That one time I tried online dating.

Today I don’t have anything deep or meaningful to say. I don’t have some great existential point to make. In fact, I don’t really have any point at all. Today, I’m just going to tell a story about the time I tried online dating.

I’m a hopeless romantic, probably to a fault. I would be lying if I tried to say I haven’t dreamt of meeting a handsome stranger’s eyes across a crowded room and all but literally floating towards each other while the crowd parts in awe and fireworks are going off somewhere in the distance because true love has been ignited. But one day I said to myself… “Self, please. Let’s be real here. The chances of that happening are slim to none. No one looks at each other anymore. The dating scene has shifted almost entirely to swipe apps. You’re a lonely sack of potatoes right now so maybe you should just give the internet a shot, you never know what could happen.”

I reluctantly agreed. I should clarify that I had been on a couple such apps before, but only for the purposes of meeting some new friends to take my mind off my life, not for the purposes of actual dating. So this time it was different. This time I was putting careful thought into my photos and profile; I wanted to accurately portray myself in hopes that I could attract the kind of person I was looking for. Then lo and behold, I did!

Er, well, I thought I did.

At this point I should mention that I was a Communications major in college, so I pay ridiculously close attention to the way people speak, hold conversations, carry themselves, etc. and base my conclusions on what I observe. I matched with a super cute guy who messaged me in response to something I wrote on my profile, and that showed me that he took the time out to read it. Good start. Then we proceeded to message each other every day. I appreciated his texting style a lot; he addressed everything I said, which told me that he was actually listening; he asked lots of questions, which told me that he was interested in learning about me; and instead of ending the conversation at night, he would just carry it over in the morning. So we had a continuous conversation going for about 10 straight days, which is something that I love. At that point he asked me if I would want to meet. He seemed cool and I hadn’t gotten any serious red flags, so I agreed.

When the day came, I was actually pretty excited. More excited than I expected to be. I had those little anticipation butterflies all day. Who knew. I spent an hour just trying to figure out what to wear (shout out to my best friend and her boyfriend for humoring me while I ran up and down the stairs going “OKAY WHAT ABOUT THIS” like some deranged, inept and kind of sweaty parrot). And of course I left early so I would have time to sit and imagine every disaster scenario that could possibly occur on a first date before he got there.

Now, I have a bit of social anxiety, especially when it comes to meeting new people. And ESPECIALLY if I need to make a good impression. The side effect of that is that I turn into this horribly awkward creature who can’t remember what words are, let alone how to say them. My mind frequently just goes blank, and then I panic, and then I die.

We met at the mall for pizza and a movie (2017’s remake of IT, if you were curious). When he approached me, naturally I had no idea what to do so I shook his hand. That’s what you do when you’re meeting new people, right? Seemed reasonable. Then instead of thinking of something interesting or endearing to say, I just blurted out “I should warn you I’m kind of awkward.” Oh, you brilliant little ray of star shine, you. I seriously think I heard someone behind me slow clap. But he said that he was too, we bonded over mutual awkwardness, and I felt a little more at ease.

When we got the pizza, he ordered one slice and I ordered two because I was freaking hungry, then immediately went into “OH MY GOD HE’S GOING TO THINK I’M SOME KIND OF BEHEMOTH WHO EATS ENTIRE CITIES AT TEA TIME HOW COULD I ORDER TWO SLICES IT’S ALL OVER NOW.” He paid for the pizza, and thankfully seemed pretty unphased by the fact that two thirds of the tray belonged to me, my stomach, and I. Even so, I threw in a “wow, this is more than I was expecting it would be.” Phew, dodged that bullet.

Then I bit into the pizza… and half of the cheese and sauce slid off of the dough and onto my face. In case you were wondering, this was one of the aforementioned disaster scenarios. I quickly grabbed a napkin and tried to laugh it off while inwardly shriveling up into a pile of dust and pizza sauce. He was very polite and just kept the conversation going, bless his soul. We continued conversing in a surprisingly easy manner for a solid 5 minutes before I looked down… and saw it. SAUCE. ON MY SHIRT. AND ALSO MY PANTS. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This is real. I didn’t think to check my clothes after the initial disaster occurred, so I was just carrying on as usual.. COVERED IN PIZZA. While I’m sure it’s every man’s dream to go out with a girl who can successfully coat herself in food less than 10 minutes into a date, I was pretty mortified.

We saw the movie, it was excellent, and afterwards, he walked me to my car. Good sign, right? Despite my earlier mishaps, I felt like it had been a relatively successful date. He went for a hug, and I don’t know if it was all the nerves and anticipation leaving my body  at once or what happened, but as we separated from the hug, my left leg chose that precise moment to just stop working entirely. So instead of gracefully exiting the embrace, I tripped out of it like he was life support that I just took myself off of. It was a perfect ending, really. Couldn’t have written a better script if I tried.

I did send him a text that night thanking him, and he responded that we should hang out again soon. I was incredibly relieved that it seemed I hadn’t completely freaked him out with my mammoth appetite and nonexistent social skills. But over the course of the next few days, the texting slowed down immensely. It was interesting because the content of the messages themselves told me he was interested (one of them literally  said “I’m interested”), but the amount of time passing between them told me the opposite. Especially since the texting had been so consistent immediately prior to meeting in person. I had quite a time asking everyone I’ve ever met what they thought of it and what I should do, but there wasn’t really a clear answer.

He suggested meeting again 5 days later for another date. We did, and to me it went far better than the first one. I had a good time. He was a nice guy. Nothing extraordinarily awkward happened. When we parted, he again walked me to my car and gave me a hug (during which both legs stayed in tact).

Annnnd I haven’t heard from him since.

It’s been three days now, which to me seems like an excessive amount of silence from someone who is genuinely interested, and at this point I’m preparing myself for the possibility that I may never hear from him again. I’m not the type of person who’s going to throw myself at someone, especially if I’m not 100% convinced they’re into it. I need to get what I give out of dating or I’ll be miserable. It is definitely a shame because I felt like we got along really well. But who knows, maybe he just couldn’t get the image of me plastered in pizza out of his head.

Thanks pizza.

Now I have deleted all the apps and given up on the online dating scene because, through this experience, I learned I’m too much of an awkward nervous mess for that. I think in order to avoid coming across as some kind of lunatic who escaped from a museum of human oddities, I have to be able to get to know someone organically. And to get to know someone organically, I first have to meet them organically. Maybe in an across-the-room-floating-fireworks kind of way. Maybe in a we-both-just-took-an-accidental-pizza-bath kind of way. Maybe in a way I have yet to dream up.

All I know is I won’t be swiping right ever again.

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