Yesterday’s post was…a lot. A lot of dead animals, mostly. So I thought I’d venture back to the lighter side today. Besides, it’s been ages since I told a dating story and this is one of my favorites.
After much deliberation and reflection, I’ve decided that there is no way to tell this story without coming across as a superficial, shallow bitch so I’m not even going to try. Deal with it.
Okay, so after a series of online flirtations and real life dates with perverts, douchebags and hapless dating noobs, I decided to try a different tactic. Rather than only responding to the men that I was immediately attracted to, I decided to go for a guy who had some substance. Like communism, it was a good idea in theory, but in practice? Not so much. Case in point…
In the daily onslaught of garbage, barely intelligible, ‘Hey their, ur hot’ emails that I received from the men of OkCupid, I noticed one that actually contained complete sentences and – be still my heart – punctuation!
The email was from a gentleman calling himself ‘Opera Fan.’ Apparently he was a huge fan of opera (go figure), in addition to being an avocational singer in his own right. In his email he asked some very insightful questions about my job, so before I even glanced at his profile (a mistake I made more than once during this process) I responded straightaway. Then he wrote back with more questions. Once again, I shot off a quick response. Then, so I wouldn’t look stupid for asking redundant questions he had already answered in his profile, I checked him out.
While his profile was very interesting, well-written and sincere, there were some red flags.
Red Flag #1 – He only had one photo, a profile shot taken from far away.
Red Flag #2 – He made it very clear that he was looking for a wife. [Gents (and ladies for that matter) never state outright that you’re looking for a spouse on an online dating site. It’s wonderful that you’re serious about wanting a lasting relationship, but it puts way too much pressure on things. Slow your roll!]
Those were some pretty big red flags. On the other hand, he was clearly capable of holding a decent conversation, so despite the fact that I had no idea what he looked like or what he did for a living, when he asked if I’d like to meet up in person, I agreed…after only the briefest of hesitations. (Listen to your instincts next time, Sarah!!)
After making it very clear that I wasn’t currently in the husband-hunting phase of life, we decided to meet for coffee the following week at a cute little cafe on the upper west side. I stuck to my ‘no phone number or last name until after we’ve met in person’ rule, so all of the arrangements were made via OKC messenger.
Red Flag #3 – He emailed to confirm three times. Overkill, much?
On the day of the overly confirmed date, I arrived at the cafe a few minutes early. There were only a few tables and since none of them were occupied, I walked around to the back of the room towards the counter, where a few stray people were waiting in line. No one had that nervous, blind date look about them, so I turned back to one of the tables to wait.
Before I even had time to sit down, I heard singing – full-voiced, obnoxiously loud, operatic singing – coming from the front door. I totally cringed when I heard it. Then I saw the singer and cringed again. I’m sorry if this makes me sound shallow, but…it wasn’t good.
He was short (considerably shorter than he had indicated in his profile) and squat with thinning hair. On top of that, he was badly dressed in pleated, khaki, old man slacks and a dark, shapeless sweater that highlighted the copious amounts of dandruff on his shoulders. He also had not one, but two lazy eyes that veered off in opposite directions.
I only had a moment to take all of this in because he identified me right away and immediately enveloped me in a huge bear hug. A huge, lingering bear hug.
Anyway, after determining that he was my date and not just some random crazy person hugging me in coffee shop (hey, it’s New York – these things can happen), we sat down. Then we realized that there is only counter service at this particular cafe so we walked back to the counter to place our orders. I ordered a cup of mulled cider. He ordered, and I quote, ‘A chocolate milk with marshmallows and a piece of carrot cake.’
He paid. We sat on a little bench by the counter and waited. He tried to make conversation, but kept getting interrupted by the barista who wanted to make sure she had gotten the order right. When we finally had everything, we made our way back to the table and Opera Fan started up a conversation about what else? Opera.
He seemed very well informed about all aspects of the opera world, including the finer points about what it takes to actually have a career in singing. I brought up the fact that your average lay person, even die-hard opera fans, typically have no idea what a singer’s life is really like. He mentioned that he had been married to a singer for a time but that they had gotten a divorce several years ago.
I made a lame joke asking why he’d ever want to date another singer after that experience and he immediately (and seriously) reassured me that he knew all about the struggles singers face and how supportive he was of the artist’s lifestyle. I got the distinct impression that since he knew he would never have a singing career of his own (his words, not mine), he liked the idea of living vicariously through his spouse.
In any case, it’s kind of amazing that I was able to recall any details about our conversation at all because it was really difficult to follow at the time. I was much too engrossed by what he was doing while he spoke to actually pay attention to what he was saying.
Let me backtrack. I was more than a little bit surprised when Opera Fan ordered a ‘chocolate milk with marshmallows.’ And I think he was too. I’m pretty sure he meant to order hot chocolate, but he didn’t. His order was very clear. The barista confirmed it – twice.
Once we sat down and the conversation was in full swing, he took a sip of his beverage and seemed highly displeased. He got up and started to walk back toward the counter, but changed his mind halfway there and came back to the table. Then he proceeded to scoop all the marshmallows out of his glass and spoon them directly onto the table, creating a great, big, chocolatey mess. It was très hot…if you’re into that sort of thing, and sadly, I was not.
Then he took another sip (through the provided straw, mind you), but he still seemed unhappy with his selection and pushed the drink away to one side of the chocolate milk and marshmallow-soaked table. All the while he was chattering intelligently about opera, famous singers, the current season at the Met. It was pretty impressive and also horribly, horribly awkward.
He asked me at least three times if I wanted anything to eat. I politely declined. Then he started to eat his carrot cake. With his fingers. He wasn’t neat about it either. There were crumbs EVERYWHERE.
When the cake was gone, he started to play with the piles of crumbs like he was making a series of tiny carrot cake sculptures. I’m sure it was a nervous habit of some kind, but it was mesmerizing to watch, and on the upside, it gave me something to look at so I didn’t have to pick an eye. I was grateful for the distraction.
His enthusiasm for all things opera seemed to be boundless, however I quickly grew weary of the non-stop shop talk and tried to steer the conversation in another direction by asking him about what he did for a living. Though it was not apparent in his attire, he must have some form of well-paying job if he was able to go to the Met once a week as he claimed. [Note: I would like to state for the record that I am NOT a gold-digger. I could care less about money and no amount of it would have made me want to see this…interesting fellow ever again. I only mention it because I want you to feel the full impact of this next statement.]
“I work for the CIA.”
Thank god I had finished my cider by that point or surely some of it would have come out my nose. The CIA? Seriously? I mentally checked out after that. I mean, come on! This guy was either a little bit retarded or the best CIA operative ever.
In the end, I spent almost an hour of my life with the opera-loving, CIA agent with the lazy eyes, and while we admittedly had some interesting conversation, I was firmly resolved that it would be the last hour I spent in this bizarre man’s company. As we were walking out of the cafe, we discovered that we were both headed to the same subway. I instantly remembered an errand I had to run that was in the opposite direction of the train.
He asked if we could get together again. I said that I was heading out of town and would have to check my schedule when I got back. He asked where I was going. I was too exhausted to lie and told him the location of my next gig. He gave me another clumsy, too-tight hug. I patted him on the back and
ran walked away. I walked all the way home in fact – fifty blocks – just to be sure I wouldn’t run into him on the train. I did not want this guy knowing where I live.
When I got home, I had three emails from him in my OKC inbox. The first was a polite email thanking me for meeting him, telling me that he’d had a nice time and reiterating his wish that we get together again. The second email contained his phone number because he’d forgotten to include it in the first email. The third was a critique of my singing in some of the videos I had posted on YouTube. I wish I had saved the emails so I could tell you exactly what he said, but suffice it to say, it only served to make me less inclined (as if that were possible) to ever want to see him again.
At first I was freaked out that he was able to find me. I wracked my brain trying to remember if I had slipped up and accidentally given him my last name. Then I realized he must have looked up the opera company I mentioned when I told him about my next gig, gotten my name from the website and google-stalked the hell out of me. Either that, or he really does work for the CIA and has mad hacker skills.
In any case, I was not pleased and I immediately responded with a polite, concise note thanking him for the coffee (or cider, whatever) but making it clear in no uncertain terms that we would not be getting together in the future.
Thankfully I never heard from him again.
Hopefully he’s not reading this right now…