In February of 2008 I met a guy at a reggae show. We partied and rocked out all night, and soon after we were dating. Though I remained the booze-loving, head-banging bartender that he’d met at the show, he was actually a polo-wearing therapist who sometimes threw on jeans to go out on the weekend. It turns out that bartenders and therapists specializing in substance abuse and alcohol dependency shouldn’t date each other. By September he’d realized that I was an unleashable girl, and he dumped me.
A month later I joined Match.com.
I had never thought that online dating would be my thing, but I was so let down by how perfect-party-boy by night could turn into preppy-therapist-guy in the daytime. No more meeting guys in bars, I thought. I’ll exchange emails to get to know someone a little, then we’ll meet.
For the next two months I had swapped countless emails with various men from the Milwaukee area. I’d been on several dates too. They were sometimes fun, and they were always entertaining, even when they were bad. I’d met a racist dude named Wolfgang (ew) who posted blurry pictures of himself for a reason. I’d also gone out on a date on November 2nd, when Obama became president. Milwaukee was a night of cheers and shots that night, and after three bars, I was slightly buzzed and my date was puking.
I’d finally met someone who I was interested in. He was a nurse who was far too pretty for me. Emails turned into frequent flirty texts, and after looking at his beautiful face in photograph form for the thousandth time, I couldn’t wait to really meet him.
The night before our date, he texted me and cancelled.
I was let down, obviously. But the lovely thing about online dating is there are always other men trying to take you out. Steve85 sent me a text thirty minutes later. We should go out soon. Do you have plans tomorrow? It said.
Well, I thought sulkily, the spot just opened up…
The following night he picked me up at 6:00, which I’d thought was too early for a date, but I knew my crazy night schedule was different from normal people. I put on first-date clothes, mixing casual with sass, slid on some black boots and ran out the door.
I sat in his car and said hello. I buckled up and noticed that his legs were tiny. He’d been shirtless is online pictures to show off his abs, but I think he’d avoided full body shots for a reason.
We began some first-date chit chat.
“Thanks for picking me up. Do you live near the East Side?” I asked.
“No. We lived in Franklin but now we’re living in West Allis.”
“We? You and a roommate?”
“Me and my mom,” he said. Ew. Lives at home with mommy. Strike one.
“Ah okay. Not too far from here then,” I continued. “Do you work in ‘Stallis? ”
“I work at the airport,” he said.
As a traveling addict, I was already imagining the perks of that job. “Awesome! What do you do there? On your web page I thought it said you work for the government?”
“Yeah, it’s a government job. I’m airport security.”
“Oh really? How do you get into that? Do you have to go to like, police academy or something?”
“No, I just walked in and applied.”
I nodded, biting my lip. So, you’re a rent-a-cop, I thought. Just then he shifted around in his seat and pulled something from his back pocket. He handed it to me. “What’s this?” I asked.
“My badge,” he said proudly.
Your badge that you got through the hard work of filling out an application, I thought.
We’d reached the restaurant that he’d chosen. To me it was an odd choice for a first date, but I’d figured if he was paying, he could pick. “I love the Cheesecake Factory,” he told me. “I actually ate here today for lunch.”
Weird. I thought, wishing he hadn’t told me that. We climbed out of his car and walked to the restaurant. As my boots crunched across the thin layer of snow, I began wishing I’d worn different footwear. I could practically see over his head. The two-inch heel raised my height to a towering 5 foot 6. This guy really was tiny.
Once we were at our table, we began looking at the drink list. “Do you like wine?” I asked, thinking we could split a bottle.
“Not really. I’m into beer.”
“Me too!” I said. I was working in a Belgian beer bar, and was at the peak of my own personal journey in beer snobbery. “What kind of beer do you like?”
Maybe this date had a chance of not sucking after all. “Me too!” I said again. “I actually work with a lot of imports. I bet I’ve tried whatever you’re into. What do you drink?” I crossed my fingers hoping to hear ‘La Fin Du Monde,’ or ‘Grimbergen.’
“You know,” he said, shrugging. “Heineken and Corona. My normal drink is Miller Light though.”
“Oh.” Strike two.
He ordered his Mexican-piss import, I ordered vodka. We both ordered food.
Our waitress was an ex-roommate of one of my friends, and I’d also bumped into a couple that I was friends with and their son. I felt slightly ashamed having people I knew see me. They’d caught me on a pretty-blind date. It was awkward introducing them to Steve85.
“Sorry,” I told him after my friends and their baby’s stroller rounded the corner away from us. “I’m truly a Milwaukee girl I guess. It’s such a big small-town, and I’m always running into people I know. I don’t even come to this part of town either.”
“How about you, where do you go out to drink? Like, bars in West Allis, or do you drive downtown or something?”
“Well, I mostly hang out with my cousin and he’s 19, so we just drink at home.”
Perfect. The rent-a-cop drinks Miller Lite at home with his mom and cousin. As snobby as I felt, it seemed almost impossible not to judge this guy.
We had finished dinner and made it back to the car by 7:30. I knew the date had started too early. “So, do you have an early morning tomorrow?” I asked, hoping that he’d need to go home and I could go out with my friends and enjoy the remainder of my Wednesday night.
“Nope,” he said. “I don’t work ‘til noon.”
He drove slowly and aimlessly in the general direction of my side of town. “Well,” I said, “how about we stop at a bar with real imports and you can try something besides Heineken.”
I directed him to my bar’s sister bar. We sat by the tappers, and various friends walked over to say hi to me, meet Steve85, and give me quizzical looks as they walked away.
I shrugged it off, trying to make the best of this night, and opened the beer book. “So, do you like sweet beers? Hoppy beers? Or what?”
“Um,” he looked lost. “I really just drink Miller Lite or Corona or Heineken.”
“Okay, leave it to me.” I ordered a sampler flight and selected four tap beers. I told him about fermentation and lagers and ales and lambics. We finished the beers and I paid the $15 bill. I was a modern woman after all. If he bought me dinner, and I bought him shmancy beer, I didn’t owe him any kind of goodnight kiss.
I slipped my wallet back in my purse and looked at my watch. 8:15. Still early.
“What do you want to do now,” he asked.
“Uh, well… one of my jobs is at the place across the street. It’s just a neighborhood pub. Maybe we could go there for a beer and play a game of cribbage. Do you like cribbage?”
“What is it?”
I smiled. “I’ll teach you. Come on.”
Steve85 and I sat at the bar among my friends, customers, and coworkers. I’d given up trying to hide him. He could spend one night riding the coattails of my life. We ordered drinks and opened the cribbage board. I taught him how to play, and we made it through two games before giving up on adding numbers in a bar full of fun drunks.
“Charles,” I said to the bartender, “let’s play bar dice!”
He nodded and pulled out a cup and five dice. I’d already assumed that Steve85 wouldn’t know how to play, and I was right. I explained the rules to him, and we started rolling. He lost the first game, which meant the round of shots were on him. I lost the second round. We quit playing, and Charles poured us shots on him just because. I love this city, I thought as I dumped Jameson down my throat.
Just then, Steve85 tugged lightly on one of my dreadlocks. I spun, and looked into his face. He was smiling like a cheeseball. Uh oh. He shifted his tiny knee so it brushed up against my leg. Really uh oh. While I’d been trying to pass the time until an appropriate date-ending hour, he’d been having the time of his life.
It was finally after 11:00. I faked a yawn. “Well, I think I’m about ready to head out. I have a lot of errands to do tomorrow,” I said.
“Yeah, okay,” he agreed.
“Hey Charles, can we get our tab and a water?” I asked.
I slid the water to Steve85. I wasn’t drunk but I’d learned to not assume that everyone had my tolerance. And he was driving.
Charles printed our tab and folded it in half. He set it on the bar between us. We both looked at it for a minute. I slowly opened my purse, thinking I could tip cash if he would pay the bill. As soon as Steve saw my hand on my wallet, he said, “Thanks. I’ll get the drinks next time.”
Strike three, loser. Like there’s gonna be a next time.
I paid the $50 and we left. I directed him to my house, and let him drive past my apartment by a block. “Oh! We just passed it,” I said.
“I can turn around…”
“No, it’s a one way street,” I told him. I didn’t want to give him a chance to park or turn off his car. “This is fine. I just live right back there.”
He put the car into park but left the engine running. I grabbed my leftover pasta from the floor and mumbled a thank-you-for-the-food. Then I shifted in my seat to unbuckle, and realized he’d slipped his arm over my shoulders. He was practically nose to nose with me.
Feeling trapped I squeezed my lips into peck-position. He pressed his mouth onto mine. As he did it, I heard a little rumbling sound and felt a tuft of air enter my mouth from his.
I pulled away. “What was that?”
“Oh, I think I have the hiccups.”
“Thatsucksbye!” I said. I opened my door and ran out. DID THAT MOTHERFUCKING GUY JUST HICCUP IN MY MOUTH!!! I ran to my bathroom and started scrubbing my teeth and tongue. I had a horrible thought. What if it wasn’t a hiccup… what if it was a burp! Oh God how gross…
The next day I got a text from him. Hey, what’s up.
I didn’t reply.
The following day he texted me again. So, I’m guessing you’re not interested.
What a sleuth. I sent him a message. Sorry, I’m kind of just dating around right now.
That’s cool. I had fun with you but I really didn’t like your dreadlocks.
I laughed when I read it. Flashing back on the cheesy grin he wore when he tugged on my hair, I wondered if this was like a “you can’t fire me, I quit” for the dating world.
I stayed on Match.com for about two more weeks. The pretty boy rescheduled our date, but turned out to be as dumb as he was gorgeous.
I decided to give up on online dating and go back to meeting guys in bars.
(written in 2011)