Tag Archives: OkCupid

Young Man Went West #37: I’d Have Gone Anyway, a guest post by Jennifer Bautista

Since I was too lazy to come up with another post, I asked (read: begged) my girlfriend to do a guest post. It turned out much better than anything I could have thrown together this week. – AR

My obsession with New York began when I was twelve – that awkward age at which you first start to consciously define yourself. I blame this obsession on all the Law and Order I used to watch as a child. As someone who grew up in Hawaii, I felt unique knowing so much about such a vast, distant city (all the way on the East Coast!). Most of my classmates had never been there, much less had the ability to rattle off random details about it, such as the No Right Turn On Red rule or the fact that New Yorkers say “standing on line” instead of “standing in line.” For years I carried a map of Manhattan in my pocket, memorized the street names on my free time, and even designated a dream apartment (820 Fifth Avenue). Much to the shock of my family and friends, this obsession did not take me to New York for college; instead, I ended up spending my four years in Portland, which only confirmed my suspicions that I really needed to move to the City at some point in my life.

Like any typical recent college graduate, I had been encouraged to either enter the workforce as a useful member of society (apparently I had just been taking up space before) or to immediately continue on to graduate school. Uninterested in starting a professional career and burnt out from school for the time being, I spent a month in Southeast Asia instead. I road tripped up-and-down the U.S. west coast.  I played tour guide to two of my best friends who visited me in Hawaii. These temporary activities distracted me from the lack of specific future plans I had for the upcoming year. Besides living back home in Hawaii and applying to both the Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Korea and to grad schools in New York to study urban planning, I had no idea what to do with myself. I reluctantly applied to jobs for which I felt overqualified, while feeling extremely nostalgic for my college friends, Portland coffeeshops, and that general feeling of productivity that I felt at Reed.

Bored and nearly broke, I hatched a plan: join OkCupid, that free dating site that was so popular in Portland, and go on a string of first dates. Lots of free meals and cheap entertainment to pass the time – what a perfect way to try new restaurants! Since I had just created a restaurant blog a few weeks ago, trying new restaurants around Hawaii had become one of my new favorite hobbies. It wasn’t until later that I noticed how much my string-of-first-dates plan seemed to be taken straight out of a bad romantic comedy.

My plan began to unfold smoothly. I was having fun creating my profile and taking the personality quizzes the site uses to match you to potential dates. I described myself in the most pretentious way possible by immediately discussing my senior thesis about the perpetuation of inequalities in the public school system, and I made sure to only upload photos in which my face was covered by a hat and my body hidden under modest attire. I figured this would be the most efficient way to avoid spending a first date with someone who was a complete imbecile and would waste my night with non-intellectually-entertaining conversation, or someone who only cared about looks and would just make me feel uncomfortable the entire night.

Since online dating sites lay out everything about each user in front of you, they allow you to be superficially picky about every little aspect about a person. Thus, I immediately ruled out any non-Atheist/Agnostic, anyone who was not college-educated, who was under the age of 21 or over 28, and who was over 5’7”. I had been on the site for only a couple of days, and my inbox was already full of messages from the typical idiots and creeps I had so painstakingly tried to avoid. So much for my plan to sit back and let my filtering method magically bring only desirable potential dates. Not all messages came from idiots or creeps; some actually seemed quite promising. I even responded to a few, one of which came from a Berkeley grad who, according to OkCupid, was an 86% match for me.

The message was brief, but from those two sentences it was clear that “Berkeley” had taken the time to read my entire profile, as he referred to four things that were the keys to my heart (or at least to a first date): social constructions, trying new restaurants, foreign films, and my thesis. Even more exciting, he made it clear that he was interested in meeting up for dinner.

Who was this guy? I looked at his profile and recalled why I had initially written him off while previously browsing it. Although the depiction of himself was appealing (he was obviously smart, honest, and had a sense of humor), one glaring thing stuck out and had led to my immediate dismissal of him: he was too tall for me. He was 5’9”, a whole two inches taller than my height limit allowed.

But our messaging was going so well! I convinced myself that it was only a date – why was I so picky about his height for a one night event anyway?

After a few more online exchanges, I eagerly sent him a list of restaurant options (as well as links to their menus) for our date, and we made plans to meet the very next evening. Operation String of First Dates – ready for takeoff!

We met at Formaggio’s, a wine bar and restaurant in Kapahulu. I was glad he had chosen this restaurant because I was familiar with the area and had a friend who bartended there; if the date went poorly I had some escape options up my sleeve. I was pretty confident; I’d been on first dates before and, while they almost never turned into anything serious, they’d usually been pleasant because I enjoy attracting people for short periods of time, and I always get a free meal out of them. I expected tonight to be no different.

I arrived at the restaurant at exactly 8 pm and spotted a man in a white button-up shirt sitting at a table facing the door near the entrance. He certainly looked like the guy from the photos but was cuter in real life. Just to make sure, I asked, “Anthony?” It was him! Yup, he’s much cuter in real life. He stood up, shook my hand and hugged me awkwardly. Great, now everyone in the restaurant knows we’re on a first date.

Conversation flowed smoothly. It helped that we already knew basic facts about each other; now we could actually dig deeper. A lot deeper. In fact, we stayed at Formaggio’s for over three hours, discussing his road trip, my aspiration to study urban planning, our hero Anthony Bourdain, love for New York, shared interest in photography, and eerily coinciding plans to teach English in Korea. His English teaching plans were more up in the air as he hadn’t begun the EPIK application yet, whereas I had turned in my Fulbright application a few weeks ago. Apparently I felt so comfortable with him that, by the time our entrées arrived, I confessed to him that I had applied to teach English in Korea mainly because I wanted to live abroad, not because I was interested in teaching.

I was enjoying the date too much. He was a good listener, made me laugh, didn’t just blindly agree with every eccentric opinion I decided to divulge, and had that rare ability to laugh at himself. I knew even before we agreed that we were too full for dessert that I didn’t want this to be my last date with him.

I was certain he felt the same way until something happened that really made me question whether or not my life had somehow turned into a romantic comedy. When Anthony tried to pay for our check, our waiter solemnly returned and informed him that his card had been declined. Anthony tried another card, but apparently plastic just wasn’t working for him that night. He found some cash in his wallet which covered about half of our meal but had to ask me to help pay for the rest.

Just my luck. I try to date for the free meals and end up paying for my own on the very first one. I was so amused by the irony of my situation that I couldn’t have cared less about paying (trust me, $40 for a three-hour dinner with this guy was completely worth it), and my only fear was that he felt too embarrassed to ask me out to another date.

When I got home after our short post-dinner stroll, during which I gleefully decided that he didn’t seem too tall for me after all, I told myself I’d give him four days to contact me again; if he doesn’t, then I’d go back onto the site and reluctantly continue my string of first dates. Much to my relief, about half an hour after we said good night to each other, he called to ask me out for a second date later that week.

Operation String of First Dates had been officially terminated.

Five and a half months later, Anthony and I returned to Formaggio’s for the first time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which we celebrated on the 16th because being a repulsively mushy couple on the actual day would have been too cheesy for us. Although we were sitting at almost the exact same spot as on our first date, we were both in a completely different place than when we had first met in September. It’s hard to believe that only a little while ago we had once been complete strangers and were now almost inseparable.

It had already been over two months since we decided to move to New York together. In December, around the time grad school applications were due, I finally admitted to myself what I didn’t want to believe: I was using grad school as an excuse to move to New York. Knowing Anthony wanted to move to New York with me if I got into grad school, I asked him if he’d come with me even if I wasn’t a student there. Apparently New York had really worked its way into his heart during his road trip, because, without any hesitation, he said yes.

In June we’ll be moving to New York, not because I’m heading off to grad school, but because, for the first time, I am finally doing everything I can to fulfill my dream, and the 5’9” guy I love is coming with me.

You can find more of Jenn’s writing at her own blog: self-indulging in hawaii

Jennifer Bautista, guest writer

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Young Man Went West #33: Someone’s Been Checking You Out!

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you may have noticed that Jenn is the first girl I’ve ever really written about. It is not because I had nothing to write about on the subject of dating until now, but rather because none of it was positive. To do so before would have been an exercise in self-pity, most likely devolving into woe-is-me, Nice Guy rants. There is enough of that on the Internet; I thought I’d spare you.

Needless to say, I suck at dating. I hate “the Game.” I mean, give me some face-to-face time with a person and I could pique their interest with witty repertoire and a smile, but that’s not how it works. Nobody gives you that time, you earn it by throwing one-liners and free drinks at any pretty thing on two legs. Eventually, you end up buying a meal for someone who looked better in the dark and sounded smarter before they spoke. I couldn’t operate in that system.

That’s why I signed up for OkCupid, one of those free casual dating site. I figured you would come across as many undesirable people as you would at a bar, but had the added bonus of screening them for potential before wasting your money on their drink. Also, you’d have all the time in the world to figure out what to say.

What I found out was there are a great number of undesirable people on this island, and those who aren’t rarely respond. So many of the profiles I browsed showcased unflattering photos, weird interests, and/or deplorable grammar. Apparently, social networking sites are where sensible syntax and necessary punctuation go to die. So my account, like my real world love life, lay dormant for a long while.

That is, until I came back from my road trip. It were as though the life points I racked up by being awesome and exploring the country returned with me to Honolulu and spread out into my normal life. I got my place back with lower rent, I got my job back with awesome new coworkers, and I found an e-mail waiting for me that, little did I know, would change my life.

“Hey Anthony, someone’s been checking you out!”

That’s the subject line OkCupid uses in the e-mails they send you to inform you that another user was browsing your profile. I’d get those every once in a while, but the links often brought me to those aforementioned profiles. This one, however, this very first one I received upon returning to Honolulu linked me to the profile of a recent college graduate with modest photos, a keen interest in arts and social issues, and impeccable grammar. I figured I’d send her a message.

The messages I’d previously send to other users were often long, witty, over-edited speeches about common interests and our potential for compatibility. I rarely received replies. So, in a jaded, carefree manner, I kept it short and to the point. You’re interesting. Let me buy you dinner. And wouldn’t you know it? That worked. This girl replied, first asking to know more about me, then later asking where we should eat. I had only just started back up at Bubba Gump’s, but I figured I had enough dough for one date.

Now, as I mentioned, I was in a somewhat jaded state about dating at this point. I had always looked for a relationship and got nowhere. I figured, with this Internet girl, I’d just enjoy myself and expect nothing. I wasn’t even expecting her to be all that attractive; few of her photos revealed her body and all of them obscured her face somehow, save for a great smile. Apparently, that–and her interest in foreign films–was enough for me.

So there I sat in a small wine and tapas place I’d never heard of but lived close to, looking forward to promising conversations with an average looking girl. Suddenly, a stunningly-dressed, petite young woman with eyes as gorgeous as the smile I recognized approached my table.

“Anthony?” she asked.

More like Jackpot Winner, I thought.

She sat down and conversation started to flow naturally. Still, I stayed within my self-set guidelines:

  • Ask her questions about herself. Show interest, sincerely or otherwise.
  • Smile and make eye contact.
  • Don’t talk about myself too much. If she asks, answer completely and briefly, then turn it back to her.
  • Mention, but don’t talk in great length about: my road trip, why I moved to Honolulu, studying abroad, how much I love my family, and how I was a camp counselor for young children with juvenile arthritis the past three summers. Spark the interest, leave it alone, then let her ask.
  • If it fits in the conversation, also offhandedly mention volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico.
  • Forget that last guideline; that’s too much. Way too much.

My guidelines seemed to work. I was having a fun time getting to know her and I didn’t feel like I was babbling on too much, like I tend to do. We talked about college, film, future plans. All the normal things. We also talked about OkCupid and how we each used it. Unlike me, who signed up over a year prior yet reaped no benefits, she signed up only a few days before and was already on her first date. She consciously chose unflattering photos to ward off shallow meatheads, and wrote about her senior thesis in length on her profile wall to ward off idiots. The photos didn’t faze me and the senior thesis was a turn on. Things were going well. . .

Until the check arrived.

I guess I wasn’t used to higher end places because I figured a fifty-dollar bill would cover it, backed up by my debit card. Little did I know, three glasses of wine, my escargot, and whatever meal she got added up to nearly $80. Secretly shocked, I told him to use the cash first and put the rest on my card. Why did I only bring a $50?!

I continued on with our conversation, but the waiter came back with a look on his face that carried no good news. The card was declined. No worries, I thought, I’ll just try the debit card from my mainland account. However, my finger found emptiness in the slot in my wallet where that card should be. I riffled through my wallet several times before thinking, “Look, I have literally have no more money to give and I’m sure she does. Why shouldn’t she pay for part of it? I mean, we both ate and drank, and this is the 21st Century!”

Untimely progressive ideals clouded the spot in my brain where shame should have been as I asked her with feigned embarrassment to cover the rest. Without hesitation nor the slight inclination of disapproval, she did. Covering the rest of the check didn’t bother her at all, or at least she didn’t let on that it did. That was when I was hooked.

We carried on with the rest of the evening as though I didn’t just perform the biggest date faux pas, and within the next few days, she had agreed to a second date.

Meeting online and splitting checks? A new age of dating had emerged, and I was top dog.

Our first photo together, taken a few weeks after that awesome first date.

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