Since I started this experiment, several friends have joined match.com because, they say, “you did it!”
I feel like a fraud. I have zero intention of getting involved with any of the guys I meet online.
“It’s just for the blog!” I tell them. But with selective hearing, they just smile at me.
The thing is, they might have a point. It is hard to comprehend why anyone would put themselves through this, just because. Because what? Because I’m a Brit and I’m learning about US dating culture? Does that topic really warrant this kind of torture?
Honestly, by date number five I was already thinking, “If only I’d named it ’20 First Dates’ or even better, ’10 first dates.'”
I went to lunch with a guy friend this week and he said,
“You know, people are going to get to the end of your blog and think you’re just using these guys. You need to inject a bit of emotion, at least look like you’re trying. You need to pick people you might have an outside chance of having a relationship with.”
It was true. My date selection process was sort of limp. I never searched for men, I just occasionally got around to responding to guys who contacted me. But I know why that is. It’s simple. I’m really not sure about this relationship business. I know other people have them and seem happy forever, but I’ve never been privy to how that happens. To me, it’s an amazing high and then something goes wrong. It’s terrifying and committment-ridden and sometimes claustrophobic and wait, what if I want to move country again? And then someone else will have expectations of me. Horrific.
As I told a friend the other day, “it took me two years to get over having a dog. It had expectations. It wanted walks and food and stuff.”
This is also why, after my last breakup, I announced, “I’m going to channel Joni Mitchell and just travel around being groovy and not needing anyone.”
(I mean, really. Poor Joni. Her house must be like a homing beacon for emotionally-unstable, weepy women everywhere. Mind you, a large percentage have probably defected to Robert Pattinson’s hotel by now.)
I’m not painting a pretty picture of myself am I?
So anyway, my uninvested and thoughtless date-selection was how I ended up going out with John.
I’d had some misgivings about this guy from the moment he sent me this text message:
“Antonia: Did you still want to meet tomorrow evening? Let me know.”
Call me picky but who starts a text message with your name followed by a colon?
Then there was the phone call. 20 minutes of him waffling about how HILARIOUS it is that I work for a celebrity weekly mag, because HOW FUNNY he’d said on his profile he wouldn’t even mind dating someone who read those mags! Haha!
And then the monologue about how Los Angeles is surprisingly business-centric and industrialised. By this time I’d set the phone on the counter so I could flat-iron my hair. He didn’t notice.
But I went out with him. For the blog.
As I screeched up to the valet of Toast, a scene-y brunch spot on Third, I spotted him at a patio table. Really good-looking, in a clean, Scandinavian way, he had light blonde hair and navy blue eyes, tall and muscular, square jaw etc. etc.
He gave me a hard squeeze hello.
Then, as I perused the menu, he said,
“So you won’t be finding any brains or anything on there. Haha.”
“Don’t you Brits like to eat brains and stuff? Isn’t that why the mad cow disease?”
“Well no, we don’t eat brains really.” I explained a bit how mad cow disease came about through farming and slaughtering techniques. I sort of hoped it would put him off his lunch.
“Yeah I know cows got it but actually some people got it too didn’t they?” He said. “That must have been because they were eating the brains, right?”
“Um, no. It’s a virus. It’s complex.”
He leaned forward. “So why do you have such great teeth?”
“You’re a Brit and you have good teeth. Did you spend a fortune on veneers or what?”
I looked up from the menu and laughed. “Well I see you’re wheeling out all the stereotypes today.”
“You’re taking the good-natured ribbing in good part,” he said. (He actually said the phrase, ‘good-natured ribbing.’)
“You know, not all British people have bad teeth,” I said.
“That’s not what I found. I’ve been there and they do.”
Oh, OK then.
Then he told me all about his Literature degree, his law school, the wanky books he liked to read. He recommended one about Africa that is probably excellent, but was written in the 50s. The whole thing smacked of self-congratulatory crap to me. Why did he need to tell me he’d read Tolstoy? He talked like he’d swallowed a dictionary. At one point, discussing the energy of New York city, he said,
“London is nothing compared to New York! London is almost bucolic in comparison.”
Almost bucolic? Oh just piss off.
Then he asked me about my match.com experience. How was it going for me? So I ummed and ahhed and then vaguely mentioned I’d been approached by a few younger guys.
“Oh that’s just the cougar thing.” He said.
Cougar? Aren’t cougars by definition 40+ women deliberately preying on 25-something guys?
“It’s just guys getting a kick out of telling their friends they made out with a cougar. It’s a sex thing.”
“But,” I said, “these guys weren’t trying to make a move, they were perfect gentlemen. In one case, he didn’t realise I was even 30.”
“Nah,” he said, “it’s definitely a cougar thing.”
While we waited for the check, I said,
“Did you know that the BBC published a German scientist’s report saying blonde hair would become extinct in the next 200 years?”
He cocked his head to one side and just looked at me.
“What? You don’t believe me, do you?” I asked.
“I don’t know, I’m not a geneticist.” He wasn’t smiling.
Lighten up, dumbass.
I looked this up when I got home and turns out the report has recently been called a hoax. But whatever, Mr Boring Intellectual Snob didn’t know that.
“You know,” he said, “You should change your profile to ‘never smokes'” (It says ‘occasional social smoker’.) “You’d get a lot more hits.”
Then he asked me to go and re-read his profile.
“I’ve made loads of changes!” he said, all excited. “I just scrapped the old one and now I’m really extreme! It’s shocking, some of the stuff I put!”
Later, I looked at it. It said things like,
“I like a girl who can cook”, and “I go to church occasionally.”
Here’s the thing. I realised I’ve learned something good from dating already.
A few years ago, in London, I had a two-year relationship with a man who can only be described as a closed-minded, patronising bigot. (I know! What a winner.)
He didn’t want a woman who knew things he didn’t, or who earned more than him. But due to the British nature of the situation, i.e relationship first, really tricky questions later, I only found this out when we shared a house and it was hard to unravel our partnership.
In the beginning, I’d thought only of how hot he was. And he was definitely hot. One (straight) guy friend described him as being ‘hewn from stone.’ I was a sucker, endorphins were flying. Who was I to check if his idea of funny was to quote Joey from Friends? It was also way too late by the time I learned that he often dismissed women as ‘ugly’. Then when finally, he told me I was ‘a bit stupid’, I was hardly surprised.
Now with this guy, I already saw the signs. As my friend Paula later suggested,
“He was looking for a wife to stay home and cook, then attend corporate events with him and not say much.”
I’d had the chance to ‘interview’ John and find out that he would definitely not be getting the job. Cold as that may sound, it actually does seem like the right order of things. While I’ve always poo-poohed dating as a clinical approach to forming a relationship, I’m finally beginning to see its logic.
Now all I have to do is invest. A bit. Maybe.