Friday, October 3, 2003

The third installment in the two-part story of internet dating.

Where were we? Oh, yes. Things were getting ugly. The more messages left, the angrier he got that I wasn't returning his calls. Then I sent him this email:

"Hi Branden,

"I haven't been ignoring you -- I've just been at a loss for time to be able to call you back. Things have been crazy busy around here, but I think they're finally beginning to slow down. Or maybe I'm just getting used to the pace and have a minute to breathe. At any rate....

"I was actually in Riverside on Saturday night, with some friends to see a show at the community college, and felt guilty that I hadn't called you. The good news is, the show was so good that we're going to try to get tickets to see it again this Saturday. Would you be interested in going? It's a musical called "Once On This Island," and I've loved the music from it for years, but have never been able to find a production of it. It was fabulous and we all loved it. I know how you feel about Austin Powers and Night at the Roxbury and all manner of things related to SNL, but am not sure if this is something that would appeal to you.

"Whaddya think? Interested?

"Other than all of that, I hope things are going well for you and that you're surviving and having fun. Talk to you soon!"


This is nice, right? I was trying to not offend while offering up excuses that he would HAVE to accept. Right? RIGHT? Maybe those rules would apply for a normal person, but not for Branden.

Hang onto them hats and glasses -- Norman's in the house.

"Excuses, excuses, excuses. If anybody is really worth hanging onto, you would have called them, left a voice message during a bathroom break at work. You have to make time for ones you are interested in and in your self centered world, you are the center and nobody else is probably interested. I don't buy it, I am not flattered by this, I have been too busy to call you back this week so I am writing you my farewell to you. I am dating somebody else right now, and she treats me alot better than you. Simple decision for me. I thought I had a good time with you and it was a no-brainer for you to go out with me again. I doubt you will find anybody as good as me. But the deal is, you DID NOT treat me with respect, and I therefore have lost a lot of respect for you, and then you admitted you had been rude, which proves this is a premeditated crime. I am sure you can understand and respect this per your note below.

"There is no point in me dating somebody I don't respect. I can never have any respect for you now that I know how you operate. When you are interested and when you need a date to a concert, and when it is convenient for you to go to Riverside, then you finally call me after 4 attempts? I don't trust you and I am sure if we ever dated this would get worse. I hope you remember how you blew it with this tall good looking guy and that is part of the reason you will remain in single hell forever. You sound like a fallen criminal, "I accept full responsibility". Too much too little too late Laura. Ha Ha."


Stunned silence.

Then ... What? Really? Did he just banish me to singles' hell? As long as he's not there, it can't be that hellish. What an ego! Obviously he's forgotten that this "tall good looking guy" is 48 and never been married. Hmmmm. Where do we really think the problem lies?

Speaking of egos, I couldn't just let him blast me like this without trying to take him down a notch. I deleted my first draft, because for as scathingly delicious as it was, he's too dense to be able to get it, so I went for the guilt trip route:

"Wow. I really wish I knew where all of this flippancy is coming from.

"How could I even know you were interested, when I didn't hear from you for a week after our date? I actually thought you weren't interested, and was wondering what I had done wrong, [Yeah, right. But nice touch, don't you think?] so it came somewhat as a shock when you suddenly started calling me again. Then, that next week, layoffs started at my company, so I've literally been through three weeks of hell with dealing with trying to find a new job. I've also been dealing with family crises with my dad's health, and other family things. With all of that happening, I didn't think it fair to burden someone I had just met with all of my life issues. I wasn't in much of a position to do anything more than keep my head above water.

"It hurts me that you would call me selfish, when all I was trying to do was get things off between us on the right foot.


"It's times like these you can tell who your true friends are. [Like the ones who know when they need medication.]

"I'm sorry that you feel like you have to be so sarcastic and mean just to say goodbye.

"I wish you the best of luck in life, Branden." [Good riddance, jerkface.]


Sadly, he just didn't know when to quit. And he always has to have the last word. Which was:

"I don't think one date demands a call back the next morning saying "I still respect you darling" when we didn't even kiss." [Thank goodness! I'd have cooties if we had!] "All you have to tell me in the future is 'hey Branden, got your call, I am kind of busy with work right now, can you call me tomorrow?' Not calling a woman 2 or 3 weeks after a first date is not the end of the world if you aren't going steady or aren't engaged and it was your first date. [But apparently, a woman not calling an ego-inflated jerk within minutes of getting his call is disrepectful. Right.] I could have called you the next day and you may have said you were busy, I certainly don't want to rush things. [I just want to guilt you into liking me.] I was starting to date someone else at the same time so I needed a week to evaluate. That is better than going full bore with 2 women and hurting them both, isn't it. [Ooooh! I guess he showed me, didn't he?]

"My father is ill and I have been layed off from IBM in 1993 so I understand about job crisis things. I don't feel guilty that you have those problems and I called, I was calling to share time with you, thank you for sharing them now, that is better than keeping someone guessing about why they don't return calls from me.

"I like the fact you are from Burbank and I used to live there and I am sure we can work out a date again, but you need to stay in touch. Messages on voice recorders can hold over until we talk, but I don't want to keep calling somebody and then get an email telling they have in fact been getting the calls but don't have time to call back. Think about it. IF too much damage is done, then good-bye.

"If you want to try again, try calling me back next time when I call and stay in touch. that forms the basis of a good foundation for a friendship. Friendships can lead to other things. Maybe you are inexperienced from dating, but I am sure of one thing, constant communication and returning emails and voice mails and phone calls shows somebody you care." [Can you see how much he cares? Can you feel the love? Clearly, I have much to learn from about communication and inter-personal skills from this fine bastion of society. Jerk.]


Don't judge me too harshly. But. I just couldn't let it end there. No, I'm not a glutton for punishment, I just knew I was right and he was wrong, and I needed to prove it to him. Even knowing he wouldn't listen, I wanted to guilt him into realizing he was wrong.

So I called him.

Thankfully, he wasn't home, so I left a very terse message.

When he did call back, I had just gotten back from having to work at 3:00 on a Saturday morning, so I wasn't really in the mood to be charitable. I was just in the mood to get him as far away from me as possible. Our conversation went something like this:

Branden: [rehash everything already said in the emails. You're a big meanie for not returning my calls.] "Even if you are having a hard time at work and worried about your dad's health, you should have returned my calls."

Laura: (Incredulously thinking, did he really just say I should have been focused on him? Really?) "Wow, Branden, that was really unsympathetic. I guess you've said everything you felt you nee.."

Branden: [click.]

Laura: (turns to friends) "He just hung up on me."

And that was that. I put him out of my mind, except for those times when I needed a good, "Oh yeah? Let me tell you about this guy I met..." story.


Last week. (Really, I'm not making this up. You can't write fiction this good.)

I get another email from him: "Laura, why did you give up on us?"

I had no hesitation in replying, "Your question implies that there's blame to be placed, specifically on me. I will not play that game. You said what you chose to say, and hung up on me without giving either of us a fair shot. So, to answer your question, ask yourself the same thing. Let me know what you come up with."

Pretty good, huh? Aren't you proud of me? I thought that would shut him up for good. But I forgot who I was dealing with. Stupid Branden. Stupid, psycho, dense, self-focused Branden.

"Laura, I think you are a bit uptight about this whole thing. My issue was you didn't call me back after 2 or 3 attempts on my part over a week or two period and I began to wonder how anybody can function in a relationship where people don't return calls. [Easy. If the other person in the relationship is you, then that's the ONLY way to function. Avoidance.] Then suddenly you started calling me to invite me some where, and that was a little bit weird on my part because I had given up on you, written you off. [As evidenced by the four voicemails in two days. Yes, clearly, my dear disillusioned boy, you had given up on me. That would also explain, I suppose, your renewed interest in me.]

"So when I called your residence, you appeared angry at me and I just thought by hanging up I would beat you to it, because I thought that is where the conversation was headed. You said I was rude, etc. and I thought you were rude for not returning my original calls. It seems like you never accepted blame for that part.[And yet, didn't we all see the part where I clearly accepted responsibility for it? Words fail me. I don't see how he can really and truly be so thick-headed.] It seems like you were angered that I didn't call you back right after the date, but once I did, it seems you had to make me wait awhile vs just calling me back.

"I think you probably would hold a grudge against me forever, but I didn't do anything that bad. I can forgive you, can you forgive me and let it go? I think you were hurt by the fact I took so long to call you, but I did wait a little period of time, and it wasn't rude to wait a little while. What appears to be rude is when someone tries to contact you and then you ignore him."


I did not respond to this. Yay, Laura! And just when I think he's finally getting it, I get this:

"May we talk on the phone sometime?"


Really? He can't be serious. So I asked him very simply, "Why?" To which he responded:

"There was a misunderstanding, we may be able to get on track. I can forget it. We did go out and I had a good time. You are a nice person, I am a nice person, can you let it drop? If not that is ok. I would like to try to talk to you.

"Did you find another job? Are you able to stay in your Company if you move or are you looking at other companies? Do you still live in the same place?



That's it. For reals.

Now what? I don't know. But I welcome your advise and input. My initial reaction, just so you know, is, "When there's ice skating in hell." I think that my girl friends would agree with me. But if there are any men out there, I welcome your insight. Maybe there's some sort of male chromosome driving all of this that I just don't get.

For the time being, I'm trying to keep Ego in check while letting Self Esteem exercise control.

Psycho, Part Deux

There are many who prefer the internet dating route because they feel it allows them to get to know people before actually putting themselves "out there." I am not of that camp. It is time-consuming, tiring and way too much effort when the yay/nay decision can be made relatively easy with a face to face meeting. The catch 22 is that you can't have a face to face meeting until you have decided if the person is worth meeting. It's just too much. But safe. I can understand the attraction to this method, but I have a hard time giving into it. I grow bored with it too easily and would prefer knowing right away if this is a person I want to develop a relationship with.

With Branden, the hurdle that usually comes in the middle was already, um, hurdled, because of our meeting at the dance. The alarms that had been mildly jangling in the background at that meeting, however, led to a comfortable transition of more "getting to know you" games provided via the world wide web. (And what a web it is.) And so the emails began.

From Branden, the morning after the dance:

"Laura, Linda and I broke up last night at the dance. She said it was futile for us and that I should go back to you.

"Laura, will you take me back? [See? This is what I meant by not always knowing if he was serious or joking. This would be considered a joke by a normal person, but his delivery of stuff like this was said with such glass-eyed intensity, that you wondered if he really did think that he and Linda were an item during their five minute dance.]

"I too am a systems analyst and so you may understand me better. [Ah, yes. Young love. There's nothing like a common career to spark those flames of passion, is there?]I used to work for IBM, I now work for a County. [As an inmate? Picking up trash on the 91 freeway?] In Burbank I used to work for CADAM which became Altium, there was also a Catia company there. Do you work for any of them? Do you do UNIX or NT?


Despite my misgivings, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was a great guy and there was no other woman on the face of the earth who could understand his magical sense of humor. [cough, cough.] My reply:

"Hi, Branden. I'm so sorry to hear about your breakup last night at the dance. I wonder about our future together though. Your relationship with Linda lasted, what? through three dances? Can I look forward to any longevity with you? I'd hate to get my sights set on you, again, only to have my hopes dashed to the ground and shattered in a million pieces. You've already dumped me once because of one simple misunderstanding. Can I trust that it will go further this time?

"I am a systems analyst at Company X in City Y. I design systems for our back-end office users -- mostly the planning and allocation people for the retail division. According to the Wall Street Journal this week though, we may be getting sold in the very near future.

"Which county do you work for? Riverside? What types of systems do you analyze?

"It was fun meeting you at the dance last night. I hope the rest of your weekend is fun. I'm going to Disneyland today to celebrate a friend's birthday, and I must somehow begin gathering the necessary energy for today.

"Have a great day!"


You can see I'm trying to start things off with the right mixture of humor and not taking myself too seriously, or him either. But I'm still not so sure about him, so I sent him this next missive:


"I was refreshing my memory by viewing your profile, and you may (or not) be interested in learning that according to the pre-sets that I have defined on the type of man I'm looking for, we are 83% compatible. Not too shabby, eh?

"Seriously, it looks like we have a lot in common. Hard to tell from your tone last night if you're a funny guy with a very sarcastic sense of humor, or someone with a taste for revenge (being as you broke up with two girls in one night [maybe more] and weren't interested in hearing any explanations). Hopefully it's the former, not the latter.

"Talk to you soon,"


His reply begins to argue favorably in his behalf that he's been terribly misunderstood in the past and I'm just the right person for him. Hello, Ego? Stop stepping all over Intuition.

"Hello Laura, I am still pretty shaken up about Linda. I don't know how long it should take to recover. Maybe by tomorrow I will be able to put her in the past? You can look forward to at least 6 dances with me or twice as long as Linda. You must trust, you must trust. [You have to admit, that's kinda funny. And quirky. Just the combination I usually go for. Make me laugh and have your way with me.]

"I work for San Bernardino County and do UNIX admin for them. I used to live in Burbank. So the Company you work for isn't doing so well? I don't read the Journal daily, but thanks for the stock tip. Will your job be affected? ; How recent are the pictures you posted?

"I am a funny guy with a very sarcastic sense of humor and I am full of revenge and vengeful.[Red Alert! Danger, Will Robinson!] You have to break up sometimes to move ahead.

"Do you want to talk on the phone?"


Why not, right? I mean, we've already met, we've got a lot of the formalities out of the way, we already know that we both look like our posted pictures. My response:

"That darn work thing keeps getting in the way of my social life! I wouldn't normally apologize for taking a whole day and a half to get back to you, but you've totally intimidated me into feeling obligated to write right away![Why, oh why can't I have some foresight? Why do I sound so pathetically eager?] After all, I don't want to be held responsible for the fragile state of your mind in delusionally thinking that all girls who don't respond must be out to get you. Or whatever. After all, I am looking forward to a prolonged relationship with you of 6 (or more, if I play my cards right!) dances with you in the future. [See me? I'm funny! I don't want to think you're psycho! Pick me! Pick me!]

"Seriously though, here's some answers to your questions:

"I don't know yet the impact of my job. It's been tenuous at best for the past few years, but that's the nature of retail in general, and specialty retail specifically, especially since 9-11 and whatever other stuff is going on that affects the economy. I haven't actually seen the Journal article, but everything is rather vague and speculative at best right now. Same as it has been.

"The pictures I've posted are recent -- last November was when they were taken. Just curious -- why do you ask? Did I look different on Saturday compared to the pics?

"Yes, I think I would be interested in talking on the phone. Time is an issue for me, at least until early morning seminary breaks for the summer in three weeks. What about you? What does your work/personal schedule allow for?

"Now for some of my own comments/questions: First of all, I'm glad to see that you are willing (after some initial stuborness) to realize that I really did have a good reason for not responding to your messages on (the singles site you thought I belonged to but didn't).

"How long ago did you live in Burbank? Did you like it here? Where are you originally from? What brought you to Riverside?

"Finally, if you liked my profile, how come you didn't ask me to dance? :)

"That's it for now -- it's quittin' time for me. I hope you're having a great day! Talk to you soon,"


So far, so good. His response:

"Laura, let's talk on the phone. I lived in Burbank from 1985 to 1987. I like it there. I didn't ask you to dance because I wasn't sure you liked me. After all, you never wrote back to me. Then when I met your friend, I asked her if you were really you. You don't look exactly like the pictures, your hair was lighter in them and is darker in person, although obviously I was able to recognize you. IBM brought me to Riverside.

"I like Riverside, been here 12 years. Ilook forward to hearing back from you. I can talk weeknights on the phone. Thanks,"


And since I believe this flows rather nicely and tells the story without any more interruption from me, my response:

"Ah, mystery solved. (about not dancing w/me, that is). The hair thing -- yes, I am forever trying to become a brunette, but it never "takes." Or at least, it never stays for very long. My most recent hair incarnation is pretty close to the darkest it's ever been, but in a couple more weeks, will be back to its dark blonde/strawberry blonde natural shade. No, I don't know why I appear to be the dichotomy of other women who are forever trying to get their hair lighter. So much me to psychoanalyze, so little time.

"I look forward to getting to know you better. Weeknights are generally good for me too, but I'm in bed by 9:30 - 10:00 these days. Summer hours are coming up!"


Seriously, am I stupid? Am I over eager? Well, no, not if you consider the pressure on me to date, have a boyfriend and eventually get married. To all of my married friends out there, this is your fault! Stop pressuring me!

Several phone conversations ensued, all of which entailed him talking in great detail and at great length about himself. So much so, that he repeated himself repeated himself pretty consistently. In the same converstaion. Often. I spent my time trying to figure out if he really was funny and forgetful or a sad and pathetic self-focused 48-year old loser with ADD.

Eventually, we made a date. To actually see each other. It went about the same as the phone conversations had -- him talking incessantly, me listening attentively (or pretending to) thinking, "I wish he would shut up once in a while." It really wasn't that great of a date. And I came to the conclusion that he wasn't really that great of a catch. No matter how much he tried to tell me he was.

At the end of the date, he walked me out to my car (we had met at a halfway point). I leaned in to give him a hug to thank him for buying me dinner ($7 chicken sandwich at Red Robin. Woo.), and he kept hugging me. He wanted a good night kiss, but I invoked my very flexible first-date rule of, "Are you kidding? On a first date?" and refused.

And....that was that.

He didn't call me for over a week, which frankly, was more than fine by me. I was hoping to take the non-confrontational way out by avoidance. Ladies and Gentlemen, please give it up for the return of Laura's Self-esteem and Awareness! They've been temporarily overstepped and undermined by Ego, but we hope they're back for good!

When he did call, I really had no desire to pursue things. I didn't want to tell him that; I just hoped he would get the hint. Sadly, he didn't. He called four times in a two week period. In my defense, my life really was crazy busy. My early-morning class was ending, work was busy, lay-offs were happening, and I really had no desire to make room for an unstable person in my life.

That's when things got ugly.

For Single Use Only

Here's the good news. Well, good for me; bad for any of you married people. After ingesting my healthy Jack in the Box breakfast this morning, I looked at the cup that my Diet Coke came in. "For Single Use Only," it read. I don't know what the Jack in the Box corporation has against you married people, but I just thought you should know. Set the soda down gently and no one will get hurt.

More for me, that way.

The problem with starting an entry off with a statement of good news implies that there is some bad news coming. There's not; don't worry. Unless you getting to laugh at my state of singleness and some of my recent forays into the world of internet dating [shudder] is bad news, that is. Hopefully you'll laugh. Maybe even sympathize a bit. If you have any advice, that'd be nice too. I can't guarantee I'll take it, but I'm definitely open to hearing what you think.

Here goes.

As a 36 year old straight woman who's never been married, I am a bit of a statistical oddball. (Take "statistical" out of that sentence, and that works too.) Before you ask, no, there's nothing wrong with me. I do tend to be a bit choosy, but that's not necessarily a character flaw. I have had my fair share of dates and boyfriends. The older I get, though, and the more I develop my life around me and my goals, the less important marriage has become in my life. No, that's not exactly true. The pursuit of marriage has become less of a priority, is probably better stated. Also, the chances of me finding a straight, normal (e.g. not a homicidal maniac. Obviously, my standards and expectations have dropped somewhat in the past decade) unattached (divorced, single, widowed), willing male who, preferably is a member of my church are about as good as me winning the lottery. Which is to say, nil. (I don't buy lottery tickets.) Parenthetical standards aside, some would say that even hoping for that much is a bit, well, much.

Still others look at me aghast, in disbelief that I can be happy as a single person. Don't even get me started on that annoying opinion. Needless to say, there is a certain social, cultural and personal pressure to regard life as not fully complete, regardless of my personal state of happiness and fulfillment, until I have entered into vows of holy matrimony.

Thus begins the pursuit. Not chase, just. . . pursuit. Experience has taught me that Prince Charming, or even Mr. Almost will not come to my front door. I'm not listed, for one thing, so how can he even know where the girl of his dreams lives? This means that I must make a concerted effort to get out of my comfort zone. I am of the general opinion that I should go to places that I like or that interest me to meet people with similar interests. Sadly, I have yet to be approached by any potential bachelors in the libraries of book stores I frequent. Movie theaters -- too dark, not really the correct venue to meet new people, and are the playgrounds for those who already have significant others.

This leaves very few options. The two obvious ones are internet dating services or church-sponsored dances (I'm not a bar fly either).

Don't get me wrong -- I don't mind dancing; in fact, I quite enjoy it. What I don't enjoy is the meat market aspect of going to a dance obstensibly to meet single men in my age range, but is really no more than putting oneself on parade to be dismissed immediately on the grounds that I am not a fashion model. Neither is 98% of the rest of the population, but this doesn't seem to stop men (fickle creatures) from making those unfair comparisons.

No matter how much fun I have dancing, I generally do not come away having enjoyed myself, because expectations are never met. It's a complex mental game, made even more difficult by the mental gymnastics before even leaving the house. I must first pick a hip outfit that will somehow convey the message, "I'm cool and have a great wardrobe and am sexy but not so sexy that I'm easy." Right. Try this. Go to your closet and pick an outfit that sends those conflicting messages.

Can't do it, right? Yet the female mind intuits that this is the correct way to begin. I'm not even up to bat yet, and I have one strike against me.

Once at the dance, the mindset must be one of "I'm only here to have a good time. I will dance, enjoy the music and not have any expectations of meeting that perfect someone. This is about just meeting new people." Meanwhile, the REAL internal dialogue is more along these lines: "I didn't get all gussied up for nuttin', so there better be someone there worth my time and effort. Oh, who am I kidding? There's only going to be a bunch of mindless guys who think that if I'm not Christina Aguilera than I'm not good enough. Who do I think I am even coming here? The wall and I will be best friends, the music will suck, and only losers will ask me to dance."

Again with the conflicting messages. I don't know how we as a gender function under constant co-existing opposite trains of thoughts. You men think we are wily and mysterious, when really our thoughts are trains hurtling towards each other on the same track. A wreck waiting to happen.

The stage is set. A dramedy waiting to happen. But wait! In true reality tv show style, let's add the additional layer of conflicted girl going to the dance who has signed up for an internet dating service. The same internet dating service that many of these people who will be at the dance also use. Nothing has come of it, other than reconnecting with an old friend from high school who now lives in Idaho and is engaged, so this is not in the forefront of the girl's mind.

Ready? Action!

The last dance I went to, a guy asked Linda to dance. As they were going through the painful initial introductions all while trying to make a good first impression while sizing the other person up, Linda got the distinct impression that there was something a bit off about this one. It was hard to tell if he had a really dry sense of humor or if he was serious. Her woman's intuition is telling her something's wrong, but her female ego is flattered that she's dancing with someone who's not ugly. I won't go into all the details about why alarms were going off in her head -- you'll just have to trust me. And maybe later you'll see why.

Branden, for that is the man's name, eventually asks her if the friend she's with (me) belongs to the [datingservice].com, and if so, is her name EllJayPea? Linda answers in the affirmative to both questions. Then he wants to know why I never wrote him back.

They weave their way through the dance floor to come talk to me. Linda's bemused because he wants to talk to me after asking HER to dance, and he just looks bugged. He gets in my face and wants to know why I never wrote him back. I give him the blank look of non-comprehension, because I've never seen this guy before tonight. Come to find out, he had written me through one of the services that I hadn't paid the pirate fees for, so I hadn't ever been able to retrieve any emails. I am finally able to communicate to him through all of his bluster that I didn't actually belong to THAT dating service, but another one, and I'm deeply sorry, but seriously. Dude? Don't you think you're being a little too intense and taking this all a little bit personally? This is not a personal affront, and you're kind of beginning to scare me.

But I am woman, hear me roar. Rather, here my ego say, "Pick me! Pick me! Shut UP, instinct." I go with it. I promise to write him back on the service that have actually subscribed to. That very night. Oy. Am I pathetic, or what?

So begins the saga of Branden the psycho. Wait -- I shouldn't label him yet -- I should let you decide for yourselves. Don't let that skew your opinion of him.


---To be continued ...