Find BadOnlineDates On:
During the summer of 2008, as a newly single-30 something-professional-mother of twins, I decided to reenter the dating world after 10 years in a turbulent marriage.
Let's just say that I made some HUGE mistakes.
The first was browsing the personals on Craigslist.... this story stems from one of those ads:
I placed an ad on Craigslist personals (a bottle of merlot can make you think that ANYTHING is a good idea); just the basic facts, no photos, no frills. The next morning I had 112 responses.
In my naivete, I thought this was a promising turn of events... after reading the first dozen or so replies, I realized how seriously mistaken this thought was. There are some really creepy people who trawl the Craigslist personals...
Anyway, amidst the offers for foot massages and the requests for pictures of me in my underwear (and the requests for me to view the responder's pictures of him in HIS underwear- or less), I opened an email from a man who wrote in a funny, smart, and sincere manner and began an email correspondence with him. I'll call him Gary.
Gary was a single dad of a young man around the same age as my children, he had a professional job (which he never actually disclosed), and was a volunteer fireman. He wrote very well and much of what he wrote made me smile. We exchanged photographs, and although he wasn't exactly my type physically, his intelligence and sense of humor could have made up for it in my mind. We agreed to meet at a local Chinese restaurant.
I noticed Gary immediately as I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, standing in front of his parked car. He was wearing a suit ( he told me he would be coming straight from court- at the time, I thought that meant he was a lawyer...) and appeared to be perspiring heavily, as evidenced by the constant wiping of his forehead with a handkerchief.
As I stepped out of the car, he approached me immediately, and the first words that he said to me were, "Hi, would you like something?" I was caught off guard by this greeting, thinking that he was somehow offering me a drink-- in the parking lot. I responded by saying, "No thank you, I'll just wait until we get inside." He said, "No, I have something for you. Do you want it?" to which I replied, "Ummm.. sure."
He turned and pulled a dozen roses out of the front seat of his car and held them out to me. Never being one for flowers, I was touched at the thought, but also a little uncomfortable... this WAS a first meeting after all, and the presentation of the flowers seemed a little presumptuous on his part. As he handed them to me, I noticed that they were in a container full of water-- a 7-11 Big Gulp cup featuring the Incredible Hulk. He saw that I noticed the cup and told me that the cup belonged to his son and that placing the flowers in the cup was his insurance that I would have to agree to a second date with him, if only to return the cup. All sorts of alarm bells were going off in my head at this point, but, as you get to know me a little better, you'll realize that I have a tendency to ignore those bells...
Anyway, we started walking in to the restaurant, and I noticed that Gary was limping... It was obvious to me that this was an ingrained limp-- in other words, not the result of a recent accident, nor something that was ever going to improve. We sat down at the table, and as we started talking, I also noticed that the left side of his mouth pulled down whenever he spoke... as if he were suffering from some sort of paralysis. Now, keep in mind that we had been corresponding for several weeks- he never mentioned that he suffered from any sort of physical challenge-- but I started to wonder if maybe he had suffered a stroke in the past. This would not have necessarily been a deal breaker for me, but I felt as though it certainly should have been mentioned in our "getting to know each other" phase.
Now, you'll remember that I observed Gary wiping sweat from his brow in the parking lot with a handkerchief. He pulled out the handkerchief again as our bowls of soup arrived and used it every time he took a spoonful of soup. His paralyzed mouth could not contain all of the liquid that he was putting into it and it was dribbling out of the left corner of his mouth and he was (somewhat unsuccessfully) trying to catch it before it ran down his chin on the way to his tie. I stared at my bowl for most of the course, trying to tactfully conceal my horror at being on a first date with a man who drooled and found it acceptable to wipe the drool with a sweaty pocket towel. Why did he order soup???!!!
As the meal progressed, Gary told me about his day in court. He was not a lawyer. He was the defendant in a civil case brought by Suffolk County against him related to his alleged neglect of his property- apparently, his yard was a mess- overgrown and full of junk yard items... He told me all about the rodents that scurried through the waist-high grass, but assured me that they didn't bite, so there was no reason to be afraid should we decide to go back to his place after dinner.
By this point, I felt like I was in a waking nightmare, and I just wanted to end the meal and go home. But, I'm a nice person and well, a push-over... so I stayed.
Gary and I got on the subject of tattoos. I love tattoos- I have several and I see them as art. My tattoos are very personal to me and much thought went into them, but, Gary didn't know this about me when, just before the Chinese tea and fortune cookies came out, he turned to me and, gravely said, "There is something I need to tell you, and it might be a deal breaker." I actually got excited about these words, because I thought, "Ahhh... he's going to give me a dignified way out this date." So, I looked at him expectantly, and he said, "I have a tattoo, would you like to see it?". So, he rolled up his pant leg, and on his calf (the non-limping leg), he had the Grateful Dead dancing bears in yellow, blue, and pink. Very cute... for a 4 year old girl, perhaps. I guess the tattoo was the deal breaker, after all.
I excused myself as politely as I could and walked briskly to my car.... I knew, even though I am hardly athletic, that Gary would not be able to catch up to me on foot.
As I drove out of the parking lot past the restaurant's dumpsters, I opened my window wide, and threw away the roses.... and the Incredible Hulk cup.