Good People and Bad Dates

Posted on August 3, 2010


I knew I should not have gone on this date.  I knew it when we set it up last week, and I knew it with growing certainty all day today.

But I believe that dating is a numbers game, and that people–myself included–don’t necessarily know what they actually do and don’t like in a partner.  Even a bad picture isn’t an automatic deal-breaker; while I definitely have a certain physical type to which I’m drawn, I’ve crushed on tons of guys who don’t resemble it at all because they were funny, or quirky, or–va va voom–played guitar.  I am very adept at finding men attractive because of who they are no matter what they look like.

There are only a few things that will stop me from meeting someone for a drink if they meet baseline intelligence, humor, and sanity requirements:

1.  They have that corn-fed, white boy, country music and NASCAR thing going on.
2.  They remind me in any way, shape, or form of my father or stepfather (daddy issues alert!).
3.  Creepy married vibe.
4.  More than 1 inch shorter than me.
5.  Too much dirty or suggestive talk too early.

Even if I don’t have the highest hopes going into something, I figure, what’s the worst that can happen, short of being dismembered and dumped in an alley?  Maybe they won’t like me, but I can hack it.  Maybe we won’t like each other, and all we’ve squandered is the price of a beer.  Maybe I won’t like him, so I’ll beg off early.  I can chat my way through an hour at a bar under even the most trying circumstances, and no one has run away from me screaming in horror yet.

But this is when I remember that beyond the logistical challenges of finding people and meeting them and having the pieces fall into place to maybe meet again, dating is an emotional game.  I don’t put myself out there much, emotionally, so while I am frequently disappointed by the general douchebaggery of people that I date and their flaky ways, I am seldom truly hurt.

In a way, I’m like the Statue of Liberty.  I’m tall, for starters, and the homeless,  tempest-tossed, huddled masses yearning to breathe free find me to be something of a beacon.  In other words, sad and lonely people like me, and if I make the slightest connection with them, the empathy I feel can be crippling.  My friend Montana has a fucked-up friend who is homeless and adrift right now, and I have taken great pains to avoid meeting him because I’m afraid I would accidentally ask him to move in with me and start doing his laundry and cooking him dinner.   It’s one part midwestern wholesomeness and several parts savior complex, all wrapped up in the idea that I’m paying into some karma bank against future personal misfortune.

I don’t ever want to hurt your feelings, ever.  It kills me.

Which is why tonight’s date was especially trying.  I knew instantly upon seeing this guy that my instincts had been correct: I shouldn’t have gone on this date.  He was painfully awkward, and not attractive (to me) in the slightest.  And of course, he loved me.  The sad and lonely ones can’t resist.  A smart guy, and nice enough, but I spent the entire time dodging suggestions that we see this exhibit or that movie, and deflecting compliments.  The whole thing gave me a stomach ache and a terrible feeling in the pit of my soul.  I would really, truly, 100% rather be the one who is rejected than the one who has to do the rejecting.

Though I’d prefer that we just agree to like each other, or not, or just be friends, or not.  Actually, I’m starting to think I might prefer a sperm bank and a powerful vibrator.

Sometimes a bad date with a good person can make me feel like a terrible asshole.