment someone's tastes). So we met up. The venue was a First Thursday concert in Mt. Vernon. We found each other at the meeting spot and fell easily into easy B'more hipster banter. Who do you know, what band they were in, so on and so forth. It was easy enough. We procured some beers and strolled. It was fairly pleasant. Except there were already some red flags waving, some cracks in what I thought Save Me was all about. An example: He was telling me about his upcoming road trip to Tennessee to hang out with friends in a band (oh, Bon Iver, no big deal) over the next week and I said, "Aw, you have to get a substitute for a whole week for your classes; is that weird?" And he said, "Hell no, fuck those kids." Hm. Cool teacher vibe kind of shattered there. But who cares? It was a lovely early summer evening and this meeting spot was ideal because you could easily leave at any moment with the old "sorry, my raccoon has hepatitis" exit line a la Woody Allen's dating tips. So whatever.

We continued strolling and chatting and soon, we ran into a few friends of mine who were also there. We all stood around for a minutes shooting the breeze. I introduced Save Me, but he was clearly more interested in peering at his phone and incessantly poking out texts than polite socializing. So I more or less ignored him and continued gabbing, until I felt my own phone vibrate with a text. Feeling a little obnoxious, I announced, "Aha! I also have a text message which I will now check." Suddenly, Save Me looked sheepish and unnerved. "Um," he stuttered, "Um, I think I accidentally sent you a text I meant to send to my friend, Amy." Interesting. "Aha!," I proclaimed, fishing out my phone, "Let's see what you have to say to Amy then." I looked down at my phone and there it was. "SAVE ME!!!" Three exclamation points??? Three? I mean, really! So, of course, I immediately turned my phone to my friends and shared his plaintive plea. Suitable hilarity ensued. And then, I turned to Save Me and told him he was dismissed. The strangest part of this little tale is that he didn't leave! He was some bizarro glutton for punishment or something. First he tried to back-pedal and explain that he just felt nervous in large groups of people...and then he did indeed produce his friend Amy, who was very nice, and they proceeded to join me and my group of friends for sushi and drinks...and they. wouldn't. leave. Until one of my friends finally told them to. None of that really mattered. I had a primo story to tell for my troubles and you really can't ask for more than that out of life, right?

reflect - reinvent ....rayclaire@gmail.com... what i used to think... what i hear... what i see... where i'd like to be...

the black apple... the girl who... sarah brown... thunderpie... evany... jenny b harris... posie... claude le monde... artsy... fartsy... jeff... random person in texas... another rachel... smitten kitchen... more of me... still more of me... even more of me...and yet still more of me...more of me but not for free...

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