There comes a time in every single lady’s life when, upon noticing no one is liking it or putting a ring on it, she must candidly evaluate the state of her dating life. In my case, this evaluation seemed a natural product of my newly instated Year of Bravery. The last time I dated someone was two years ago. He was sweet and cute and smart and funny. It should, by all accounts, have worked out. But he was moving for school, I wasn’t quite over something I had thought I was over, and timing, well, it’s a bitch. Point is, it’s been a solitary two years. Well, that’s not entirely true. Little about my life is truly solitary. In fact, these two relationship-free years have been kind of fantastic. And yet, at the ripe age of 30, it occurs to me that, though I might be okay with all of this now, I might not be okay with it in a few years. And then what? Will I regret not taking a chance on love or, at the very least, a damn good time?
After some hardcore soul searching, I decided it was time. Time to be brave. Time to be fearless. Time to download that app on my iPhone and enter some vague yet charming information about myself. Write that profile. Upload those selfies.
I’ve never dipped my toe in the online dating waters until now. I’ve had numerous friends do it, and many of them have chosen OkCupid because it is a) free, and b) tailored to our generation. There are so, so many things I don’t understand about online dating in general but, specifically, this particular site. Oh, so many. For starters, why do men think they are being unique when they start their profiles with, “I like to have fun”? Really? Fun is something you enjoy? I’m shocked. Secondly, why do men feel the need to write things like, “I’m strong as an ox,” or, “I’m an alpha male”? These are actual excerpts from men who apparently think they are Gaston. It’s almost as bad as the influx of, “I don’t know what to say here,” or, my personal favorite, the man who started with a tirade on how terrible dating is and how no one should ever try to contact him, ever. He doesn’t seem to get the point. Don’t even get me started on the Crazy Blind Date feature, which asks you what date and time you’d be available to meet a perfect stranger whose photo you haven’t even seen because it’s been scrambled into a messy puzzle, therefore exponentially increasing the chances of ending up with a deformed serial killer.
All things considered, it should come as little surprise to you, dear reader, that I entered into this new phase of my life with a healthy dose of skepticism. I’ve responded to very few messages. This is 20% laziness, 30% cynicism, and 50% discovery of the fact that people are boring. Do not take the time to email me and simply write “Hi.” You know from my profile I am a writer. Words are clearly important to me. And, to the 21-year-old who simply wrote, “Hey gorgeous, want a boy toy,” I have one thing to say: I am old enough to have been your teacher. Think on that, Eagle Scout.
That said, there do exist some gems in the cesspool that is OKC. One gentleman in particular, whose name I withhold in order to protect the innocent, struck my fancy a few months ago. He was cute, completely my type, and not at all creepy, at least not according to his profile. His email was simple enough, but it seemed harmless. I responded, we went on a few dates, and I discovered a little something about myself. Bravery, independence, yada yada yada. This isn’t about me, actually. This is about what I (may have) discovered about my date.
Fact: There’s a fine line between hipster and homosexual.
Opinion: That line just got finer.
Now, this isn’t confirmed. He didn’t outright tell me he was gay, and I certainly didn’t pick up on it on our first few dates. In fact, I really liked him and thought it might go somewhere. He was a gentleman. He dressed nicely. He lived in an impeccably decorated apartment…helped me decide how to cut my hair…gave me suggestions on what dress to wear to my cousin’s carnival ball…owned questionably fashionable furniture…called a waitress “sassy”…told my best friend she was “fabulous”….twice…
Okay, so I’m potentially an idiot. But when someone lists himself as “straight” on a dating web site, a girl has expectations. After three pleasant dates, including one where we went to a bookstore and drank coffee and did all the things I love to do on daytime dates, I was officially interested, and it seemed the feeling was mutual. He had pursued me, after all. He’d asked me if I wanted to visit his hometown with him sometime, invited me to meet his coworkers, and planned future dates that we would go on, presumably to get to know each other and eventually live happily ever after. Maybe with ponies. And kisses, lots of kisses, because I had learned he was fairly good at that.
The night of our final date, he and I went to one of my favorite bars and he met some of my friends, including my heterosexual life mate, t (who, for the record, was on her best behavior. Only about two inappropriate comments were made on her part). At one point, when my date went to the bathroom, t and our other friends joined me in a general celebration of how into me my date appeared to be. My Year of Bravery was going so well, we all agreed. This fellow was a delight!
When he brought me home, though, he all but threw me out of the car. This seemed confusing, but, undaunted, I leaned forward for what I thought was an inevitable kiss. Instead, I was met with an uncomfortable silence. I started to get out of the car, but then I remembered: this is my Year of Bravery, dammit! I deserve an answer!
“Soooo,” I said, waving a hand at him, then me, then back at him. “What is this?”
This resulted in his face making the opposite face of a person who is about to kiss another person. It was, quite honestly, more puzzling than it was distressing.
“This always happens with me and women,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I mean, you’re pretty and clever and smart and funny.”
“I agree,” I interrupted.
“I just don’t think there’s a spark,” he continued, ignoring my half-joke. “It’s not you, it’s really me. I just can’t make physical connections with women. You know what I mean?”
I told him I did, in fact, know what he meant because suddenly the pieces were coming together. The nicely manicured fingernails, the admission to only buying work pants at J. Crew, the extreme interest in my inadvertently standing by the gender studies shelf at the bookstore. The animal print rug in his apartment. Oh, I knew what he meant.
If this were indeed some twisted version of Fifty Shades, we would have had one more meeting, which would involve some sort of whip or chain or otherwise horrifying prop. Instead, we hung out as friends during a Mardi Gras parade. In the course of the evening, I silently tallied points, adding one for gay and deleting one for straight. He told my friend he was androgynous before allowing her to sprinkle glitter over him (+1). He tried to get me to climb on his shoulders, which I adamantly declined (-1), which then led to him climbing onto the shoulders of my friend’s not-maybe-gay roommate (+1) in an attempt to catch beads. Near the end of the parade, he complimented my boots (+1), put his arm around my waist (-1), proclaimed I was a fabulous gal (+1), said I was the best and coolest girl he’d met in New Orleans (-1), and admitted to getting off OkCupid. He almost looked like he might kiss me, and even though I knew we’d both regret it, I almost let him.
And yet, as I looked into his glassy, whiskey-soaked eyes, I realized that, gay or not, this was not the person for me. I’ve dated people who look good on paper. I’ve been involved with people who denounce my messy habits, enjoy fancier things than I do, and have pasts that prevent them from fully accepting me into their lives. And the fact is, I don’t want any of that. I don’t want someone with an impeccable apartment that I would inevitably mess up, and I don’t need someone who dresses nicer than I do. I don’t want someone who can’t kiss me without experiencing an identity crisis, and, for that matter, I don’t even know if I want a relationship, let alone one where I’m the surrogate girlfriend of someone who doesn’t want a girlfriend. More importantly, I don’t want someone going through a phase. Whether that phase is simply the new-to-New-Orleans phase or a holy-shit-I’m-gay-but-fighting-it phase, it’s still that: a phase. And as a 30-year-old professional woman, well, ain’t nobody got time for that. So I slipped my hand over his wrist, removed his arm from around my waist, and thanked him for thinking so highly of me. Later, I poured him into a cab.
Is it possible he’s gay? Yes. Is it possible he simply isn’t interested in me and doesn’t know how to say it? Of course. When it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter. Gay, straight, bisexual: we aren’t meant to be anything more than friends. He’s a nice person, albeit clearly confused about something, and I can respect that. We’re all confused about something. It won’t get me off OkCupid, and it won’t stop me from talking to him. Above all else, I hope he figures whatever it is out. Maybe the thing he’s really craving is a friend, and maybe the brave thing for me to do is to allow that to happen.
After all, if there’s one thing romantic comedies have taught us, it’s that every single girl needs a gay best friend, even if that gay best friend is ambiguously so.