“I’m glad you’re average-looking.” I stared at the phone for a second, trying to figure out if that’s what he really just said to me. After a long pause I asked, “Excuse me?” “Oh, I don’t mean anything bad by it, I’m just glad you’re average-looking because that’s good for a guy like me who’s also average-looking.” Another awkward pause. “You know what I mean, right? I’m not saying it in a bad way.”
A few weeks before this phone conversation, I had signed up for a free trial weekend that eHarmony had. I figured it would just be a fun, fairly safe way to talk to guys I probably wouldn’tve otherwise met. I cannot stress enough what little stock I had put into this venture. The thought of meeting a guy online has always made me feel a little uneasy but since I was challenging myself to go outside of my comfort zone, I did it anyway. Plus, the internet says that one-third of married couples met online and none of the guys would even know my last name. It was a win on multiple levels. And then he contacted me.
He was seven years older than me, had multiple Masters degrees, and a strong work ethic. We had gone through all the steps of the eHarmony process and were out of the pre-scripted questions and actually able to communicate when the weekend ended. I explained that my time on the website was over (there was no way I was going to pay that much money while I was in the middle of saving for an adventure to Italy) and that if he wanted to keep chatting, he’d need to figure out how to do that. He immediately sent me his number and asked me to call or text him. What followed over the next week or so was something so ridiculous that I’m almost too embarrassed to describe it. You know that feeling when someone goes out of his way to make an effort to pursue you? Where you feel desirable and confident and strong? I didn’t. And even though there were many, many red flags (like the multiple times that he told me that the Lord told him he’d meet his wife this year and he was convinced that God meant me. I reminded him that it was only July, but that didn’t seem to bother him), I was hooked. After a week of sending text messages back and forth, we finally spoke on the phone. Please understand that there are many things I would rather do than talk on the phone, like taking a swim in the ocean with 50 paper cuts or amputating my own arm 127 Hours-style. (Ok, maybe the 127 Hours reference was a bit much.) But he and I had conversations on the phone that lasted hours. Hours. Multiple times a day. Apparently you don’t grow out of the teenage infatuation/addicted stage, even when you’re 29. After a few of these phone calls, we decided that even though he lived a few hours away, he’d drive up to go to dinner that Friday. And even though the tiny voice in my head said to slow down, I didn’t.
On Friday I spent about 90 minutes getting ready. I showered, washed/dried/straightened my hair, and put on my favorite dress. I even wore make up. In short, I made quite an effort. And, as confirmed by Mary via Facetime, I looked good. Only, when I got to the restaurant, it went unnoticed. In fact, he looked disappointed when he saw me. “Okay,” I thought. “He’s probably just nervous.” So I attempted to make conversation, getting only short responses between the moments when he checked out all the girls who passed by. Twice he actually engaged in conversation: once when he explained to me what he would do if he had $1,000,000 (complete with calculations) and once when he explained how there are more options of things to do when you’re boyfriend/girlfriend as opposed to just dating
As I sat looking confused, he explained that once we were boyfriend/girlfriend, we could go on a cruise together. I reminded him of the fact that I’m a virgin and plan to be until I get married. It’s a conversation that we’d had before, and the previous times it was met with understanding and excitement over the idea of waiting and protecting that purity. This time he seemed frustrated and tried to identify loopholes. “Well, we just have to be smart and not get naked in front of each other” and “I could sleep on an air mattress and you could sleep in the bed.” The worst, however, was when he finished that part of the conversation by telling me that I wanted him to sleep in the bed with me and that I “clearly have a wild side.” I probably could’ve handled all of the other awkward moments and just counted it as nervousness but that level of disrespect crosses a line that I can’t ignore.
Mercifully, dinner ended which meant that we were halfway done. We walked next door to Starbucks to play a version of Phase 10 that my friends and I created. Again, he seemed disinterested and annoyed that this is how we were spending our night, though on the phone he was excited. We had decided earlier that whoever won could pick their reward. He won and told me that he wanted to go for a walk. It was 9:00 at night, on one of the main roads in Gainesville, and I was wearing heels. He pondered his options for a minute before asking, “Do you have a Target?”
I love Target. Really, I do. You can ask any child who has ever been in my class before. It is not, however, a place I think one should go on a first date. But since I felt bad about the fact that if we didn’t do something else, he would’ve spent more time in the car driving than on the actual date, we went. He held my hand as we walked up and down the aisles, him stopping occasionally to investigate products like computer paper and car wax, me to try on hats and sunglasses (these actions prompted laughter about “how silly people are when they’re young”). We reached the kitchen products and when I started laughing next to the cast iron skillets, he asked me why. I explained the story of accidentally crushing my big toe and when I finished, he reached to hug me. As he held me close to him and rubbed my back he whispered, “Let’s go look at the knives.”
Inexplicably, I kept walking around the store with him. When we reached the front, he suddenly remembered that he needed to look at something in the back corner of the store, so we made another loop. Once we finally left, he walked me to my car, hugged me a few times and made some vague comments about how next time we’d have more activities to do. I drove home, sat on my bed, and cried for an hour. I cried because he hadn’t thought I looked nice, because he seemed more interested in doing anything else besides being with me, and because I felt like I wasted my first date on this guy. Mostly though, I cried because I was worried that he was the best I could do, and “the best I could do” thought I was only average-looking.
The next morning after I had slept and processed everything, I realized that I hadn’t wasted my first date. Yes, he was probably just as nervous as I was and I should’ve cut him more slack. No, I would not be going out with him again because our fundamentals didn’t line up the way we both seemed to think they did. Mostly though, I realized that I don’t want to be with someone who thinks I’m silly in a bad way, average-looking, and dismisses my morals. I want someone who thinks I’m pretty and wants to help protect my purity. I deserve that. And I’m not going to settle for less.