My dear readers know that I’ve been on a lot of dates. And a lot of really bad dates. But this was, perhaps, the worst date I’ve ever been on. Not because he was mean or anything, but because, from the second I said hi, I wanted to leave.

Instead, I stayed. For two hours.

Let’s back up, here.

This guy messaged me on OKCupid. He was very tall (yes), bearded (yes), and kind of chunky (yes), so obviously I replied.

There were some red flags. He was 49, and I’ve learned that, at that age, there’s usually a reason men are still single. He had never been married, which was good, for me, but also – had to be a reason. But he had no kids, and he owned a brownstone, so he was basically landed gentry in Brooklyn. If we fell in love and got married, I’d basically be a marchioness.

Also, he had three pictures up online. In two of them, he looked attractive, chunky, bearded, normal. In the third he looked really, really awkward, leaning slouchily against a bridge in a pair of sweatpants and an ill-fitting t-shirt. But the other two looked fine, and we were hitting it off so well, that I ignored that flag, too.

We had amazing nonsense banter. I love to be silly and talk about nothing, and we talked about such silly nothingness. Over text, I thought he seemed smart and interesting and down with a kind of bossy woman, so I was really looking forward to our date.

Almost immediately, we connected on how we both liked black licorice. That’s a special connection to share, because not many people understand the nuanced beauty that is a black licorice wheel. It’s one of my favorite things. Licorice is even made with wheat flour, and I love it so much that I pretend it isn’t. And it never makes me sick. Licorice is so magical, that, unlike anything else with flour in it, it doesn’t make me vomit. One bite of crusty bread? Vom-town. Pizza? Puke city. But, out of the power of love and sheer force of will, licorice doesn’t make me sick. I flat out refuse to be allergic to licorice.

But I digress.

I mentioned how hard it was to find good licorice anywhere, and he told me about Economy Candy, an old-fashioned candy store on the Lower East Side. And, of course. If anyone was gonna sell black licorice and cheap candy, obviously it was gonna be a store on the Lower East Side. He suggested we go there on our date, and I immediately agreed.

I was thrilled. What makes for a better first date than a trip to a candy store? Answer: nothing, except for an evening of champagne and oysters, because that trumps everything. He suggested we get breakfast first, in my neighborhood. Lovely. And, because we were going to the LES, I looked up my favorite pickle place, The Pickle Guys, on Grand Street (side note: I discovered The Pickle Guys because they were next door to the Judaica shop where I bought my tallis for my bat mitzvah. That’s how good these pickles are. I’ve remembered and drooled over them since I was twelve). A plan was in place that I felt good about. Breakfast. Then candy. Then good, old-fashioned, kosher full-sours.

I woke up the morning of our date bright and eager to meet the guy I had been texting with. He seemed so smart. So interesting. So, at 9:00, when I realized I wasn’t falling back asleep, I suggested we meet up earlier than planned. He agreed, and we set a revised brunch time of 10:30.

The diner is only a few blocks away from me, but they’re long blocks, and it was chilly and drizzling. I was cranky, but still hopeful. I had a good podcast to listen to. I was meeting a tall, chunky, bearded man. I approached the diner, feeling good.

And then I saw him. And I knew this date was not going to go well.

The guy was wearing a too-tight, pallid yellow polo shirt, and olive green cargo pants made out of windbreaker material. They were also too tight, and about two or three inches too short. What I thought had been lumberjack-scruffy in his profile pictures was really just unkempt.

I had made a mistake I’ve made before: mistaking super awkward and maybe a little autistic for smart and quirky. There’s a thin line that divides the two. It can be hard to determine which side someone stands on, through text and the internet. But it was clear that, this time, I had judged wrong.

I walked up to him with a smile on my face, already dreading what was to come. He went in for a hug, which I hate from even the most attractive, charming stranger. Don’t touch me. You don’t know me. From this gross guy, it was even less palatable.

We walked into the diner and the host led me toward a booth.

“Um,” the guy said to the host, with a really fucking irritating smirk on his face. “Come on!”

The host smiled and redirected us to what I soon learned was the guy’s usual booth. Turned out my guy was a “regular” at the diner. And he basked in the imagined glory of that status. He was performatively chummy with the waitstaff, and made a big show of them already knowing his order, and knowing what table he sat at, blah blah fucking ugh.

“They might bring some weird stuff over for us,” he said, smiling a weird, playful, irritating smile.

Sure enough, the waiter brought him a few assorted things – seltzer water with cranberry juice and a lime, and a plate of wheat toast with honey and cinnamon? Each time, he looked at me smugly, as if expecting me to be impressed.

The waiter came back to take our orders. The guy was still kvelling (I wish I could show you how obnoxious that smile was) and said, “the usual,” followed by some apparently special insider code words to clarify his order. The waiter then turned to me, looked back at him, said “She’s so pretty!” and then took my order. I wanted to die. Literal death seemed better than the prospect of sitting through a meal with this man.

I’ve developed a rule that I don’t laugh or smile if I’m not truly amused by something a man says. Just because I’m out with someone doesn’t mean I need play stupid girl and smile and laugh at anything a guy says. Especially if it’s not funny, or just fucking irritating. So I sat through our entire meal barely talking, miserable, trying not to flip the fuck out and be mean to this sad, irritating, awkward man.

After what felt like an eternity, I had picked at my scrambled eggs, he had eaten his broccoli-cheddar omelette and short stack of blueberry-ricotta pancakes (I heard all about them, apparently they were called “Danish” style). He paid. We left.

But the date wasn’t even close to over. We walked to the subway, and I tried to make awkward small talk. Then we got on the subway. I sat next to a man wearing horrible cologne, so I had to get up and move to the other end of the car. That provided a little bit of conversation. For the entire trip, I sat with my arms crossed across my chest, as closed off as possible. When we got to our stop and stepped outside, it was raining.

I am a baby about bad weather. I hate being cold. I hate being wet. And it was wet, and cold. I had to go into a drugstore and buy a $13 shitty umbrella. Then we had to walk ten blocks, in the cold, nasty rain, to the candy store. In near-silence.

And then, one, bright, shining moment, in a cold, rainy, dark, dark day.

Economy Candy.

It. Was. Amazing. A magical Mecca of candy, packed into a little crowded storefront. The owners were not Jewish, as I had expected them to be, but the candy exceeded expectations. I bought four pounds of black licorice wheels, a quarter-pound of Dutch salted licorice, a half-pound of chocolate-covered apricots, a half-pound of mixed loose candies (Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls, Bit-o-Honey), and a pound of red licorice shoelaces. All in all, I blew $30 on candy. I do not regret it. It was beautiful and inspiring and an experience that I will not forget, for the opposite reason of why the rest of the date is something I will never forget.

We left the store. I knew I couldn’t sustain any more time with him, so I told the guy that I had promised to call my friend after we left the candy store.

“How’s the date going?” my friend asked, when he answered the phone.

“Not well,” I said.

“You ok?”

“No,” I said. “Can I come over?”

He laughed and said yes. I told the guy that I had to go meet my friend. He insisted on walking me to the subway.

I was still basking in the glow of all the black licorice I had just bought. I actually considered going to get pickles. No, I didn’t want one more second of this man’s company, but – I mean, those are some damn good pickles. Ultimately, I decided against it and cut my losses. When we got to the subway, he gave me a hug. I returned the saddest, most anemic hug ever, and pretty much ran away. Over my shoulder, I heard him say, “I hope the debrief with your friend goes well!”

I was free. I ran down the subway stairs in my rainboots in a state of shock and relief.

Ultimately, the day ended well. I met my friend and got out of the rain into a cafe. I had a Perrier with lemon. Then some very good bone broth. My friend and I sat in a park and watched pigeons for an hour. I met a very short old lady who told me all about her labradoodles, Bert and Ernie. Ernie jumped on me and got mud all over my sweater, but he also gave me some kisses, so that was ok. Around 4:30, I headed back to Brooklyn, with six pounds of candy in my tote bag. The day had been salvaged.

But I really cannot recall a worse date, ever, in all my history of bad dates. It was just so painful. So excruciating. It felt kind of like when I did a sleep study and had to try to sleep with a tube up my nose and electrodes on my head. I was so uncomfortable, but I knew that I couldn’t leave. Up until today, that was the most trapped I had ever felt. This date was, at the very least, a close second.

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I recently got this lovely message on OKCupid.

So obviously I responded with this.

Nice try, bitch. I’m always gonna win.

I am endlessly fascinated by religion and religious people. Religious orthodoxy of any kind is something I obsess over and research online and watch documentaries about all the time. Heaven’s Gate. Scientology. People who really, really love Jesus.

So, when someone on OKCupid messaged me whose profile said he had spent 6 years living in Israel as an Orthodox Jew before he recently became an atheist, I was fascinated. I obviously had to meet him.

We messaged back and forth for a while. I asked him a thousand questions, all about his life and religion. He was raised secular, and converted to Chasidism in his early 20s. WHAT. AMAZING. When he was in Israel, he had done some sort of Orthodox Jewish matchmaking, in which you basically go on three dates with someone and then decide whether you want to marry them or not. MORE. I asked him why he stopped believing in God. I asked him all sorts of stuff about the nuances of Jewish law that I always wondered about. Everything was going well.

And then I realized that, while I knew all sorts of interesting things about his past, he had never taken a moment of lull in the conversation to ask me a single thing about myself. He didn’t ask me what I did for a living, didn’t ask me what books I liked to read – nothing.

I mentioned that to him.

“You haven’t asked me a single question about myself,” I said.

He didn’t understand why that was relevant. Like, apparently caring one tiny bit about another person wasn’t important, even in a dating setting.

Anyway, it was soon obvious that I wasn’t interested in dating him, but I was still so intrigued by his past that when he asked me out, I told him I’d be happy to hang out as friends. He accepted, and for the next several days we texted intermittently.

One night, we hung out. We talked for a while – more religion, mostly. I asked whether he thought that men raised in Orthodox Judaism were conditioned with such a toxic view of male-female relationships that they could never have healthy relationships with women. Our conversation was pretty insightful and interesting. He seemed thoughtful. Again, he asked me nothing about myself, but I expected it, by that point. He went home, and everything seemed fine.

The next day, he called me at 3 am, obviously drunk. He told me I was fucked up, and no one would ever love me, and all sorts of other nasty shit that I don’t remember. I was horrified and hung up on him. He called back three times and left me a message, which I listened to a few seconds of and then promptly deleted.

Over the course of the next few days, he called me several more times in the middle of the night and left abusive messages. I didn’t listen to them. He sent me dozens of mean messages on OKCupid.

“Did you go on that date? When he finds out who you really are, he’ll run away screaming.”

“You’re too fucked up for anyone to ever love.”

And a few more great gems like that.

Finally, I blocked him.

Not sure what the moral is, here. Don’t trust extremists of any stripe? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that some men are abusive assholes, no matter how interesting they may seem.

I basically haven’t been able to write anything since the election, which was fine for a few weeks, but now it’s been several months and – it’s time to get my brain together and do some work. So I thought the perfect re-introduction would be the man I spent that fateful election night with.

A few weeks before, I met this man on OKCupid. He seemed perfectly nice and smart, so we met up for drinks. We met at a restaurant in my neighborhood (because, as my readers know, I don’t leave the area for first dates). It was the night of game 7 of the World Series, and we started talking about baseball. He mentioned that he wanted to find a place to watch game 7.

“I actually like baseball,” I said.

“Really?” he asked. “Who’s playing tonight?”

As in, you’re a girl, you can’t possibly like baseball or know what you’re talking about. Prove it.

I called him out, and he said, “Oh, I just wanted to make sure you really were fine going to watch the game.”

I let it go, because we had been having a good time. After all, everyone mansplains sometimes, right? Upon reflection, maybe I need to be more careful about this. I’ve had a lot of mansplaining interactions lately, and really one should probably be unacceptable. I’m nothing if not smart, and any man who talks down to me should get, as my Pop Pop would say, a punch in the nose.

But, smart or not, I let the mansplaining go. We went to get another drink and watch game 7, and then went our separate ways.

A few days later, we went to brunch and had a lovely time. A few days after that, on Election Day, I met up with him after therapy. He had a TV, and I wanted to watch the returns.

“I’m coming from Borough Hall,” I said. “I should be back at Franklin Avenue in 15 minutes.”

“That doesn’t take 15 minutes,” he said.

I was going from my therapist’s office to my home stop. I have made that trip a thousand times. I know exactly how long the trip takes. It’s three stops on the train. But he still felt the need to boss me around.

“I guarantee you it’ll take me 15 minutes. You’re mansplaining.”

“I’m just trainsplaining,” he said, which was kinda funny, if infuriating.

Anyway, I got to where we were supposed to meet exactly on time (in 15 minutes). He wanted to hold hands when I got off the train. We had been on two dates. It was weird and felt like he desperately wanted someone to hold hands with, rather than to hold hands with me. Then he told me boring insider MTA stories for a while, like, about the brakes at different stations.

“Sometime I’ll take you into the control room,” he said.

It was kinda painful. The date was not off to a good start, and it was only 4 pm.

He lived in a really Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. He hadn’t voted yet, so we walked to his polling station and I waited upstairs while he voted. I had a hilarious conversation with an old Jewish man about how the New York Times hated Israel.

“You’re not Jewish,” he said.

“I am,” I said. “But not Orthodox.”

The MTA guy and I met back up after he cast his vote. I insisted we buy wine, although he didn’t really drink. We stopped at the only wine store nearby. There were six shelves of wine from Israel, and a few from France and Spain and Italy. If you were wondering whether you can get a kosher Bordeaux, you can.

Ok, so we went back to his apartment. I drank wine, he had a beer. We talked for a while. The returns hadn’t even started yet. While we still thought Hillary would win, we ordered in Mexican food and, upon my insistence, two more bottles of wine.

“So, when was your last relationship?” I asked him.

“A few months ago,” he said.

I found out that he had a series of year long relationships, all a few months apart. He had gotten married at 22 (I haven’t mentioned that he also had a 5-year-old, but that’s mostly because I tried to forget about it) and had basically been in short-ish long-term relationships since then. Clearly, he was the relationship type – he desperately needed to be with someone. He had met his ex-wife, by the way, on Craigslist.

As we all know too well, the night soon became terrifying, as it seemed less and less likely that there would be a Hillary victory. I got really drunk. Also, I really like politics – I was getting into what was going on, and exclaiming excitedly when something good or bad happened.

He was being more and more standoffish. It was pretty obvious to me that something was wrong; that I was getting on his nerves.

“Listen,” I said. “Are you not having a good time?”

“No, everything’s fine,” he said.

“Seriously, if you’re not having a good time, I can go. Just say something.”

“It’s fine.”

Around midnight, I left so he could go to sleep. He had to work the next day, and I wanted to watch the rest of the votes come in. I went downstairs to wait for an Uber, knowing I’d never hear from him again. He didn’t even have the guts to say, “You know what, it’s true, I’m not really having a good time.” He couldn’t say, “You seem lovely, but I’m not sure this is gonna work out.” Instead, he promised everything was fine.

Which was just the last, annoying straw on top of explaining to me how the Subway worked and a boring day, capped off by a Trump victory. I texted him the next day to say, “So, it happened.” He sent back a sad face, and we never spoke again. As went the fate of America that night, so went the fate of my relationship with the MTA employee. I guess I’ll never get to go on a secret hike on the tracks.

 

This lovely gentleman, who matched with me at 22% on OKCupid, sent me a message saying, “I think we have something in common. Do you know what it is?”

I was pretty sure we had nothing at all in common, so I asked him to elaborate. This was our conversation. Enjoy!

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I connected with the ultimate mansplainer on Tinder and called him out, to which he responded, “But I’m a feminist!” Please, just read this for yourself.img_1638img_1639img_1640img_1642img_1643img_1644img_1645

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And then he blocked me, without understanding AT ALL that a) I wasn’t calling him a rapist, b) I never asked him what he thought about me not wanting to be alone with a stranger, and c) if he was really a feminist, he would know he was mansplaining. #UGHMEN

Come on, dude. We clearly have nothing in common. You can’t even pick out one thing from my profile you liked, when prompted.

So I’ll just be rude and dismissive. And clearly you’ll keep messaging until I stop responding. WHY???

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I’ve taken to unleashing my antagonistic tendencies on people who message me on OKCupid who clearly haven’t read my profile or paid any attention to what I have to say, but just liked my pictures.

It’s infuriating, first of all, because we clearly have nothing in common, based on a quick read. Why waste my time and yours? But also, it’s insulting – come on, I’m a whole person. Don’t you want to know anything about me?

I’ve also found that these people seem to think that any attention is good attention – so, I’m mean to them, and dismissive, and even insulting, and they just keep talking. And then try to make jokes and ask me out. Come on, dude. Have some self-respect.

Anyway, here’s one good example:

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The other day, I got a message from a young man.

“Lush bath bombs?!?!” it said.
At first I had no idea where that even came from. I knew there was no chance I had mentioned a brand in my profile. I knew that I definitely hadn’t mentioned bath bombs, because I hate anything with a scent. Baby everything for me – baby shampoo, baby sunscreen, baby lotion – because it’s usually unscented and hypoallergenic.
And then I realized that the first line of my profile reads, “Writer. Book reader. Dog owner. City girl. Lush.”

I feel like that sums me up pretty well. The next part of my profile mentions that someone once told me that I’m “the kind of high maintenance that’s worth it,” so I feel like I’ve given full disclosure right up front.
Anyway.
I had figured it out. That was where the “Lush” comment came from.
“No,” I responded. “That shit is nasty. Hate how they smell.”
“Really,” the gentleman sent back. “So which Lush products do you like??”
Punctuation is accurate in each of those messages, by the way. I’ll mention briefly the excessive use of question marks and exclamation points, and then let it go.
So he had brought up Lush products again. Was he joking? Did he really think that I was summing up my personality by citing a company that makes mediocre scented soaps?
“What?” I said. “Are you serious?”
And then he didn’t respond.
I guess I’ll never know if he was trying to flirt by talking about bath bombs, or if he really thought that Lush was so integral to my life that I mentioned it in the first line of my profile.