Online dating seemed like a thing you try when moving to a new city. I figure I'd get a few good stories out of it, maybe boost my confidence. But I never expected much. I am not someone that likes to put a lot of detail in a Facebook profile, let alone a Match.com ad selling myself. But somehow I found myself one day signing up, cropping and uploading my most flattering photos from college and forcing myself to fill out the dreaded "About Me" section. Sacramento was a lonely place and I wasn't going to find a guy at work or on my couch (I worked the graveyard shift and spent a lot of time snoozing.) So I started responding to messages from guys who seemed somewhat attractive and normal. I did not have the courage to actually initiate contact myself. I couldn't handle the online rejection.
I can only count a handful of dates in Sacramento. None of them went beyond the initial first meet-up---not so much because they were bad dates, but mostly because I just didn't put the follow-up effort in. "I work weekends and he lives half-an-hour away in Roseville" was one of my excuses. When I finally got a job in San Francisco, I still kept my previously scheduled online date, mainly because he picked a wine bar I really wanted to try. I had enough fun on the date that I was willing to try it again in my new city, with hopefully an even bigger pool of eligible men.
I only had one more Match date before I met Dave. The guy tried to impress me by ordering bad sake, and admittedly, he was a little short for my taste. Of course, I was still offended when he didn't contact me for a second date. While I was stewing over that, I got a message from Dave. It's easy to categorize the kind of messages you get. The copy and paste kind, the desperate and scary kind. It's rare to get one from someone who seems genuinely interested. That's what caught my eye about Dave and compelled me to respond. Hey, he took enough time to ask specific questions about my job? I couldn't not write back. He was a Biophysics Ph.d candidate, an NPR fan, and didn't own a television. I produce TV news and haven't taken a math or science class in years. But he liked food. And he had the smooth idea of sending me the link to the top 100 Bay Area restaurants. That sealed the deal for a date. He suggested Moroccan...even more intriguing. It was really only a couple of e-mails back and forth before we were agreeing to meet.
The day of the date, I was almost ready to cancel. I had an exhausting night before (I still had single friends who were wanting to go out) and the thought of dragging myself out of bed to meet a stranger sounded like torture. But he seemed nice and the lure of a top 100 restaurant got me there. Parking was a nightmare. I avoided doing valet at first because I saw him standing out front and didn't want to awkwardly meet him that way. Later, I learned he had the same troubles with parking and even worse, worried that I'd see him climbing out of his passenger door (the driver-side door was broken). Once we got past the first awkward introductions, I realized this wouldn't be so bad. Conversation was easy, and we quickly bonded over our mutual like of the show "Castle." Sounds lame, but it's amazing how much comfort something little like that can bring you. He was impressed by my gutsy food choices, like beet sorbet, for dessert. The next thing I knew, I was talking about a place I like to hike and he was asking to hang out tomorrow. This was not a guy that played by the three-day "rule."
He showed up at my door with flowers. I borrowed my roommates' dogs to break the ice. (Turns out, he is not a dog person but liked me anyway.) The dates were fun, but it was hard to tell right off the bat if it could go past the friend zone. The thing about online dating is, you have to work a little harder to see if the chemistry is there. And that can be uncomfortable and confusing. But I realized, every time I was open to another date and gave him a chance, I was happy I did. Date #3 was a surprisingly good first kiss. Date #5 was a meet-the-friends dinner party. I was so worried that I wouldn't fit in, but I couldn't have found a more welcoming group of people who were genuinely interested in meeting me. I got a better sense of the kind of person Dave was through his friends.
We took things slowly. It was little gestures that made me start to see him as a keeper. Bringing me Girl Scout cookies and organic orange juice when I was sick. Planning romantic picnics. Calling instead of texting. Three years later, it is hard to believe I even met him online. When people ask how we met, it's not embarrassing. We usually laugh, because it's like a Match.com testimonial commercial in real life. It's weird to think that something so great could possibly originate on the Internet. I didn't love online dating. I'd warn anyone who tries it that you're probably going to have bad experiences. But all it it takes is one, and it's hard to imagine how different my life would be had I not taken the chance.