01. The Date That Feels Like a Job Interview

The Backstory

I see Taj* on Tinder.

Aside: Yes, I use Tinder now. Isn’t that what young people are doing? I really don’t know how to meet people in this town, so it seems like a good way just to see who the hell is out there. If you have a picture of yourself holding a small dog, I swipe left. If you have pictures of yourself with your kids, I swipe left (good for you, just not for me). If the first picture you show is you shirtless at the gym or flexing in some way, I swipe left. If you only have pictures of your car, I swipe left. If there are major typos in your description, I swipe left. If you cut off all your pictures at the neck so I can’t see your face, I swipe left. I swipe left a lot. If I swipe right and then the first thing you message me is “Hi, beautiful”, I remove you as a match. Give me more than that, please.

Taj’s description makes him seem smart. He hints that he’s a scientist of some sort, either in a Ph.D program or post-doc position. He’s really new to the area and would like to meet people around his age. He’s 28. Some of his pictures are blurry, but all in all, he looks like an okay guy. Plus, the smart scientist-type could be good for me. It’s a complete 180 from my norm. I could use that. I swipe right.

Taj messages me shortly after, asking about where I work. That’s a pretty good first message. We exchange a few messages and learn we work in similar fields in the same small town. We trade numbers and text each other to make plans to meet up on a weekday evening for a drink after work.

The Date

We plan to meet at 6 PM on Tuesday. I’m about to leave my house to head to the bar/restaurant where we’re meeting, when Taj calls me. Calls me! After messaging and texting only, he calls. Bold move.

I say, “Hello?”

He says, “This is Taj.” Yes, Taj, I know that. I have your number in my phone and we’ve been text messaging.

“I’m already here. Got here a little early.” he says.

“Oh! I’m leaving my house right now!” I say.

He says, “No need to rush.”

Then, Taj, if there’s no need to rush, why the hell do you call me to tell me you’re there already. Geez. That makes a girl panic. This girl anyway. Shit! Let me hurry! He’s waiting!

I get there and Taj is standing inside, somewhat awkwardly near the door. The un-awkward thing to do would’ve been to grab a table, or a seat at the bar. But no. I guess not, Taj.

We shake hands, and I pick a table. In a way, he looks like his blurry pictures. I guess I was expecting him to look better in person (see, I’m new at this Tinder thing), but that’s okay because maybe he’s super interesting!

(Turns out, he’s not super interesting.)

We each order a beer and some pub food to share. Then, we each give the brief rundown of where we grew up, went to school, how we got here, what we do for work. Blah, blah, blah. We talk about the weather, beer, food, apartment hunting. We talk about future career goals. We talk about health insurance. We talk about online classes. This is beginning to feel like a job interview.

I mention something about this market in town that makes great in-house roast beef. Then I realize this is a dumb thing to say to a person who grew up in India and I add that they make a great roasted turkey, too. He says that he worries about meeting up with people he discovers online because sometimes their pictures are misleading. Sometimes all you have is a face and then the person turns out to be fat. He uses the word “fat”. This makes me uncomfortable because I realize that means he’s been assessing my body. I obviously pass his “not fat” test, but still. This is not a guy I think of as a sexual being in any way whatsoever. Please don’t think about my body, Taj. Sometimes it looks like he spits a tiny little bit when he talks, but I can’t be sure. This is horribly distracting.

The conversation itself is not all that bad, really. He’s pretty easy to talk to and there aren’t any weird silences. But, we mostly talk about work and this feels like I’m talking to a colleague, not a date. And sometimes he cuts me off. And sometimes he smiles at me in a patronizing way that makes me feel uneasy. He talks about how basically he wants to find a partner here. A wife. He says this is a good area to raise a family. This is true. But. This is also kinda creeping me out, Taj. This is beginning to feel like a future-spouse interview.

We talk for a while. I begin to get antsy and look at the clock on the TV hanging above the bar. It’s 7:30. I start to think about what an appropriate amount of time is to spend with a first date. An hour and half seems about right. But, then I feel kind of bad for this guy because he’s new in town and he’s been talking about how he doesn’t know a lot of people and is easily bored at home. I decide to stick it out a while longer.

By 8:00, I’m done. I tell Taj I need to get going home. I offer to split the tab. Taj declines and pays for the whole thing. He says he’s hosting dinner at his house for a few people next weekend and wonders if I want to come. I kind of do want to come, but, only to meet other people. Ha! This is probably a terrible idea. But, I say, “Yes, I’d like to go, so text me the details.” He walks me to my car and stands awkwardly next to me as I open the door. I have no idea how to end this date. A handshake, I think. That would be good.

Taj goes for a hug. I hug back, uncomfortably.

At least it wasn’t a kiss.

The Assessment

How do I rate this date?
On a scale from 1 (I’d rather be in hell, literally) to 10 (fuck me now!), I say 3. But, this is my first date in 7 years, so maybe I’m being harsh. We shall see…

The Epilogue

Taj sent me a text on Thursday asking if I have plans for Saturday. It’s Saturday and I still haven’t replied. Does this make me a bad person? I don’t know. I think this is how dating works now.

* Names have been changed, of course, to protect the innocent.

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For other pieces in this Publication, check out https://medium.com/navigating-the-sea-of-singledom

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