The Valentine’s Day I wanted to stab a guy with a plastic fork

If you’re just here for the free goods the contest, scroll to the bottom. You totally don’t need to read my tale of woe to enter. You just need to have your own. 

First off, if you missed the post about  my trip to the firehouse, keep reading past this one. (If you want. That’s not really a command. I just posted it late in the day on a Sunday, so it was outside my regular schedule.)

Ha! I just said “regular schedule.”

Anyway.

I’m going to stretch the memory banks for this one, guys, because it was over ten years ago, and my description of the guy might be an amalgamation of several random guys from my early twenties.

But you won’t know the difference, so here we go.

So imagine Valentine’s Day 1999. I was single, young, a free spirit. Just like everyone else who was single on Valentine’s Day, I was not exactly feeling the love, if you catch my drift. So I did my two favorite things, alone.

I went to the movies, and afterward, I went to the bookstore.

There used to be this huge Borders bookstore in Towson, just north of Baltimore, and boy, that place was my stomping ground in the years following high school. It was three stories high, full of books and couches and even a cafe on the top floor.

So I found my book, and I went up to the cafe to have a coffee and a snack.

I’m sitting at the table, reading my book, eating, pretty content really. Yeah, I was single on Valentine’s Day, but life didn’t suck. It was okay.

Then a guy stopped by the table and said, “May I join you?”

I tend to remember things like they happened in a movie.  Kind of like: His hand would fall on the edge of the table, and I would look up slowly from my book to find this movie-star cute boy standing there, all blue eyes and dark hair (yeah, I have a type). End scene.

Now, in reality, he wasn’t movie-star cute. He was okay. I remember he had long hair (Hey, it was the nineties. Thank the grunge movement for that.), and a nice smile, and I think he was wearing glasses. I was just so startled that a guy was asking if he could join me. It’s not like there weren’t a dozen empty tables around. Bookstores aren’t what you’d call “hopping” on Valentine’s Day.

But I told him yes, he could sit down, and he did. Then he struck up a conversation.

Now I don’t remember everything we talked about. Our books, I’m sure. I think he was reading something completely outside my wheel house, like a biography or a book on migrant farmers or maybe something by John Steinbeck.

I do remember that he led of with a statement like, “I saw you were alone on Valentine’s Day, and I am too, and nobody should be alone on Valentine’s Day.”

I ate it up. Come on. You would too.

I remember he was in school, and very kind, and he kept leaning in against the table and making conspiratorial comments about the other people in the cafe. He was cute. Funny. Engaging. I was having a nice time.

Inside, I kept screaming to myself, “This could be fate! We’ll tell people we met on Valentine’s Day! What a cute story to tell our children one day!”

And then he took his last bite of pie, set down his fork, and said, “Well, it was really nice talking to you.”

And with that, he stood up and left.

Now, we didn’t have all these nifty acronyms when I was twenty-one. The only one we had was LOL, and I sure as hell wasn’t doing that.

My expression was more likely a combination of OMG and WTF.

I mean, seriously, he just stood up and left. It was like a complete 180. He’d been sitting there bantering, chatting, being flirty, the whole nine yards. And then he stood up and left.

More than ten years later, I’m still not sure what that was. A Valentine’s Day hit-and-run? Did he think he was being kind to the poor dorky girl? Because I’m sure I would have enjoyed another thirty minutes with my novel a lot more.

That’s my story. I’m sure you guys have some. Let’s hear ’em.

Wait! Let’s do a contest! I’ve never done a blog contest before.

In the comments section, tell me your worst Valentine’s Day story. I’ll pick the best three and post them on the blog tomorrow, and everyone can vote. 


Anna and the French KissWinner gets a $15 Amazon gift certificate. Use it to buy a copy of the incredible book Anna and the French Kiss. Or anything you want, really.


Deadline is whenever I wake up tomorrow! (Psst. That’s 5am EST Feb. 15, 2011) 

Let’s hear the anti-love! 


(I know some employers/schools block blog comments, so if you can’t comment on the blog from where you are, just send me an email at brigidmary@gmail.com, or post it on my Facebook “Like” page, or write it on a Post-it and stick it to my windshield, or hire a plane to skywrite it…)


Please promote!

Can we say, “Life in flux”?

Hey guys, sorry for the recent absence. I know you’re desperate for bad internet dating stories, like the guy who wouldn’t remove his shirt (EVER.) or the one who proposed to me on IM, or the one who asked me if I wanted to step into the men’s room at The Melting Pot (I was 19 and naive and very much like, “Um, you mean like as a joke?”).

But those stories will have to wait until later.

Right now my life is in a huge state of flux. I have so much going on I’m not sure what to lead with.

So I’m going to have to keep it all to myself right now.

Dudes, can you go “Like” me on Facebook? Look! There’s a link right there! —>

(If that arrow doesn’t line up, pretend it’s someone else’s fault.)

In the interim, check out these awesome links:

This is just frigging hilarious and has nothing to do with writing:
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/01/wolves.html

This is why you need to be good at revising (even moreso than writing):
http://editorialanonymous.blogspot.com/2011/01/heroism-of-revision.html

This is the dumbest name for a serial killer I’ve ever heard:
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/27/six-more-possible-grim-sleeper-cases-being-investigated/?iref=allsearch

This site is a great place to get news, in a funny way:
http://www.fark.com/

And finally, I love this video so much, and it will mean even more if you’re married:

Firearm

I went out with this one guy who took me to a firing range on our first date.

Yes, I met him on the internet. Come on.

But he took me to a firing range. I’d never held a gun before. I don’t think I’d ever seen a gun up close before, really. I’m not anti-gun, not pro-gun, not anything-gun. I was intrigued.

He was a bounty hunter. The real term is “bail enforcement agent,” but that just doesn’t sound sexy, so we’re going to keep calling him a bounty hunter. He had a full cadre of weapons and bullet proof vests and things like that. For one of our later dates, he met me after completing a job (apprehending a perp, or whatever it’s called), and he was fully decked out in all his gear.

Look, he wasn’t even a good looking guy. But decked out in weapons? Fresh from the “kill” if you catch my drift? That’s kind of hot.

But back to the firing range. I don’t like loud noises.

Funny story. (I promise I’ll stop digressing.) When I was in Orlando with Bobbie, we were at a supermarket. A girl ran by the aisle wearing a pair of loud flip-flops. I jumped a mile. Seriously, I almost dropped to the ground.

But anyway.

Guns? They’re loud. Really loud. Especially all contained in a steel lined room. Yes, you wear protective headsets, but guns are still guns. When we walked into the shooting room (or whatever it’s called) I was a mess of sweat before we even got started, and I was flinching every ten seconds.

But the bounty hunter was a good instructor. Thorough. I learned a lot about guns. (I could barely tell you anything now. This was over ten years ago.) And he paid close attention to what I was doing. I distinctly remember being pleased with my shots on the target and starting to turn to give him a smile or something. He grabbed my arm and kept the gun pointed down the range.

You know, I’d started to point it at him. Silly me.

Now, yes, you may be saying, “You went out with a guy you didn’t know, KNOWING he was fully armed? Are you nuts?”

Yes, I was. I was 21. Feel free to go see prior posts of stupidity in my youth. You don’t even have to look far. Just scroll down.

Mom thought it was awesome that I was dating a bounty hunter. (Mom also was in love with Chuck Norris in “Walker, Texas Ranger,” and during my teen years we saw every Steven Segal movie ever made.)

The bounty hunter was an okay guy. Kind of redneck, but a nice guy. Our relationship never went anywhere.

Since I found out he was married.

A couple years ago I was helping my mom address Christmas cards, and I was flipping through her address book. There was the bounty hunter’s name, right on one of the front pages, the ones for important numbers.

I said, “Mom, why do you have his number in here?”

She said, “In case anything ever happens to you.”

I said, “You know he was married, right? It didn’t end well.”

She said, “He’s a bounty hunter. He could do things the police can’t. I’d pay him to find you.”

My mother watches entirely too much television.

~

OMG OMG OMG (i.e., my head is about to explode)

All right, if you’ve been with me for a while, you know that I was an internet dating pioneer. You also know that I’ve dated quite a few freaks. (Even some scary ones.) I’m not shy about my dating past.

But maybe you didn’t read my post on perspective, where I talked about being a junior in high school, and having an ongoing email “relationship” with a guy who was 30. That post is a pre-requisite to this one, so if you haven’t read it, go do it now. (It’s short. Stay with me.)

So our basement flooded last week. Tons of stuff went to the dump. I found this huge plastic bin FULL of stuff from high school. I have old printouts of novels I wrote in high school, I have even more pages where I wrote novels long-hand. (Hey, not everyone had a computer in the early 90’s.)

I also found printouts of almost every email this guy and I wrote to each other.

I haven’t read them all, but I mostly bitch about school, practice profanity, and pretend to know what I’m talking about when I use innuendo. His emails to me are not disgustingly sexual, but they’re also full of innuendo, and he definitely knew what he was talking about. It wasn’t his fault — I led him into it. Seriously, I did. Internet was brand new, and this was no child predator. Yes, it wasn’t exactly right, but it wasn’t criminal. I’ll scan the letters and let you read them if you want proof. He was definitely straddling the line, but he wasn’t firmly on dangerous ground.

And he lived in Seattle! I lived in Baltimore! It’s not like he was handing out his address or soliciting a date. It wasn’t like that.

But here’s what made my head explode. I apparently sent him an email with a list of questions about himself. (How high school.) One of the answers he wrote:

No, I do not have a girlfriend, hence you’re [sic] finding me in a room with M4F NOW in its title. I don’t have a boyfriend either, though some guy from NY IM’ed me during one of your annoying little disappearing acts the other day!

A room called M4F NOW! Did you read that! And I found HIM. You caught that, right? Tell me you caught that.

This threw me for a loop. Just now, standing in the kitchen, I almost fell over while reading. What the hell was I doing in a room with that title? I was a teenager. A virgin. I wasn’t looking to “hook up.” Honestly, I probably didn’t even know what “hook up” meant.

But I was curious.

I’m writing YA (Young Adult) right now, and sometimes it’s hard to remember the choices I made in high school. Sometimes it’s hard to understand how curious I was about the rest of the world.

Going into a room like that was stupid. I could have gotten in real trouble. But I was a teenager, and I thought I knew enough to take care of myself.

I was just curious. Innocent enough, right?

A friend recently compared teenagers to toddlers. It’s kind of true. I have a three year old, and he keeps pushing limits, to see “what happens when…” Teenagers do the same thing, on a broader scale. It’s all about discovering yourself and how you fit into the world around you.

The problem is when you’re a toddler, there’s someone there to snatch your hand away from the stove.

When you’re a teenager, you’re supposed to know better.

Sometimes, obviously, you don’t.

(I’m still flipping out.)

~

Gut instinct

You know how sometimes people say a dog can sense if someone is a bad person, or someone to be afraid of? That’s not quite true. Dogs are pretty basic creatures.

But dogs can sense (actually, smell) fear, especially in their owners. People tend to downplay fear and ignore it, for all kinds of silly reasons. Mostly, it’s out of an overriding fear of looking stupid or being rude. A weird guy gets in the elevator with you, and you immediately want to get off. Your instincts are practically shoving you out the door.

But you don’t want to look RUDE! No, better to stay in the elevator with someone who skeeves you out. And our subconscious is brilliant at picking up things we might not consciously notice. Maybe the creepy guy on the elevator has a suspicious lump in his jacket pocket. Maybe it’s that he’s wearing a jacket at all, when it’s ninety degrees outside. We might not immediately recognize what’s wrong in a way we can categorize it, but our subconscious does, and it lets us know in a big way.

That’s what dogs sense. Dogs can’t even speak, but they aren’t stupid, and they don’t ignore their gut when it tells them something is wrong.

Nah, we do that. Sometimes this whole higher intelligence stuff gets in our way.

All the stories I tell on the blog are true. You know that, right? Usually I poke fun at my own stupidity, or I tell a funny dating story, or I talk about how some life event impacted me. This story involves my own stupidity, it’s definitely a dating story though it’s not funny, and it’s a life event that certainly made an impact. I only have like 30 blog followers, but if you know anyone in a situation like this, please feel free to forward this story on.

In my early twenties, I worked at a Waldenbooks part time, after my regular job at the brokerage firm. I didn’t really need the money, I’m just a workaholic, and I can’t possibly enjoy myself unless I’m working at something for 60 hours a week. (Hello, writing career.)

One Saturday, this clean cut blond guy came in. He was probably between 25 and 30. I’m not going to tell you his real name just in case there’s ever a chance he could trace me back through this blog, so we’ll call him Ed. He came to the register with some finance or real estate book and I did my little sales pitch for the book club, and he flirtatiously declined, and I flirtatiously pushed, and he finally said, “I only read about one book per year, so it wouldn’t be worth it to me.”

Flirt flirt, swipe the credit card, off he went.

An hour later, I took my lunch break. On my way to the food court, I saw him sitting on a bench in the middle of the mall, reading the book he’d just purchased.

All right, so you know how you sometimes have a moment and you know the stars are aligning? I knew, right then, that I was supposed to talk to this guy. I mean, why would he be sitting in my path? After we’d flirted like that! And he gave me the perfect line.

I walked up to him and said, “For a guy who only buys one book per year, you sure are in a rush to read it.”

He smiled and asked if he could join me for lunch.

He was good looking, clean cut, and charming. Of course I said yes.

We started dating. At the time I was also riding horses. Flipping OTTs if you speak “horse.” Basically, I’d buy cheap ex-racehorses, work with them for a few months, and sell them for a profit. I wasn’t making much of a profit because I was doing one horse at a time, but I told him about it, and he was completely behind it.

See, he had money. Legit money. Self-made, too. See, this guy knew how to work people.

He was completely behind the horse thing. He started working out a plan to buy horses, have me retrain them, and we’d sell them. Together.

Oh, didn’t I mention that on our first date, he brought up the topic of marriage?

Did you just read that sentence and have a little flare of warning in your head? Yeah, I was sitting across the table from him, and I experienced that same frigging flare. But I was stupid, because in the same sentence he was saying, “Horses! I’ll buy horses for you to ride!” and saying things like, “I really want to get married…” (pause for the meaningful look) “…to the right girl.”

This went on for a few weeks. He constantly showed up at the bookstore to see me. I thought this was adorable, until he showed up one night I wasn’t working. He called my apartment, “just to make sure I was there.”

Hello, flare.

He wanted to go out with me all the time. Like every night. Again, at the time, I thought it was adorable. I felt wanted. But really, he wanted to make sure I wasn’t seeing anyone else.

Here’s a touch of irony: at the time, I was good friends with the man who is now my husband. We’d chat on AOL at night. (Give me a break. This was like ten years ago.)

Ed hated that when he found out about it. Hated it. Insisted I end my friendship with Mike.

Flare.

My dog hated him. I still have her. She’s about 11 years old now, and she’s a terrier mutt I got from the pound. She’s adorable and energetic and loves everyone.

Except him. The first time he walked into the apartment, after we’d been dating for a couple weeks, she did that dog thing where she dropped and snarled at him. Lifted lip, true growl, the whole show. Like I said, I’ve had her for over ten years, and I have never seen her react that way to anyone. Ever.

Flare.

I ignored it. See, there’s this biological part of being a woman that seeks a man to take care of her. Be as feminist as you want, there’s something inside all of us that cries out for money, strength, and control in a man. We want to be taken care of. We do. It’s nature. That does NOT mean we can’t take care of ourselves. It means we want a man to come along and prove he’s strong enough to shoulder some of the load.

Some guys do this admirably. My husband springs to mind.

Some guys think control and strength and money mean they get to play dictator. It doesn’t, but it’s hard for women to sort this out at first.

Finally, I visited Ed’s apartment. We’d been dating about three weeks, so this wasn’t a lengthy relationship. He said, “I really think I need to tell you something.”

Flare. I don’t think I was even surprised at this point. I knew something had to be coming. I was expecting him to reveal he was married, or he was older than he’d said, or maybe that he didn’t have the money he said he did.

He said, “I spent seven years in a Federal prison.”

You find me someone else who’s heard those words from a guy on a date, and we’ll go out for cocktails.

Now, I work in the financial industry. I know there are a lot of non-violent crimes that can land you behind bars. When he said he was convicted when he was in college, I started thinking, “Okay, maybe it was totally white-collar crime. Maybe he swiped money while he was on an internship. Maybe he stole some corporate checks during his first job. Maybe it was some stupid youthful mistake that he genuinely regrets.”

I’m telling you, this guy did not scream “prison inmate.” He didn’t even whisper it. He was completely white-bread. You know that term WASP? His picture could show up next to the definition.

So of course I asked him what he did. It wasn’t murder, but it was bad.* Bad enough that I knew I shouldn’t be on a date with this guy.

Flare. Come on, how could I ignore this one?

I did. I went out with him again. But now my instincts wouldn’t shut up. I kept fidgeting, even though we were in a public place. All day, leading up to our date, I told people about him. I asked their opinion. Everyone told me I was nuts. How could they not? Really, I was probably subconsciously letting people know where I would be, and asking for external validation of what I was feeling. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I’d been stupid, so I needed a dozen people to hammer it into my head.

I didn’t tell him at dinner. I waited and told him over the phone, later. I told him I wasn’t comfortable with it, and I couldn’t see him.

Then he started calling. All the time. One night I was on the internet (this was when it was dial-up), and when I finally turned off the computer, the phone immediately rang. It was him. I barely said hello, and he was screaming in my ear, insisting I’d been cheating on him with someone I met on the internet, saying he’d been calling for hours and had gotten a busy signal, yelling, hollering, you name it.

I hung up on him.

The next day, the bookstore called me and told me not to come in. They said he’d been sitting on the bench in front of the bookstore all day, and that he was waiting for me. I called the police, and they said he was in a public place, just sitting there, so they couldn’t do anything.

I missed three days of work at the bookstore because of this.

In retrospect, I’m glad he didn’t know where my day job was, because he probably would have showed up there.

That Friday, my best friend Erin spent the night. I’d gone 24 hours without a phone call, and we were planning on going to the Horse World Expo the next day. We got a bottle of wine and prepared to have a nice evening.

Then he started calling. He’d call, I’d answer, and he’d hang up. Then he’d call again. I’d answer, he’d hang up. I stopped answering. He kept calling. Again, and again, and again.

Now, I lived in a locked building, but I was on the ground floor. So someone could walk right up to my back door, which was sliding glass, and take a baseball bat to it to get into my apartment.

Luckily, he started with the buzzer. Laying on it, so it was this long, loud piercing sound in my apartment.

Yeah, you read that right. He showed up where I lived.

Erin and I had shared a bottle of wine, but we weren’t too blitzed to miss that this meant trouble. I called 911.

Okay, here can be the funny part of this blog. Since the guy was laying on the buzzer, my dog was going ballistic. As I said, she’s a terrier mutt. She barely weighs 20 pounds soaking wet. But she’s got a deep bark, and when I was on the phone with the 911 operator, the woman said, “Ma’am, do you have a way to confine that animal?” And the way she said it, I knew she was thinking I had some 100 pound pit bull or something.

Yes, my badass Josie dog.

Anyway, the cops came, he ran, and that was it. He called the next morning and Erin answered the phone, and told him I was out. He laughed and said she was a bad liar.

We snuck out of the apartment, looking for his car. When it looked safe, we got in my car, and left.

As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, his car pulled out right behind us. I drove straight to the police station. He didn’t follow me into the lot.

And I never heard from him again.

This could have gone a lot differently. I’m glad I went through it, because I’ve learned to trust my instincts about people. I’ve learned to believe in myself, and not think it’s okay for some man to control my life, just because I want a man who’s in control of himself.

The best book I can recommend for every woman to read is The Gift of Fear. I cannot speak highly enough of this book. It’s well written and an entertaining read, first of all. It’s not some boring tripe about women’s self defense. It will teach you a lot about yourself, and about men, and about violence and manipulation. Every woman should read it. Every woman.

As an added bonus, this is one of my favorite books for writers. If you want some solid insight into criminals and why they act the way they do, (i.e., if you want some fodder for designing fantastic villains), this is the book for you.


* I’m not telling you what he did because I don’t want there to be any chance of someone knowing him and letting him find me through this blog. If I know you personally, you can ask me, and I’ll tell you.

Did anyone catch the plates on that hit-and-run? I think they started with WTF

Back when I was meeting guys on the internet, email was still a relatively new thing. People didn’t have four hundred pictures of themselves on Facebook. If you tried to email someone a picture of yourself, it would take about ten minutes to load, and it would come up line by line, like some weird game where you try to guess what something looks like before you see the whole picture.

I wish I remembered the password to my old AOL account, because I would totally dig up the names of my old internet dating conquests and find out where they are now.

Wait. I just called them conquests. That implied I slept with them.

Ick. I did not.

This one guy wanted to meet at Barnes & Noble in Annapolis, then we’d see if we hit it off, and we’d possibly get dinner.

Ding, ding, ding, sounds like a winner, right? I’d chatted with this guy online for a few weeks, he sounded all right, and hello, he wanted to meet at a bookstore. A bookstore. That’s like asking if I like money or if I’m sure I want to have a second helping of french fries.

I got to the bookstore early. I’m like that. (Or I was before I had a kid.) I was sitting and reading in one of the comfy chairs, casually looking up every time a guy walked into the bookstore.

This one guy walks in wearing old jeans, and an honest-to-god stained gray sweatshirt. He looks like he hasn’t showered in the last 24 hours. Actually, the last 48 hours looks sketchy.

I say to myself, Please don’t be the guy. Please don’t be the guy. Please don’t be the–

“Excuse me, are you Brigid?”

Yeah, he was the guy.

But you know what? I’m a nice girl. (Or I was before I had a kid.) I decided to give the guy a chance. Maybe he had to work all day. Changing oil or something. On a tractor. On a farm. Where they didn’t have showers.

It could happen.

We talked. He was okay. A little keyed up and shy, but he was okay. He actually seemed shocked to be talking to a girl. We were both young, and I had awkward moments too, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. When he asked if I wanted to go across the street to Outback, I said yes.

You know how sometimes people will make that high pitched sound of a bomb dropping, then a big crash at the end? Imagine me doing that.

So we’re sitting at the table, and the waitress comes to ask for our drink order. He asks for water.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

But he specifically says, “Can you bring me three glasses?”

The waitress shifts her feet. “Of…water?”

He says, “Yeah. I have a condition–“

Interjection: if you’re on a first date, and the other person at any point says, “I have a condition,” that’s your cue to leave. There’s nothing wrong with having a condition. You’re a hypochondriac? Bring it on. An irrational fear of lampposts? I can work with that.

Leave it out of the first date talk.

Save it for the second date, probably after a cocktail.

Anyway. He had a condition where he was always thirsty. THAT was his condition. Not something medical. He was just always thirsty.

So she brings him three glasses of water and lines them up in front of his plate. He proceeds to drink them all.

At once.

Seriously, he drains all three glasses like someone opened a spigot of the nectar of the gods over that table at Outback, and he can’t get enough. I hadn’t even looked at my menu at this point. I was mystified by this guy’s behavior. Maybe this is why he didn’t have time to shower: he was constantly drinking and peeing.

Then again, maybe he’d be right at home in a shower.

I digress. (Again.)

Throughout the course of the meal, he drinks 11 glasses of water. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. God, I wish I could find this guy’s name. He lived in Huntingtown, Maryland. Do any of my 26 followers know a guy in Huntingtown who can’t stop drinking? Water, I mean?

But he also gets a steak, a salad, sides, dessert, the whole schebang. I do the same (minus the water). I wasn’t going to sit there and stare at him while he ate.

Now, I’m a modern girl. I did NOT expect him to pick up the tab.

Apparently, he didn’t expect to pick up the tab either. Any of it.

At the end of the meal, the long, bizarre, freakish meal, he stares at me and says, “I don’t have any money.”

Not like, oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-I-forgot-my-wallet.

More like, lady-you-better-have-a-credit-card.

It was completely deadpan, too. I don’t know if he just had no sense of societal conventions, or what.

We ended up dating for two years.

No! I’m completely kidding. I never saw him again. He called me incessantly after that, and I think I made something up about him being too good for me. I seriously don’t think he’d ever gone on a date before going out with me.

Here’s where I’m going to reiterate my loathing for all-girls schools. Or I’m going to insist that parents make sure their daughters get socialized through sports, or outings, or camps, or whatever I should have been doing. I never learned about dating in high school. I should have.

Maybe those nuns should have spent a little less time talking about how using a tampon meant you were having sex with cardboard, or maybe they could have skipped chastising me for sitting on the floor next to a boy (not touching) at a high school mixer. Those things didn’t really help me later in life.

But I could have used a lesson or two on figuring out things like mentioning a “condition” of being “thirsty” might not bode well for a first date.

~

Playing games

When I was 19 or so, I worked a part time job at a mall store called The Game Keeper. I don’t think they’re around anymore, but it was your typical retail shop full of board games. I loved working retail. I’m not afraid to talk to people, I’m very service minded, and who doesn’t like playing games all day? It was a decent store, but part of a dying breed. We didn’t sell anything electronic, so you can imagine where that went.

After I’d been there about a week, this guy came into the store. He was about six feet tall, blond (but in the hot ash blond kind of way, not the surfer dude way), and dressed head-to-toe in black leather. Black boots with laces and buckles, black jeans, black tee shirt, and black leather jacket, the kind that looked badass in 1998, and damn it, they look pretty badass now. Let me see if I can find an image of the kind of look I’m talking about.

Okay, I can’t. And here’s a little tip for you: don’t do a Google Image Search for things like “hot guy,” “hot biker,” or “Val Kilmer.”

(Unless you’re gay, a guy, or want to be disillusioned that hot actors keep their looks forever, respectively.)

But seriously, if you can imagine Val Kilmer when he was playing Ice Man in Top Gun, then you know what I’m talking about. Here was little 19 year old me, writing vampire novels and working retail, and this guy walks in the store, and my jaw frigging drops. He was about 21 or 22, and my little self went hustling to that end of the counter, all, “Can I help you?”

But then he walked past the counter. He walked to the back of the store.

He walked into the back room.

And then I realized he was a fellow employee.

His name was Michael. I wish I remembered his last name, because I’d be internet stalking him in a New York minute. (Sorry, hon.) I flirted with this guy like crazy. He was clearly into me, because he flirted back, in a dark, broody kind of way that is only really sexy when you’re 19 and don’t know any better.

When he found out I rode horses, he asked if he could come riding. At the time, I was also working part time at a horse farm, so I invited him out. He showed up early, while I was still working, and he offered to help. I will never forget leading him into the barn where we stacked the hay bales, and saying we needed to move about ten to the other barn. Then I turned around to get the wheelbarrow (because hay bales weigh about 60 lbs). When I turned back around, he had a hay bale in each hand.

He raised an eyebrow and said, “Just tell me where you want these.”

God, I’m just about falling off the couch remembering this. One in each hand! It’s a miracle I didn’t tear all my clothes off right there in the barn.

Here’s why I didn’t: I was a virgin.

Yeah, I didn’t know what I was doing with this guy. With any guy. I didn’t really know how to flirt. I was still learning courtship, and body language, and sexual cues, and all those kinds of things that people stumble through in their teens and early twenties.

Michael and I went out several times. Almost every time was in a crowd of people, like after work, or with a few of my friends. But one night, his car was in the shop, and we worked the same shift. I offered to drive him home, and he accepted. We sat in his kitchen and talked for the longest time — it was well after midnight. Maybe after 1am. Our conversation turned slightly racy, and I began to wing it.

Then somehow we started talking about sex. I hadn’t even kissed this guy yet, but it felt strongly like it was heading in that direction. Hell, not just heading in that direction, it was probably on the freeway. I knew he had to be experienced (I mean, come on), and I wasn’t sure how to handle that. I told a funny story about a friend’s first time. Then he told a funny story about his own first time.

Then he asked me about my first time.

I told the truth. I said, “I’m still a virgin.”

It was like flipping a switch. The mood was gone, the chemistry was gone. He sent me home. Not rudely, but definitely not warmly. I tried to call him two days later, and another guy answered the phone. I heard Michael in the background say, “Tell her I’m out.” And at work, he was always cordial, even friendly, but there was a definite distance between us.

At the time, I was hurt, for sure. Devastated. Confused. And I was too young to ask him about it.

But now I know he was doing me a favor. A guy like that wasn’t looking for a relationship. I probably would have slept with him that night, and he probably would have forgotten my name within three weeks. At the time, I thought he was being a jerk, but he wasn’t. He was being the opposite. He was acting with honor and chivalry, and for a guy of 22, that’s saying a lot.

So Michael-whatever-your-name-is, thanks for being a gentleman. I hope you’re doing well.

And I hope you haven’t let yourself go.

Like Val Kilmer.

~

The Internet Dating Pioneer

In 2010, it’s pretty hard to find someone who hasn’t at least perused an online dating site at some point. Or talked about one. Or heard about someone’s harrowing experience using one. There’s nothing wrong with meeting people with whom you’ve only emailed. One of my best and closest friends has only laid eyes on me once, and I tell her just about everything.

There are some scary stories out there about bad things happening to people who meet strangers off the internet, but there are scary stories out there about people who met someone in a bar, at work, in the library, or at church. Not everyone on the internet is nuts (you’re here, right?), but the people who are nuts can find a much bigger audience.

I was an internet dating pioneer. I used to have a profile on Yahoo Personals back when it was free and it was one of the first internet dating sites out there. I was probably 19 or 20 at the time, when there were 45 guys online for every girl. Almost everyone had dial-up, so pictures were few and far between, and what you could see would be grainy and not very helpful at all. I loved the internet. I loved the idea of showing someone my personality and having discussions with them before meeting them face-to-face.

Then I met some real freaks.

One wanted to meet me at a hotel. I’d gone to an all girls high school, so I had very limited experience dating. (Parents, consider this a warning: if you send your daughter to an all girls high school, she will learn about dating from men who are older, more experienced, and less inclined to cop a feel, and more inclined to get into her pants.) I remember thinking that maybe he wanted to meet there because they had a nice restaurant.

I can hear you laughing now.

Yes, I went. It was an Amerisuites. No restaurant, but I didn’t know that until I got there. (Silly me.) My internal alarms went off, and after he asked me up to his room, I left.

There was another guy who took me to dinner. He was ten years older than he’d led me to believe, and probably twenty years older than I was. Dinner was nice; he owned his own company (a web design firm — very forward thinking back in 1998), and treated me well. He paid. When we were walking back to the parking lot, he kept asking if I wanted to see his truck. I almost went.

Then he joked that he kept a sledgehammer under the front seat.

I ran. Seriously. I ran.

They weren’t all creepy. I dated this one guy for a few weeks. He’d been charming online. He was a grad student at University of Maryland. I didn’t break it off with him until I found him sitting in his car outside my apartment one night, waiting for me because I hadn’t answered my phone.

Oh, wait. That one was creepy, too.

This one guy came to meet me, talked for three minutes, and said, “You know, I really gotta go.” And he left. That was that. Subtle, right?

One guy talked to me on the phone for weeks. We never met in person because he couldn’t get it together to ask me out. He’d call me and start conversations like this: “So, I’m really not doing anything tonight.” I’d respond, “Oh yeah? I don’t have any plans either.” And then he’d say, “Well…I guess I’m just going to sit here and watch old eighties movies.”

He’s probably still doing that.

I met one guy at a bar after chatting online. He owned his own home in downtown Baltimore, had a good job, and was perfectly nice, funny, all good things. Blond. Blue eyes. Charming. When he asked me back to his place, I went. Beautiful home. He showed me the rooftop deck and we looked out across the harbor. Then he sat in one of the deck chairs, one of those Adirondack chairs that’s good for sprawling, and leaned back. He said, “You know what I’d really like?”

At this point, I was practically naming our children (the date had gone that well). His blue eyes were sparkling, the stars overhead were shining. After his perfect behavior all evening, I expected something charming, like, “To go out with you again,” or, “For this night to never end.”

I turned around, leaned against the deck railing, and said, “No. What would you like?”

You can guess what he asked for.

I never saw him again.