Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

My wife and I were awoken to a loud banging on our door. Upon answering it, we were given a piece of paper that instructed us to gather our belongings and to head to the lobby for evacuation. Literally overnight, a Class 5 hurricane had formed, and it was headed straight in our direction. We grabbed our things, raided our mini-fridge, took our blankets, and proceeded to head down six congested flights of stairs. Officially, our honeymoon in Puerto Vallerta was over.

While our honeymoon was far from perfect, we had just started enjoying the fruits of what the area had to offer. We had a beautiful dinner on a small island, we swam with dolphins, and took in a show. While we had some minor hiccups throughout our trip, we were content to spend our last day relaxing, not being be on the run from Hurricane Patricia on our last day.

The night before we had an activity canceled because the weather was forecasting an incoming storm. We thought the cancelation and the customer service fiasco that followed would’ve been the low point of the trip, but it proved to be a red herring, because the incoming storm wasn’t just a storm, but the greatest hurricane of all time in the Western Hemisphere.

The lobby was jam packed with people and there was no actual evacuating being done, which made things even more confusing, so I did what others were doing, and I ran down to pick up whatever food I could fit on a plate and ran it back up to the lobby knowing that this could be our last meal.

Finally, some buses pulled up, but we were informed that they weren’t buses for everyone, but only for people who booked their stay with a certain Canadian travel agency.  This went on for hours.  At this point, people were starting to get agitated as we rode a rollercoaster of emotional despair. Bus after bus would pull up, refuse us, allow others, and then subsequently leave.  Time was running out. The hurricane was coming. People were starting to cry. We needed to get out of there, so my wife and I started to push towards the front of the lobby.

Among this seemingly endless line of buses, a van drove up to the resort.  The driver called out for people who had booked their stay through Orbitz and a handful of people got in the van.  After a few more calls, he let it be known that he had room for 2 more people.  Before I could even react, my wife had pushed me forward and we got into the van.  We didn’t know we were going, but to my wife and me, it didn’t matter.

Our driver, Tomas, was a local, and he was actually not a part of Orbitz, but that was the easiest way for him to track down Erin, and Trevor, a couple from Vancouver, who had access to a relative’s villa in the hills. Tomas took care of those properties, and was planning to take them to the villa after he dropped us off at an evacuation point. We were glad he knew where a shelter was, because we were unclear on those details, even after hours of sitting around waiting to be evacuated. There were conflicting rumors of going to the Puerto Vallerta Convention Center, or to a University in the hills, and that uncertainty kept us tense.

I tried to bond with Erin and Trevor to keep my spirits up. In an attempt to not offend our new Canadian friends, I decided not to bring up hockey as my icebreaker topic, but I instead asked them about the general chaos of Vanouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. This gave me an opening to mention hockey, specifically how my friend loves Ryan Kessler, a former Vancouver player. Erin immediately responded with “Who doesn’t?”, and immediately recognized that I could get along with them. How long would that be for, I had no idea, but soon enough we pulled up to a horticultural university.

As the van stopped, we were greeted by a man in uniform. Tomas rolled down his window and there was a quick conversation in Spanish, which consisted mostly of the man doing a lot of hand gestures while speaking. It ended with Tomas rolling down his window and turning to us to tell us that the university was already at capacity and that we were being turned away. Collectively, our hearts sank. What were we going to do? Were we going to be brought back to the resort? Would he just drop us off on the side of the road? He had no reason to take us any further.

He may as well have been a saint.

Tomas turned his attention to Erin and Trevor and explained that there was plenty of room for all of us in the villa. Without a moment of hesitation, Erin agreed to let us stay with them and all of a sudden, for a moment, hope was restored. We still needed food, so we rushed to the nearest market, only to find it boarded up and closed. We headed to a 2nd store, only to find it also abandoned and boarded up.  With the clock ticking and our options dwindling, we finally found an open market near the villa. The market was clearly low on supplies since everyone was preparing for the worst but we were able to get our hands on some tortillas and cheese to hopefully hold us over until Hurricane Patricia had finished passing through.

The villa itself was beautiful and spacious, and most importantly, above sea level. There was a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom for each couple. It was a stark contrast to being confined to a gymnasium with hundred of strangers. We were fortunate that our strangers all spoke English and we were even more fortunate that they were easy to get along with. Along with our new friends from the North, we were also with a couple from Northern California. The husband worked as a brewer for Budweiser. He and I immediately hit it off, talking about our favorite beers, and as a collective we talked about a wide range of topics from our experience at the resort to how Canadians view American football. Between topics, someone would check to see if there was a weather update, and we would continue talking.

My wife and I cooked dinner with whatever we could find. We ended up making chorizo fried rice. We were able to find a half bottle of tequila lying around the house. We ate together, we drank together, and we enjoyed each other’s company. As the hours went by, and the rain started to pour down, we decided to call it a night. We didn’t know if this would be our last night on earth, but if it was, at least we were in the presence of our new friends.

We woke up the next morning to another loud banging on our door. This time it was Trevor, and he was alerting us of good news. The hurricane had re-directed itself and petered out. We were safe. Actually, everyone was safe. The hurricane took no casualties, and Tomas was ready to drop us off at the airport.

As we drove through the streets, we saw many of the shops still boarded up. Puerto Vallerta looked like a ghost town. To our surprise, the airport was fully staffed and fully operational, in fact, our flight was even scheduled to be on time. As we walked through the Duty Free shop and took free samples of tequila from vendors, it’s almost as if nothing had happened.  Somehow, in a mere matter of hours we went from facing impending doom to being safe enough to board an airplane. We sat down, waiting for our flight, and we checked the weather one last time. We had officially survived the hurricane. While no passengers in the airport seemed to be acknowledging what we had all gone through, I decided that I needed to, so I turned to my wife and quietly sang her the words “Here I am, rock you like a hurricane.”

 

I raced to Little Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon on what would end up being my 2nd to last 1st date ever.  I was scheduled to make it to the date at our agreed upon time, but I forgot that showing up exactly on time in Los Angeles means you’re going to be about 15 minutes late, since parking is always an adventure in LA.  My date called me to make sure I was still planning on showing up, which made me feel terrible.   I hate making a bad first impression, and trying to find street parking in LA always stresses me out.  I told her I was just finding parking and that I’d see her soon.  I fed a meter, walked as fast I could to the cafe where we planned on meeting at, and swung open the door.  I looked around the cafe and saw nothing but couples.  Confused, I scanned the room a 2nd time before coming to an awful realization… I had walked right past her and into the cafe.

It’s always weird seeing someone you’ve met before for the first time even when you’ve seen pictures of them.  My date didn’t look like her pictures, but the differences weren’t extreme to the point where I would’ve felt betrayed by them.   They were just small details like wearing glasses and having her hair tied back, but since those two things are absent from all her profile pictures, it was enough of a difference for me to not realize it was her.  I did try to salvage the date, and as far as I could tell, she tried as well, but our attempts were fruitless.  I tried to bring up things that we had in common, according to our profile, but quickly found out that we didn’t have much in common at all.  Once again, subtle differences, neither one of us were stretching the truth.  We finished the date, I walked her to her car, and she gave me a hug.  It seemed like we were both aware that there wasn’t going to be a 2nd date, and she seemed appreciative that we gave it a shot.  I, on the other hand, was at about at my wit’s end with online dating.

I had decided to give online dating another try after the holidays because I received an e-mail that a girl had messaged me on my inactive account.  She was pretty and she had a heart for the less fortunate.  She didn’t profess her love to me in her message, but she complimented me on my profile picture and that paired with the hope that a new year brings was enough to convince me to resubscribe for another round.  I messaged her back, but I never heard from her.  I was confused and disappointed.  The girl that had brought me back to the online dating world wasn’t talking to me, but why?

While I have no confirmation on this, the theory among my friends is that this girl was a “bot”, a fake account on the site, run by person who works for the site, to entice people to join.  I had heard friends talking about online dating bots before, but I just assumed they were fake profiles scattered throughout these sites, but not accounts that actually interacted with you.  I was pretty upset about the idea especially since one of these bots had catfished me back into an online dating world that I was almost ready to leave behind.

This awful date made me feel even worse about being tricked by the bot, because the bot seemed so much more interesting than this girl that I went on a date with.  Even if things hadn’t clicked on a first date with this possibly imaginary girl, I wouldn’t have felt like I had wasted my time since she seemed like she would be far more inspiring, if not more interesting, to talk to.  Obviously it’s moot, but I was beyond frustrated that I had signed up for one more month, expecting things to somehow be different this time around.  I wasn’t angry at my date, I was angry at myself for being so idealistic.  I was so angry that I stopped looking for dates and I decided to let my subscription run out at the end of the month.  I was done with online dating, or so I thought.

A week before my subscription ended, I received a message from a girl.  Since I was already signed up for the service, I realized that this was probably a real girl, and not a bot.  Still, I hesitated to take a look, jaded and downtrodden, expecting the worst, but eventually I gave in because a piece of me, deep down inside, was hoping that this online dating experience would find me something meaningful.  So I eventually logged in to see this message, and we started talking.  We set up our first date just as my dating subscription ended, and we met at a wine bar in Downtown Los Angeles, just a few miles away from my dating debacle in Little Tokyo.  Whether or not this date was going to go well or not, I made a promise to myself that my online dating journey was going to end that night.  A year and a half later, with a string quartet in tow, I got down on one knee at a park in Downtown Minneapolis, and I proposed to her.  She said ‘yes’. And to think, I would’ve never met her, if it wasn’t for a deceptive little bot..

 

 

 

 

I’ve lived in Orange County for over 13 years now, and it’s the longest I’ve lived in a single area during my lifetime. I lived in Minneapolis for 11 years and San Diego for 7 prior to showing up in Orange County for college and then sticking around until the present day and beyond.  It wasn’t so much that I fell in love with Orange County as it was that I stuck around because a lot of my friends from college were still around and I didn’t know where else to go.  As some friends left, and some friendships started to fade, I wondered if it was time to move on.  It’s an idea that I’d toy around with every couple of years, but one that I was never convicted to act upon.  When I tried out online dating, I would occasionally check to see if my soul mate might be in one of my favorite cities like New York or Chicago to see if that would move the needle.  Alas, nothing came of those initial searches, so I returned to looking at Southern California.

I’ve been in a long distance relationship before, and while I completely understand why people tend to stay away from them, I personally would do it again if it was for the right person.  Of course, I know people that think that my current situation of dating someone in Los Angeles qualifies as long distance.   I know people are busy and that driving in Southern California is a chore, but it confuses me that people are so adamant about people dating people within a 15 mile radius after going through all the work that is online dating.  I find it extremely narcissistic to believe that “the one” is within a convenient 15 minute drive, or maybe I’m just bitter that it never seems to be the case for me.

I’ve dated a handful of girls in Orange County, some that grew up there and some that ended up there for school or work.  Whether they were born and raised there or not, there didn’t seem to be anything especially “Orange County” about them, or at least nothing like The Hills or The OC might lead people to believe.  It wasn’t until I tried online dating that I discovered that most girls (at least on dating sites) that are compatible with me, don’t live in Orange County, but in Los Angeles.  Obviously, part of that can be attributed to the fact that Los Angeles has more people, and therefore there’d be more matches, but it’s not like Orange County is a small desolate area.

My Los Angeles friends claim that Orange County folk are a completely different breed, stereotypes withstanding.  I’d like to think that growing up in San Diego would give me a unique perspective in the OC v LA debate, and while there are definitely some differences, there seem to be enough people in the OC or transplants that live here to make me believe that there has to be more than a few girls that I’m compatible with.  I once tried to date a girl from the OC who moved to LA, and even though things started great through e-mailing, things fell apart once we met in person.  For some reason, the chemistry was just not there.  She’d make jokes that didn’t land and I tried to be charming, but everything just fell flat.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  It just didn’t click.

I eventually decided to cast my net past my initial 30 mile radius and I dipped my toe into the bigger pond known as Los Angeles.  Perhaps as some sort of rite of passage, I immediately dated an aspiring actress, then a girl with a fashion design background.  This was based on the online cards that I was dealt, opposed to me trying to date the most glamorous girls that I could find.  I did for a while, fall in love with the idea, that I was supposed to be dating girls of this ilk, and that’s the reason why I had so many lean dating years in my 20s.  I met some great girls, but they were all too busy to fit me into their chaotic and overbooked lives.  Eventually, I would start dating girls that had more “normal” careers, which didn’t immediately change my dating fortunes like I had hoped.  Even when it came to dating the “normal” girls, the online dating sites continued to direct me north, and right when I was at the end of my rope, I found success.

While I’ve noticed myself spending more and more time in LA since I first moved to Orange County for college, it’s not like people who enjoy music and comedy are exclusive to LA.  The journey didn’t reveal to me what was so different between the girls of LA and  the girls of OC, so I’ll never know why an overwhelming number of matches were just far enough away where it was almost inconvenient.   It’s a moot issue at this point, and my love life has never tried to sit me down and explain anything.  But, since a computer was involved this time around, it seems like now would be a better time than any to ask for a logical explanation.

 

 

I don’t just like things, I love things, and I especially love to geek out about those things.  Whether it be music, sports, or food and drinks, my interests are rarely casual.  While I’ve done no research on the matter, my experience has taught me that those who share my specific geekery tend to be men.  Most of the record store workers, draft prospect followers. BBQ fanatics, and  beer / whiskey snobs that I’ve ever met have been mostly guys,  so when a girl happens to enjoy these topics on a similarly fanatical level, she tends to be look at as something like a unicorn.  They exist, I’ve had my heart broken by a couple of them.  I also have a friend that fits that description and she can quickly amass quite the fan club.  My girlfriend is not on of these unicorns, but when we first started dating, she took an interest in learning about the things I love, and that proceeded to get her into some very awkward encounters.

A couple of months into our relationship, she went to Coachella with her friend.  During some downtime, she decided to go to the record tent to see if she could pick up a gift for me.  A random guy struck up a conversation with her, asking her what she was looking for, so she told him “The Replacements”, because she knew I was looking for their new covers record.  This, and also his possible interest in her friend, caused him to start talking about his appreciation for The Replacements which somehow quickly segued into him talking about how he was also a Canadian folk musician, who was unfortunately not Neil Young.  She told him that she was also looking for Husker Dü records, also per my request, and that caused him to scoff “Nobody who likes music would admit to liking them.”, which is a strange thing to say about a non-mainstream punk band.  My assumption is that he didn’t actually know who Husker Dü was or that Husker Dü and The Replacements came out of the same music scene so they shared a lot of fans, but my girlfriend wasn’t equipped with this information.  She just shrugged it off, but her and her friend were stuck with this annoying guy following them around and trying to talk about music, all because he thought he had an “in” when he heard her mention The Replacements.

A couple of months later, she was waiting on a friend for happy hour at a gastropub.  When she looked at the beer list, she said that they had Pliny the Elder on tap, and she remembered me mentioning once that it’s one of my favorite beers.  She ordered it, and immediately that caught the attention of a guy, who took that as a cue to strike up a conversation with her about craft beer.  My girlfriend likes sour beers, she’ll even suggest checking out breweries in the area, but she’s not someone that regularly talks about beer.  While it’s possible that he would’ve hit on her anyways, the chances of him approaching her in the first place would’ve been much lower had she ordered a more nondescript and less classy drink.  He thought he had found a unicorn, and became agitated when he found out that my girlfriend didn’t want to talk about hops and IPAs.

While my girlfriend may not be a music geeking, beer drinking unicorn, she manages to put up with music geeking, beer drinking me, and that’s more than I could possibly ask for.  At first, I felt bad, or even a bit responsible for the fact that she had these encounters with these guys, but in a way, these encounters opened some sort of window to who I could’ve been, if I had continued to be so hung up on trying to find someone who was exactly like me, looking for that someone who shared the same amount of enthusiasm for all the same things.  While my girlfriend may not know who The Replacements are, she’ll willingly go to a music festival that The Replacements are playing at, and while she may not try to figure out what makes a certain beer so good, she can at least appreciate different kinds of beer.  She knows enough to understand my geeking and in the end, I’m glad that I understand that’s all I really need.  Let the others chase after the unicorns.  I don’t need one.

 

While at a baseball game, my girlfriend’s friend brought up online dating.  Whether it was from having a couple of drinks, or because of the pace of the game, or both, I decided to offer her a free on the spot consultation of her dating profile.  I wouldn’t consider myself as an online dating expert by any means, but since I had used online dating successfully (aka I was dating her friend), I felt that I could at least give her a guy’s point of view on what she wrote about herself.  She obliged, and I immediately started to comb through her profile, giving her feedback based on a quick look through.  I was very blunt about things since she knew I was there to help and especially after learning that her profile wasn’t created by her, but instead by 2 of her guy friends.

The profile definitely read like it was written by multiple people, and it almost came off as it were a joke, or that she might be schizophrenic.  Not that her friends were trying to humiliate her, but they decided to forgo the more essential details about her to instead mention how much she loved snuggies.  They also admitted at the beginning of the profile, that she was basically being forced into this, and from my experience with this stuff, people who haven’t completely embraced meeting someone online are probably going to self-sabotage things even if they find someone that they might potentially like.

After giving her my feedback, we realized that it would be best for her to just start over from scratch, meaning that it would be best for her to completely shut down the account and to open a brand new one when she was ready to fend for herself.  That way she would have the necessary time to work on her profile, run it through a few friends, and finally release it into the online dating world with no regrets.  It sounds like it’s more agonizing than it should be, but I completely understand.

Creating a profile is actually a pretty time intensive task.  While I may overanalyze things more than others, I’m sure everyone overanalyzes their profile to a certain degree before publishing.  It’s difficult to find that balance between including not enough information and too much information, all while trying to let your personality shine through.  It’s especially difficult because it seems like the vetting process for online dating is to read through a profile and then immediately stop and move on when you find something you don’t like.  There really is such thing as too much information.

When I was online dating, I made things even more complicated by keeping my artistic aspirations a secret from the dating world, not so much out of embarrassment, but mostly because I didn’t want to explain them.  If I just wanted to write the next great novel, or if I just wanted to play in a band, that’d be easy.   Unfortunately, I have a theater show that combines music and storytelling, but it’s not musical theater.  It’s not a variety show, and it’s kind of like a radio show, but I’m not on the radio.  Just trying to write out the description is exhausting, and I could only imagine the amount of confusion that it would bring for a complete stranger that has never met me.

My profile contained no lies, but it hid a huge part of my life.  While it might be an exaggeration, it felt like I was living a double life, which is exactly what you’re not supposed to do with an online dating profile!  On my profile, I was mild mannered Ryan, with a steady 9-5 job and an interest in the concerts and movies.  In reality, I was trying to put together a house band for my theater show and write an autobiographical non-fiction book.  Since I wasn’t making any sort of career out of my theater show and writings, it was just a hobby.  And since it was a hobby, I thought having such an ambition would be counted against me like I was desperately holding onto a dying dream.

On some first dates, I felt comfortable enough to share about my book and show, but on others I didn’t mention it.  If I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning it, it was usually a sign that I wasn’t going to want to see the girl again.  It never seemed to be a huge deal to the girls who heard about it even though one of them deadpanned “are you kind of a big deal?” on the phone once.  Even though it wasn’t causing much controversy, I still kept it off my profile.  I had a fear that they would see a guy who had strange interests, no matter how precisely I explained it.  When I broke up with a girl after a month of dating, she pleaded “please don’t write about me.”, which showed me that my fears weren’t exactly unfounded.

Fortunately for my girlfriend’s friend, she doesn’t have a weird secret passion that she’s unsure about sharing with random strangers, so I assume she’ll be fine once she sits down and cranks out a profile.  Fortunately for me, it’s possible that I’ve closed the chapter on online dating in my life for good, so I won’t have to worry about whether my writing and my show will hinder me from getting a date.  It’s been 5 years since I’ve started this writing / show journey, and while I haven’t quite been able to list it on a dating site, there was a time where I wouldn’t even mention it to certain friends and family out of fear of embarrassment.  Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to list it beside what I do for a living, or the places that I like to travel to and I’d like to think that’ll happen even if I’m no more successful then than I am right now.

After attending an art walk, I went to get drinks with a couple of friends, one guy and one girl.  A girl friend of the girl joined us to put our group at 4.  We chatted about the art walk and we made the typical small talk that’s associated with meeting someone for the first time.  As the night ended, the girls headed out together, while my friend and I headed back to his place.  After we were well out of earshot, I asked my friend if he had noticed that the girl, while very attractive and friendly, had a single broken finger nail.  He had also noticed it, and then we delved into some strange deconstruction of why she was attractive, in her mid 30s and still single.  Somehow, that single broken finger nail was emblematic of some level of “crazy” that this girl had that we didn’t see in our brief introduction to her that night.  It was like a crack in the veneer.  I felt pretty awful that we had come to that conclusion based off of very little knowledge, and then felt worse because, I know many guys that would come to the same conclusion.  There’s a “crazy” stigma for pretty girls over the age of 30 that haven’t been married or engaged before.

Since I knew it was silly and unfair, I tried to push that stigma out of my mind.  It was moot for the most part since I wasn’t meeting many older girls in their 30s, but I didn’t need to complicate my already less than robust dating life.  That was before I came home late on a Friday night, and I decided to log onto my online dating account.  I typically didn’t log into my account on Friday nights because I didn’t want to give girls the impression that I have nothing better to do, but there I was, at 1 in the morning, seeing if Mrs. Right was also at home, seeing if I might be out there.

After a few minutes of browsing, when I was about to log off and call it a night, I received an IM from a girl on the site.  In the handful of years that I’d dabbled in online dating, I had never once received an actual IM from anyone, so it was kind of unsettling.  The girl IM’ing me was a girl I had seen on the site before, one that was attractive, but ultimately not interesting enough for me to actually pursue.  Since she was reaching out to me, I decided that I should reconsider and see if we had any chemistry.  The chat software was awfully slow and buggy, and I was pretty exhausted, so we decided to arrange a phone call the next day.

I called her the following afternoon and things seemed pleasant at first.  She was 33, and she was working as a substitute teacher, hoping to latch onto a permanent teaching position for the upcoming new year.  Less than ideal details about her life started to surface, like the fact that she lived at home with her mom, but these things were typically due to circumstances out of her control like losing her full time teaching job during the 2008 recession, and the fact that her father had passed away a few years earlier. These things made me sympathetic to her situation.  Of course, shortly after feeling for her and her situation, she offered me the unsolicited advice that most girls don’t like facial hair, and that I should consider shaving on a regular basis if I wanted more dates.

I decided to ignore her rude advice and proceeded to set up a date with her.  I would take her to a Oaxacan restaurant that I had gone to a few times before, over by where she lived.  I figured that if the date wasn’t going so well, that I would at least be able to enjoy a good meal for my troubles.  She agreed to the date and we agreed to text back and forth to get to know each other better in the meantime.  Sparks weren’t flying, but I was enjoying to get to know her and I hoped that things would progress.

Unfortunately, things started to unravel even before we arrived at the restaurant.  A couple of hours before the date, she texted me if I was on my way.  I told her I was still at work.  She asked me what time I was planning on arriving, and I told her the time we agreed upon.  She seemed skeptical.

About an hour before the date, she texted me again.  She asked me if I had left yet.  I told her I was at home, for a quick change of clothes, and that I’d be leaving shortly.  She asked me again if I was going to be late.  I said no.  Once again, she seemed skeptical.  I grew slightly annoyed by her constant badgering.

I arrived at the restaurant on time and texted her that I had arrived.  Surprised, she texted me that she’d be there in a few minutes.  I checked in with the restaurant, got us a table, and soon after, she arrived.  She told me she had often driven by the restaurant but had never eaten there, so I found this promising.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know there would be live music that night, so noise became a bit of an issue, but not to the point that we had yell.  When the waiter arrived to take our order, I ordered a margarita.

“You’re drinking on a Wednesday?!” she asked, on the verge of outrage.

“Yeah…” I responded, confused that my order was causing any sort of reaction.

“But it’s Wednesday.” she persisted.

“It’s not like I’m ordering shots.” I muttered, frustrated by her interrogation.

I told her I wouldn’t drink if it made her more comfortable, but instead of taking me up on my offer, or just letting me have my margarita, she decided that she shouldn’t let me drink alone.  I reassured her that I was fine, but she quickly started browsing through the beer list, and then out of nowhere, decided that she should have a long island iced tea.  I didn’t understand her logic, but I just wanted to move on, so I didn’t bother to ask her to explain.  The food and drinks came out, and I tried to steer things back to a normal conversation.  Things went well for a while, until she decided to let me know that she thought the restaurant was more ideal for a happy hour gathering, than a first date.  I was already pretty sure that there wasn’t going to be a second date at this point, but I still nodded politely, trying to keep things from completely becoming a catastrophe.

After dinner, she suggested that we go get coffee.  I agreed to coffee, not because I was hoping that things would turn around, but because I figured I should kill some more time before making the long drive back home.  We got in our respective cars and met at a local cafe.  She offered to pay for the drinks, since I paid for dinner, and we sat down, resuming our strangely friendly but sometimes contentious conversation.  She opened up about her family for a little bit, and this revealed some resentment towards her father, who she unfortunately wasn’t able to make peace with before he passed away.  She then went on a rant about some teacher that she knew and how he was a bad influence on the kids he was teaching.  While I understood that the guy shouldn’t be teaching kids that his superficial and pathetic lifestyle was something to aim for, I couldn’t understand why this was such a “hot button” topic that we needed to discuss on our date.  I had already given this date plenty of chances, and this was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I told her I had to get back home, I walked her to her car and said goodnight.

I drove home and immediately regretted going on the date.  The age thing crept into my mind, but it would be a disservice to dismiss her as crazy, or that any of these 30+ year old pretty girls are crazy.  This was simply a girl with a lot of baggage, who couldn’t keep that baggage from creeping up time and time again.  Life had dealt her a bad hand of cards and it was understandable that she had accumulated a good deal of bitterness along the way.  From losing her job, to having to move back home, to not making peace with her father, that’s a lot of disappointment for one to handle.  It’s a miracle that the only visible signs of her disappointment were in these little spurts of negativity. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, she wasn’t crazy, and most importantly, she was stilling putting herself out there, even if I ended up being a dead end.  That’s not crazy behavior, that’s down right respectable.

 

 

I could easily skip over the chapter of my dating life that encompasses my early 20s.  There were a fair share of crushes and an equal number of rejections from said crushes.  It was an extremely long learning moment and I thought it was going to never end.  While I didn’t necessarily have problems talking to girls in college or in the years after, I had trouble asking them out, or making it clear that I wanted to date them and not just hang out.  A lot of the experiences kind of blur together but I remember one thing in particular very clearly.  Being obsessed with Julia Roberts romantic comedies or Sex in the City was a huge turn off for me.

I couldn’t immediately recall why.  The first thing that came to mind about my younger self is that I must’ve been especially elitist at the time, since Julia Roberts and Sex in the City were very much in the mainstream.  On top of that, romantic comedies, starring Julia Roberts or otherwise, and Sex in the City skew towards a female audience, so they’re naturally something a guy scoffs at.  I know that I didn’t fault girls for liking  “girly” films and TV shows, and I remember having some sort of respect for Sex in the City, perhaps because it was on HBO; I don’t think I’ve actually seen a whole episode.  I eventually realized that these oddly specific films and this TV show became a surrogate for my failures and not because of my elitist tastes.  They were a common trait in a lot of the girls that rejected me and because of that, I probably thought there some sort of warped feminist message in them, not that I’m particularly familiar with either.  It was why girls went to brunch with friends over going on a date with me.  That’s what I told myself.  It wasn’t them or me, it was Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker’s fault.

I eventually got over that.  It’s nice to see how far I’ve come since those days in the early 2000s, but it’s strange to connect how pop culture has been part of my dating process from the beginning.  I’ve always tried to be about finding a quality person with a good sense of humor and that sharing a love for the same kind of music or films would just be an added bonus.  It took a long time to realize that I was lying.  My humor, my interests, all tie in to my favorite bands and my favorite films.  There’s not much you can do to separate the two.  It’s not that I need someone that likes all the exact same things, but there needs to be some common ground.  Besides, I haven’t met a single Pavement or Replacements fan that I haven’t gotten along with.

When I first started my online dating experience, girls would ask me if I went to a lot of concerts. Based on the girl, I would tailor according to what I thought they wanted to hear.  My answers would range from a simple “Yes, all the time” to “I used to go to a lot of shows but I think that I’m starting to slow down.”  Neither answer was a lie, but the former is definitely a lot closer to the truth than the latter.  I think I believed the latter when I said it, hoping that whatever girl I said it to would somehow quell my love of concerts in some other way.  It might have worked, but I’d most likely end up at my usual spots, or waking up at odd hours trying to get Radiohead tickets.

My initial tendency on a date is to try to make things go as smoothly as possible, which is not necessarily a bad goal to have.  Unfortunately for me, when I started going on these dates, I was trying too hard, to the point where I started compromising who I was just to please some person that I had just met, and had no mutual connections to.   I wasn’t lying, but I was shuffling my interests around to better my chances.  This is not a bad initial strategy, but I was pretty awful at keeping up the charade, so it probably wasn’t the best strategy for me.

For instance, I once went on a first date with a girl at a wine bar.  It was a cordial date.  No sparks were flying, but it was far from a disaster.  While we didn’t have a ton in common, we were getting along, we were laughing, and then “Jenny and the Ess Dog” by Stephen Malkmus started playing overhead, and I had to bring the conversation to a halt.

“Sorry, but I really love this song.” I said.

“Oh don’t worry about it.” she replied.

I believe she asked a couple of questions about what we were listening to.  Instead of answering them quickly and moving on, I went on about Malkmus, then about Pavement, then probably about indie rock as a whole.  She graciously allowed me to go on and on about music, even though I know she didn’t appreciate music on such a geeky level.  In fact, I was trying to shy away from the subject all night until fate decided to intervene.  It didn’t sink the date but instead of following my plan of showing her what similarities we had, I spent a good 5 to 10 minutes highlighting a huge difference that we had.

We kept in touch and I tried to see her again.  We tried to set another date but her work proved to be quite a controlling mistress.  I know that if she really wanted to see me again, she could’ve made more of an effort, but I’ll stick with her story that work was swallowing her whole.  She was working at an advertising agency in LA so it was entirely in the realm of possibility.  While she wasn’t a perfect match, it sticks with me that I probably killed some of my momentum with my Stephen Malkmus tangent.  I’ve moved on happily since then, but it’s a reminder that I can’t run from who I am, whether it’s hating on movies and TV shows in my early 20s to nerding out about “Jenny and the Ess Dog” on dates at 30. 

 

My roommate once told me of an awful online date he had where the girl complained all night, leading up to her throwing a fit about him ordering a non-alcoholic beer for himself when she wanted to grab a drink at the bowling alley.  My roommate doesn’t drink, but was trying to accommodate the girl, who didn’t feel comfortable drinking alone, for whatever reason.  While I would think most people would find my roommate’s gesture noble, she found it the exact opposite.  “I wouldn’t be caught dead with a guy with a non-alcoholic beer.” were her exact words.  Somehow, my roommate managed to not toss his alcoholic beer in her face and finished taking her out on that date.  Needless to say, he didn’t ask her out on a second.

I’ve had my share of crummy online dates, but they all pale in comparison to my roommate’s story.  Coincidentally, I’ve also had the experience of dating a complainer who, also had a weird hang up with alcohol. In my case, she was alarmed to see me ordering a cucumber margarita with my dinner, because it was a Wednesday.  She then feverishly looked through the menu to see if she could find something to drink so I wouldn’t be drinking alone, and ended up with a Long Island ice tea.  I don’t believe for a second that the alcohol was the reason she decided to loosen her tongue to bestow some wisdom on me that the place I took her to “would be okay for happy hour, but not a first date.”   She was just a miserable person.  That was a weird date for sure, but a totally harmless one.

While I wouldn’t consider it an awful time, the two dates I had with an aspiring actress named Kate, was a definitely a strange one.  It obviously started with promise since we actually got to a second date, but there were plenty or warning signs from the beginning that I chose to ignore in retrospect.  Kate was not a crazy in the conventional sense, she’s just someone who said and kept things in a shroud of mystery even though she constantly told me that she’s an open book, often times saying she’s an open book right after saying something mysterious.

“So you just started going to church after college with no church upbringing?”

“Yup.”

“There’s no big event that triggered that?”

“Nope.”

I decided to stop prodding at that point, and ironically enough, she decided to once again remind me:

You can ask me anything, Ryan.  I’m an open book.”

Perhaps, she would’ve eventually filled me on that if we had continued to see each other, but that’s not the only instance where I felt like she was hiding a closet full of skeletons or unaware of those skeletons, like at the end of our first phone call, when she basically ended the conversation with, “Just so you know, I’m not a floozie.  So don’t think you’re going to get any.” or when I walked her to her car at the end of our first date, and she basically told me not to get any bright ideas.  Outside of her feeling the need to explicitly tell me that she didn’t want me to sexually assault her, our first date was actually very enjoyable.  It was the 2nd date, however, where everything went downhill, and it started going in the direction from the moment that I went to pick her up.

I brought a rose with me and pulled up to her place.  As I walked to the lawn, she bursted through the door, not with anger, but with fear.  “Hey, lets get out of here.”   We hopped in he car, she thanked me for the rose, and told me that she didn’t want me to get interrogated by her grandparents.  I knew previously that she lived them, but didn’t know that they would be home or that they were the nosey types.  I shrugged it off, and tried to make the best of things, but soon the date would go off the rails for good.

A few minutes after we pulled onto the freeway, she alerted me that she was car sick.  I apologized for my driving but she quickly clarified that it wasn’t my driving, but rather she always gets  sick when she’s not driving.  Either she didn’t want to go on this date with me and was looking for an excuse to shut down, or she was actually car sick, I decided to believe the latter, so I wouldn’t resent her during the date.  She asked me to turn down the radio and she closed her eyes, leaving me to my own thoughts, wondering if this was going to be the worst date in the history of man.

Fortunately, things got better, but not to the point where I could gloat to my friends that I completely turned things around.  Once we arrived at the restaurant for dinner, her dizziness stopped and we actually had a conversation.  It wasn’t an awkward or painful experience, but we were not hitting the same highs that we had on the first date.  I took her to a show after that and then I dropped her off at home.  I didn’t particularly want to ask her for another date, but I did anyways, thinking that I couldn’t blame her for getting carsick, even though she should’ve never agreed to let me pick her up in the first place.  She declined but told me I was a perfect gentlemen before getting out of my car, giving me a hug, and exiting from my life.

While I was initially bothered by her lack of foresight, I was more bothered that I even offered another chance.  I let her turn me down, and that added insult to the end of the night.  It wasn’t horrible overall, but I felt like I was the only one trying, and I left her the impression that I thought the night was pleasant enough.  This was at the beginning of my online dating life, so I didn’t know what to do at the end of a date where I didn’t want to see the girl again.  I eventually learned as I eventually went on more dates,  that more often than not, dates are going to end up in disappointment.  There were more downs than ups, and there were times where I had to be convinced that I shouldn’t give up.  It’s a roller coaster ride, one that especially makes you a little sick when you realize that you’re not the one driving.

I had been dating April for a few months when we went to go see the movie, In Time on Halloween.  We were already drifting, so taking her to this movie was kind of a last ditch effort to try to turn things around.  She had a guilty pleasure for Justin Timberlake, and even she knew it wasn’t going to be a mind blowing movie.  She didn’t appreciate that I was making predictions at how terrible (pun driven) the dialogue in the movie was going to be, but I don’t think that was the final nail in the coffin for us.  In the spirit of this bad film, let’s just say that we were out of time, we just stopped having a good time, and that the timing wasn’t right for us.

We met on a free dating service, and decided to meet for drinks on a Friday night.  Humor-wise, we clicked right from the start so we were both pretty comfortable with each other.  After  a few drinks, we were in good spirits, and we were trying to plan what to do next.  I suggested that we go to a karaoke bar in the same plaza that we were in, but she suggested that we go crash her co-worker’s first date at a local bowling alley just a couple of miles away.  While crashing the co-worker’s date sounded a lot more fun as an idea than the actually reality of the situation, it was still a very successful first date.

Between that first date and watching In Time, it was never volatile, but we never clicked enough to get serious.  Things ended over text, and while I wasn’t completely shocked by it ending, I was still open to trying to make it work, so it stung more than other failed online pairings.  I don’t remember if there was any talks about trying to be friends, but I probably didn’t take them very seriously if there were.  Not that I was furious, but I wasn’t in the mode of looking for new friends.  I got a new job a few weeks later, and that helped me get over things pretty quickly.

This new job was a shining beacon of hope for me.  I had been trying to leave my old job for a while, so it freeing to know I would be leaving a place that had been dragging me down for the past couple of years.  I would be making more money, I’d be around more people my age, and maybe most importantly, it would signify a fresh start in so many aspects of my life.  I immediately felt more confident and I started to look forward to the upcoming year, because my 2011 had come up so empty after so many promising opportunities.

Then a couple of days before our Christmas break, I was awoken from my phone ringing early in the morning.  It woke me up and for whatever reason, I decided to answer it.  To my surprise, it was from April’s phone.  I heard a lot of rustling on the other end, and no one responded when I tried to say “hello?”, so I realized that her phone had probably called me on accident, via a “butt dial” or a “bag dial”.  I hung up, and sent her a text telling her that she probably accidentally called me and that I hoped she was doing well.  She texted me back and through a series of a few texts back and forth, we decided to have lunch the next day to catch up.  I didn’t look at it as a potential opportunity to rekindle what we had, even though that’s what my friends were predicting would happen after hearing the news of this “accidental” (their quote marks, not mine) phone call, but mostly just out curiosity.

The same morning of the April phone call, I was told by my c0-workers that our lunch plan was changing.  Initially, we were supposed to go to Korean BBQ and instead we were now going to get Shabu Shabu.  Not only were we going to Shabu Shabu, but we were going to the Shabu Shabu bar that I would frequent often, when I was dating a waitress there earlier in the year.  I expressed some reservations about going there because of her, but my co-workers argued that I didn’t even know if she still worked there, and if she still did, I didn’t know if she would be working the Thursday lunch shift.  It was a solid argument, but I should have trusted my gut.

When we walked in, and I immediately saw her.  She waved, but I wasn’t sure if she was being sincere or just professional.  We were seated and greeted by a different waitress, so I started to calm down a bit, until she magically appeared in front of me, asking how I’ve been since the last time I had talked to her six months earlier.  I started to talk about how my car go totaled about a month after she broke things off, and she ran around the bar and gave me a hug.  It was unexpected, and somehow none of my co-workers were paying attention while any of this transpired.  We caught up, and I was relieved to know that things weren’t going to be awful between us.

I had lunch with April the next day, and we ended up hanging out a few more times after that.  We slowly drifted apart as friends as we both found serious relationships.  It was inevitable, with our history, that our friendship would be temporary, and it was one of the main reasons I wasn’t really pushing for it when things ended romantically.  It was still good to have that time, just like it was to see the waitress harbor no ill will towards me.  Both of them ended things over text, so it was nice to replace my last memory of them with something much more pleasant and actually in person. It was an emotional whirlwind for me in the span of 24 hours, and it just happened to occur right before Christmas.  It would obviously be an exaggeration to classify this as even a minor Christmas miracle, but it helped me look ahead to the new year and to clean the slate of unfinished business from a year that was about to literally become the past.

Sometimes, I’m glad that my best friend and I don’t share the same circle of friends.  While it occasionally causes his head to spin in his feeble attempts to keep track of who is who in my life when I share with him my adventures here in California, I still think it’s best that most of his friends have no idea who I am, and I have no idea who most of his friends are.  Perhaps, if his friends knew of my writing aspirations, they’d probably expect to hear a really great best man’s speech at Bruce’s wedding.  Instead, their expectations will probably be in line with those of most people at a wedding:  a hope that the speeches will be short and painless.

This will be my first best man’s speech, so I am in no way experienced at this.  While, some may expect this to be a relatively easy task for a writer, they don’t realize how different it is to write a speech opposed to a story, or an essay, or anything for that matter.  I might as well be writing in a 2nd language.  Sure, I’ve been to weddings before and I’ve seen other people give speeches, but most of them have been awful, and that is being rather generous.

I understand that nerves are often part of it, and that may excuse why one best man I know, accidentally muttered that the groom “settled” for his wife instead of “setting his sights” on her.  I’ve seen another best man make jokes in poor taste towards the bride, to the point where the bride’s family confronted him privately later during the reception.  I also experienced the longest best man’s speech in the history of the world, when a friend of mine decided to tell a story about the groom from his elementary school days, then his middle school days, then his high school days, then his college days, and then finally a story about when the groom started dating his bride to be.

These best men, all whom I know personally, are intelligent, creative, respectable men, so I don’t bring up their speeches just to ridicule them.  I look at them as potential warning signs.  Perhaps, their downfall could be attributed to some lofty expectations that they’ve set for themselves.  Not that I think any of these men were thinking that they could bring down the house with laughs, or that they could make the groom cry like a child, but perhaps they just flat out underestimated the intricacies of giving a speech, weighing every word, keeping it personal without making strangers feel excluded, and most importantly, keeping things short and organized.

I am happy to have a history of keeping my writings brief.  So brief, that in college, if a professor asked for a 5 page paper, they would get a 4 and a half page paper with a slightly larger than 12 point font, so brevity will not be an issue for me.  Organization, on the other hand, could be my downfall.  Typically, I know how a story is going to start.  Often times, I have no idea how a story is going to end. I’m know that it’s best to try to keep things focussed, because rambling and awkward pauses will probably doom me to the point of no return.

I’m trying to keep my expectations in check.  Yes, it’s a great honor to deliver a best man’s speech.  I want to knock this speech out of the park, but I know that I’m not the main attraction at this event and tt’s better to give a speech that barely registers on anyone’s radar, than to be the most memorable part of the reception.  While my best friend isn’t demanding, this is not the time to rest on my laurels and settle for giving it a good try.  I need to prepare for it professionally, as if this were for a job, not because I feel like I need to prove that I’m the right man for this, but because I want to do a good job for my friend.

I have no delusions of grandeur.  This speech will not be up there with the likes of The Gettysburg Address, but this speech will be one where I bear no regrets, and hopefully, especially in the internet age, it will not bear anything that is Youtube worthy.  I know there is a great amount of irony that I’m writing about writing the speech,  instead of actually writing it, but there’s a great amount of catharsis in one last disorganized writing binge before I buckle down and write the real thing.  Hopefully when I come back to this blog, this speech won’t be a story in itself.

 

Woody Allen coined the famous phrase “If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans.”  Sometimes, we curse the heavens regardless if we believe if someone lives up there or not.  If you do believe in the man upstairs, I advise you not to shake your fist in anger at him or he will smite you readily with his right hand.  On one fateful day, I looked up at the sky and said “Let this Match.com subscription bring me at least one meaningful relationship, or I’m going to order NHL Center Ice (approx retail price: $171.80), wear my Zack Parise Minnesota Wild jersey every day after I get home from work, and let myself go until the hockey season is over.”  By letting myself go, I mean: parking myself on the couch, eating a steady diet of liquid nacho cheese, and drinking a lot of beer.  Now, I didn’t hear God’s voice that day, but if I did, I assume our conversation would’ve gone something like this:

“God, did you hear me?”

“Yup.”

“So?”

“Ryan, have you heard of the phrase ‘Don’t bargain with the devil?'”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Don’t bargain with God either.”

My Match.com subscription proved to be fruitless, which despite my best efforts, was not a total surprise.  I wasn’t even asking to find “the one”, but one relationship that would justify me paying for a few months of dating roulette.   I spent a lot of money and drove a lot of miles to no avail.  There were more train wreck dates than not, and my subscription ended with me nursing my damaged ego.

Then there was the NHL lockout.  The NHL lockout prevented me from being able to watch any hockey, let alone any local games.  While I won’t be melodramatic and say that I was miserable, I felt like I’d been given a raw deal.  Instead of getting option ‘A’ or option ‘B’, I got option ‘C’, “none of the above.”  I was without a girl or an escape.  Either God needed to buy himself some time, or he was trying to teach me a lesson.  Seeing how he is an omnipotent being, I’ll stick with the latter.

I’ve always had a bit of skepticism whether God was ever listening or not.  I know that he’s not Santa Claus, but I’ve never seen many of my prayers answered, especially during Finals Week  in college.  Now, I can say, with much confidence, that he’s listening, and if you want to challenge him, he’s going to show off a pretty wicked sense of humor while bringing you down a peg.  I learned the hard way, and now all I want, is for hockey to come back.

 

I’ve dabbled in online dating on and off for the past few years, so it may come to the surprise of many when I admit that it wasn’t until recently that I was actually okay with the idea of actually being with someone from online dating.  It sounds ridiculous, I know.  Why would I waste time, and sometimes money, on these sites if I didn’t actually want to find someone?  There’s no longer a stigma attached to online dating, it’s akin to meeting someone at a club, or at a cafe, but I just couldn’t get over myself and the idea that a computer matching me up with someone would be the basis one of the most important stories of my life.  Unfortunately, now that I’ve come to peace with online dating and that it’s is a fine and exciting way to meet someone, my online dating subscription has expired.

I took my expiring subscription as a cue to take a break from being on the prowl.  So when my friend, Kevin, invited me to go to a secret warehouse concert, it seemed like the perfect reprieve. I was going to see live music with good company, and there’s nothing better than that, in my book.  Kevin, Mark and Robbie picked me up and we headed to Downtown Los Angeles to our “secret” location.  Robbie and Mark took the liberty of drinking during the car ride since Kevin was driving, as they had procured a six pack of Sprite and a bunch of small bottles of liquor to spike said cans of Sprite. I decided that I was going to take things easy and after taking a few wrong turns, we ended up at our desired destination.  Taking a couple of wrongs turns would be an apt metaphor for the night.

While we were trying to show up fashionably late for the show, we actually ended up being the first ones there, so we were there to see how this awkward show/party was going to unfold.  Half the people that walked through the door were in costume, expecting a Halloween party, while the other half (our group included) were in normal everyday civilian attire.  This magnified the awkward vibe of the party, since most patrons were congregating within the groups in which they came, costumed or un-costumed, unaffected by the bad house music being played, much like a middle-school dance in the gym.   Perhaps, the only person who wasn’t affected by the divisions was Mark, who was already noticeably drunk by this point.

I happened to notice couple of cute Asian girls from across the room, but I decided to table the idea of approaching them, especially with the lack of socialization in the warehouse in general.  Finally, our featured performer hit the stage, and I was finally able to lose myself in some good music.  At this point in the night, Mark was randomly attempting to high-five people, including an attempt to get a high-five from the performer on stage, and this is when I realized that the Asian girls from earlier had actually moved across the room and were standing next to me.  When Mark tried to high-five them, I decided to use that as my ice breaker.

“I apologize for my friend.  He’s actually the probably the smartest guy here.”

“He doesn’t seem very smart.” she quickly responded.

“He’s pretty drunk.  He started his drinking in the car.”

And so there we were, chatting it up between songs, finding a couple of things in common, and getting along.  Once the set had ended, I turned to my friends to see what our next move was, and all of a sudden, the girl and her friend were gone.  Admittedly, I was a little bummed that she had disappeared, but at this point in the night, I decided to cut my losses and tried to see if my group wanted to move to a different location.  No one was especially in love with the idea of sticking around this warehouse all night, but we decided to wait around for a half hour to see if things were going to get better.  They didn’t, but somehow we had lost sight of Mark, so we needed to find him before we left.  Mark was bumming a smoke outside, and even though I had re-spotted the girls, leaving outweighed the idea of humiliating myself while trying to pull a number.

Mark was smoking and chatting it up with a guy that he had met at the show.  We told the two we were planning on leaving and that we were planning on finding another destination to drink.  Mark’s pal then offered us bourbon at his place.  We asked where his place was, and he pointed to the warehouse next door to the one that was hosting the party.  Skeptically, we accepted the invitation, not before Robbie could whisper to me “he can’t rape all of us…”

Our new friend was a set designer, and this explained why he lived in a warehouse.  Half of the warehouse was a workspace, the other half was a living area, and since he and his cohorts were all set designers, the living area was actually really nice.  We drank bourbon, marveled at all his set designing tools and had a much more enjoyable time chatting with him, then we did at the show.  We finally hit a point where we decided that we should head out, but he offered to take us to eat some amazing tacos.  None of us were starving, but we decided to take up the invite as a token of appreciation of his hospitality, and we headed back outside.

Before we could even head down the path to acquire some tacos, I spotted the girls outside, walking towards our general direction.  I made eye contact with the one that I talked to, and hoped that she would acknowledge my existence.  Hearing “Hi Ryan.” never sounded so comforting in my life.  What followed was not a declaration of love for me, but a comment directed at Mark, “Hey, I heard you’re really smart.”  My brilliant plan was backfiring on me.

She interrogated Mark and I chatted with her friend.  We talked about the show, where we were from, both of us waiting for the girl for different reasons.  Finally, she was done, but instead of giving me an opening to ask her for her number, she told me that she and her friend were looking for a place to go pee, since the port-a-potties all had massive lines.  I couldn’t offer up my new friend’s warehouse because his roommates were all asleep, so they started to wander into an alley to pee behind a dumpster.  To avoid looking like a creep, I didn’t follow them, but our friend, being a resident of the neighborhood, informed me that there was a homeless man that lived in that alley and that I should warn the girls.  Luckily for me, the girls were still looking for a spot to do their business but before they could begin their business, I arrived to warn them about the homeless man.  They were thankful, and they convinced me to stand guard while they giggled and let nature take its course.  As I walked them back to the warehouse, we were met by our new friend who decided to nip the whole situation in the bud.  “Ryan thinks you’re both cute, and he’s going to stay here with you and dance while we go get some tacos.”  I didn’t want to go back to the warehouse, so I turned to the girl and asked her for her number.  She obliged and I was free to finally leave.

I tried to contact her a couple of days later and she never got back to me.  It’s probably for the best, anyways.  I’m sure she would be upset that my friends have been referring to to her as “dumpster girl” and that this story, while entirely true, does not put her in the best light, as amusing as it is.  Even though I had gotten over myself about online dating, this episode sure puts things in perspective.  How is meeting someone on a dating site all that more embarrassing than pulling the number of someone someone who just finished peeing behind a dumpster?  I’ve always preferred spontaneity, but perhaps I’ve finally found a place, personally, where spontaneity finally crosses the line.

 

 

I’m not big on New Years resolutions, but I remember thinking that 2010 was going to be a big year for me. It was, by all accounts, but not in a way that I was expecting. I had an inkling that I’d find the person that I was going to settle down with, but instead, I ended up finding the place I was going to settle down in. So, I technically fulfilled my resolution, it was just not in the way I intended to. It’s just another one of many reminders of how the majority of what happens in life is out of my control.
2010 actually ended up being kind of a tumultuous year for me in the emotional arena. There wasn’t necessarily any major drama during the year, but there was a consistent stream of minor turbulence. I’ve definitely had worse years in the past, but nothing in 2010 made me feel like 2011 was going to be a big year in the relationship department, not that I was expecting a sign from the cosmos.
Of course, stranger things have happened.
2011  barely started, but by all accounts it has been promising, or at least there wasn’t any drama from New Years Eve 2010, which was low key and and pleasant enough.  I woke up on New Years Day like it was any other Saturday morning. My goal for the day was modest: find some friends to enjoy dinner with. It was a cold day so I wanted something soupy, and since my friends, Nate and Alyssa had just gotten back from an even colder place, Michigan, I was sure that they were probably craving something similar.
The restaurant I ended up choosing was a Shabu Shabu restaurant that was just a few miles from my place. I found it one day when I was driving to the theater to fill out paperwork for my show. I had just discovered with a friend right before the holidays. I liked the place so much that I actually opened up a Yelp account so I could give them a positive review and to capitalize on the discounts they were offering. Nate and Alyssa had never had Shabu Shabu cuisine before and were interested in trying it.
When we arrived at the restaurant, it was pretty busy. We were told that there would be a 30 minute wait. Nate and Alyssa grabbed a menu and flipped through the pages, while I chatted with them about the different dishes the place had to offer. After thumbing through the food menu, they switched to the sake menu, and while they busied themselves with that, one of the waitresses caught my eye.
Now, I’m sure that she’s not the first cute waitress that I’ve ever noticed and she surely won’t be the last, but the green and blue streaks in her bangs particularly piqued my interest because it reminded me of Ramona Flowers from the Scott Pilgrim universe, and just like Ramona Flowers in the comic books/ movie, she had come out of nowhere and captured my imagination. Unfortunately, she wasn’t destined to be our server, but we were seated close enough where asking her to refill my water wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary.
I’d never really attempted to pick up a waitress, it’s never really been my style, so I didn’t initially put a lot of stock into the idea of it. I would ask for refills of my water, which she did graciously. In my head, this is where I expected the story to end, but the reality in my head and the reality of life aren’t always on the same page. She later returned, and to my surprise, she returned to chat.
“Are you Korean?” she asked. I got a little defensive.
“Why do you ask? What are you?”
“I’m Korean.”
“Oh, okay. Yeah, I’m Korean too.” I finally admitted.
“I could tell. You look Korean.”
“Thanks?” I’ve been told I look Korean a lot and have never known how to respond to that.
We ended up chatting about New Years and whether I did any of the Korean New Years traditions with my family, which I didn’t because I didn’t see my family that day. As far as I remember, my family never really did that stuff and I explained to her that it was probably because we lived in Minnesota, which is an explanation I use far too often. She asked me if I was a Vikings fan, so I told her “no, they always break my heart.”.  She told me that she had a friend who had lived in the Twin Cities that still loved the Vikings and that I should maybe reconsider. She left to go serve the other customers at the bar and occasionally I’d catch her or she’d drop by to chat some more. In a way, she kind of took over as being our server, though we would still see our original server from time to time.
Eventually the bill came, and I knew that my time with my Ramona Flowers was coming to an end. Nate and I put down our credit cards and explained to her how we wanted to split the bill, then I headed for the restroom. When I returned, she was chatting with Nate and Alyssa, and when I sat in my seat, she decided to greet my by my name which she had discovered from my credit card.  This gave me the perfect opening to ask what her name was, and I was amazed at how everything had been working splendidly.  Not only did I get attention of the cute waitress, but we were actually getting to know each other.
She’d occasionally tease me during the night and while we had built a very superficial camaraderie with each other, I was kind of surprised that she felt so comfortable around me right away.  I know that waitresses need to be able to fake friendliness as part of their job, but she seemed genuinely interested to chat with my friends and me.  In the span of this one dinner, where she was also preoccupied with serving other customers, she was able to befriend me and disarm me. Girls that I’m attracted to usually heighten the awareness of my insecurities but this girl was somehow making me more comfortable in my skin, while showing some playful spunk.

Of course it helps that her jests were about inconsequential subjects, like why it took me so long to expose Nate and Alyssa to Korean food. I left without asking for her number because I didn’t want to start the year on a note of humiliation. I ended up going back a couple of weeks later and asking for her number in the middle of the restaurant, in front of a bunch of strangers, and she actually gave it to me.  The restaurant would end up being the place where I’d perform most of my romantic gestures: I’d bring her a bottle of her favorite wine, which we’d enjoy while I ate there, or I’d torch up some homemade creme bruleé for her.
While things between us didn’t up working out in the end, I learned a lot about myself and how romantic I could be.  For once in my life, I felt like I was the lead in a romantic movie, and while I didn’t get the girl at the end of this story, I’ll can always look back at that beginning.

I know a lot of people who won’t date someone that has the same name as one their exes.  It sounds kind of silly and superstitious but I’m in the same boat. Of course I understand that everyone is unique regardless of their name and they should all be given a chance.  I also know that you shouldn’t give someone the power to ruin certain names for you, but I still understand and agree that it’s just too strange.  I’m not saying there will never be an exception to the rule, but at this point, it’s definitely looking that way.  I’m totally trying to not have too many hang ups with my dating life.  It’s complicated enough so maybe I’ll come around.  One thing I’m definitely not willing to ever budge on is dating someone that has the same name as one of my sisters.

Since we are a Korean American family, that means we each have two names: a Korean name and an English name, and since I have 4 sisters, that means that there are 8 names, not just 4, that I will not date.  With most girls in America, I don’t even need to worry about a Korean name, period, so it doesn’t stress me out beyond belief.  Though on one particular occasion, a girl’s name popped up to be the same as my sister’s Korean name, and it only got weirder from there.

I met this girl during my sophomore year of college.  She was a couple of years older than me and we started to hang out pretty regularly.  At one point, a lot of people were asking if we were dating, so inevitably we had to have that super awkward conversation about what we were.  At the time, the buzz word for this was a DTR, which stands for “Define The Relationship”.  I wasn’t sure how she felt, but she asked me if a relationship with her was what I wanted.  At the time, I didn’t want it because I was interested in another girl, one that would eventually rip out my heart and stomp all over it, but it wasn’t because this girl shared a name with one of my sisters.

Hypothetically, if it was, she could’ve argued that since she preferred a nickname version of the name, I wouldn’t have to think of it as the name name.  That, of course would actually makes things more bizarre, because her nickname plus her last name actually is my Korean name, which would mean I would in essence, be dating myself.  Luckily, this part of the conversation never happened, because I had, at least in my opinion, valid reason for not wanting more out of our relationship.  The most valid reason being that I was an immature sophomore in college.

I actually ran into her a few years later at a speed dating event that a friend of a friend had organized.  It was definitely nice to see her again, though I was a little disappointed to see that we were both once again single, 7 years after our little talk.  We kind of skipped the cursory introductions and we decided to catch up since we had fallen out of touch after she had graduated.  She told me that she was planning on moving to Hawaii and I told her that I was starting to write stories.  It’s the only conversation of the night that I remembered, the only one that wasn’t  blur in my memory.  While I don’t think either of us were itching to see if we had made a mistake by staying friends all those years before, it was clear in our conversations that we were headed in different directions and that this chance encounter was not the cosmos trying to give us a second chance.  If anything, it affirmed that I was right all those years before about us not working, regardless of the coincidence with the name.

In all this time since meeting her, I have not been in a dating situation with another girl who’s shared a name, English or Korean with any of my sisters, so perhaps I thought the universe had decided to take pity on me after I turned down this one girl for the right reasons instead of some silly hang up, but I was wrong.  A couple of years later, my parents warned me that if I wanted to date a girl who shared the same last name as me, I’d have to make sure that her family didn’t grow up in the same area of Korea as me, so not only was on the watch for names similar to me or my sisters, but now I had to be on the watch for the same last name as well.  It seems like more work in an already complicated dating landscape, and while my mom says that I can just ask a girl where her family is from as a basic introduction question, I think I’ll just try to keep things as simple as possible.

When I dated my first girlfriend, I dated her because she was cute, fun, and because she actually wanted to date me.  I’m not trying to say that she didn’t have any attractive or noble qualities, I’m admitting out how shallow and immature I was.  We didn’t date for long, we had fun, and then it was over (honestly, there’s not much else to the story, except that thing with the scar, and granted, that was post-break up).  Clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing, but it’s okay, I was 18 at the time, so my standards, or lack there of, were common among guys.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had friends talk about their “lists” or their “deal breakers” and “red flags”.  I don’t exactly have a list of  traits that I’m looking for, but that doesn’t mean that I’m back where I was at age 18, where I was just  looking for a cute girl that would give me the time of day.  While my friends have a list of specifics, I have more of a broad template.

During my sophomore year in college, I met a girl who we’ll name Josie (since I don’t know any Josies).  I met her at a club meeting and even though we had some mutual friends, neither of us were aware of this at the time.  We talked for about 2 hours and the topics ranged from small talk pleasantries (what’s your name? where are you from?) to literature and jazz.  While she and I had different tastes, there was some sort of connection that we had.  Even though she had never heard of Pavement, she was intrigued to hear about them.  Even though I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the authors and books that she liked, I was more than eager to hear her talk about why she loved them.  We were geeking out together and it was an amazing feeling.

We became good friends after that and it lasted throughout college until she moved away for school.  We kept in contact for a little while but eventually we drifted.  I remember when she came back from an East Coast trip, a few months after we met and everyone asked her how it was.  She told most people about the weather and how it was fun, but when I asked her about her trip, she told me how excited she was at how late the museums were open out there.  I did eventually fall for her at one point but she never felt the same way.  Our boundaries were always good so I never felt like she was stringing me along and I respected that.  As we got to know each other better, I realized that we weren’t a good match, which isn’t to say that I discovered things about her that I didn’t like.  Though our friendship, I learned a lot about myself and most importantly learned that the “connection” we had provides far more amazing feeling than just some pretty girl laughing at your clumsiest jokes.

I’m glad that I never put her up on a pedestal.  I don’t view her as “the one that got away” or as someone that I would drop everything and move for (as a friend, she’s asked me), and I’m careful to not compare girls I’m interested in to her.  We are better as friends than we would’ve been as lovers.  I just search for a “connection” where I can talk to someone for hours on end without having an agenda of things to talk about.  Honestly, I can’t say that every girl I’ve been interested in or dated over the past few years, has offered me that same sort of connection. So while I can’t say that I’ve avoided the meaningless “she’s cute and she likes me” trap that I like to believe I’m too mature for, I know better to settle for a relationship that doesn’t offer me that stimulation.  I understand that it might not come right away, but if it doesn’t show up at all, it is time to move on.

I have a bit of a bittersweet view on love.  I have a picture in my mind of a muggy afternoon, the air conditioner is broken, there’s nothing good on TV, and there’s nothing particularly exciting going on in life.  It’s just you and your significant other and the “No, I love you more, no, you hang up” phase is nothing but a distant memory.  There’s no work stories to share of stories about your friends and family.  You’re both tired and all you can do is talk and try to connect.  All you have is each other and your ability to enjoy each other’s company with nothing else to aide you.  I don’t find this as a depressing idea.  I’m just a firm believer in the adage of “all you need is love.”

As much as I’d love to have a list of specific traits that my girlfriend/wife will have, I just feel like being able to have “the connection” will trump it all in the end.  While I will absolutely admit that I would love to find someone before I hit 30, I know deep down that I’ll be happy to dismiss that silly goal if I know that I’ll be able to feel that connection for the rest of my life, because you can manufacture “having a good time” and I believe you can even manufacture “romance”, but you can’t manufacture effortless conversation and feeling understood.

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to someone who, after exchanging names and pleasantries, asked me what my personality type was.  After telling them that I was an INFP, they told me “I don’t get along with INFPs.”  We eventually became friends and we eventually he hit a point where we had trouble getting along.  I don’t think our personality types caused our conflicts, because they don’t seem to get along with pretty much anyone.  I won’t deny that personality types can give us a general idea of people, but it would be foolish to completely write people off or consider them your best friends just because of four simple letters.

A lot of people are surprised that I’m introverted and that I’m extremely introverted to boot.  They’re probably confused because they see me run around on stage like a maniac.  I’m fine with entertaining a big crowd but I don’t like having to socialize with a huge group.  It makes me tired, so I like small groups at best.  Unfortunately, I have to kind of prepare myself for social situations so when a situation changes, it’s hard for me to be flexible.  So when people show up uninvited, or when a small group turns into a party, I tend to be in a pretty bad mood, even if all the people in the room are people that I like.  It’s something that took me a while to figure out, and now it’s taking me a long time to deal with it.  Unfortunately I don’t think this irritation is going to go away any time soon.

Last week, I was going to go grab a late night meal with my friend and his girlfriend, so I showed up at his place and got in his car so we could carpool to the restaurant.  As I sat down in the car, he said “Okay, now we’re going to pick up my friends”.  It’s not that I didn’t like his friends or that I was particularly hungry, but I got noticeably irritated.  At the end of the night, I ended up having a good time.  I just know that I wouldn’t have been in a bad mood if my friend had told me we were going with others, opposed to surprising me with the situation at the last minute.  As much as I try not to be anal about this, the order of events are important to me. I like to be able to emotionally prepare myself for situations, which sounds silly, and it is, but that’s how I work.

I wonder if this hang up will end up sabotaging any chance I have at “success” as an artist.  I’m a bit of a paradox.  I’m a performer that doesn’t like to socialize with the groups that I entertain.  I plan events but I like to keep the invite list low.  My gifts seem to conflict with my personality, but I think that’s why I’ve been able to grow a lot as a person.  I’ve had to reconcile the two over the years and, while I’m not there yet, I feel like I’ve come a long way.  Obviously, last week was a reminder that simple surprises can still get a pretty dramatic response out of me, but I eventually came around and I didn’t pout and shut down, and I consider that great progress for me.

It makes me wonder how I would act if I were ever given fortune and fame.  Would I tell people that they can’t make eye contact with me?  Would I end up snapping and living in a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere?  I would like to think that these are only the actions of crazy people, but I can’t rule them out for me either.  Does this mean that I’m going to give up now to prevent myself from reaching anything close to these levels of success?  No, I’ve come too far.  I’m not necessarily saying I want to bite off more than I can chew, but I think I just need to let things run their course and take what opportunities life throws at me.  To try to deny that would truly make me a crazy person.

So, maybe if I will have some sort of infamous meltdown one day, and I’ll make a complete fool of myself in a very public setting.  I’m willing to take that risk and maybe my friend can tell all the people they know, “I knew he was going to do this one day because he’s an INFP.”

I recently found out the my ex-girlfriend go married.  I found out via social networking; but not through Facebook or Twitter, or Myspace, but through Linked In, a business social networking site.  After the breakup, we decided not to keep in touch and she is pretty anti-social networking.  I haven’t really updated my Linked In account for a couple of years, I just tend to add people when I get requests, so I forgot to delete her.  One day I was e-mailed “updates” from people we were connected to and when I opened the e-mail I saw a name that I didn’t recognize.  It was her first name but a different last name, and then I finally put two and two together.  “What?  Oh.  OHHHHHHHH.”

Finding out your ex got married is one of those landmark signs of adulthood.  (The first, I believe, is being genuinely happy for your friends when you hear they got engaged, opposed to wondering if pregnancy is involved with the engagement.)  It’s always kind of a weird feeling.  Even though I never had any ideas about getting back together with her, I will be honest and say that it threw me for a loop.  We had been broken up for over 2 years so it made logical sense that in that time, she could’ve found someone, dated them, and gotten married to them, so I can’t say that the timing was a huge shock or anything like that.  Perhaps it’s because in the time it took her to get married, I’ve been on a grand total of 0 dates.

Now I know that getting married isn’t a race, so it’s silly to think of my dating life in those terms.  I also realize that going on a bunch of dates with a bunch of different people isn’t going to make me feel anymore successful about my personal life if I’m not finding any people that I can have a worthwhile connection with.  I understand that finding the right person can take some time and doesn’t mean that it’s a reflection of how people view you when you’ve been on a bit of a dry spell.

I was at a sushi bar last week with my roommate.  We sat at the bar, and there was a seat between this woman and me.  She was asian, much older, and had already been drinking by the time we had gotten there.  I just wanted to enjoy my sushi in relative peace while making small talk with my roommate, but this woman forced herself into our conversation when my roommate asked me if I was going to take my parents out for Korean food the next time they were in town.  She proceeded to ask me if I was Korean and then told me about how the person that was on Deal or No Deal that day was a Korean man who was on the show so he could win some money to fly his parents back to the motherland and that he ended up winning $38,000.  After trying to humor her for the duration of her story, I tried to shift back into sushi eating privacy mode.

I tend to wear very interesting t-shirts.  I know they draw a lot of attention so I’ve grown used to people asking me what they mean, or what brand I’m wearing.  It comes with the territory.  On this particular night, I was wearing a t-shirt that Bruce had gotten me for Christmas a couple of years earlier.  On the back of this t-shirt, a man in a banana suit is chasing his friend with a knife.  If you don’t understand why there’s this image, don’t worry, it’s kind of an inside joke.  Unfortunately this woman decided to make the worst possible interpretation of this shirt ever:

“Is there a banana on a shirt because you’re a banana?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know a banana, yellow on the outside, white on the inside!”

I politely tried to explain that my friend got me the shirt and I didn’t know what it meant (a lie – I just wanted to keep the conversation short). She asked me if she had offended me and told me that she would stop talking to me if she did.  She said she wouldn’t take it personally but then said she really would (the train of though of a crazy person), and my discomfort level was off the charts at this point.  She got the hint that I didn’t want to talk to her and then she started telling the sushi chef that she was in her own league and that she was 44 and single and awesome.  She was pretty wasted at this point and she was kind of ruining my dinner.  She finally stumbled out of the restaurant after being surprised that her credit card didn’t get declined and that was the last that we saw of her.

On the ride home, my roommate teased me about the whole incident and how he was scared that the woman was going to try to sit on my lap or do something crazy during the night.  I honestly felt bad for her.  At 44, she was desperately seeking connection but she was shut out.  Drunk or sober, I was probably not the right person for the job.  It reaffirmed that I’m probably happier going on 0 dates than going on a bunch of dates where either myself or the women were just desperate for some sort of connection.  My ex might’ve found that certain someone and I’m happy for her.  I’m happy and resigned to the fact that one day, I’ll also have that certain someone, and that it’s okay that it’s just not today.

In college, my friend Haniel (he picked this name for this story, not me), was known as a girl hating cynic, but in reality, he once jokingly told me he pretended to hate all girls so he could secretly be in love with all of them.  So when he started dating his girlfriend, and now wife, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he was dating one of the girliest girls I’ve ever met, but I was.  It’s probably because we used to have these weird anti-Valentines Day celebrations on the weekend of February 14th where a bunch of the guys  would get together and splurge on sushi and watch whatever romantic comedy that was out in theaters at the time.  The two years we did it, we were fortunate with the movies we had to choose from.  Our first annual anti-V-Day dinner was concluded with 50 First Dates and our 2nd (and final dinner) was followed up by Hitch.  Sure they weren’t the greatest movies of all time, but for Valentine’s Day movies, they were probably as guy friendly as romantic comedies can get.

We tried to continue the tradition a year later but Haniel had started dating his wife and after sushi, no one wanted to watch Something New so things kind of died after that.  I guess we felt lost without our fearless leader or maybe it was just fitting to end it since he had gone from cynic to hopelessly in love.  A year later, I started dating, so I think that officially killed any chance of the tradition being continued, since no one wanted the torch passed to them.  I don’t blame them, passing the torch to someone is like saying “Hey, I don’t think you’ll find anyone anytime soon, so you should plan these things from now on.”  It’s more of an insult than an honor.

So after a couple of years of dormancy, I kind of retooled the anti-celebration.  Last year a bunch of my single friends (boys and girls) and I got together for a dinner in West Hollywood.  There was no movie afterwards, we just walked over to Milk for some dessert.  Sherlan and I got there earlier than everyone else and we decided to go get some rum and slurpees at 7-11 (and a liquor store).  As we were walking back to the restaurant, we passed by a Subway where we saw a couple of middle aged men were sitting at a table eating there sandwiches.  It’s possible that these guys were a couple, but we didn’t go inside to investigate.  It was a bizarre sight without having any context of who they were or why they were there.  We drew our own conclusions and continued on our way back.  As we approached the restaurant, Sherlan told me “Happy Valentine’s Day, Ryan.”, which caused the both of us to burst into laughter.  It was a throw away comment, he said out of obligation and mostly just to be ironic.  These events on the way back from the 7-11 were probably the only things that differentiated the night from the typical hang out in West Hollywood, because I honestly can’t remember much about the dinner or dessert, other than I know I enjoyed them.

I’ve only writing about these instances because they’re the only Valentines Days I remember (aside from actual dates – no need to bring those up).  As much as I’ve loathed the day in the past (aka when I’m not in a relationship), I’m pretty indifferent towards it now.  I don’t necessarily look forward to it, but it’s no longer a day where I want to lock myself in my room, eat a bucket of fried chicken and watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. (<- Please understand this is a joke) I’ve got a good group of friends and enough single friends where I don’t feel like I’m being left behind.  There’s that fear lingering in the back of my mind that I will one day grow old with a lot of cats, but it doesn’t come out in full force on Valentine’s Day, like I’m sure it does for some of the lonelier folks.  I’m not necessarily in the mindset that 30 is the new 20 and that I don’t need to date anyone, I’m just not going to let a made up holiday dictate how I should feel about my tax filing status.

Plus, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that eating a whole bucket of fried chicken in one sitting is bad news.  I guess this all just part of growing up.  Happy Valetine’s Day!

I’m not sure how long this has gone on for, but every week when I talk to my Dad on the phone, he asks me if I have any good news. So I tell him “I still have a job, that’s good news, right?”, but I know this is not the good news that he’s fishing for. My Dad wants to hear that I’ve found the girl of my dreams, his future daughter in-law, and that she can’t wait to start to pumping out the grandchildren. Like I said, this has been a recent addition to our phone conversations and it doesn’t look like it’ll be going away anytime in the near future.

When these conversations began, I think I was amused by the fact that my Dad was talking to me about girls. I embraced being a bachelor, using the cliche “I’m happy being single” whenever anyone brought up dating and quickly dismissed the “good news” question whenever it came up. Over time, that happiness of being single started to dissipate, and the itch to find a significant other started to show up to my chagrin. It’s not that I don’t want to be in a relationship, it’s that I usually get stuck in the “friend zone”, and it’s not because I can’t “initiate”, I’m just not the type for the girls I chase.

So after doing some chasing and being shot down, I turned my attention to a certain popular dating service. I found a deal for a 3 month trial and decided to give it a shot, since 3 months of this service would only cost me the equivalent of a video game purchase. I often found myself frustrated. I didn’t have a problem with the service, I ended up talking to people who only checked the site once in a blue moon. I can be a bit of an anxious person and I like to be in a rhythm, so perhaps this dating service doesn’t really fit with my personality. I didn’t expect to hear responses every day but I think waiting over a week for people to answer some basic questions is also too long.

Then I found Whitney. Whitney’s very cute, very smart, and has a sense of humor.  The fact that she’s in the midwest wasn’t going to deter me from getting to know her, especially since I grew up there and would consider moving back there at some point. We found a nice rhythm and I didn’t find any red flags with her. (Maybe the distance was a red flag.) She didn’t seem crazy, she was just sick of the bar scene and wanted to find someone serious, and didn’t care if that guy was across the country. We only knew each other by first name and at a certain point, I decided to give her my personal e-mail address, which coincidentally has my full name in it, hoping to move things along to where we would actually talk on the phone or fly out to see each other, (or however this works), but I guess this is where I messed things up.

So, I have a blog (this one), so you should probably know that this is not a personal blog where I talk about my issues or my exes or anything like that. I write short stories about my life, like I’m doing right now. At the time of my corresponsdance, my most recent post was about how my friend thinks that this little kid at church looks a lot like me and that they could be my kid. (Technicolor Salvation). It’s become an inside joke between a bunch of my friends, so I decided to write about it in a creative way. I wrote about how I think this kid is my kid from the future and then wondered why my wife from the future would send her back to me. It’s definitely an comical piece that really breaks down the perils of time travel, but I could understand why this piece in particular might scare off someone who is interested in dating me and doesn’t know me very well.

I know Whitney visited my site because I have Google Analytics and no one from her suburb ever visits my site. You could call this stalking, but she stalked me first by looking me up and visiting my site, so I think we’re even. She never wrote to me again, so I can’t be sure this is the reason that we stopped talking, but since I’m a writer and she’s left the ending to our online relationship open ended, I’d like to believe that she was scared off about the story of the future child. And do you know what? If she can’t accept that kid as our future child, maybe I don’t want to be with her anyways.

(This is fiction.  Trust me.)

“Do you want to take my hand?” and the girl said, “Take it where?”. And although he afterwards thought he should have said, “Everywhere”, he only just mumbled. – Looper “Impossible Things #2”

It was a Friday when David called me. I was surprised when I saw his name come up on the caller ID of my cell phone. We had kept in touch sporadically since college but we hadn’t actually intentionally hung out in years. He had recently been trying to get me to intern at the company he was interning at, but I had to decline since I couldn’t fit an unpaid internship in LA into my schedule. He asked me if I was willing to help out with a shoot on Saturday in Orange County. He needed me to shoot some stills for a gallery opening and the idea was met with a great deal of resistance. Operating a camera wasn’t one of my strong suits, especially a still camera, and working for free on a weekend wasn’t a very appealing idea either. He told me that the shoot was going to be in Irvine and since I was going to be there anyways, I decided to help my friend out.

David told me I was going to be working with his co-worker Cynthia and that he’d be passing my phone number along to her. While I knew that I’d be working with her on this Saturday, I didn’t know that David wasn’t going to be there. That made this shoot that much more nerve racking for two reasons. 1) I had never met this girl before, let alone seen her. 2) We were filming a live event which means that there’s no chances for re-shoots. This was a total recipe for disaster and that is exactly what we got.

Cynthia was very nice to me throughout the shoot, probably seeing that I was totally stressed out the entire time. She told me that she had heard stories of how creative I was from David and praised my choice of shots. At the end of the shoot, she told me that even though it didn’t go according to plan that she believed that we had met that day for a reason and that we should keep in touch. I wasn’t quite sure why she said that.  I was definitely not on the top of my game that day, and I wasn’t padding the time in between shots with witty anecdotes.  Somewhere during the shoot, she had misplaced her phone which pretty much was the cherry on top of this “crappiest shoot ever” sundae.

I didn’t hear from Cynthia again until a couple of weeks ago. I was down in San Diego visiting my parents. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was receiving a call from her and was even more surprised by the fact that she didn’t know she was calling me. She knew she was talking to a “Ryan”, but then asked me who I was. I had to explain that I was “the Ryan that shot those pictures for you in Irvine” before she was able to identify me. Instead of apologizing for calling the wrong person and hanging up, she asked me how I was doing, what projects I was working on, and proposed that she, David, and I grab lunch sometime. Some of my friends think this was not an accident and that she was looking for a reason to call me. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

On Saturday, a couple of friends and I went to a show that David’s company had organized. He had asked me to go even though he wasn’t going to be there. When we arrived, I took a quick peek to see if Cynthia was there (the staff were wearing t-shirts) and she was nowhere to be found. During the intermission, as I walked to the doorway, there she was (she wasn’t wearing one of the staff t-shirts). She was happy to see me (opposed to not knowing who I was), and stuck out her hand for a handshake. We shook hands, but there was something odd about her handshake. It’s not that I noticed her hand being hot, cold or her handshake being limp, or firm. It was just a long handshake, kind of in the same way that Irvine has long yellow lights. It’s just long enough where your brain goes out of “auto pilot” mode and you start to think about what’s going on but not long enough where it’s super awkward. When driving in Irvine, you can actually think “Should I go? I’m kind of in a hurry, so I’ll go” and still make it through. In the case of Cynthia’s handshake, I started to think “So when is she going to let go?”, not that I necessarily was bothered by it.

We chatted for a bit and I returned to my seat for the second half of the show. After the show was over, my friends and I headed for the door to leave. Cynthia was there, once again, and I said goodbye and we shook hands again. This time around, the handshake wasn’t as long, but there was still something about it. I couldn’t explain to my friends until the next day where I finally found the words to describe it. Her handshake was affectionate and I’ve never felt affection through a handshake before. While I don’t remember any of the small talk that we had that night, there was another conversation that was happening simultaneously between her hand and mine.

She asked “Do you want to take my hand?” I asked “Take it where?” with the anticipation that the answer was “Everywhere”.

I’ve never been on a blind date. I’ve been rejected more times than I’d like to admit, but none of my rejections have come via a blind date or by being setup via a friend or family member. I’m not sure if I would take the opportunity if it ever came up, not because I think it’s weird or because I look down on it, I just think that it’s not the best environment for me to showcase myself as an interesting person to be in a relationship with. There’s a weird expectation that comes with being setup with someone you’ve never met, whether it be via a close friend or eHarmony, that would stress me out, like if I’m not compatible with the person, that would make me believe that something was wrong with me. “eHarmony said we’re compatible but I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m a dick!” Being set up is kind of weird because if you fail, you feel like you’re failing your friend, or you feel like your friend doesn’t know you at all, or is a total prick playing a prank on you, and perhaps all of the above.

Plus, I kind of like to find out that I have common interests with people organically so I find them as a pleasant surprises. I like the exercise of seeing how many times I can say “me too!” in a conversation and be sincere about it. In all honesty, there’s something really rewarding when you finally “click” with someone that cannot be replicated by anything else.  Being set up or using a dating service seems to take away that feeling.  “Yeah I know we have that in common.  It was on your profile” or “Of course I know that, our mutual friend told me that’s why I should go on this date with you” just don’t do it for me.  I prefer to figure these commonalities out on my own, but I must admit watching a blind date from a distance is WAY fun.

In sophomore year of college, I ate out a lot with my friend Phil, (now of Percolator fame). We didn’t veer off to many exotic places, usually settling for the cheap and the convenient (ignorance on our part). One place we often ate at was a Thai restaurant, Thai Spice, which wasn’t exactly fast food, but not fancy either, so we were surprised to be sitting next to a couple on their first (blind) date on a Friday night.  We didn’t want to be rude, but there weren’t any other places to sit at and we didn’t know they were on a first date, or a date at all, and certainly didn’t care. We had other things to talk about (nothing of incredible importance that I can remember) and we were very good at entertaining ourselves, but at one point we grew silent, not because we didn’t have things to talk about, but because the conversation next to us became so entertainingly painful.

“So I like to go to concerts.”
“Oh cool.”
“So there’s the band you go to see, and then there’s a band before that.”
“Okay.”
“That’s called an opening act.”
“Right…”
“So the opening act goes on for like half an hour before the main band goes on.”

And at one point the girl had a really awkward realization and said to him “I think you’ve been talking this entire time.” and I’m not sure how Phil and I were able to keep our composure and return to our conversation. Obviously going on a date is difficult and I’m sure most guys look like asses when they’re the one in the middle of it, I’m sure I’m no better.  When you’re looking for that one thing to make the conversation flow, you feel like you’re treading water, and inside you’re panicking.  You start to look for a clever story you can share or you just start throwing things at the wall, hoping for something to stick.  Unfortunately, this girl did not want to throw him the life raft, and he floundered right in front of an audience of two.  I’m not saying he deserved to be saved, but at least he didn’t ask her about her favorite color.

It made me feel  for the guy and made me wonder why humans have to be so complex, why we need dating services and our friends to set us up with their friends. Why can’t we just be like the animals and smell each others’ butts and have the females present themselves when they’re ready? Wait, that’s called a dive bar. Nevermind. I’m signing up for eHarmony right now.

When I was 9 years old, I fell and needed stitches in my forehead. The fall was somewhere between 5-10 feet off the ground and I was knocked unconscious. I’m not sure how long I was out, I just know I came to while being carried to my parents’ car. I never opened my eyes because I knew something bad had happened and didn’t think seeing the aftermath would’ve helped my psyche. So actually, I never saw what required stitches, but since I never had stitches before, I assumed it was pretty grisly.

It was probably for the best that a 9 year old me never saw my head split open. Obviously the scar was a reminder that *something* happened but since I was unconscious/had my eyes closed/, I luckily don’t have recurring nightmares about the incident. The scar hasn’t gone away but it doesn’t stick out like an eye sore. My parents would like me to get it removed via plastic surgery but I haven’t had the time or the money to do it , plus chicks dig scars.

Honestly, the scar is kind of an afterthought for me and so when it’s brought up, it’s usually not a big deal. Usually…

Occasionally someone who I’ve known for sometime will freak out and say “Oh my God, where did you get that?!” or “What happened to you?!” and I will have no idea what they’re talking about. If they were someone I had never met before, I might have a better understanding that they’re talking about my scar. But since I will occasionally get this response from someone that I’d previously known, I will panic, since it doesn’t register in my brain that they might be talking about the scar. I don’t blame them for not seeing the scar (it’s not that big), I just wish they would temper their reaction or be more specific in what they’re talking about. “What’s happened to your head?!” can easily be taken the wrong way, like if I had just gotten a haircut.

Of course when an ex-girlfriend of mine sees the scar for the first time a year after our breakup, that brings up some serious questions. Now, I must say, we dated for a very short time, but the fact that she never noticed my scar in that short time is quite alarming. It’d be understandable if she had forgotten about the scar, but it’s another thing to completely to act like I had gotten the scar sometime after the breakup. It’s okay if colleagues and acquaintances don’t realize you have braces, but it’s not okay if your ex-girlfriend doesn’t realize you have a pretty noticeable scar on your head. Perhaps my expectations are too high for girlfriends, but I think it’s fair to think she’d notice something pretty unique on my forehead.

I found this out when Bruce flew into town for a visit. I hadn’t seen him in 6-7 years and I decided to call up the ex to see if she wanted to meet my best friend who lived across the country. So we decided to grab lunch with my friend Phil, and at this lunch she decided to freak out about the scar. Upon hearing this revelation, Bruce gave me a look. I can’t replicate this look (I don’t think he can either), but I clearly read “so this is your ex-girlfriend?” and immediately became embarrassed. So on a whim, I bitterly muttered, “Bruce cut me. That’s what happened.” Bruce decided to play along and quickly retorted “You deserved it.” and we quickly turned the story of the scar into a soap opera and at one point my ex pleaded for us to forgive each other since we had not seen each other in seven years.

After a few hours of bickering, we finally let her know we never engaged in a knife fight with each other and she was upset that we had been toying with her. I think she chased me around Borders for a while screaming. In the end, she let bygones be bygones and I finally told her the real story behind the scar. I don’t remember her reaction to the truth, but I imagine it was pretty unsatisfying. I haven’t talked to her for a while and she’s kind of notorious for having a bad memory so it’s possible that one day, I might run into her somewhere and she might ask me if someone busted my head open since the last time she saw me, and I’d tell her “my best friend cut me in a knife fight.” because I think we’d both be happier with the lie.