friends, strangers of the internet:
This is gonna be a long one – and it has nothing to do with cooking. Sorry. Desolé. Entschuldigung.
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve made more bad decisions about men in the last five years than I have since I started dating at 18, almost three decades ago. It’s as if I had all this repressed stupidity building up over the years and, suddenly, I’m having these intermittent eruptions of dumbassity in volcanic proportions. Is this my mid-life crisis?
Let’s go back in time a few months, shall we? Picture it: a rainy day, the first day of April – April Fool’s Day. A day of pranks. A day of fools. I had recently given another go at OkStupid dating. I know, I know! I know I said that my online dating days were over. But I had Spring Fever, I was excited by all the possibilities that Spring brings: yellow crocuses popping through the soil, the sight of new, crisp green leaves pushing through twigs, clear blue skies… and who knew, maybe even some romance? (Can you spot the dumbassity here, kids? That’s right: having hope. )
When I first went online, it was actually fun. I got to talk to men from all over that I’d never have the guts to chat up normally. Most of the fellas I tended to get along with were either from New England or (old) England. It was refreshing since most of the locals here are, well… arguments that Plan B should be dispensed from vending machines.
It was during the summer of 2013 that I met someone I will call Schnitzel. Why Schnitzel? I’m glad you asked. His parents were from Austria, and that’s the first thing that popped into my mind: Wiener Schnitzel. I could have used Wiener, but most people will think ‘hot dog’ (or, let’s be honest: dick), when really, Wiener means ‘Viennese’ in German. Hot dog = die Wurst. This German language lesson is brought to you by a 90 credit undergraduate degree.
Now, despite the fact that Schnitzel didn’t have an up-close photo of his face on his profile (due to a stalker, he claimed), he was very funny and I quite enjoyed messaging him. That’s why I remember him so well – he made me laugh. Men think that all women are interested in a six figure salary, a fancy car, six-pack abs, and expensive dinners and gifts… but I think that a man who makes you laugh, who can see the humour in life despite all of its bullshit, is a man worth more than the sum of his parts. Even THAT part. Of course, there are those women who are only interested in a man’s money, and they’re called hookers – with only one client. They’re really no different from the prostitute who charges 10$ for a quick hand-job… except that the street prostitute has more integrity because she’s being upfront and honest about what she’s doing. All this to say: he was witty. I like witty. Witty is attractive.
At some point, being the curious person that I am, I put on my imaginary detective hat and did a google image search using the photos he had posted on his profile. This is quite easy to do: simply save the image to your desktop, then go to images.google.com, click on the little camera, upload the image and voila – it’ll bring up any and all related/similar images. Then you can click on the image and see what site it’s on. NB: you might not want to do this from your work computer because you never know where you might end up
This brought me to the kinky sex section of a website called sevendays. Unrelated to the Seventh Day Adventists, to the best of my knowledge. Lo and behold, there were the same two photos that were on OkStupid. After reading his profile there, I was a little nervous- keep in mind that I was used to nine years of bad sex with a guy who couldn’t find a g-spot if he had a GPS strapped to his member. So, anything that wasn’t what’s called ‘vanilla’ seemed like uncharted territory at the time. When I teased him about it, he denied it – of course. It was simply a remarkable coincidence, I guess. He piqued my interest precisely because he was ‘wild’. At the same time, I had the feeling like despite being 30 pounds lighter than I am now, he seemed the type to be more into girls who look like Ralph Lauren models. So I shied away, we stopped messaging, and I went on to other romantic disasters. Same old, same old.
Fast forward three years – we are back in 2017, and I was flogging that dead horse… err…trying my luck online… again. One day, I noticed that he had visited my profile. And this time, he had a face. He was cuter than I thought he’d be – I do like a man with brown eyes. So I sent him a message and that opened the lines of communication. He didn’t remember me, of course. Guys never do. Of course, by the time we started messaging one another, I was already fed up with the aggressive messages from guys who were clearly insulted that their lame, monosyllabic messages were not being responded to. I hadn’t even been online for one week. So I sent Schnitzel my cell phone number, told him I was deleting my account, and, if he wanted to stay in touch, he could text me.
What followed were some pretty entertaining texts. When asked what type of work he did that made him have such a stressful day, his response was that he did dental work on exotic snakes. I bet that line works on every single woman, every single time. Why? Because it’s fucking funny. It was a Friday, and he asked what I was doing that weekend. Was he asking me out? “Perhaps.”
(try NOT to think of that song whenever you hear or read the word ‘perhaps’ – you’re welcome….)
There was talk of him driving up to Montreal on the weekend. There was also some flirty banter, but nothing explicit. He said not to laugh when he dropped his pants. That would be mean, I replied. (I’d never laugh at a guy’s junk… unless his penis told jokes -then it would be rude NOT to laugh.) It was flirtatious and fun.
So when these plans were being thrown in the air, I was like, ‘…yeah, you can park in my driveway, it’ll be easier for you…,’ ‘…you can stay over at my place if you’re going to drink….’ I even brazenly joked that if he were to come up, it’d be better on Saturday because I’d like to be able to walk by Monday. What’s the harm in offering some Canadian hospitality to an American who won’t show up? Who in their right mind would drive 1.5 hours and cross a border to meet someone on such short notice?
Schnitzel, that’s who.
It was late afternoon, and I was walking the dogs after their dinner. It was sort of raining and very damp. I hadn’t showered, my hair was super greasy and I might have looked a little homeless. The text came: he was getting ready to drive up. WTF?!?!?!?
There’s nothing like a stranger calling your bluff to make you feel like you just might end up on the next episode of Forensic Files. My gut said he was okay, but people also said that about Ted Bundy… and look where that got them. That’s where my years of watching crime shows came in handy – always leave a trace. Whenever I’d meet someone, I’d let a friend know where I was going and then let them know I got back home okay. It’s always been in a public location with a lot of people around. But I had actually invited this guy to park his car… at my place… and stay over. So I had to think fast. I came up with the idea of taking a photo of his licence plate and texting it to a friend. I wasn’t planning on doing this surreptitiously, either; he’d know, and if he had a problem with it, that would be a red flag – proceed with caution, or not at all.
The wait was nerve wracking. How does one prepare for a long-distance date? Did I look okay? Would he be disappointed? All these little insecurities and anxieties came up and bit me on my middle-aged kiester. That’s what happens when you don’t date – your shell becomes thin.
He arrived, met the dogs and cat. Henry, my litmus test for character, warmed up to him fairly quickly. He seemed very polite, and as we were walking down my walkway, I asked him if it’d be okay to take a picture of his licence plate and send it to a friend. Yes. In fact, he even offered to let me take a picture of his driver’s licence or passport.
The worst part of a date is figuring out where to go. Especially a first date. I’m the absolute worst person to choose a place to eat or a movie to watch or somewhere to go – I have no sense of direction, I don’t go out much, and I’m not finicky enough, so I’m pretty content to just go with the flow. Given the lousy weather at that time of year, and the time of day (around 8pm), there wasn’t much to do. So we went downtown and got a bite to eat at an Indian restaurant near where I work – it’s a familiar area, it felt safe. Overly cautious? A bit. But there’s no internet ‘on the other side’ and if I want to continue to share the useless details of my life with you, I gots to stay alive. He, on the other hand, told NOBODY where he was going. I could have been some burly psychopathic murderer posing as a chubby secretary.
Despite the awkwardness of the situation, I thought we got along quite well. Really well, in fact. I was surprised at how comfortable I was with him. He seemed so nice and genuine, and the more we talked, the more I noticed just how handsome this guy was. Not your stereotypical GQ handsome, but unassumingly handsome. The conversation never seemed to falter and there were no awkward silences. At least, not yet. Yes… things get awkward.
After dinner, I had the bright idea of going to an arcade near work that I had been wanting to suss out but wouldn’t dare go into alone. I hadn’t been in one since I was a kid and I wondered if they still had the same feel as back then, with kids hovering around a game, their faces lit up by the bright displays, fully engrossed, lost in time and space for the duration of a token. Could I catch a flitting feeling of being carefree once again? Or maybe it would be like the dingey neighbourhood arcade I went to once and quickly left because the sleazy owner sat at the back, giving girls free tokens if they sat on his lap? Either way, I needed to know, and this was as good a time as any to find out. Except that I turned left when I should have turned right and we ended up walking two full metro stops before I had to concede that I had led us astray. Did I mention my terrible sense of direction? Yeah. He was freezing, the poor bastard.
When we finally got there, the most exciting thing was getting the tokens. It was all downhill after that. Where was the Asteroids terminal? Space Invaders? All gone. We ended up playing a creepy game where we had to shoot clown-mermen that were attacking us on a pirate ship. It was very anti-climactic. And a lot brighter inside than I remember arcades being. I guess that’s so perverts can’t have young girls sit on their laps for tokens.
I really could have just gone home at that point, but he wanted to do something else. During the day, there’s a lot of things to do. Go for a walk at the port, the botanical gardens, or my old favourite, the cemetery. Don’t knock it – it’s a beautiful cemetery. Apparently, it was designed by the same architect who did Central Park. Of course, maybe it would have been too soon to introduce him to my parents. It’s one thing to tell someone they’re going to meet your parents on a first date… it’s quite another when you bring them to a cemetery to meet them.
So the only other option I could come up with was a bar or pub. There’s this speakeasy-type cocktail bar that I wanted to take him to, but I had only been to it once before, and it’s hard to find in the dark if you don’t know exactly where you’re going. So we settled on an Irish pub where the live band was really loud and the giant tv screens were showing footage of abortion protesters in New Brunswick. Great ambiance.
In total, we each imbibed the equivalent of three and a half pints of beer that night (two bottles at the restaurant, and two full pints at the pub – the devil is in the details). That’s a fair amount. The last one, of course, was completely unnecessary. Since he picked up dinner, I thought the least I could do is pick up the tab for the drinks. Maybe that was emasculating? Even if the American dollar makes our dollar look like a quarter, I just don’t like feeling like I might be taking advantage of someone. And here’s why:
When my parents were dating, my father held down two jobs – he was a refugee and didn’t have two pennies to rub together when he first came here from Eastern Europe. He bought my mother some jewellry. Growing up, she would brag that he went without basic essentials so that he could afford to get her that- and it disgusted me that she was so proud. The superficiality of that barometer of love disturbed me. He was a good man. Not perfect. But good. He did what was right, tried his best, was honest, and had integrity. It really hurt me that she didn’t seem to care that he had gone without. It’s for this reason that I’ve always felt uncomfortable accepting expensive gifts from men or feel like it’s not fair to always let them pay. Being like this has not served me well, though. Men seem to interpret this as me thinking that I’m not worthy, so they end up not bothering to do anything at all – they equate giving things with showing respect; and if they’re not expected to give things, they illogically conclude that they don’t have to show respect. But that’s not it at all.
Back at my place, Schnitzel was playful with the dogs. But it was as if he were delaying going to bed – that’s a terrible sign. Most men would have their way with a warm watermelon if you drilled a big enough hole in it. They’d even whisper sweet nothings into it’s… well… orifice.
We eventually made it upstairs, and I don’t know how it came up, but he referenced his below-the-belt piercing and asked if I’d like to see it. Mais oui! I figured that if he’s willing to drop his drawers to show me his piercing, maaaaybe he’d be willing to take care of my lady parts. And that’s when I POUNCED! But a drunken pounce – so, in actuality, it was more of a slow-motion, sloppy climb. I tried to kiss him, but he was weird about it – it was like he was like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman… kissing is only for special people.
Now, I had some bloody nerve getting naked with this guy. I mean, he was fit. Since I’ve let myself go, my biggest fear about slipping and falling in the bath isn’t the possibility of brain damage, it’s the possibility of cute first responders finding me naked. The beer, whilst rendering me sexually retarded, definitely helped with my inhibitions. That said, it sure was lovely to feel the warmth of a man’s skin. He was like a hot water bottle. We don’t realize how important human touch is, how soothing it is, until we lack it. It’s like being dehydrated. And I was positively parched.
I won’t go into any of the awkward details, but suffice it to say that I should have done some stretches beforehand – there’s nothing like the feeling of a charlie horse coming on to make you rethink your physical fitness, or lack thereof. Unless it’s within a well-established relationship, drunk and tired sex is just never a good idea. But I wasn’t willing to pass up on the opportunity – it had been, after all, 1.5 years of celibacy. And he was probably thinking: ugh… let’s just get this over with. He would stop crying in a week and, after a few showers, he could put this incident down as ‘cross-border charity work.’ Say what you like about Americans, but they are a philanthropic people.
The more regretful part of this story is having kicked Henry out of the bedroom. My wee man… my guy… my faithful companion who rests his head on me at night and lets me have just enough room so that I don’t fall off the bed. He barked. Then he started letting out the most mournful wail – it broke my heart. I went to console him. He didn’t understand what was going on, why he couldn’t be on his big bed. He was so used to sleeping next to me every night. I told him I was sorry that I kicked him out, but he’s a major cock-blocker… and momma needed some alone time. As a guy, I hoped he would understand. I gave him some pets and kisses, and told him to be a good wee man and let Schnitzel get some sleep. Being an understanding fella, he complied.
The next morning, the kids were up early, with Sir Meows-a-lot providing the soundtrack. I fed and walked the pups, and when I got back, I went straight back to bed. I was feeling rather rough – not sick, but rough. That’s when he made signs of life.
He didn’t sleep well, he said, because he kept thinking about things he should have done the day before. Ouch. That smacked of regret. I think he also tried to accuse me of having made him drink too much. Because, you know, my invisible gun does that all the time – I’m wanted in three provinces for grand theft dignity.
He got up, got dressed, and made his way downstairs. Whatever was said at the time is a blur, because the instant I realized that I would never hear from him again, all I could hear was the blood rushing in my ears. That’s what humiliation sounds like. If he could have dropped a magician’s smoke bomb and disappeared, he would have. And I would have done the same – except I was already home, I had nowhere else to disappear to.
What changed? Did he peek into my KonMari room while I was walking the dogs and think that my place always looks like that? Did he go through my drawers and find the motherload of condoms* I found the day before as I was trying to sort through my komono in aforementioned KonMari room? (*: those would have been the on-sale condoms I stockpiled when I was dating… err, I mean, apparently just ‘hanging out’ with Vlad for five months. They’ve been collecting dust since we went our separate ways over a year and a half ago.)
He asked me what my neighbours would think about seeing him leave. I didn’t know how to respond – I hadn’t really thought about seeming like a whore until he woke up that morning. I suppose that my elderly Italian neighbour, who once told me that I couldn’t expect men to just ring my doorbell to ask me out without any effort on my part, would probably have thought, “bene… it’s about fucking time!” He swears a lot – you should hear him go on about the stray cats ‘sheeting’ in his vegetable garden; he’s a riot.
Schnitzel patted the dogs and cat, but could barely look me in the eye as he left. I was confused, and I felt stupid and ashamed. What did I do wrong? Was he that disgusted? Did he feel like he batted below his average?
A couple of hours later, I texted him. Stupid, I know. In retrospect, I wasn’t so much trying to convince him that I wasn’t a slut, as much as I was trying to convince myself. I’ve been on many dates where nothing happened. Maybe I behaved sluttily with him, but it doesn’t mean I’m not a generally ‘respectable’ person. It just means that I really liked this one guy out of so many that I’ve come across, and I was very enthusiastic… not unlike a cat spotting a mouse. Meow.
I’m pretty sure he blocked my number. Which is a good thing because that’s when my lame sense of humour kicked in and I started to send him texts that only made me laugh. And there were maybe one or two heartfelt messages about how it’s not very nice to treat women like that. He has a daughter… how would he feel if some guy did that to her? My father raised a good girl, and I did something stupid. I hope she never has that kind of experience. But I don’t think there is a woman alive who hasn’t felt like this at one time in her life. And I’m pretty sure there are also men who have gone through something very similar.
At first, I thought that I had ruined everything by sleeping with him. But that was extremely naive. I realize now that Schnitzel’s intention was never to make any kind of connection. He was just in it for sex. Which isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself. But why the charade of a date? Why did we even bother going out? We could have saved time and just gone right to it and probably had a much better time, as well. He could have made it back home to wake up in his own bed and thought about his to-do list there, and Henry could have resumed his usual spot and slept contentedly, all stretched out… snoring, kicking, and farting.
In theory, that would have been simpler; in reality, I wouldn’t have been able to do that as I actually have to like the guy. It would be great if I could, because if I didn’t get to like the guy, I wouldn’t feel like I had lost anything. Of course, at that point, I might as well charge for it and pay some bills… except I’d be a broke call girl because I would refuse to do a lot of the things guys seem to be into. “Nah… nope… don’t do that… sorry….”
I’d like to believe that he’s not a bad guy, that he just doesn’t want to be connected to women because he has children and doesn’t want to complicate his life. Part of me wants to believe that the reason he left so quickly was because he was experiencing cramps on account of the curry the night before, and didn’t want to have ‘digestive issues’ in someone else’s house. But the reality is that he just wasn’t interested and had some major regrets.
I’d like to believe that he was genuine, but I’m sure he tells the same stories, with the same charm, to every woman he meets. And we all fall for it. Because we want to. We want to believe that he, and others like him, are a cool drink of water in the desert wasteland that is online dating. But despite what we want to believe, the only connection men on dating sites are looking for, it seems, is the one with their internet service provider.
That said, there’s a tactful way of being with a woman the morning after, even if you’re just in it for the sex. People have lost their compassion for others. We forget that we are all on this planet together, that we’ve all shed tears and shared laughter, that our time is finite, and that our hearts are not just muscles that keep us alive – it might not be where our emotions stem from, but it’s certainly where we feel the joy and the pain. Querido, for example, understood this. Maybe it’s a Spanish thing? There was no future with him, but he was sweet. I wasn’t his type, but he liked my mind. He said that I was the best thing in his inbox and that I was wasting my brain. He’d make coffee in the morning. He kept a bottle of water by his bed and always offered me the first sip. He’d give me a kiss at the door before I left. He was a gentleman that way. I think that, of the men that I’ve met in my life, he’s probably the only one that I don’t look back on with any sort of regret. He was honest and insightful and funny. He was kind when he told me that it wouldn’t work, that he couldn’t give me what I wanted. How you treat people makes a big difference in how they will remember you. As Maya Angelou said, “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Do I regret my encounter with Schnitzel? I do. People like to say that you shouldn’t have regrets. Edith Piaf even sang about it. But I think regrets are good to have – they’re lessons, and hopefully they’re lessons about mistakes you’ll think twice about making in the future. The important thing is to remember the regrets, without letting them control you. This is where I sometimes have a difficult time – making peace with them, and letting them go.
At the end of the day, I suppose things have a way of working out for the best. It’s probably a good thing that nothing came of this because, despite what people think, falling in love isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. I actually don’t like the feeling of being excited to get a text or call or looking forward to seeing someone with anticipation. I don’t like daydreaming about someone or feeling my heart quicken at the sound of his voice. It makes me feel dizzy, like I’m sliding on ice and heading towards a cliff. It’s intoxicating – but scary. Being in love is the closest thing I imagine to being clinically insane. And where or when will I ever trust someone enough to actually enjoy feeling like that?
I do hope that the goodness I sensed in Schnitzel wasn’t just imagined. And I hope that he doesn’t wait until his kids are grown up before he finds someone to share his life with. Being in a loving and nurturing relationship is the best gift you can give children. And if things don’t work out, they’ll learn that there are no fairy tales, that things don’t always last forever – but that you do your best and, when needed, you exit gracefully. That’s invaluable.
While these thoughts have been ruminating in my mind, an ex-boyfriend texted me the other day while I was painting the insides of my bedroom closets. He was at the Western Wall in Israel and said a prayer for me – he prayed that I would find peace and happiness. This reminded me of a quote by Hunter S. Thompson that I had jotted down when I was living in Germany:
Ich habe sozusagen zu leben gelernt, als mir die Einsicht kam, daß ich niemals Glück oder Frieden finden werde. Aber solange ich weiß, daß die Chancen, das eine oder das andere von Zeit zu Zeit zu erwischen, nicht allzu schlecht stehen, gebe ich mein Bestes zwischen den großen Augenblicken.
(In English: … I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there’s a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots.)
From time to time, I read this quote as a reminder to not feel so hopeless or defeated when life tosses me a curve ball – life is in a constant state of change, and while I might feel disappointed/rejected now, I know that I haven’t always been, and I know that I won’t always be. So, for now, “I do the best I can between high spots.”