My date with David4816
How I met the man of my dreams on the Internet—and then woke up
I had more butterflies in my stomach than the exhibit at Turtle Bay. After two months of online chatting and marathon phone conversations, I was finally meeting the man of my dreams face to face. I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. We had conversational chemistry, but being together in person would add a new yet necessary dimension to our relationship. Will I like him? Will he like me? Will we click?
We had ‘met” just eight weeks before on an online Internet dating site called udate.com, a computer matching service that pairs people up according to their self-described personalities, interests and desired criteria for a mate. Not only do clients get to choose what type of person they want physically (height, weight, facial hair, etc.), they also get to decide on what other characteristics they are looking for in a mate.
After all, when you get to pick how much your potential love interest likes gardening, housekeeping, going to raves and eating at McDonald’s, or how many tattoos and body piercings he or she has and the extent to which he or she takes drugs, you are sure to find your match made in heaven. Right?
I thought back to that glorious, fate-filled night, when my fellow e-lationship seeker and next-door neighbor, XuberantGal (a.k.a. Vicki), and I had signed on to udate. Discouraged over our past two years in the college-age-dominated dating scene, where men our age are either married or in some other way unavailable, we had finally concluded that we would just have to broaden our romantic horizons. After all, with all the conveniences of modern technology, why limit ourselves to the bar scene and lascivious trips to Barnes & Noble?
An initial free trial membership gave me the opportunity to create a screen name (SassyChicoGrl), enter my criteria and establish my own profile. I was immediately matched with several men from all over the world, all of whom met my qualifications for a mate. The accompanying photos portrayed good-looking men in their mid to late 30s. But, my attention was immediately drawn to my No. 1 match, David4816. A quick AOL Instant Message to XuberantGal relayed my enthusiasm: ‘I’m in love! I’m joining!” The cost, $24.95, seemed like a bargain to hook me up with my destiny.
David and I hit it off right away. We talked for four hours online the first night and just about every night from then on. We discussed everything from careers to children, politics to religion, past relationships to how we take our coffee. We were both solidly positioned as each other’s No. 1 match on the site and were convinced that it was true. Our udate connection led to exchanges of outside email, AOL IMing, phone calls and snail mail letters and cards. And now, finally, this. Our first real meeting.
While waiting impatiently through the torturous countdown until that new black Mustang convertible would pull up outside my window with my handsome new date behind the wheel, I busied myself by pacing a trench in the floor and by making several jittery phone calls to X.
Finally, the phone rang. It was David. He had just pulled into the driveway of my apartment complex and wanted directions on how to find my place. I peeked out the window. I watched the ‘stang round the corner and guided him into a visitor space. More butterflies. He parked, told me he’d be right there, and we hung up.
My very first date with David4816 was about to begin … and was scheduled to last three days! Am I crazy? What if we don’t like each other? What if we do?! God, I’m not ready for this.
In through the nose; out through the mouth. One last calming deep breath and quick look in the mirror, and I was out the door and down the stairs. As we approached each other, I heard that deep, sexy voice that I was so used to hearing every night on the phone: ‘Hi!” I instantly felt better. A few more steps and there we stood, face to face. I was seeing David4816 in the flesh for the very first time.
‘Hi!” I said back and gave him a friendly hug. He pulled a bouquet of half-hidden flowers from behind his back.
‘These are for you,” he said with a grin.
Two points for David! Wow! He IS wonderful!!
We tracked up the stairs to my place and found a vase for the flowers as we discussed his long drive and our plans for the evening.
I was excited, but after only a few minutes together I started to sense that something was wrong. David appeared to be a bit more on the serious side than I remembered. He seemed conservative, maybe even dull. This was going to be the beginning of something grand.
Our first stop was the Sierra Nevada Taproom, where we had beer (duh!) and quesadillas … steak instead of the menu-standard chicken, at David’s, um, ‘request.” This is where I really started to notice that maybe things weren’t in reality what they were in e-ality. Menu change requests—no, demands—I can handle. But the longing gazes in the mirror instead of into my eyes made me wonder.
That’s OK, I told myself. He’s just making sure he looks good. He wouldn’t want to be embarrassed by having a piece of cheese stuck in his teeth. He’s not conceited. He’s conscientious. We are meant for each other, dammit! He is the same wonderful, witty, charming guy I’ve known for the past eight weeks. Everything will be just fine.
I may well have believed all of that if I hadn’t sat through three days of his instructions on how to deal with my ex-husband, avoid a hangover, lower my PG&E bill and properly care for houseplants. I might have fallen head over heals in love if I didn’t have to listen to a very long and boring lecture detailing the holes in the theories of the ‘so-called” depletion of the ozone layer or if I wasn’t sternly instructed to get my foot off the dash. ‘This is a $30,000 car. Do you have $30,000?”
Let me write you a check, Professor.
Needless to say, there was no love connection between me and David4816. No chemistry at all. But why? What happened? We were a top-ranking match! We were supposed to click! Was it the age difference? He’s 40; I’m 31.
Looking back now, I don’t believe the lack of chemistry was our biggest obstacle. I think it had to do with the covertness that is inherent in getting to know someone via technology. Relying on emails and phone calls leads to an unusual amount of self-exposure. The computer screen and the telephone handset can act as safety barriers, allowing for a freedom of expression that may not otherwise be shared in a face-to-face meeting. It is common for people online to be more forward, direct and revealing. ‘It gives you the courage to be bold,” as one fellow udater put it.
But this freedom to be yourself is dangerous. After you have ‘let down your wall” and been brutally self-revealing, you realize that you have made yourself (gasp!) vulnerable. When the time comes to meet in person, you are in an awkward situation. You are just meeting, yet you know each other on a very intimate level. This can cause a tremendous amount of emotional confusion. I know there are people who can handle this transition with grace and style. I am not one of them. And neither is David4816.
My high hopes of finding someone online? They have been lowered significantly. OK, I’ll be honest: They’re gone. But since my membership on udate has not yet expired, I can’t remove my screen name or profile from the site. I did, however, delete my picture and change my profile. I am now a 5-foot-tall, 240-pound, tattoo-bedecked bisexual Bulgarian mud wrestler with a three-day beard. Sassy? How about Scary? If that doesn’t say ‘so long udate," I don’t know what does.