Butterflies: This is How it Starts…

I have a date in two hours. So, I look considerably nicer than I usually look at work, and I’m starting to get a little bit nervous.

It’s an internet date. That means there’s a 98.9% chance that there’s absolutely nothing to be nervous about—since that is the likelihood that it will turn out to be lame.  If you haven’t experienced the joys of internet dating, you probably think that sounds very cynical. If you have done any online dating yourself, you’re thinking, only 98.9%?  Get real, Pollyanna.

Here’s how it works. You sign up for a dating web site, attempt to encapsulate your dazzling personality into a one-or-two-paragraph description of yourself, and post a couple photos. (Taking the photos is a whole ‘nother blog post. Actually it’s a whole ‘nother blog. If I was a mean person, I would start a blog that just shows horrible dating web site photos with snarky captions. It would be hilarious, but it would also be really mean. Some of us online daters are woefully vulnerable.)

You also have to classify yourself into a number of searchable categories. My favorite field is always the “body type” field. You have to check a box to categorize yourself as “Athletic and Toned” or “Curvy” or “Skinny” or “Full-figured”.   I need a 150-character text field, not a check box. My category is, “I’m-overweight-but-I-still-have-a-waist-and-some-people-still-think-I’m-hot, goddammit!” There’s never a check box for that.

Anyway, you set up this profile, which is a demoralizing undertaking in itself, and then you start searching through profiles to find someone who suits you. More accurately, someone whose representation of himself suits to you.

If by some magic you find an appealing profile, and the owner of said profile also finds yours appealing, then you start trading emails. If no apparent psychoses* manifest, you trade phone numbers and begin texting or talking on the phone. Another crazy-check ensues, and if both parties pass that test, you find yourself in the place I am in right now.

*I originally used the word neuroses, but I looked it up first and discovered that by definition, I may actually be neurotic. If you’re delusional or hallucinating or REALLY wacked out, that’s psychotic. So that’s where I (and other neurotics, apparently) draw the line.

For me, no matter how many lousy internet dates I’ve been on—and that’s a lot—there are butterflies at this phase. I have a little argument with myself every time, a heated debate between my internal romantic and my jaded alter ego.

ROMANTIC: I’m so excited!  I think I’ll wear my new blouse and these cute, girly heels.

JADED: Aren’t you trying awfully hard?

ROMANTIC: It’s a date! You wear pretty shoes on a date.

JADED: It’s an internet date. You’re going to know within five minutes that you want to leave, but you’ll be too polite to do it, so you’ll sit there awkwardly until courtesy permits you to excuse yourself. At least you could be comfortable.

ROMANTIC: You don’t know that! This one sounds funny and smart!

JADED: So did the last one. Remember those tight sweatpants he wore?

ROMANTIC: You have a point. But I’m still wearing the shoes. And the sparkly earrings, too.

(For the record, this is just normal talking-to-myself behavior. It’s not an actual hallucination. That would be psychotic.)

Both imaginary parties in the above conversation are correct.

Yes, the last guy seemed funny and smart—in fact he was funny and smart, and very nice—but he just wasn’t for me. At all.  That happens frequently; they seem great but the connection just isn’t there. Or if I’m interested, they’re not.  (I can’t imagine why, but it happens.) Internet dating is a numbers game. I once heard that dating is the process of ruling out the bad ones. Chances are, today I’m going to rule out someone else.

But what if I’m not? What if he really is wonderful? What if all that smart and funny I’m getting over the interwebs shows up in the form of an attractive, available guy? That happens, too. Less often, and not to me, yet—but it has happened for other women. I have met actual, real live men who were actually found via the internet who turned out to be actual nice boyfriends.

It reminds me of the DMV. (Just work with me. There’s a correlation here.) When I go to the DMV, I see all the government employees sitting behind the counter. They deal with a bazillion people every day. They probably meet a lot of dummies, and whiners, and excuse-makers, and people who don’t read the directions—all manner of irritating folk. By the time they get to me–a charming, pleasant, well-intentioned direction-follower—most of them treat me like I’m another idiot. They don’t bother to notice that I’m exceptional. They’re rude out of habit. They’ve been conditioned.

I don’t want to be like a DMV worker. Yes, I have dated all manner of irritating menfolk. But this guy that I’m meeting today just might be exceptional.  I can’t become conditioned to think, oh great, here comes another dud. I can’t just wear my frumpy mom-shoes because whatever, he’ll probably wear sweatpants anyway. Every guy I meet—every person, actually; this works for all human interaction—is separate from and not responsible for the behavior of the one before him. Some conditioning is inevitable (that’s why you meet in public places!) but I still have to open myself up to a good experience and not let the bad experiences dictate my responses.

Even if I’m disappointed two hours from now, I will wear the cute shoes and the sparkly earrings and show up ready for an exception.  I have to feel the butterflies and do it anyway.

I’ll keep you posted.