Maintaining a blog-- especially one that includes personal thoughts and biographical anecdotes-- can have unexpected side-effects. I've been running Static Zombie for a few years now, so the archives go back a ways. I don't post every day, which means reading the archives isn't a monumental undertaking. I'd estimate that under a thousand people read Static Zombie. Some of you are personal friends, some I only know through your comments, and still others are anonymous lurkers. The ready availability of so much of my writing means that most Static Zombie readers know far more about me than I do about them. That's par for the course for newspaper columnists, but not really something I considered when I started writing. It doesn't bother me per se-- I wouldn't post something if I was worried about who would read it-- but it can be a little weird when I meet someone and they display more knowledge about me than I expect them to have, because they've read Static Zombie.
In at least one case, however, it's worked to my advantage.
There are many areas in which I have great self-confidence. Dating isn't one of them. Most men learn the ropes when they're young, dating lots of people and through trial and error discovering how to put their best foot forward. I didn't. I had some of the error, but not a lot of the trial. I'm not interested in brief flings. I don't want to have a lot of first dates that don't lead to anything. So by the time I realize I'm interested in someone, we've already become friends and now there's a whole second minefield to cross on the way to dating without blowing up the friendship. So when you read the statement, "I don't ask many women out," you should realize it's a gross understatement of the truth.
So when, after emailing back and forth with someone I "met" on an online dating service, I asked her to meet for lunch, I was pretty nervous. For me, it was a Big Deal. In addition to everything else, I'm picky. I want someone who's smart, funny, witty, attractive-- ok, who doesn't?-- and I'm not willing to settle. Many of you are married, and others of you have probably never used online dating sites-- so let me tell you, it's not exactly easy to find Women of Interest. Sometimes you're drawn to a photo immediately, only to discover she's put no thought into her profile at all. EVERYONE likes walks on the beach and cozy nights by the fire. Tell me something that's unique about you. Tell me something that makes me think, "I've got to find out more about this woman!" Sometimes a profile reveals fundamental incompatibilities, like devout religious beliefs, that are instant deal-breakers. Spirituality I can handle; putting faith in Jesus to guide me I cannot. Sometimes you find a Woman of Interest, but you're not a Man of Interest in return. Electronic winks get rejected, emailed introductions get ignored. That's the nature of the process, and part of the attraction of online dating sites is that rejections hurt less when they're made of pixels.
Finding someone who rings all the bells and seems even more interesting through email conversations than she does in her online profile, therefore, is like standing at Stonehenge and seeing all the major celestial bodies framed between stone plinths. You know it's possible, you've heard that it happens, but you never really expected to be there yourself. A part of you certainly thinks it's too good to be true. And the rest of you obsesses over a single thought: don't screw it up.
Amazingly, the lunch went well. Not oh-my-god-where-have-you-been-all-my-life well, but definitely not this-is-the-longest-hour-in-the-history-of-the-universe-just-shoot-me-now, either. She was even prettier in person than in her profile, and as we talked with each other it occurred to me that I was out of my league. First, her eyes sparkled. I considered writing that they sparked with intelligence, wit, and imagination-- all of which is true-- but the simple truth is that her eyes just... sparkled. Looking into them, I just felt incredibly fortunate that they were looking back at me. And as incredible as her eyes were, what surprised me even more was that when she smiled they went to eleven. When she spoke, she spoke with passion. She listened to what I had to say, and when she asked questions she sounded genuinely interested in the answers. And she had a mature poise, an aura of womanhood rather than girliness. Put all of that together, and I was a little intimidated. I felt like a one-armed man treading water. I was clumsy, ugly, inarticulate, self-aggrandizing, desperate-- way out of my league. I emailed a good game, but the reality proved the lie.
Except it didn't. All of that was in my head. Either she was being very polite, or against all reason she was having a good time and enjoying my company. Inevitably the lunch ended, and (real mistake #1) we split the check. Was this a date, or were we just meeting to see if we would move on to a date? It felt like the latter, and-- believing the myth of the modern, independent woman-- thought that not only would it be insulting for me to offer to pay, but that it would suggest I perhaps thought the lunch was something she might not also think it was. Please refer to my earlier remarks about having missed out on all the trial and error earlier in life before you harangue me in the comments.
Mistake #2 came in the parking lot as we parted ways. I wanted to see her again, but wasn't sure how she was feeling about me. And so, hampered by uncertainty, I mumbled something inept about how great it was to meet her and that we should keep in touch. Really, it was awful-- so awful that I've apparently blocked the actual words from my memory. It was one of those moments when I could visualize my life as a multi-camera sitcom. Because, to my credit, I knew how bad that goodbye was, how terribly I'd botched the moment. And as we turned from each other on camera one and walked away, camera two focused on me from directly ahead as I rolled my eyes in disbelief. Cut to camera three, inside my car, and a tight angle of me banging my forehead on the steering wheel. Really, it was that bad. And really, I was banging my head on the steering wheel.
I was saved by two things. First, the moment I got back to the office I sent her an email apologizing for the extreme lameitude of my departure, complimenting her, and assuring her that I was very interested in seeing her again. The second thing that saved me was that, despite missteps that might normally have had her writing me off, she came prepared to cut me some slack. She already knew I was clueless about dating. Unbeknownst to me, she'd read my blog.
Emails through the dating sites are anonymous-- your real email address is stripped out. But when you reply to such an email through Outlook, it makes your real email address known unless you strip it out yourself. Which I never did. So very early in our email conversations, having seen my email address, she visited gamereport.com and from there found Static Zombie. Where she proceeded to read through much of the archives, including an entry in which I mentioned that I didn't date much in high school, and still don't. But she liked what she saw-- both the quality of my writing and the content. It's a big part of what made her want to meet me. And so, when I seemed so confident in my writing and so clueless in person, she decided to give me the benefit of the doubt.
It wasn't until a couple dates later that she fessed up that she'd read my blog, and even later before she told me she'd read it right after my first email to her, when she saw my address. She was afraid I'd think she was a psycho stalker, but I think it's hilarious. If I knew her domain name and she kept a blog, I'd have done the same thing. Who wouldn't?
That first lunch was almost two months ago. We've continued to date since then, and recently realized that we'd moved beyond "dating" into "boyfriend/girlfriend" territory. To be clear, I'm not in love with her yet, but I'm definitely in serious like. None of my friends have met her yet, but it feels like that's due to change. We've been spending a lot of time together, and she doesn't watch a lot of television-- so the bloops and bleeps of my Tivo have taken a forelorn, reproachful tone of late. It needs to learn that just because there's somebody new in the picture doesn't mean I care about it any less. If my blogging also suffers, I trust you'll all likewise understand.
And before you comment, remember-- she reads the blog. And she has approved this message. =)