Dater X: One and Done

Lest you misinterpret the headline, allow me to reassure you that I am not, in fact, going anywhere.  But neither are my tepid attempts at Tindering.

Backing up a bit: Esquire showed up to our softball game yesterday to claim his glove and was unexpectedly flirty, both beforehand via text (asking for directions that I know he didn’t really need) and during, which left me with sparks of hope that I managed to effectively extinguish by screaming like a lunatic at the umpire over a series of bad calls late in the game. Ladylike I am not. (Wait, you mean guys don’t find it attractive when you threaten bodily harm over a botched call at second base??  I told you I was undateable.) Today’s fail notwithstanding, with Esquire’s glove languishing in my apartment all week, I figured I’d better line up another date while I bided my time, if he even turns out to be interested in the first place (jury: still out).

So I Tindered.  I left-swiped through dozens of unappealing options, including a guy holding a piglet like a human infant, a guy in a cow costume drinking Bud Light, a former co-worker who I know to be mentally unstable, and a guy whose profile pic was himself in a cowboy shirt and hat, pointing at a Photoshopped image of…himself in a different cowboy shirt and hat.

I can’t make this shit up.

I right-swiped with care, and while I had little to show for it at first, the more I plodded through the bizarre cascade of options, the more frequently I scored immediate “It’s a Match!” success. With a nice little stable of show ponies at the ready, I started sending messages.  Rather quickly, one suitor moved himself to the head of the pack: his profile was witty, his pics were attractive, and his banter was flirty yet polite.  When he revealed that he lives in the same neighborhood I do, I figured it was an omen and suggested that we meet up that evening for a drink.

So far, so good.

He asked me if I had a spot in mind, which seemed like a good sign: letting me choose the venue was a nice way to be sure I would feel comfortable during the wildly awkward social ritual that is a first date.  I suggested a favorite bar of mine that’s not too fancy, not too dive-y, just right.  Goldilocks, eat your heart out. We picked a time, and that was that.

At this point, I was feeling pretty confident about the whole thing, and Whoa, hey, hubris! Come on in and stay a while! This chronically single woman thinks she’s mastered online dating in one fell swoop – er, swipe!

(Now is probably a good time to disclose that I once went on an eHarmony date with a guy who a) turned out to be 5’1”, not 5’10”, and claimed it was a typo in his profile [rolls eyes]; b) had Tourette’s and twitched-panted-stuttered through the entire date; and c) said – er, twitched-panted-stuttered – to me, verbatim, on a first date: “How do you feel about anal sex? I bet you like it.”)

At the appointed time or thereabouts, I walked up to the bar and recognized the guy from Tinder standing outside.  Relief!  He was, in fact, 5’11”!  He was nicely dressed in a button-down and jeans!  He hadn’t gained 50 pounds since his pics were taken!  He didn’t smell like the business end of a plunger!  All was apparently well.  And then he opened his mouth, and immediately, I identified his accent: Israel.

Before you start kicking up a fuss: NO, I’m not an anti-Semite.  And no, I don’t particularly have anything against dating outside of my culture (I was raised Christian, but I don’t attend church regularly, and my parents are uncommonly accepting). But an Israeli accent almost always indicates one key bit of baggage: mandatory military service. I knew within a minute of meeting him that this guy had probably seen combat, and a few minutes later, happenstance confirmed my suspicion.

The bar I chose was uncomfortably full, so he suggested another spot nearby. Fine by me.  We started strolling and chatting, and he was generally easy to talk to.  He demurred when I asked about his job, but it was a first date, and I don’t exactly announce that I make my living writing about my Tinder dates, either. We reached a corner and prepared to turn when I noticed a city bus stopped in the middle of the street, flanked by police cars.  There were a couple of cops circling the bus on foot, looking in the windows.  Ever the journalist, I edged forward to get a better look.

“They’re looking for someone specific,” my date observed, and sure enough, a few moments later, a guy emerged from the front doors of the bus and the officers flanked him.  He took a trip-step, as though to run, and before he could take another, both officers’ hands were on their holsters.

And my date was flattened up against the nearest building, leaving me standing by a parked car watching the scene unfold.

No weapons were discharged; the guy decided not to run; the cops peacefully loaded him into one of their police cars.  And it’s not so much that I suspected my date was suffering from PTSD as the fact that he seemed to assess that shots might be fired and acted accordingly: he dashed for cover.  Without so much as grabbing my hand or saying a word.  I don’t expect a virtual stranger to leap in front of a bullet for me, but all I’m saying is, if I saw a car barreling towards us, I wouldn’t run out of the way and leave him in the street.

The rest of the evening was more or less fine.  We laughed off our “brush with danger,” went to a couple of bars, had a couple of cocktails.  He ordered for me without asking, which I hate, but the drinks he picked were damned good.  And he resolutely refused to allow me to pay for anything, which is gentlemanly, if a little old-fashioned.  Around midnight, I told him I had to be up early to work the next day, and after an abortive attempt to get me back to his place (I wasn’t having it), he walked me outside and kissed me goodnight.  It was a nice kiss.

But I can’t get the bus incident out of my head.  Without it, our “just fine” date might have led to another.  As it is, I don’t think I’ll see him again.  I wasn’t notattracted to him, but I certainly didn’t feel any butterflies, either, and knowing what other baggage he might be packing, I can’t rationalize trying to stir up feelings where I didn’t find strong ones to begin with.  What if we’d seen the arrest at the end of the night, rather than the beginning?  Would he have acted differently, having just spent several hours, instead of several minutes, with me? There’s no way to know.

Still, it was nice to meet someone new and get my mind off the Esquire Quagmire for a while, and we visited some cool bars in my neighborhood that I’d never been to before.  As my best friend and I concluded after rehashing the scenario over the phone: Better one and done than none.