Computer user Gabriella Gershenson tries online dating but soon finds that things aren't what they seem in the digital age.
All I'd encountered on online dating services were guys bracing themselves for rejection. By the time I would scroll down to the "why you want to meet me" section of a profile, the tone, which was usually "forced/casual", "forced/real" or "forced/flippant," would turn into
This "get to know me or don't, I don't really care!" stance reminded me of the moment in every Brady Bunch episode when one of the kids shouts something like "I hate you, I hate you!" and runs up the stairs.
After clicking through countless entries from the immature set, one
comparatively chill candidate stood out. Let's call him "Felix."
Felix had a great photo-heavy eyelids, plump lips, an intelligent gaze. So I wrote to him. We started with a promising correspondence, followed by a phone call that had us finishing each other's sentences by the end.
The next night, we met at a bar. Nervous, I stopped at a deli on my way over and studied myself in one of those convex mirrors — okay, all systems were go. The block and a half between the deli and the bar was pure anticipation. These meetings are nothing less than nerve-wracking.
I'd done this online dating thing once before, with poor results. I dreaded repeating the last experience in which my intended turned out to be a scrawny kid, hardly recognizable from his picture.
I entered the bar. It smelled of stale smoke and was practically empty. I saw someone looking at me, and before I understood that it was Felix we were shaking hands. I had a smile glued to my face to hide my dismay. Who was this guy? My Felix had hair on his head, was thirty pounds lighter, wasn't so pasty. He was even handsome.
The real world Felix looked like the sorry bachelor uncle of the Felix of my imagination, the one who spends all of his time on the Internet pretending he's someone else.
Felix bought me a drink. I went to pains to maintain body language that was neither encouraging nor repellant. I wanted to be a diplomatic date. Felix was a sad sort, but he wasn't stupid. He would stare at his paunch between sips of beer, and I thought in those moments that he too was sizing up the situation.
About 40 minutes into the date, Felix blurted without warning, "I'm taking off." It was an awkward outburst, poorly timed and borderline rude. I bristled. I got up and he followed me, shuffling, to the door. In a pointless act of chivalry, Felix took a step ahead of me pushed on the door.
Nothing happened. He let out a mirthless giggle, then pulled. It was
like one of those Gary Larson cartoons, except it wasn't funny — just painfully appropriate.
As soon as we got outside, I strode toward the other side of the street and threw a comment over my shoulder -- "Thanks, nice to meet you," then turned his way. I hadn't realized how fast I'd been walking, but I was already twenty feet from away the guy.
Felix was still standing on the sidewalk, his hands pushed into his pockets. He looked so pear-shaped and small. It was just too sad. I decided that I'd never do this again.
By Gabriella Gershenson
Used by permission.
Email Gabriella Gershenson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.