Liking: A Tale About Online Dating

One drink in, it became clear that date number one didn’t think too much of my profile.

He had a point. I had not even attempted the first section, “My self-summary.” Answering, “What am I doing right now?” I had replied, “Suffering questions designed to provoke existential dread.” I had left “The most private thing I am willing to admit” blank. I had also misspelled my moniker and couldn’t change it without paying money, so was stuck with VivanRutledge.

“I thought you were cagey,” he said. “Are you afraid your students will find you?”

I had not worried about it before.

We ate turkey jerky and olives, and in a mostly empty bar, the barman watched us talk. I did not know then that there is a distinct look to an internet date.

He told me that he used to live in San Francisco. This was where the love of his life still lived. I asked him if he’d gotten over her. “Either I’ll never get over her,” he said, “or it doesn’t matter anymore.” After that, he was in a five-year relationship with someone he met online, but he didn’t want to talk about that one.

We talked about homemade vodka stills, music composition, motorcycles and Vermont. He had indigestion, and fits of hiccups preoccupied him from time to time. He was currently working as a systems specialist for a lighting design company. “Saving the world’s lighting, one rich person at a time,” he said. “A guy I work with says that.” I liked that he gave credit where it was due.

It may have been the whiskey, but at a certain point he hit the praise button. He thought me better looking than my profile photo. He thought that he shouldn’t help me improve my profile. I thanked him for being nice. And he was.

I told him it was my first online date, and he was attentive and aggressively flirty in all the ways I had been dimly afraid of — proposing he accompany me to my friend’s lingerie business in Hudson that weekend, suggesting I stop by his place after a masked ball that weekend — but he had also been willing to talk about almost everything. He had listened with care. I keep on wanting to write that his eyes were kind, but that’s not it at all. He was just aware.

Outside, he watched me unfold my folding bicycle, and asked for a kiss. I gave him one: wet, brief, aunt-like.