First the lesson: We all must trust our instincts and stop giving people the benefit of the doubt all the time, at least when it comes to internet dating. With an internet dating profile, people choose the photos and the words they use, and there are no family members or people from high school to call them on any lies. Anyway, they way someone seems in a dating profile is either (1) who they really are, or (2) a carefully crafted image of who they wish they were. Either way, if you see something that you don’t like or think is fishy, trust that the thing will show itself eventually when you meet your suitor in person.
Now for the story of how I learned my lesson the hard way: I signed up for an activity-based internet dating service. Before you berate me for trying AGAIN to meet quality men online, I’m looking for volume to kick my dating muscles back into gear, but also my internet dating methods have changed, hence I’m looking for casual dates over mutually enjoyable activities instead of endless coffee and cocktail meetings. So, one day I come across a guy who wants to go dancing at LPR, one of my favorite spots, and I check him out. He has a master’s degree, he’s tall, answered the little dating questions with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, and also professed to love dancing. I think, cool, someone to dance with is great since you can tell a lot about a man by the way he moves on the dancefloor. Also, I like his taste in locations and music, so I figure the venue will save the date from being dreadful. Oh, how wrong I was…
My date – let’s call him Eggbert, though his real name is equally dorky – corresponded with me in appropriate fashion as we made plans to meet up at 10PM on a Saturday night. I though it was going to be cool, except for the fact that dude’s photo was a little weird. It’s not as if he was funny-looking, but he was looking away from the camera and kinda dazing into space in the picture. Later, my friend Lainie would ask, “maybe he was staring into space searching for his personality?” But I’m getting ahead of myself. . . Anyway, Eggbert’s pic looked like a candid, and not everyone has a pile of headshots to put on www.datemeplease.com, so I let it go. On the Saturday morning, I decided that I didn’t want to go through with the date. Everyone I know talked me out of it, and I let them because I thought it was fear, nervousness about meeting new men and the prospect of starting a relationship. Regretfully, I threaded my eyebrows, put on makeup and washed my hair to prepare for meeting Eggbert.
Now, I’m gonna say that I had less-than-no expectations for this date, other than a bit of conversation and some dancing. However, as my high school math teacher used to say, “I expect so little of you, and I get so little in return.” I’m going to start raising my expectations. When Eggbert arrived, 15 minutes after I started shivering on a NYC sidewalk, I was grateful that he didn’t stand me up. I left the gratitude in the street. He stood next to me and shook my hand, never once making eye contact or turning towards me. I was completely thrown off and couldn’t figure out what to say, so I tried talking about the weather. No response. The bouncer then came out and announced that admission was open for our event. Eggbert bounded past me – wordlessly – and walked to the door. I shook my head and followed, where I gave my name for the reservations and walked downstairs for the coat check. In a crowded club with loud music, I’m not expecting a long dissertation on Chaucer, but I at least expect my date to verbally acknowledge that I’m actually there. Apparently he hadn’t gotten that memo, because he left me at the coat check and turned to go to the bar. He didn’t even say, “hey Dog, want a drink?” At that point in the evening I began writing this blog post, or my stand-up comedy routine, in my head and wondering how I’d ended up in such an odd situation.
The first place my brain went, while my body followed Eggbert to the dance floor (after he unceremoniously chugged a glass of wine like it was post-game Gatorade), was rejection and negativity: Why doesn’t he like me? Am I too fat? Doesn’t he think I’m pretty? Why isn’t he talking to me? Then my self-hate went abysmal: If this dorky misfit who can’t dance doesn’t like me, who else is going to? What if I tell men that I have bipolar, who will like me then? Am I going to be alone, or going on bad dates for the rest of my life? When I yanked myself away from unnecessary panic, I had a realization: I should worry less about why Eggbert doesn’t like me and think about whether I like him and want to stick around for the rest of the crappy date. I’m infinitely lovable: even if I could stand to lose 40 lbs, I’m funny and smart and witty and successful, and anyone who’d take the time to know me would like me, plenty of people do. I looked at the Herman Munster-like, arrhythmic movements of a date who claimed to love dancing and music yet didn’t look like he was capable of having a good time anywhere. Then I looked at the intense enjoyment radiating from everyone else in the room and resolved, “Bump this, I’m so out of here!”
By the “believe as I do, not as I say” rule of internet dating, I could have realized from the socially-awkward looking pose in Eggbert’s profile picture that he was, in fact, socially awkward in person. If he wasn’t, he would have added another photo taken from a different angle, one that showed some emotion or at least a direct look at the camera. Nope, Eggbert showcased his true self in that profile, and his true, non-emotional, barely talking, staring-into-space self showed up on our date.
Upon sharing the story of “The Date Who Stared Into Space,” my roommate opined that he might suffer from Aspberger’s syndrome. In case you don’t click through, Aspberger’s is a developmental disorder characterized by awkward social interaction and inability to process or exhibit social cues and emotions. Sounds like Eggbert. If that’s the case, I realize how hard it must be to endure a date when you don’t really understand what’s happening. Then again, maybe people with Aspberger’s don’t register “bad date” because they can’t process that the other person is having a bad time. Either way, I’d like to give Eggbert a little piece of advice: if you’re a touch autistic, it’s probably better to tell people so they know what to expect.
I can already hear you calling me a hypocrite because I don’t tell people I just met that I have bipolar, and thinking I’m a hypocrite because I want other people to dash their hopes of dating because of a disease they can’t control. Let me ask this: if you were blind, would you suggest seeing a movie on a first date? If you couldn’t, would you make plans to Rollerblade with someone? If you were celibate, would you suggest meeting at a sex club? No, because the content of the date would reasonably set up the expectation of taking part in an activity that you couldn’t do. You’d have to say, “look, I can’t get up the stairs of that restaurant in my wheelchair, let’s pick another place.” So if you can’t socialize in a way that some people might find acceptable, you should prepare a date for that so they don’t think you’re an asshole, or they don’t think they’ve done something wrong.
Also, you can’t see bipolar in the same way that you can see Aspberger’s, or at least it’s not readily evident when you first meet someone, so there’s no big surprise when I see a man in person that I’ve “met” on the internet: what you’ve seen is what you’ll get. Even my Twitter followers who meet me in person say, you’re the same in person as you are online, and that’s all I’m asking for the internet lurkers out there, trying to take us out for a date. Be yourself, present yourself as you are, and someone who wants to be with the person that you really are will find you eventually. In the meantime, just prepare me for what I’m gonna get.
Stay tuned to this blog for the next installment of Dating While Bipolar: reading between the 1′s and 0′s.