A Play in One Act
Chicago, IL. Winter, 2012. 8 p.m.
A sub-par Mexican restaurant in the Lakeview neighborhood. It is a yuppie area, inhabited mostly by young singles, couples, married couples, married couples with babies and married couples with babies and dogs.
The entrance to the sub-par Mexican restaurant is dimly lit, street (stage) right.
Street (stage) left; SHE hurriedly pays her taxi driver, checking her phone for the time. She is late.
Inside we see a dimly lit restaurant, garnished with mounted wall animals wearing sombreros and other pseudo-Mexican decorative disasters—clearly not kosher. Two tables are occupied: one with a couple enjoying their mediocre Mexican fare; another with an eager young man sitting in a button-down shirt and jeans. HE rises from his chair when she enters. They hug. Awkwardly.
HE and SHE are in their 20s.
SHE smiles with relief because he somewhat resembles his online dating profile picture. HE scans her face and figure.
SHE. It's nice to meet you. Sorry I was late.
HE. That's Ok. It's nice to meet you too.
HE sits. SHE takes off her coat and places it on the back of her chair.
SHE. Thank you for suggesting this place, I've been meaning to try it. Did you have an OK time getting here?
HE. Yeah, it's not far from where I live.
SHE sits, unfolds her napkin and places it over her lap. HE takes a drink of water. SHE reaches for her menu.
HE. Are you going to order something?
SHE. Yes? Aren't you? Did you have a late lunch?
HE. I don't eat dinner.
SHE looks down at the menu deciding how to reply.
SHE. You don't eat dinner?
HE. I only eat one meal a day. I've lost 60 pounds. In fact, I went on the scale this morning and saw I lost a few more pounds.
SHE. That's nice…
HE. Yeah, my eating regime has worked really well for me.
SHE. Which meal do you eat?
Silence. SHE glances at the menu unsure of how to proceed.
SHE. How did you get into this…schedule?
The waiter comes for their drink orders. SHE orders wine. SHE wishes she ordered something stronger. HE orders a soda.
HE. When I fasted last Tisha B'Av I realized I could get along on less food.
HE. I guess…since I lost a few more pounds on the scale this morning I can splurge and eat dinner.
SHE stares down at her menu. SHE wonders, "What does one order after that?"
End of Scene.
This was my re-entrance into the online dating world after a several-year hiatus. A few years ago I'd sampled it and the experience left a bad taste in mouth—so rancid, I swore I'd never try it again.
During my first online dating interlude, the menu included guys who lied about their looks; guys who lied about their age; guys who lied about their looks and age; guys who drank too much; guys who talked too much; guys who loved their mothers too much; guys who loved their ex-girlfriends too much; guys who loved their therapists too much and so on…Never had I come across a guy who loved his scale too much—that is, until now.
To break this down and talk in terms we can all understand: Let's compare dating to the economy. The older we get, the harder it is to find a job; the same is true for dating. The longer a person has been working, the more bad job stories he or she will have, and the same goes for dating. Both can turn us into cynics, which makes the search all the more difficult. While I am still in my 20s, I have had my share of bad dating stories—some of which, would stop your heart altogether.
If I were to create a "seasonal menu" themed after the guys I've met this time around, I would title it "Gluttonous Over-Sharing." These guys spoil your palette before you've unfolded your napkin or ordered your drink. They're the anti-amuse-bouche of dating.
People lie on their resumes and people lie on their online dating profiles. Both are hazardous ideas and I do neither. As with a job interview or a first date, we aim to lead with our best selves. The liars think they can fake it and at least get their foot in the door for an interview. In the world of online dating, it seems to take about one encounter, five minutes and a few sentences for a date to stick a foot in his mouth so deep, there is no exit strategy.
If you're going to lie on your online dating profile, don't reveal you're crazy too early when you actually meet the person—unless of course, you're actually that crazy. The difference with lying in dating is that it's not business, it's personal.
I had a conversation with my sister the other day, who is also facing the trials and tribulations of dating after much disappointment in the past. We decided together on five categories of online daters:
Online Dater 1: I could not get a date outside of the virtual world if my life depended on it.
Caution: You can usually sniff these people out by reading their profiles.
Online Dater 1a: I project sanity loosely veiling my depravity.
Caution: Be careful of these!
Online Dater 2: I want to get laid.
Caution: These folks sometimes wear chivalrous disguises.
Online Dater 3: I am using online dates to pad my recent break-up.
Caution: Be careful, motives potentially overlap with Online Dater 2.
Online Dater 4: What I think and say I want is vastly different than what I'm actually capable of handling. I think I want to be in serious relationship or get married and have kids, but I actually need some therapy—or perhaps lots of therapy.
Caution: These daters are the trickiest of all. They appear normal.
Online Dater 5: (See Explanation Below)
I think my sister and I fall into this category. We're run-of-the-mill neurotic and intelligent Jewish girls who still have hope that our romantic best friends are still out there, and we're still willing to take a leap of faith. We know too, that everyone, to some degree, is a composite of all of those personas at one time or another.
Armed with dating horror stories—some more recent than others—I'm trying to tackle dating these days with a little less naivety and a little more faith. Dating boils down to a perfect recipe of perseverance, hope and amnesia from all of our heart-break history.
My sister put it perfectly: "Part of why I hate Valentine's Day is because I kind of love it."