Sarah, part 2

02 May

Sarah hadn’t returned a phone call for a week. She hadn’t emailed in that time either.

Here is a rule of internet dating: If you are dumped, however inexplicably, stay dumped. Here is another rule: Everyone you meet, online, in a bar, or wherever, also has rules. These rules are secret, because to reveal them to you would violate their subjective usefulness and integrity. No doubt you also have an intensely private list of these rules.

In aggregate, they become batteries of tests that you can only fail. An interaction (notice I do not say “date”) might happen where you, through blind chance, do not violate one or another of these arbitrary prohibitions, or where the person you are evaluating does not violate one of yours. This is not a victory. It is only a postponement of failure.

I lay on my futon, face-down, my head and shoulders off the side of the bed, my legs propped awkwardly against the wall. My laptop sat on the floor in front of me. Beneath the futon, Greybert swiped at my hands as I typed. The room had begun to smell faintly of cat, but I couldn’t bring myself to kick her out. Her shed fur had begun to accrete into tiny dust bunnies into the corners of the room. Cory and Molly smoked together on the porch; I could hear their voices echoing between the buildings. That meant that I couldn’t watch porn, which is what I really wanted to do, because they’d hear me. Instead I tabbed back and forth between Match and Monster.

These websites have a lot in common. In each of them, you’re trying to bamboozle a stranger into considering you for a long-term relationship based on nothing more than a few pages of text and a photograph, and often quite less than that. I’d decided to get on Monster because I could no longer afford name-brand sauce for my Wonder Bread, and Giant Eagle brand red sauce tastes like it’s made from mice.

I’d decided to get on Match because I wanted Sarah to tell me what happened. Our previous emails and chats, which I’d neurotically scoured for some hint of impropriety, seemed okay enough. We’d even spoken on the phone a few times, and while I couldn’t audit those for asshole behavior, I didn’t think I’d said anything horrifying. My previous experiences had taught me not to reveal anything too far from vanilla too early—regardless, whatever line I might have crossed, it wasn’t the “girls fucking dinosaurs” line. I wanted to know why. I emailed her.

Surprisingly, she responded. Further surprisingly, she revealed one of her secret rules to me. If a potential suitor talked about what they might do on a second date before the first date had occurred, this behavior was interpreted as pushiness, or overeagerness, or whatever, and she cut off all contact. However, sending a suitor images of a stories-tall woman shoving an entire man into her cooter was entirely appropriate.

We decided to reschedule our date.

Like everything else, this was a mistake.


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