For this challenge, we want you to write about 21st-century love. We encourage you to get personal and share your own story, but if you don’t want to go that route, we welcome commentary, opinion, and even humor pieces on your definition of love in this modern age.
“I’ll never meet anyone,” Sharon lamented as I emerged from the bathroom.
My roommate was sitting by the kitchen counter sipping on a diet cola, her white wifebeater shirt hanging loose in front of her. Thank goodness she was wearing her sports bra beneath it because her double D’s were straining behind the fabric. The shorts she wore were loose and unshapely, doing nothing to enhance her figure. But we were both at home, and there was no one to impress.
I had just spent the whole day at the beach playing volleyball and I was exhausted. And sunburnt.
I’d known Sharon for the last four years. She was about seven years older than me and had once been jilted almost at the altar – let’s say the night before the wedding – when her fiancee ran off with her best friend after bumping into her at a Journey concert. Suffice it to say, she hates Journey with a passion.
“Why don’t we go out tonight then?” I suggested.
She shook her head. “But then you’ll get all the attention.”
“Why the hell am I going to get all the attention?” I asked incredulously. “You’re the one with the boobs.” And judging from experience, boobs always got the attention.
“You mean because I’m, like, Asian?” I asked. I wasn’t exactly Asian. More like Southeast Asian. “That’s not a criteria for getting attention really. We’re in the South Bay. Everyone here likes white girls just like you.”
Ever since we met, Sharon always threw in the ‘exotic’, ‘dark-skinned’, or ‘tanned’ card as an excuse for not getting anyone to notice her whenever we went out together. It so wasn’t true, but what could I do? She was absolutely convinced my skin color was the only reason that men noticed me – men who included her former German roommate who used to come knocking at my door at two in the morning professing to be my best friend after I drove his drunk ass home in his brand new Cabriolet without never having driven stick shift before.
Believe me, thirty miles of driving the Santa Monica freeway with foot frozen on the accelerator and someone else’s hand on the stick shift and fearing the sight of red rear view lights in the cars in front of us is one hell of a bonding experience. And you never want to stall anywhere, not with a brand new car. Not in any car.
Sharon shook her head. “No, they like exotic girls like you. Besides, you’re not shy at all.”
Well, I had to agree there. But even Sharon had to concede that a few beers or cocktails made me a lot more fun that I already was (at least according to her). So it’s not really all me then. Maybe it’s more the alcohol.
Maybe she should just drink more, I thought.
“I just want to find a nice Jewish guy,” she began. “Maybe I should go online and try those dating sites.”
“You should!” I exclaimed, wondering why neither of us had ever thought of this bright idea. I only had about three girl friends who met all their partners through online dating sites. Why not Sharon? “Let’s go to the computer right now and get you started.”
Sharon shook her head, a horrified expression on her face. “I can’t do that. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go online to look for a date. I bet they’re all just geeks and nerds online.”
“Well, there’s really only one way to find out,” I said. “And that’s to try it for yourself.”
I dragged her to the computer and we sat down. After a few keystrokes here and there, we ended up on a dating site called American Singles. There were other premium sites out there, but they all required a fee to join and Sharon wasn’t about to pay any of her hard-earned cash towards finding a partner. At least, American Singles was free to join for the first week.
“Okay,” I said, going to the screen that would begin a new page in Sharon’s life – or at least, her online life. “Let’s start with your profile.”
Sharon shook her head again. “Can’t you do it first? Then we can both check out the guys who check you out and make sure they’re not perverts.”
“I thought you were worried that they’d be nerds and geeks? Which one is it?”
She made a face. “It’s just that I can’t imagine some cool guy going online to find a date. I just can’t. They could all be weird. Or they could just be losers.”
“So you want me to set up a profile with my picture just so you get to see for yourself that none of these guys are perverts or nerds or geeks? Or losers?”
She nodded. “Exactly,” she said. “And when you get to know them and if I like them, you can introduce me as your friend. Besides, you’re more photogenic than I am. And you’ve got a much better smile than I do.”
“Maybe it’s because I smile more than you,” I said, turning my attention back to the screen where at least it wouldn’t have something negative to say to me at every turn. “You should really try smiling more. It actually works.”
Three days later, I had four dates lined up. I was meeting all of them at a local coffee shop that I never frequented as much – in case someone I knew from the beach would show up at the same place and wonder what the hell I was doing with geeks, nerds or perverts. As we agreed, Sharon sat a few tables away to observe the ‘subject’ and help me should I be in a bind.
While it sounded like the perfect arrangement, the one thing that we never considered was that while I was olive-skinned, with almond-shaped eyes and long dark hair, Sharon was white as a sheet, had short cropped hair and other than the double D boobs which made her slouch her shoulders forward to hide them and totally ruin her posture, we were totally on the opposite side of the spectrum. If a man were to choose my profile over thousands of other candidates, wouldn’t part of the reason be that I didn’t look anything like Sharon?
Wouldn’t part of the reason be because like she said, I was “exotic?”
The first two men who showed up – one at a time, of course – fell under the category of nerdy and geeky. They were nervous as heck while I was simply as bubbly as can be. After all, I wasn’t doing this to find a partner.
Sharon shook her head with the first two candidates, and within twenty minutes, I dispatched each one by saying that I had to go because a girlfriend was having some boyfriend issues. Of course, Sharon’s job was to call my phone from where she sat.
“Can I have your number?” The first two men had asked me and I had to learn the difficult task of saying no. This was clearly something I hadn’t anticipated but I was glad to be rid of them, and equally glad to know that I could say ‘no’.
No offense to geeks and nerds out there, but this was an experiment and I was the guinea pig.
The third one came right on time. This one was smarmy and made the hair at the back of my neck stand on end. Half way through the conversation, he said, “I really like you. When can I see you again?”
“Um, never?” I croaked.
“You’re joking, right?” He smiled and touched my hand, which I promptly removed from the table. I glanced towards Sharon with a look that said help me, but she was busy reading the local paper. I was on my own.
“You do remember that thing I wrote you about me, right?” He continued and I shook my head. I had read so many emails since I had put up my profile on that damn website, my head was spinning. “The thing about me being married,” he said. “You do know that and it’s okay with you, right? That’s why you’re meeting me now. I thought you knew that this was just for fun.”
“Um, no,” I said. “I don’t remember reading that bit because I sure as heck wouldn’t be seeing you if you were married.”
By the time I peeled his eyes off me, I had had it. And Sharon did, too, but only because one of her favorite afternoon shows was coming on and she wasn’t about to miss it.
She had just proven her point about online dating sites and the men who frequented them. If we had had a bet before we started the experiment, she would have won on all three of the men I’d agreed to see. “I’m so glad you chose a neutral place,” she said as she got up and got ready to leave. “I’m so done with this online shit.”
“Done?” I exclaimed. “You didn’t do anything. I was the one who put my own photo up online, made up my profile and then set out to meet these men. You couldn’t even help me with that last one! He was a swinger!”
Sharon shrugged. “Still, it proves my point. They’re all nerds, geeks and worse of all, perverts who go on these online dating sites.” She sighed sadly. “I don’t know how I’ll ever get to meet someone now.”
Then she got up and started to walk away.
“Wait,” I said. “There’s one more guy.”
Sharon glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to go. Judge Judy is on in five minutes,” she said, pouting apologetically. “Just send him off like you did the other three. See you at the house later, okay?”
I sat back down and ordered another cappuccino. I had purposely chosen a table that faced the entrance so I’d see every person who walked in. I’d even get to see them park their car and observe them before they got to see me. With the first two men, it had been nothing more than a game, but the third one totally creeped me out and I was just about done with this experiment.
Besides, what on earth was I doing? I wasn’t short on dates on Saturday nights. I wasn’t the one sitting at home watching television every single day pining over the man who left me after his friends took him to a Journey concert for his bachelor party – only to meet the right woman there, the night before his wedding?
I mean, I wasn’t actively dating, although I had a large group of friends and just about every night, we partied. Every weekend we partied on the beach, and then that party would move on to whichever house was closest and whoever got the keg delivered before ten at night. Then the following day was all about finishing the keg.
I leaned back on my chair and sighed. This was a disaster. I couldn’t believe I had allowed Sharon to talk me into this. What if someone I actually knew and partied with was also on American Singles? That would be embarrassing!
He came in while I was deep in thought about what I would say to someone if they ever found my profile online. Would they buy the ‘just experimenting’ bit? Somehow, I doubted it because if someone ever threw that line at me, I’d know right away they were shitting me.
“Hi,” he said and I looked up, almost choking on my coffee.
He was tall, blonde and muscular. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen and he folded his long legs under the table as he sat in front of me. And even if I wasn’t actively looking for a date, I found myself thinking about how I would like this specimen under me, above me, and just in general all over me.
“I’m Greg,” he said, as we shook hands. “You must be Beth. You’re much prettier than your profile picture.”
I blushed. He was smooth, this Greg.
“And you’re nothing like yours,” I said, remembering the photograph of a man with the nerdiest rimmed glasses I had ever seen. Actually, you’re a freakin’ Greek god, dude, I really wanted to say, but I had to keep up appearances. He could also be a serial killer, for all I knew.
“I do that so that people don’t get the wrong idea,” he said sheepishly. “I’ve met two other women and they were totally so unlike their photographs. More like ten years out of date.”
I laughed. “I almost did that,” I said. “But then I’d have to arrest you for soliciting a minor if you did bite.”
Greg smiled. “I really liked our phone conversations and our chats, Beth. You’re quite funny and I like that.”
We spent the next two hours talking over coffee and croissants. We talked about everything BUT the one question that both nagged us the moment we met. As we closed in on the third hour, I finally had to know.
“Why did you go on American Singles?” I finally blurted out. “I mean, look at you. I don’t think you have a problem finding dates.”
Greg smiled, lowering his eyes shyly. “You’ll never believe it if I told you.”
“Try me,” I said. “I just got propositioned by a married man looking for an affair today, so I’m game if you are.”
“I actually did all this as an experiment…”
|The original DPchallenge ended here, but after rereading it, I realized it needed some sort of resolution. So it continues below. Simply click on the page numbers to take you to the rest of the story.