I knew a first date on my birthday was risky but I had never dated a Ginger Viking before. The evening had the potential to be epic. OR. Or it could be an utter disaster that I would kick myself for attempting when I could have been enjoying the typical capstone of Single Girl Birthday Week: drinking a nice glass of red while letting Calgone take me away in a bubbly escape. Since I once paid someone to strap me to a giant kite and drop me from 10,000 feet up, with really nothing more than a bike helmet, I figured I could handle the risk. Did you know that’s what a hang-glider is essentially? A kite on steroids? It did turn out to be the only time my date has flashed another man in a bar. At a surprise karaoke stop. Soooooo….. That happened.
He approached me on OK Cupid, citing our apparent 99% compatibility. To preface, my relationship with online dating is my longest on/off relationship. It’s been 14 years of trying a new site, retrying a site, getting bored, getting disgusted, getting discouraged and giving up. I have never had more than a second date with a man I met on an online site, except a mutually beneficial arrangement with a Hobbit (my other on/off affair and a story for another time, my friends). If it has lasted more than a month we met in the real world, not the one made of cyber. Then I hear the miraculous successes that seem to have become more common as a greater number of legitimate people try services in our ever-seeking need to connect. My 70-something grandfather met my step-grandmother on ChristianMingle.com. And he’s a farmer. Who didn’t own a computer. Yes. You heard correctly. If he can meet ladies online and go have a chat with them at the Burger King on a Sunday afternoon in a quest for connection, what the hell is stopping me from being open to possibility? There has to be legit seekers out there such as myself, beyond the ghosts whom don’t heed the advice to Don’t Be a Casper, the miscreants and hook-up petitioners whose opening lines often consist of how they want to know how I taste, UR B8TIFUL (direct quote), or the ever so eloquent “WSUP? Wanna chat?”
Somewhere out there, beyond the fucking rainbow of cowards, players, and man-boys who think changing Kmart to Kfart and Wendy’s to Wenchy’s is the epitome of clever, (an actual in person dialogue with a 38-year-old man I agreed to meet from Plenty of Fish, which turned out to be ‘Plenty of Scum Suckers’ in my very, very limited visitation to that particular pond), there has to be a couple of dudes I can talk with, connect with, and am not repulsed by. Somewhere. Someone queue Judy Garland.
Tell me real men aren’t just ‘part of a land I heard of once in a lullaby’.
My tenuous history with the many facets of online dating makes me a bit wary. Even so, when a gentleman approaches me, or responds if I make the first move, I get a bit excited inside my Crunchy Shell. If said gentleman appears coherent, writes in full sentences containing both grammar and syntax, I get a wee bit more excited. If he makes me laugh at some point, here’s my phone number, here’s my underwear. Turn it up to 11. Let’s meet.
Which led me to conversing with a freckled, red-headed, 6 foot something, looking straight off the longship, please slap a horned helmet on him and maybe I’ll be entertaining fantasies where I praise “Oh Odin!” instead of the traditional Judeo-Christian “Oh God!” There’s that Hope Springs Eternal thing again. Maybe this time. Maybe. There were real sentences, even in texting. A vocabulary! I’ve said it before; I’m a slut for a vocabulary. Be still my heart. He’s even read Christopher Moore. We can talk about books we’ve both actually read. He was employed and indulged a passion for Special FX makeup and fabrication as a second job. The nerd in me rejoiced. I’m not an obsessive geek girl that can rattle off exponential theories about the next Star Wars but I know what a Sonic Screwdriver is, read LOTR many a time over (perhaps the inspiration for nicknaming a lover The Hobbit), have immersed myself in the Whedonverse, and would prefer a Netflix and Chill session to start with a George Romero Night/Dawn/Day of the Living Dead viewing over, say, The Notebook. I’m not immune to the magic of Ryan Gosling (Hey Girl) but I’ll pick zombies over that sappy shit any time.
Given that I stated in my OKC (that’s the abbreviation for OK Cupid for all you attached peoples out there not in the know) profile, “You should message me if you are interested in having a drink in the near future to discuss the genius of DuClaw or if you pull the tags off pillows that say ‘Do Not Remove’,” and his profession of love for trying craft beer, we agreed to meet at a brewpub that opened within the borough limits of my sleepy hamlet. The hamlet becomes slightly more happening on a Friday evening. I suggested it mostly because I Giant Heart Beer (almost as much as wine but let’s not get crazy) and it’s a low pressure atmosphere. Drinks and part ways, or drinks become dinner if it’s not a total shamble of a conversation. But it was also trying to be Single Girl Smart. I could walk there and if things went south I would be able to watch him drive away and take some known to me back alleys home a car can’t follow. With my Mace. Just in case. The Fear Inherent is always there, niggling in the shadows, even when I don’t get an eat my liver with a nice Chianti and some fava beans vibe.
I stroll up, all 5’2” of me, and he strides forward in greeting, all 6’ plus with a broad, easy smile and a mane of wavy red hair brushing the tops of his shoulders. I let a brief image of grabbing onto those ginger man locks skitter through my head before I shake it off. First dates are all about possibilities and the first 30 seconds seems rife with promise. It always does before someone actually starts to speak.
Yellow Flag on the Play #1 was thrown down when I suggest a flight. The Ginger Viking looks confused but goes with it. “Sure…. What’s a flight?” Inner monologue says: Whaaaa? I get it if you don’t dig beer but this dude made a point to say he enjoys trying craft beer. And he’s 39. The tasting/sampling menu is so commonplace now they have martini and wine flights at any Shenanigans chain kind of place across this fair land. But benefit of a doubt and all. We don’t know something until we learn it. This can be his thing to learn today. So I inform him it’s when you get an array of smaller samples so you can try a bunch. Comes on a nifty tray and everything. I see the light bulb go “Ding!” He says, “Oh. Cool.” Yes. Cool indeed. Cool indeed.
Queue Yellow Flag #2! The cashier rings us up. He looks at me. I look at him. He looks at me. I look away. I am absolutely more than willing to pay my own way. I have on many a date. I can’t burn my bra because the DD’s need the support but I’m all liberated and self-sufficient. HOWEVER. The Ginger Viking and I specifically had a texting tete-a-tete the night before when I agreed to this little gathering that included this vital exchange:
Me: So, just so I don’t surprise you, I should let you know tomorrow is my birthday too. No pressure or anything. Insert stupid smiley face, shitty grin emoji here to indicate I really do mean no pressure. Really.
GV: Well then, I definitely have to buy you a birthday drink at least! Insert stupid winky face emoji here.
So….. this would be that drink Bub. Pony up.
Thus we settle in for the semi-awkward first date conversation that I hoped would flow naturally given our pre-date texting banter had been Grade A. I long ago got over that nervous, twitchy, butterfly feeling on most first encounters. After this many years I know the chances of making it past Date One with an online meet is less than 5%. The chance of making it past Date Two is some mathematical anomaly I would have to put an MIT team on to crack. Since Matt Damon’s Southie Savant Good Will Hunting is nowhere in sight on these meet and greets I like to entertain myself by asking questions that actually intrigue me rather than the same boring “What do you do?” I love a good story. I start with the obvious, questioning the faded ink encircling his freckled forearm. I even threw in a light tracing of said withered, almost indiscernible, design. It is a date after all. Some flirting is called for. I can tell it’s not the ubiquitous tribal tattoo branded onto a certain tribe of followers in the late 90’s (like the Kfart/Wenchy’s guy, of course he had himself a tribal). It appears personal at least. I can just make out the resemblance of a bird head on one end, an apparent chain link winding upward and around until it ends in something else muddled by time. I guesstimate he’s had it since 17 or 18, the detail degraded by 20 years. I am wrong. Allow me to play it out for posterity:
Me: So, this looks like a swan head…. taps end that appears avian in nature, traces up to the other bulging termination point…. And this?
GV: Duck head. I’m a self-professed Ugly Duckling.
Me: Internal monologue time. Ooooo-kay. I get it. Sort of. I don’t really understand the self-professed part since it was all the other uppity birds that found the duckling hideous, not the duck himself. So, of course, I have to ask you why make it a tattoo on your body for the world to see? Because we don’t ink ourselves in visible areas unless we want to be asked. I mean, if you have a face tattoo, stop complaining that people ask you about it, right?
I’m not against tattoos at all. I have one, and thanks to my dalliance with Cherry ChapStick in my formative youth, I actually have a bit of weakness for inked men. I totally understand youthful mistakes and find those stories quite entertaining. However, I’m also a firm believer that if you permanently etch something on your body, and you are past the age of 25 when said inking occurs, it should be personal and well thought out. By that age you should recognize the permanence and listen to the professional telling you perhaps your design will not hold up. Unless it’s a prison tat. For example, if they tell you the rusted metal red color you envision will fade in a matter of a few years, if not months with heavy sun exposure, maybe you should listen. At the very least it would stop some nosy bitch on a first date like me asking why you didn’t listen to the professional artist and throwing down another Yellow Flag on your questionable decision making. Especially if you state you got it at 28. Not 18. To remind yourself its ok to be weird since you were bullied in primary school. Weren’t we all?
I remind myself I’m trying to be open. Judgment free. Cracking the Crunchy Shell and all. I ask how he got into Special FX. Somehow this leads to him swiping his phone through a photo shoot where he painted naked models to look bionic. It’s interesting. Creative. But maybe a few too many naked boobs on a first date that aren’t my naked boobs.
At this point I’ve been doing most of the asking, most of the listening. He finally musters a question beyond inquiring how long I’ve lived in my sleepy hamlet and worked at my paying gig. Out pops: So, what do you do for fun? GAAHHHHH. Internal groan. I shut my eyes to hide the involuntary eye roll I know is happening. Fucking pedestrian date questions. Luckily, I am saved by the appearance of an accordion. No. I did not stutter. There’s a band setting up complete with accordion. Sigh. It’s not a tuba. Sadly, this has decidedly not been a Rouge Tuba kind of date. But! Be open. Give it a chance. Prospects are dim but perhaps I’ll want to be pillaged yet…..
Will there be a birthday plunder and pillage yet? Will I actually be swinging from some ginger man locks before night’s end? Seriously, why is there an accordion? Will the surprise karaoke and flashing be accompanied by said accordion?
****Stay tuned for Part 2: Ginger Viking Takes the Mic to find out!*****
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