the descent

17 Jan

The website you pick says something about you.

Like people, date sites are not created equal. Each one has its own particular idiom, ruled by whatever metaphor the editors have chosen for the masthead., for example, exists in tense and diametric opposition to its sister site Chemistry, its soothing and cerebral blues contrasting sharply with Chemistry’s gonadal, raging reds. A Match account says you’re someone who knows what he wants. Your future is clear and immutable, requiring only a suitable fleshy complement. You’re dialing into the dating machine and ordering your checklisted Stepford spouse. A Chemistry account says you’re ruled by your passions, and you’ve made the urgent, endocrine decision to let math find someone for you. Plentyoffish says you’re taking a claw machine approach. Okcupid means you’re using a shotgun. eHarmony indicates the most artificial of vanilla flavors. Craigslist is for people who like high-stakes roulette.

Knowing these things is imperative before attempting to date online. I did not know them.

I’d spent most of 2006 living in Japan, where I’d moved in order to do a hard reset on my life. My flight back to the States in early 2007 coincided with the beginning of a recession that no one yet knew was happening as well as the implosion of my old company, an event that incinerated any bridges I’d had back east. Five hundred thousand English-teaching gaijin suddenly found themselves stranded with no jobs, no sponsorship, and no prospect of renewing their work visas. A British couple I knew made their local paper for having to sell their clothes to buy a ticket home. There was no way for me to go back even if I’d wanted to.

My friend Jason lived with a couple of other friends, Cory and Molly, and four cats in the left side of a duplex in Columbus. They had an empty room available. Rent was cheap. I moved in.

“Room” is generous. It was a closet with a closet. Previously it had been the home of their friend Tony, who I know only through what he left behind. His futon represented the pinnacle of early aughts fashion. It was a comfortable and austere gray and black affair that folded up into a couch. This feature was something of a necessity, as when it was folded out to its bed size, the floorspace left barely allowed movement. You could take two steps, provided you were creative about where you put your legs. He left a Sgt. Pepper themed afghan which I’ve claimed for my own. Also, he left an unmarked lockbox with a three-digit combination.

Tony had moved out, suddenly and still owing rent, in order to move in with his boyfriend in Marietta. I felt no guilt spending the increasingly worrying and long evenings of my new unemployment brute-forcing the combination on the box. It was crammed full of DVDs. They represented a single genre: sweaty, naked man-on-man. Cory came over to inspect them, which is how I discovered that some of them starred Tony.

“Huh,” I said.

Clearly this portended something, but as with all omens, it was impossible to know what until after the fact. The box was open, there was gay porn inside, and I was still restless, unemployed and single. My bank account still showed my assets to be in the low four figures, so I bought an account on

Next: The first date


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