In the beginning of my dental school career I was 22, single, and in a state (Utah) where the average age of marriage is 19 (not an actual fact). This was perfect for me, someone who has no “game” whatsoever. If I saw a beautiful person of the opposite sex I could talk the talk without having to back it up, claiming “if she weren’t married I’d be all over that,” or “if she didn’t have a baby on each hip I’d totally get her number.” I always had an excuse. I get anxiety attacks talking to my parents on the phone, you think I’m going to talk to some random girl? Think again.
Still, I tried to impress girls, just at all the wrong times. My worst enemy was the automatic door. It’s a great invention for opening doors, the closing part… needs a little work. Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to be chivalrous and instead, get into a tug-of-war match with an inanimate object. How can you really play that off; door thought it was going to close on you, but not on my watch! And then go home and cry with my cat.
I remember one time I saw a cute gas station attendant and I thought, aaaalright, I’m gonna pump my gas so fast she’ll beg for my number. She did not. Get it together, Dylan, nobody cares how you pump gas. What they do care about is how fast you get through the self-checkout. I fly through those things; items scanned, chip in and out of the reader before it starts beeping. Still, no digits. Turns out nobody cares how good you are at doing the job they’re paid to watch you do for them. They’re just counting the hours until they aren’t getting paid to put up with idiots like me anymore. I should know this, I work at Costco and I’ve never been impressed with anyone’s attempts to help.
That’s what makes me an even worse person, I even tried to impress people while working there. I’d drop lines like, “that’s a sweet birthday cake, what’s the occasion?” or, as a sign of my interest, give someone an avocado box. If you didn’t know, avocado boxes are the best; they have handles, high walls, and can fit in the front of the basket – the possibilities are endless. But wouldn’t you know it, no one is impressed with my ability to put their food in a box. As an employee I couldn’t make the first move anyway, but if they weren’t always with their husbands maybe I would have.
There are, of course, still single girls in Utah. I just figured if they weren’t already married there must be something wrong with them. I was not alone in this sentiment as, when I finally started seeing someone, the first question my sister asked me was literally, “what’s wrong with her?” Though now that I think about it, maybe she was wondering what could possess someone to date me. Regardless, it should come as no surprise I had to turn to online dating despite my enumerated pick-up skills.
Online dating gets a bad rap, and I mean bad as in people give it too much credit as a reliable source to find a partner; and by partner I’m referring to a lifelong companion, not a one night herpes transaction. The idea is simple, you make a profile so someone who is physically attracted to you can learn if you have similar interests. Being naïve, I made an honest profile; what I do, where I’m going, and how much I love my cat. I hoped other people would do likewise – not necessarily the cat part but just the general aspects so I could see if they were a person I would match with in a meaningful way. This hope was squandered. It’s not that girls didn’t put themselves out there – at least 70% show some gratuitous skin – but the majority of profiles say: “ask me anything :)” or more lazily, “ask me :)” All with the self-serving smile of someone who knows they are not responsible for starting the conversation.
This put me in a bind. The goal of online dating was to avoid awkward small talk in the first place, but here these people were demanding it of me. So, I did what any normal person would do, I trolled. I would find the most minute details in a picture and ask them about it; “those are some sweet flip-flops, did you buy them at The Gap?” or, “nice hat.” Too my surprise, I was still single after several months and realized my approach was not working. Back to the drawing board.
About this time, I decided if you’re really looking for a partner you need to be honest – not that I wasn’t honest before, just playfully disingenuous. I started asking honest questions of people and being more honest about myself. This may seem like a common-sense move to you, but to me it was just awful to force myself into serious conversations with strangers. It did however, land me my first date.
As far as dates go it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t right – a point I made clear when, at the end of the date I essentially told her, good luck with your life. Not the smoothest of moves, I know. It wasn’t that I didn’t get along with her, just that we were moving in two separate directions. Realizing the restrictions of my own aspirations it was a while before I went on another date, but when I did, I went for broke. Literally, dates cost a lot of money.
My next date was with someone who had enough extroverted energy to make up for my introverted ways. Despite what you may think, I don’t always talk politics, however, she brought them up of her own accord over the concern I voted for then President-elect Trump. I was able to assuage her fears, informing her I voted for Governor Gary “Aleppo” Johnson. I remember being excited to be on a date with someone who was interested in politics until she dropped a bombshell on me. She claimed: “my friends say I’m so liberal I’m almost communist.”
“Breaking up” with someone you know mostly online is weird in its simplicity, just send them a text and it’s finished. Initially, I thought this was rude but hey, a relationship that starts in text might as well end in it. Undeterred by events, I doubled-down in my efforts. I had four dates in a six day period. This was the most social I had been in my life; it was exhausting.
After the first couple dinner dates it had become apparent nothing was more boring than dining with a stranger, at least one pretending to be normal. There’s a lot of pressure to be funny and/or interesting in a conversation neither person is interested in; after a couple dates, you get tired of telling people your life’s story. So again I changed my approach, my dates would involve something. Something for me is a family fun center; bowling, mini-golf, the works. That’s when everything changed…
Communication is a lot easier – if you’re like me and don’t like communicating – when there’s a distraction in front of you. Awkward pauses become opportunities to line up your putt and bad jokes get drowned out by the sound of your bowling ball pounding into the gutter. I mean pins; all the pins every time. In the end, these distractions allowed for teasing out some commonalities to focus on later – dislike of Pitbull for example.
This worked fantastically. It took away the pressure to perform in a one-on-one situation and showed how coordinated my date was. I only needed to use this approach once because I got lucky. After a year or so of bumbling around (pun intended) I found someone who laughed at my jokes, made me laugh, and could bowl; three of the most important pillars of a solid relationship, the fourth being an insatiable love of Skip-Bo – put a check in that box, too. There are however, a couple more factors of importance.
As mentioned earlier, it is imperative for people’s lives to be going in the same direction. My life has gone as planned since I was in eighth grade so ideally, I need a partner who’s not afraid to board this locomotive – and yes I just compared myself to a train. I was excited when I found a bonafide cougar (she’s two years older than me) who had a career and was not deterred by the various obligations I have in my future. It was immediately apparent neither of us were interested in having a one-night stand or recurring fling, and we both felt comfortable talking to each other about our intentions – marriage and eventually a family, or at least a playmate for my cat.
I know we are not the only people who ventured into the arena of online dating whilst looking for a serious relationship. I’m happy with the success I found and I know others who are in the same boat. I just want to inform the masses you can, in fact, find a significant other using online dating; it’s not just a millennial meat factory. So don’t give up hope, I’m sure there are profiles free of shirtless bathroom selfies with people wanting more than Netflix and chill. But ladies, when you see me boxing your groceries like it’s Tetris or pumping gas like a Nascar pit crew, just know you missed your chance with this gangly dental student.