It was almost Valentine’s Day, 2001, and I wanted a man. In fact, I was positively hungry for one. I wanted something steamy and romantic for the day of hearts and roses. And I was intent on making it happen.
I had just ended an insane relationship with a crazy man, and I wanted to wipe all memory of him out of my brain stem. I wanted to replace him with a masculine distraction. I had barely been dabbling in meeting men at bars, but these chance encounters had yielded some frightening results. So I thought I might try my hand at finding a man on the Internet.
I liked the idea of putting what I wanted in a man out into cyberspace, and then sitting tight while they pursued me. And in the end, I would have the power to choose among them. I felt powerful.
So I set out to go about it. But before I began, I made a decision that I would meet two men. No more, no less. And if neither worked, I’d drop the idea for good.
I knew that I didn’t want to spend the money to join an official dating sight, so instead I placed an ad on Craig’s list, which was absolutely free, and the ad length had no limitations. In other words, you could wax poetic about yourself for a couple of pages, if you so desired.
And I did desire. I wanted to say as much as possible about myself, in an effort to really show the potential candidates who I was and what I wanted. I was as honest as I could possibly be, and I put it all out there for anyone to read. I had no idea if I’d get a response or if anyone would even read it.
The next day I turned on my computer, and I was utterly shocked to see that I had hundreds of responses. And the next day, this was followed by hundreds more. At first I was rather happy about it, until I realized how much time it took to look at them all. I remember remarking to friends that weeding through the responses was like a part-time job. It would have been one thing if I were dazzled by the countless emails I received, but it was quite the contrary; I disliked every single response I got! I was horrified, and let almost all of them dangle, without even a word from me.
Reading them all was arduous. I learned quickly how to identify the spam responses—and those had been simply cut and pasted and distributed by lonely hearts to every single available ad. Those were first to be deleted.
But the other responses were hideous as well. I had mentioned the word “boyish” in my list of attributes that I appreciated about the opposite sex. What I meant by this more than anything else was a man’s physical appearance; I had never gone for the rugged Marlboro man kind of guy...I went for the cute ones with a big mop of hair. Although I think Paul Neuman is unbelievably handsome, I’d take Paul McCartney over him hands down. It’s their appearance, but it’s also a quality too. Sort of playful and full of life.
But the responses I received around this one little innocuous word sent my head spinning. The way men interpreted that response was far and wide, and to me, a little shocking. Men would tell me that they still lived with their mother, and were relieved to find someone that would finally appreciate their “boyishness.” Many interpreted the word to mean that it was okay if they were out of work, and not financially responsible. Some very young men responded, looking for an older woman. “I’m VERY boyish,” I would read. “I’m 20 years old!” The interpretations about what I meant were far ranging and funny. But what was worse, was that it seemed to attract countless dolts, the uneducated and ignorant. I also found that countless men would respond without a picture, and wouldn’t forward one if I requested it. This was blind dating enough; at least I needed some sort of visual to proceed.
I was tearing my hair out, but I didn’t give up. After all, I had promised that I would date two men, and this is what I would do. The entire occurrence was a tremendous learning experience, and I learned slowly that I needed to be even more specific than I thought I already was. I decided to edit my ad. I removed the word “boyish” from the text, and I added at the end “PhD’s ONLY.” I still laugh when I think back to it. Finally, I said “Do NOT respond without a picture.”
When I published the edited ad, I felt content. I was sure that this would bring me better responses, and I was right. The next batch was far more reasonable. I still had a lot of work to do, reading all of the emails, conversing with the possible candidates, and blocking the stalkers. But after weeks of work, I finally weeded all of them down to two men. And I must say, I was pretty excited about both of them.
One of them was an impossibly good looking bicyclist from San Francisco. Italian with “boyish” good looks, he was also obviously intelligent. He graduated with an English Literature degree just as I had, and enjoyed literature—something that was a big plus for me. In fact, he enjoyed many of the same things I did—the Beatniks, and espresso, and Italian food... poetry, The Beatles, and Independent films. We conversed for weeks, and finally I agreed to meet him in person.
The second was wildly intelligent, and every letter to me was so wonderfully crafted, that I felt as if I was talking to a fellow writer. It was his words that kept me coming back to him, because damn it, he’d broken one of my rules. He never sent a picture.
But I couldn’t stop talking with him. And soon letters turned to phone calls. He was so witty; he’d have me bent over laughing every time we talked. He was so intelligent he would wow me with his angles. I loved his voice; I found it so sexy my stomach would do flip flops every time I heard it on the other end.
I was certain that he would be the second man that I would choose to meet in person. But when he’d ask me to make a date, I’d say, “Not until you send a picture!”
“Oh come on,” he’d complain. I don’t have one! If I had one, I’d send it. Look, I told you I’ve dated models right? I mean, how homely could I be?” I didn’t really like his comments about dating models, I found it pretentious. Not to mention, I was certainly no model. And I found the fact that he couldn’t find a single picture of himself to send a bit strange. Still, with his charm, he eventually wore me down, and I agreed to meet him.
Both of these gentlemen lived in San Francisco. I have never enjoyed driving around the city by myself; I prefer to be driven. I get lost very easily, and driving there by myself has always seemed like a challenge. On the other hand, I really didn’t want either one of them to know where I lived. So I agreed to meet them in the city.
But there was a kicker. I agreed to meet them both on the same night. I had one date at 7:00 p.m. and the second date set up for 10:00. These dates were to take place on Valentine’s Day, of all days. It was a little surreal.
I didn’t feel at all bad making both dates on the same night, although others might find that a bit rude. First of all, it would save me from driving to the city twice, and I believed that first dates that are blind dates should be kept somewhat short. I believe one knows in the first five seconds of meeting someone if there is even a chance of it continuing. So why prolong the potential horror for an entire night? I thought I was being smart about it.
But where I wasn’t smart, I suppose, is that I agreed to meet them both in their apartments. Internet dating was still fairly new at that time, and there wasn’t the protocol that has since been developed-- advice like meeting your date in a public arena, like a coffee shop. I was a little nervous about it, but felt I had talked to both of them enough to rule out either being a serial killer at least.
I spent the afternoon bathing and luxuriating and getting ready the proper way. Then I set out for San Francisco that Saturday night, feeling nervous, but hopeful. I really believed either man could be a real candidate for my next significant other, although secretly it was my second date that I felt had the most potential. The one that claimed he didn’t have a picture.
I had difficulty finding the first man’s apartment. But I felt proud of myself when at last I found it, and even found a parking place. I smoked a quick cigarette; knowing I would want one, but having already decided I wouldn’t smoke on this first meeting. Following that, I took a deep breath, and with a muttered, “You can do this, girl,” I marched myself up two flights of stairs in a beautiful Victorian apartment building.
He swung open the door before I even reached the landing. He was smiling a huge grin, and I couldn’t help but smile back. He was every bit as handsome as his picture depicted, and he had that boyish quality that I found irresistible. “Hi,” he said, and quickly kissed me on the cheek. From behind his back, he pulled out a rose. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
I loved it. “Thank you. A blind date on Valentine’s day, imagine that,” I quipped. It felt a little romantic.
“Do you like espresso? I can make you a cappuccino.”
“I would love one, thank you.” I thought a little caffeine might be just the thing I needed, especially with a second date later that night.
I entered his apartment and I was impressed. It was quite adult, nicely decorated, and had beautifully framed prints on the walls. He had a picture of Charles Bukowski; a poet I had long admired, on top of his stereo. It was the perfect opening conversation, to share our love of the poet and of literature. And soon we were sipping our coffees on the couch talking easily and animatedly, and I almost wished I didn’t have to leave so soon for my second date.
“Excuse me for a minute, will you? I have to hit the restroom,” he said, standing up. Being a bicyclist, he had a beautiful build. I nodded happily as he disappeared down the hall.
A few minutes later I heard a door open and knew he was returning. I stared at the hall entrance with a big grin on my face, waiting for him to come into view.
When he did, he was stark naked.
He saw my look of shock and dismay, and tried to deflate the situation, as if this were possible. “I know, I know,” he said coming toward me with his hand up as if to stop me from talking. “I know this seems a little odd, but please don’t freak out or anything. Give me a few moments to explain.”
I could hardly believe what I was seeing. My first thought was to find my car keys and sprint toward the door. My second thought was one of curiosity, wondering what on earth this man planned to say. “What are you doing?” is all I could think of to say.
He took a seat beside me on the couch. “Listen to me for a minute,” he started. “For spiritual reasons, and for artistic reasons, I have been celibate for four years. I have been taking a sexual coaching course, and we learn how we give away our power and our creativity through ejaculation. Not only must we endure a period of celibacy, we are not allowed to have an orgasm by our own hand either. We are allowed to masturbate, and are even encouraged to do so, but we learn how to stop it just before the moment of fruition. This practice, over time, gives us our power back. Do you understand?”
I couldn’t even respond. I was in utter shock. What on earth was this speech all about? “I understand, but I don’t care,” I finally spit out exasperated. “Is this supposed to be some sort of justification for this behavior? I’m going to leave.”
“Don’t leave,” he said grabbing my arm. “When you came in tonight, I realized that it was time for me to break this fast. I had never planned on being celibate forever, or never having an orgasm. Tonight is the night I want to be reborn again, and I want to be reborn with you.”
I looked behind his naked body and noticed a fire escape outside of the window. I grabbed a cigarette and a lighter, and climbed out the window and lit my cigarette. He scampered after me and kneeled in front of the window. “Oh,” he said. “I didn’t know you smoked.”
“And I didn’t know you were going to be naked. I guess we’re both surprised,” I answered.
“Please come back in.”
“If you go get dressed, I’ll come back in.”
“Don’t send me away. I see you as my future wife!”
“That’s not going to happen,” I said as I rubbed my cigarette butt against the metal to put it out. “In fact, I have to get going. I have another date. Put your clothes on.”
“You made another date on the same night we made a date? I don’t think you realize how much potential I think the two of us have. Let me explain. All of my life I’ve been a real Mama’s boy. Every girl I’ve dated I’ve told them the same thing. I’ll never get married as long as my Mama is alive. But once she dies, I’ll want to marry whatever woman I’m with, because it would be too lonely to be single. My Mama is very ill.”
“Sorry to hear that,” I said, crawling back through the window. I grabbed my purse off from the couch and fished its contents for my keys. “Thanks for the coffee. It’s been an interesting night,” and with that I ran toward the door, imagining him trying to block my escape. Thankfully he did not.
With my ears burning I ran into the night and to the safety of my car. It was quarter to ten, and time for my second date. My stomach was in knots and I felt so anxious. I hadn’t yet recovered from my first date, and didn’t know how emotionally ready I was for a second. I was frightened to go to this other man’s apartment, so late at night. But the plan was for me to call from my car once I arrived in the city, and he’d talk me through the directions as I drove to his house.
I grabbed my cell phone and dialed his number. “Hi it’s me. I’m on Geary Street. Where to?”
The minute I heard his voice, I relaxed. He took charge, and seemed to know the city like the back of his hand. Surely, this was going to be better, I thought to myself. And really, this was the date I was looking forward to the most. “Okay,” he said, “so you must be in front of a pink building now, do you see it?” He knew every street and every landmark that I passed as if he were in the car with me. But he was also making me laugh uproariously as he always did. I hardly noticed where I was going as I was whizzed through the streets easily, guided by my human GPS. And soon I was led safely and easily right to his apartment building. “I think I’m here!” I said as I hovered in the middle of the street.
“Yes, I can see you. Park right in front of the green truck. I’m on the third floor. I’ll buzz you in.”
“What apartment number?” I asked.
“Oh, don’t worry. You can follow the sound of my voice,” he said laughing, and then hung up the phone.
It felt eerie that he could see me and I couldn’t see him. Not to mention he had seen countless photos of me, and I had never seen a single snapshot of him. I imagined him watching me as I got out of my car and crossed the street. I glanced upwards at the apartment building, wondering if I might get a glimpse of him. The windows looked dark.
When I reached the stoop, the door was already buzzing. I ran to push it open, and I entered the dimly lit foyer. The door slammed behind me. I stood in the quiet.
“Helloooooooooooo,” I heard from high above my head. “Follow my voice.” It echoed strangely in the muted dusk of the hall.
I began climbing the steps, and I surprised myself to feel myself smiling. This man and I had been having the best rapport for weeks, and I was excited. Even though I had no idea what he looked like, I mused, how bad could it be? As I climbed the second set of stairs, I fantasized about finally seeing him, and how we would fall into each other’s arms for a passionate kiss.
I climbed the third set of steps. “Down here,” came his voice. “Walk toward me.” I did as I was told. “Turn the corner and here I am.”
I turned the corner.
And there he was.
I’ve never been one to be overly shallow about a person’s appearance. I find beauty in most people. But there are very few individuals I find so repulsive that I actually recoil in their presence. This was one such person.
His bald head was large, and seemed to sit on top of folds of loose flesh that served as his neck. His skin was so white that it was translucent, and I could see blue veins in his neck, cheeks, and arms. His body was huge and shapeless, and he looked more like a ball with a bowling pin on top. When he saw me he laughed, and his entire body undulated in a blubbery orgasm.
He was dressed in beige from head to foot. He wore beige conservative slacks and a beige conventional shirt. He had beige socks.
We exchanged a glance. I smiled weakly. The idea of kissing him flew away as if it had wings.
He opened the door wide for me to enter. His living room was beige with wall to wall beige carpets, and a beige couch. There was not one piece of art anywhere. The walls were blank. The coffee table was empty. The only thing in the room were bookshelves upon bookshelves of VCR tapes, all labeled. “What are these?” I asked.
“Tapes of my lectures. I’m a Professor, remember?”
I just nodded. I looked out the window to see if I might see a second fire escape I might crawl down. But I was distracted when the mood suddenly took a sudden, almost violent detour.
“See this wine?” he said, pointing to a bottle on the counter. “This is the best there is. This bottle cost hundreds of dollars. HUNDREDS. And I bought it for you.”
“That’s very nice of you. I’d love a glass,” I told him.
“Well, you don’t get a glass. You can have some water.”
“Excuse me?” I said laughing, thinking he surely must be joking.
“I’m not going to open this wine for you. Don’t you think I saw your face when you saw me? You looked as if you might vomit. Am I really that hideous? The only reason you even came inside was to be polite. Why would I share something so expensive with someone who will never give me a second date?”
I was so stunned, I couldn’t respond. He lumbered over to the beige couch, and with great effort, fell into it. Then he lay down, as if he were ready for a nap. “I could turn on the T.V,” he said dryly.
I might have just turned on my heel at that moment, and walked out. But I didn’t.
To this day, I really don’t know why. A part of me felt sorry for him; I had never intended to be so obvous about my distaste, although the truth would have reared it’s ugly head soon enough. There was also a part of me that really liked him; I had been enjoying his mind for weeks. But more than anything, I was so angry at him I plunked myself down and started yelling at him.
“Do you know what a rude ass you are?” I said. “I drove all the way into the city to meet you.”
“Pity I turned out to be such a hideous monster, isn’t it? I have no interest in anyone as shallow as you.”
This conversation would end up continuing until 2 in the morning. He might not be my cup of tea in the romantic department, but he was a potent adversary and could throw a mean intellectual debate. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy that evening on some level.
When I climbed into my car that morning, dazed and exhausted, I decided I would never venture into the world of blind dating ever again. And I kept that promise. But a week later, I went back to trying to meet men in bars. I met a dandy of a man my first time out, or so I thought. I followed him to his lovely home and took me outside to show me the view from the deck. He disappeared for a moment, he claimed, to open a bottle of wine. When he returned, he was stark naked.
Men really seem like a different species at times.
I could only start laughing, thinking back to my blind date on Valentine’s Day. My laughter embarrassed him, I was sure of that. I poked his nude body with a giggle, on my way out the door.