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Chasing The American Dream

December 16, 2004


Part one of a three-part series.

I’ve been doing the online dating thing for around five months now. I must say that it has actually exceeded my expectations. Maybe not from a dating perspective, but I’ve ‘met’ many nice people who I now consider my good friends. Friends I’ve grown to know via emails and not via dates. And for that, I’m grateful to have joined.

But I have to admit, I wrestled with the online dating concept. I thought symbolically, if I decided to go that route that I would be crossing the line into what I deemed as “Loserville.” Heck, what did I know? I thought it was a dating source for people who couldn’t get dates any other way. Since I’m forever traveling out of town for my job, I don’t realistically have a chance to meet people. I’m not a pick-up-a-girl-in-a-bar-type guy anyway. What other choice did I have? My friends and family said they’d heard good things about JDate. So I finally caved and crossed the imaginary line. I’ve learned a lot in a short period of time. I’m sure us online daters have endless stories. I’ve got three in succession I’d like to share, and I’m presenting them in the order in which they occurred. I don’t have the answer yet, but I’m gaining clues through experience to answer the question, “What is the perfect first date?”

We all have our own opinions on what is the ideal first date. It even says so in our JDate profiles. I think women are a bit more conservative, and rightly so when it comes to the dreaded first date. Women seem to want the safe meeting at Starbucks. You can’t get into too much trouble over a Venti double-shot non-fat Caramel Macchiato extra-foam, no whip whatever.

But guys are looking to make an immediate impression. True, we probably would make a decent impression just by dictating that Caramel thing correctly. Heck I’d be impressed if someone could rattle that off! But it’s certainly easier to make a positive impression by selecting a nice restaurant with nice ambiance, good food, and a decent wine list from which you can show off you’ve got taste, class, knowledge, or lack thereof.

So whenever I get to what I call stage 3, the first date, (stage 1 being IM or email, stage 2 being the phone call), I always shy my newfound friend away from the coffee meeting and gear more toward the nice dinner. This had been a great strategy. But eventually, as I found out the hard way, it can come up and bite you on the ass. Here’s what happened.

Things certainly started out well. We initially ‘met’ when she actually sent me an email and I responded. We got along well from the beginning. Lots of humor, laughs, good banter. Eventually, I threw her my digits (online vernacular for phone number) and she called me. More laughs, humor, and banter. So we talked about stage 3. She wanted the coffee routine, and I boldly suggested we go to dinner since I just knew we’d get along so well just like we had been.

I called my best friend who gave me an excellent restaurant recommendation. He said it had great seafood, great appetizers, great desserts, and a great wine list. I asked my date if she liked seafood, and she said she loved it. So it was all set. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a reservation after 6 o’clock, so I foolishly took the 6 o’clock reservation. I figured hey, popular place, crowded, we won’t be sitting until well after 7.

We did the typical first date thing and met each other at the restaurant versus me picking her up. I never like to walk in empty handed so I usually bring a small gift. It’s usually music-related like a CD. For me, I like to learn my date’s musical tastes and then make her a CD that sort of fits what I conclude are her tastes. The other thing the gift is good for is an out, or a chance to exhibit some humor which is usually part of the JDate female most wanted requirements list. Standard line? Something like, “Here’s a CD for you. Hey, if you hate my guts at least you walk away with some good music to listen to!”

So I gave her the CDs (an alternative mix and Gavin DeGraw) and the tagline. She seemed pleased and laughed. Great! Off we go, I thought. But then the date started to go the wrong way. My assumption about the seating was dead wrong. They sat us immediately. It was still light out. Bad karma. Nice place though. Kind of loud and happening.

Anyway, I took a looked at the wine list and asked her what type of wine she’d prefer? She replied that it was ‘too early’ to drink and ordered a Diet Coke. She said she might have some ‘later.’ Hmm. Curious, I thought. Well that killed the bottle of wine idea so I just ordered a glass. The menu was awesome, a million terrific choices. I asked my date if she’d like to share an appetizer? And without any hesitation, she flat out said, “No, I’m just gonna order an entree.” Well, the alarms were certainly going off in my head now. Does this girl have any sense of adventure?

Skipping ahead. We ordered dinner. It was awesome. Truly outstanding yet she was sort of blah over the whole thing. Clearly, a pattern had been established. Then, in the middle of dinner she said to me, “Would you be terribly insulted if I give these CDs back to you? I don’t like this kind of music.” I thought long and hard before I answered. I said I wouldn’t be insulted, but I asked her how the heck she knew she didn’t like it already when she didn’t even try listening to it? She reconsidered and agreed to give it a shot, but her pattern continued. No adventure. No passion. Dead fish.

So you get the gist of the date? Now don’t get me wrong, we had a nice time. We talked for over four hours. We hugged goodbye and that was that. But then it really got strange. We spoke afterward on JDate about the date. She was eager to find out my opinion. I didn’t want to lay it all out for her so I just told her I had a nice time and that if we go out again, it was her turn to tell me all about her since I did most of the talking on our first date.

A day later, she was still eager to find out what I thought and whether and/or when we were going out next. So I asked her on an honesty scale of 1-10, how she would like me to answer her question? She wanted the 10, so I gave her the 10. I was honest and polite and basically told her she did not seem happy enough to be there and lacked overall enthusiasm which were two qualities very important to me. I also told her that we were not musically connected either which was a quirk of mine, but one I had to have nevertheless.

Well she took offense to what I said, and retorted that she was not enthusiastic because she didn’t see herself attracted to me romantically. Hmmm, she was eager as hell for the next date, but not attracted to me. Doesn’t add up, right? Then she flew off the handle and said she has got enough friends anyway. I managed to calm her down and told her she was walking away from a potential good friend who she would be missing out on in this good life of ours.

The bottom line was that she was insecure and perhaps immature. So what is the moral of the story? Basically, $10 sunk is a lot better than a c-note. Gee, I never even considered that risk! You waste a lot of money because you didn’t get to know the person beforehand. So is that why you girls like the coffee gig? It makes sense to me now. It was worth the $100 to learn that important lesson. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go practice how to say, Venti double-shot non-fat Caramel Macchiato extra-foam, no whip…


  • PT, I saw that coming from early on. You gotta spot their lack of couth in these things. I knew it right away--she probably looked at you and didn't find you physically attractive. Why the interest in future dates? Perhaps she was thinking: Oh, ok, maybe I'm not attracted to him, but I can squeeze him for material things. Maybe. That's my take.

    Anyway, the music thing--I think you might consider loosening the restriction on the "musically-connected" quirk. My wife and I detest each other's taste in music. And we've been married over 10 years. It's just not that important. Never was when we met either. I thought: Wow, what a woman--ugh, what horrible taste in music. No matter..."what a woman" is what matters. Right? Maybe. That's my take.

    One thing I do know...people can be so downright impolite sometimes (the comment of returning the CDs was just so no-class). It just leaves one with a bad taste in his mouth--no matter how fancy the dinner or how pricey the tab.

    ...and you forge on... only thing you can do.

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 5:10 PM, December 16, 2004  

  • LX, what you point out is true; however, the 'ex' had no music taste. She listened to Dr Laura. I lost track of music for 10 years and I missed it. Only recently have I realized that, however quirky it is, I really need someone who can relate musically to me. Hopefully, this is the lesson I've learned. Is it a hard-and-fast rule? Perhaps not, but I think it's gonna be a hard one to overcome.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 5:17 PM, December 16, 2004  

  • Hmm. This sounds familiar...

    Seems tighter this go-around...did you work on it?

    Just a few reactions from the "other side":
    1) Sometimes, on a first date, women can find personal gifts to be overwhelming. We may feel that it sets up expectations of varying sorts to accept a present on a first date.
    2) Re the wine and not ordering an entree, that might not be "lacking a sense of adventure"--it could be dietary behavior. At WW the first thing they teach you is not to eat multiple courses and to restrict or cut out alcohol. So that's something to think about. (And no, asking her if she's on WW is not considered acceptable.)
    3) Re-wanting to know when the next date was, even though she said she wasn't attracted to you, clearly she liked you enough to sit at dinner with you for four hours and to talk on the phone for hours before that. Maybe she was marginally attracted, and wanted to have another date because she wanted to find the chemistry. Sometimes we women do that.
    4) Re honesty. Oy, a hard one. People do want the truth. But not always do people want the unmitigated, unfiltered truth. Perhaps you could have been softer in your reaction to her? Maybe she grasped "I'm not attracted to you" as an excuse for extricating herself from a confrontational situation (albeit one she instigated).
    5) Most people are not on JDate to meet friends. I don't think you can blame her for saying she's got enough friends.

    In any case, I don't think insecure and immature are your only two options for describing her. I think you need to open your mind to all the things that can be going on inside a woman's head, and not jump to conclusions through misinterpretation.

    Oy. I'm tired. Looking forward to parts 2 & 3.

    By Blogger Esther Kustanowitz, at 5:37 PM, December 16, 2004  

  • Thanks E. Obviously, I still have *lots* to learn. Interesting take on your point #1. You have, in a way, seen first hand that I have Trouble with this one. That's Trouble with a capital T.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 5:47 PM, December 16, 2004  

  • Hello,

    From my experience, a gift on a first date, such as a CD, kind of scares me. Maybe a second date, such as flowers, is appropriate.

    If I was only marginally attracted to a man, I would feel bad about letting him buy me a glass of wine & spending the money on an appetizer. I'd feel like I was taking advantage, and that isn't fair to the man. Another thing about alcohol consumption...I get worried if the only thing a man orders to drink is alcohol. I recently dated a man where all he drank was alcohol. I never saw him drink a soda, juice, or a glass of water. So on a first date, ordering a drink before dinner kind of freaks me out. Maybe if the glass of wine came WITH dinner, or there was an after dinner cocktail. I know I'm rambling here, but it's a difficult topic.

    The appetizer thing...if I'm really hungry, and an appetizer is ordered, I just might embarrass myself & eat the entire thing, and then not have room for my meal. Then he's spent money on a meal that either I leave or take home with me. That's kind of rude, too, on my part!

    Isn't dating fun?

    By Blogger M, at 9:25 PM, December 16, 2004  

  • M, thanks for the advise. Getting lots on this post. I mentioned to E that I struggle with the gift giving. I just like to make people happy and it's my way of saying thanks. A simple homemade gift. It's my way of being different, I guess. Flowers? Down the road, yes but it's too normal for me. What can I say, I'm nuts. I think music will always be a passion for me as, for that matter, will food. Food and/or drink can be such an adventure. So I seek that passion and adventure from the other person. The chase continues!

    By Blogger Plantation, at 11:10 PM, December 16, 2004  

  • PT, listen to what the women are saying regarding #1. You may have trouble with a capital T, but that doesn't matter much if you're not listening to THEM. You have to make concessions--you know that--personal or otherwise.

    Again, the music thing--you'll need to learn to let that go and have it only matter to YOU, in YOUR case, not hers. Remember Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity?" Don't be THAT guy. Music is intensely personal to me, and I've learned that just because my wife hates what I listen to (and conversely I cannot stand her taste in music), that doesn't make us incompatible. Music is extremely important in my life--but it's not important in my relationship. You can separate the two. The same goes for my taste in literature--I cannot stand the shite my wife reads (Anne Rice, Stephen King, Grisham) but, again, it doesn't make us incompatible.

    If you're out dating, you MUST make concessions. All that matters is finding someone good and kind. In the grand scheme of things, who cares what she listens to? Let go of this quirk.

    Also, listen to what the women are saying regarding personal gifts. LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN. And fight the impulse of doing what YOU think may be appropriate for them.

    And, finally...regarding Dr. Laura Schlessinger. AGain, who gives a shite? Millions of people listen to her, or Dr. Phil, or Oprah...hey, whatever. Dr. Laura's website--I see, as I do my quick research--included headlines and news from around the world. So...there you go. I get my news from CNN/AP/Reuters, and others go to Dr. Laura's site and get them there. Who cares?

    Only thing that matters is letting go of quirks/expectations, and being loose and free and flexible.

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 7:33 AM, December 17, 2004  

  • sounds like your pressing too hard and making the same mistake over and over again. your forcing the isuue because you want a quick fix. there are no quick fixes. listen to what the people say -"the gift idea(especially something as personal as music) is too much for a first date". slow down, relax, and smell the macciato.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:52 AM, December 17, 2004  

  • Yea...re-visiting this post--all good advice here. Definitely LISTEN to the women posting their comments. It seems like the music CD idea is not a good one. It seems consistently women don't want that--too personal, too intimate, too...whatever. You don't have to think it's "boring" or you're boring if you do the flowers thing. The whole point is exploration and finding out who you two are and if you're a good match. If you come out guns blazing ("I'm different, I'm exciting, I'm quirky, blah blah) chances are you'll scare most people off. I know all about retaining individuality, but water must be treaded carefully when you've got another human being involved and you're both exploring possibilities. Let her find you out slowly (I'm not saying to lie or be deceitful), let her peel the layers off. I remember when I was dating my wife, about 8 months into it she found something about me which she hadn't before (I don't remember what it was, I think it was the fact that I was once a professional musician and toured w/Elvis Costello) and I remember her being delighted and surprised: "Oh God, I never pegged you for being like that." In a good way, I mean.

    Anyway, I'm rambling here too...bottom line: make concessions, don't hold steadfastedly to your quirks, and allow the other person to slowly figure out who you really are. These things cannot possibly happen within a few dates...it takes a while. Just slowly and surely, surprise her--but at the beginning it's all about HER. Be sensitive and receptive to what she's putting out there, without being weak or becoming a "yes-man." Modesty and moderation.

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 9:57 AM, December 17, 2004  

  • So this is my first stop to your blog .... but yet I'll write as if I knew ...

    I agree with all that's been said so far .. it really sounds like you didn't give her a chance. You selected the restaurant. You decided you would order wine and an appetizer in addition to the meal. You gave her CDs that you thought she should like. You did most of the talking about yourself.

    She accepted your invite to go to a fancy restaurant for a FIRST DATE, when she really wanted to go the low-key coffee route. She was bold enough to tell you that she didn't care for the first date CDs you brought her. And after listening to you talk about yourself the whole night, she was willing to see you again.

    Not adventurous? What more do you want? I'm not sure it sounds like she's not adventurous. But it does sound like she's not you.

    Writing her off because she doesn't order an appetizer? It's possible that it's you who could have missed out ...

    By Blogger La Chat Noir, at 10:26 AM, December 17, 2004  

  • Special thanks to LCN for visiting.

    Folks, you know me. There's more to this story. You've only read part one...

    By Blogger Plantation, at 10:56 AM, December 17, 2004  

  • Lots of great stuff; so much to unpack, no wonder people keep "rambling." I have the following to say:
    1) I would never go out on a date with someone who listened to "Dr." Laura. Don't concede.
    2) Had someone give me a gift - sci-fi book - on the second date. I was very impressed that he had listened to what I said, but it kind of freaked me out. I am not entirely certain why. Also, I had to hold it the whole rest of the date.
    2a) Random gifts on the first date are kind of weird. If someone has spent money on me, am I indebted? Maybe I would want the opportunity to give a gift, too. Now we start on unequal footing. Dammit!
    2b) 2 CDs are not a "small gift." One of those truffle boxes with two Godiva chocs in them. That's a small gift. A corsage is a small gift (but lame).
    3) I've found that men seem to like JDate more than woman. I wish someone would come out and tell us the ratio. What is it? 5/2? My cousin just started on JDate and he had set up seven dates within a week and a half. What the hell? (But nice for him.)
    4) I like dinner for the first date, but I understand the coffee impulse. Of course, I am not a coffee drinker, so that would make for a very short date. The one problem I see with dinner is that I feel obligated to offer to pay half, so if we are at an expensive place, I definately would limit what I am getting because I may have to pay for it. And I've heard seafood is expensive.
    5) Maybe your gal is in AA and can't drink. Maybe she is allergic to tannin. Maybe she thought that all you were interested in was getting her drunk and getting her into bed.
    6) Returning the CD? Declasse, my friend. Rude. No manners.
    7) Don't know anything about Florida, but why on earth would you have to wait an hour to be seated if you had a reservation? Isn't that the point of a reservation?
    8) One can have a sense of adventure while being a boring pain in the ass when it comes to food. Especially if one has an intestinal disorder.
    9) Wouldn't it be funny if, when you asked for the honesty scale, she thought that 10 was low and 1 was high. That would be some egg on your face, let me tell you.
    10) There is not one single time that I have told a female someone that I went on a date and didn't have a great time/wasn't attracted to him that that person did not tell me that I HAD to give the guy a second chance because maybe he was nervous or was off or something. I didn't decide until a couple of years ago to respond by (mentally) saying Screw it. I bet no one ever gives guys that advice and if they did, I bet the guys don't follow it. I have a great sense and intuition when it comes to people and if I don't like someone, I can usually tell if it is for a transient reason or not.
    11) Tell us more.

    By Blogger PepGiraffe, at 8:16 PM, December 17, 2004  

  • PG,

    I always like to thank first time readers. So tks for your thougths. My reactions?

    1) Dr Laura just grates on me. Can't handle it.
    2) I give the guy credit for listening. That's me. Then I get in trouble with the follow up gift? Why don't women react to that like, "gee, he listened. I'm really impressed!"
    2a/b) I consider the CDs small. I make them and they cost me pennies to make. I do tell them that so they don't freak about the money being spent.
    3) JDate's helped me make some long distance friends. More successful with friends than dates.
    4)I always pay. Period. It's just me.
    5) She wasn't in AA and she knew I wasn't going after her pants. Was discussed beforehand.
    6) Agreed.
    7)Ya got me on that one.
    8) True but lack of passion is a turn-off for me.
    9) Eggs-actly.
    10) Agreed.
    11) Be careful what you wish for.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 8:53 PM, December 17, 2004  

  • God, I love it when people respond to me. I'm very self centered that way. Anyway, I do give him credit for listening; I was very impressed by that, just a little freaked that he went out and spent $25 on a three-in-one volume set of books. It seemed excessive and over compensating. Now if you had said that you had made her the CDs, you might be getting a different response. That's sweet.

    As far as I'm concerned, the man should always pay. YES, it's a generalization and YES I just mean for me. I always offer to split, but I don't go out on a second date with someone who agrees. And I don't mean it as a test, although it comes out that way. Either the man thinks he should pay or he doesn't. If he does think that, than he'll say no when I offer. But just because I think he should pay doesn't mean that he think he should pay and I think it would be rude of me to just expect it. Partly, it's because almost everyone who has a job makes more money than I do - even teachers. Mostly, though, it's good form. It makes me feel good. And although the feminist in me vomits at this, it's manly.

    By Blogger PepGiraffe, at 9:45 PM, December 17, 2004  

  • PG, Anyone who lists Garden State as one of their favorite movies is a friend of mine. I'll stop by your blog and read when I get the chance...PT

    By Blogger Plantation, at 9:53 PM, December 17, 2004  

  • P, if it makes a difference in how quickly you get to visit PG, she's also a friend of mine.


    By Blogger Esther Kustanowitz, at 4:57 PM, December 18, 2004  

  • oy, I can't resist throwing in my $.02 even though I pretty much agree totally with all that's been said. So I'll add this: Everybody's nervous on a first date, so it's all about careful sniffing around until people feel they can let their weight down, so LIGHTEN UP. No dinner, no presents, no flowers, no "need" for wine or fancy atmosphere. The more casual the better. I think gift-giving may freak people because it feels too intimate (i.e. too quickly). So, if you listened well and found the perfect gift as a longer-term friend (or my husband, say) I'd be touched. But when you listen so well that you almost jump inside my skin to give me something that meaningful when I barely know you, it feels inappropriately intimate for a first date, and ALSO (as has been said) puts me on uneven footing with you. AND if I don't like the gift, it's even worse, because even though it didn't cost you a lot, you clearly expect to have won points for it, and I have to be fake polite. Beyond this, forgive me for shouting DUH! at the screen a few times while reading things you said, but especially the coffee vs. dinner question. It's not just the expense! It's the critical consideration of how quickly can you escape (if you're not into them) from a dinner vs. a coffee date? Lastly, the Dr. Laura thing I agree with you, at least as a red flag, because that may say something strong about mentality, but the music issue is SOOOO inconsequential to marriage -- not because music isn't important, but because there are SOOOO many issues that are way more important, and may well turn out to be deal-breakers anyway. If I were dating you, I'd probably see this quirk as a tip-of-the-iceberg red flag, an indication of more stubborn inflexibility to come.

    By Blogger squarepeg, at 6:10 AM, December 22, 2004  

  • sorry, P, just wanted to say: I hope I don't come off as super-critical of you, because I didn't relate to all your positive points which of course make you very attractive -- your intelligence, humor, thoughtfulness, generosity (big one, v. important). I just couldn't resist jumping into the facinating fray. :)

    By Blogger squarepeg, at 6:15 AM, December 22, 2004  

  • fascinating, that is. and I look forward to reading parts 2 and 3.

    By Blogger squarepeg, at 6:16 AM, December 22, 2004  

  • SP, coffee's no sure thing either as you'll see in part 2. I don't mind the criticism. That's what we're all here for, some nice discussion of our opinions. There's no chance in hell readers are going to agree with me on everything, but that's cool. So fire away!

    Everyone seems to be in your camp on the music issue being inconsequential. This may be worthy of a post. Hmmm. BTW, tks for the compliments...PT

    By Blogger Plantation, at 11:42 AM, December 22, 2004  

  • For future reference it's a Double Venti, nonfat, no whip, extra foam Caramel Macchiato. Looking foward to catching up with you next time you're in the Bonita area!
    -Jonelle (Starbucks) =)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 AM, January 06, 2005  

  • Hey J!!

    Thanks for stopping by and reading this craziness. See? I told you that you will never look at me the same way again after reading all this. Maybe someday we can meet some place besides Starbucks (hint). Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    Plantation Todd a/k/a 'Jerry'

    By Blogger Plantation, at 1:13 AM, January 06, 2005  

  • Yea! it's something similar to the reality.. however guys, why do you think, that someone should treat such meeting serious at all.. It could be great to find friends, but friends are not the subject of gifts for a meeting, and not a date. :) Anyway.. Be patient, the relationship is not the supermarket.. one meeting, and you have this..!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:22 AM, May 17, 2005  

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