Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

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..