Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Three Times I Blew It With Girls Online

It's been five months since I last shared with you stories of how inept I can be in the company of women. I was heartened by the response to my March post titled "Three Times I Blew It With Girls In Central Park." It's one of my most-read posts of the year to date.

Clearly, I tapped into an audience that has been mostly underserved by this blog -- an audience that would rather read about my personal life than, say, my opinion on alarms on Rogaine boxes at the local drugstore. My experiences in turning down an invitation to a female-only picnic and drawing unwanted attention at a major concert by wearing a Charlie Brown T-shirt resonate more with the general public, it seems.

Well, I hear you! I hear you loud and clear. You're in luck. As it happens, I have dozens -- nay, hundreds -- of other examples of how I've messed up with the opposite sex. I could regale you with tales of my romantic failures for years to come.

Not too long ago I mentioned that I've quit online dating. I blew hundreds of dollars on three websites, and all I have to show for it is this post: three times when I blew it with girls online. I'm willing to bet you've never heard a story quite like the third one below.

I. "I Thought This Only Happened In Sitcoms."

My final online date ended with spilled tea.

Of course it did. My online dating experience couldn't have ended any other way.

I met Kate (not her real name) at a coffee shop in her neighborhood last November. She ordered an espresso. I ordered a green tea, because I don't drink coffee, not even in a coffee shop.

Two minutes later, an employee placed my green tea on the counter. Literally seconds after that, I knocked over the cup with my left hand as I attempted to grasp it, causing its contents to splatter onto the floor.

This moment will gnaw at me for the rest of my life, not because I feel I embarrassed myself, but because I have no idea what happened. Was I too nonchalant in reaching for the cup? Why did I use my non-dominant hand? Was the lid not securely fastened? Was the spill ultimately my fault, or the employee's fault? So many unanswered questions.

Kate was a good sport about it, assuring me more than once that it was no big deal. She was even kind enough to hand me several napkins as I wiped the tea off the floor. As I was on my hands and knees, performing mop-up duty, I muttered to myself, "I thought this only happened in sitcoms." I was genuinely surprised that a man could actually spill a drink during a date, but not terribly surprised that that man could be me.

I joked to Kate, "Well, at least you'll have a story to tell your friends later." Again, she was very sweet, telling me, "Don't worry about it."

We left the shop and took a stroll in the park for a little while. She was very nice, but we didn't make a connection, and we didn't speak again after that date.

I haven't ordered coffee or tea in a coffee shop since.

II. "Where Have I Seen This Girl Before?"

Mallory (again, not her real name) was my kind of girl. She was pretty, she was quirky, she had bangs. She had photos of herself playing the ukulele. She was the closest I'd come to finding a non-celebrity version of my celebrity crush, Zooey Deschanel, online.

Mallory was also in the same line of work as I was. That's what made me feel comfortable enough to send her a message. I figured it was my "in."

And it was. We exchanged a series of notes on our jobs, what we liked about it, what we didn't like about it. It was nice to be chatting with a girl who could relate to what I was going through on an everyday basis.

When I finally summoned the courage to ask her to meet with me, she told me she had to leave town on business for a month, but that we could reconnect once she returned.

I wrote back, "That sounds great, but if you're up for it I would love to continue the conversation on here until then."

No response. Perhaps I should have read between the lines and realized she was politely declining my invitation. But I really wanted a relationship with a real-world Zooey.

Flash forward eight months. There's a new girl in the office. She was pretty, she was quirky, she had bangs. I recognized her from somewhere, but I couldn't quite place her. I wondered, "Where have I seen this girl before?'

I decided to introduce myself. "Hi there. I don't believe we've met. I'm Shane." "Nice to meet you. Mallory."

And then it hit me. The new girl was Mallory. Who's that girl? Who's that girl? It's Mallory!

We reconnected, after all.

She worked in my office for a couple of weeks before quitting for another job. I never got the chance to say goodbye. 

Wherever you are, Mallory, I hope you're doing well. You'll always be my real-world Zooey.

III. "You're Eliminated."

Word of advice: Never ask a really personal question of a woman in the first message you send to her.

In July of 2013 I came across a profile that intrigued me. I can only recall two pieces of information from it: She liked to spend her weekends away from the city to escape the noise, and she preferred to date someone who was willing to learn sign language.

I'd never seen such a request in an online dating profile. I am very curious by nature, and very inquisitive. I was very interested to know why she sought a partner who could communicate using sign language.

So I asked. Five minutes later, I had the answer in my inbox. She'd written me a terse message: "Uh, could it be because I'm deaf? Yeah, that's it. You're eliminated."

In retrospect, I should not have asked that question. At least not in an introductory message. It was a bit too personal. But in my defense, a) she raised the issue in a fairly open manner, and b) I didn't want to assume she was deaf, since she'd made a point of noting how she likes to get away from the city noise.

The last two words in her message -- "You're eliminated" -- really caught me off-guard. I'd never had a woman say that to me. I felt like a Survivor contestant who'd just been told by Jeff Probst to hand over his torch.

Needless to say, we both quickly moved on. I wasn't right for her, obviously. But I'm not sure online dating was right for her. She might have been better off searching for romance on The Bachelorette, where eliminations are a little more common.