one of my online dating profile photos. circa 2007.

I once signed up for a rather popular online dating service. I was twenty-five years old and had recently split from my husband, ending a five year marriage that had felt doomed from the beginning. I had married young at the age of nineteen, and early on recognized that I may not have made the best decision. Still, I trudged through and kept on with it for a while, trying every healthy marriage trick in the book, then counseling, and finally making my exit. Through it all I never really thought about how unhappy I was. In hindsight I can now see how I mourned my disintegrating marriage long before I pulled the plug on it.

So when the dust kind of settled, and I was left spending my days either alone at my apartment, at work in the hospital, or at nursing school, and  after I had decided that I didn’t want to date either of the two available men in my nursing classes, or anyone at the hospital even if they were a doctor, or would be one day, I came to the conclusion that I needed to figure out a way to meet men.  An easy enough conclusion to come to as a newly single twenty-five year old, but for someone who never really dated, and had been married for just about her entire adult life, it seemed crazy to just go out and meet men.  After hearing me complain and rant about how impossible it would be to ever meet anyone, my good friend recommended that I try an online dating service. I was skeptical at first, but she convinced me, assuring me that many people meet online. And it made sense: as long as I was careful, I might be able to meet someone that I really liked, or maybe just go on a few nice dates with random okay-ish men, and if things didn't go well, they were far enough removed from my social circle that I wouldn't need to encounter them again. Also, I needed some dating experience, and the service was free.

So one night I uploaded a few photos and made a profile. If you like to blog, then making a dating profile is possibly one of the most enjoyable things to write. I took the opportunity to explain all the silly little things I like, and list bands and movies I love, and write about how I want to have fun, but not too much fun. I wanted to sound likable, but quirky… so in case I wasn’t actually likable, I had an excuse. I channeled my inner Holly Golightly, Amelie, and Kathleen Kelly, and edited and re-wrote for hours before submitting the profile and turning off the computer for the night. I woke up the next morning to see that I had like twenty “winks” and a few e-mails. I was shocked.

I began going on dates. Sometimes I would talk to the guy on the phone before going on the date, other times I would just agree to meet (somewhere very public and safe) before talking on the phone. I would often drive to wherever I was going to meet, park somewhere a few blocks away, and then show up at the restaurant or bar we had decided on. This way I could walk away from the date, and disappear, and they wouldn't know my license plate number. Because, God forbid they know my license plate number. Still, this felt safer to me.

I met John at a popular place down on South Street. I knew that the restaurant would be crowded even on a week-day evening. I had been on a few dates before this, and was feeling okay about this one. His profile sounded a bit generic, and in his photos he looked pretty average - medium height and build with dark hair and eyes, often wearing a polo shirt and jeans with a belt. The shirt was tucked in - you could see the belt… ugh. Still, he sounded nice, even on the phone. He was from South Philadelphia, and you could hear it in his voice. He seemed polite and maybe even a little boring, but one of my goals was to meet nice people. Even if I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life, or even another date, with them.

When I walked into the restaurant he was sitting at the bar. He stood up to greet me, and despite the tucked in polo, and jeans buckled with a belt, I was surprised to find him more attractive than his photos. He had nice eyes, and a good smile. We sat at the bar and began to talk. He asked me many questions, told me about himself, his work (jeweler), his apartment (Art Museum Area-ish?), and really won me over when he started telling me how he got over being shy. He explained to me that he used to be cripplingly shy and very awkward, but decided one day that he was going to be like Carry Grant, instead of being shy.  Just like that! How hilarious! How awesome! This guy had just gone up a few notches. We continued to talk, and my interest in him continued to grow. I imagined where we might go on our next date…and entertained the thought of  watching old movies together and ordering pizza. He was not only better-looking than I had hoped, but more interesting, and funny. Downright hilarious, and he seemed to like me too.

Before I knew it we had spent just about two hours talking. I was having a great time talking to him, and everything was going so well. This was certainly one of the best first dates I had been on, and I wanted to let him know that I was as into him as a girl could be for a first date. So, I leaned towards him flirtatiously, smiled, and said, “You are really funny. You make me laugh.”

To which he replied, “Thanks. You are really pretty. You make me want to cut your head off”

WHAT THE HELL? I straightened up in my barstool, smiled, now sheepishly, and jokingly pushed his beer a few inches away from him. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond… but I figured I would give him a chance to redeem himself. I mean, maybe he was nervous… but then,

“Yeah, I could totally chop your head off and put it in the freezer, you are so pretty.”

I am not quite sure what happened after that point. The date kind of ended there for me. I think I might have agreed to meet him again soon, or told him I would call him once I got home… I thought it might be best to just seem as agreeable as possible, and that my life may depend on it. I declined his offer to walk me to my car, and gave him a small, forced, hug before I left. The hug felt so awkward to me, but I told myself I needed to, for my safety. It was better to keep a psychopath happy than to upset them, right?

On my drive home I tried to rationalize it all. I mean, he was trying to be funny, right? He might have been nervous and unsure of what to say. Maybe he has a weird sense of humor. Some of my favorite people have weird, and sometimes sick senses of humor. But the fact that he paired a compliment with a threat to cut off my head…. and that he said it twice. The fact that he felt comfortable enough to say this on a first date. I just couldn’t bring myself to terms with it. But then I felt so torn, because I had been having such a nice time, and he was really funny, and maybe I would give him one more chance. But then I thought, what if the situation was reversed? What if he had been me, and I him? If I had told him he was so handsome that I wanted to mame him and keep him in my basement? No, I don't think it would have gone over half as well as I allowed it to.

I told friends about the date, and they totally agreed with my decision. I told my mom and she thought I should give him another chance... which also validated my decision.

I ignored his phone calls, and left his e-mails unanswered. I blocked him on the dating website so he could no longer see my profile. He called me six months later and I answered not recognizing the number. He called twice, first calling and telling me he had the wrong number, and then calling back a few minutes later to ask me what had happened. I didn’t know what to say, or how to say it, but I simply told him that I had met someone, and wished him the best in meeting someone as well…

you know, like no hard feelings... just want to keep my head on my body. that's all.

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