Never date a woman whose name is a palindrome


Something else I've done a (very) little of since that lone 2006 update: dating.

I had dabbled in dating, mostly of the online variety, for the previous couple of years, but in early 2007 I decided to try to take it a little more seriously. Socialite that I am, this netted me one speed-dating event and a whopping total of 3 (three) dates.

February was a big month, with both the speed dating and a separate date with someone I met via (Yes, two "dates" in a month is an unusually active social life for me. That's how we wild and crazy singles roll.) The speed dating thing was... interesting. A number of people neglected to show up, which kind of messed up the numbers. I've heard about various types of speed dating setups; in this one, each woman was assigned a booth, and the men moved around the room in rotation. Every eight minutes a timer went off signaling that it was time for the men to move on. We all had cards on which to evaluate each "date" (identified only by number). I don't remember the specific names of the categories, only that they essentially boiled down to "not interested," "friend only," "business contact," or "interested in dating." The organizers collected all of the cards at the end of the evening, and sent email addresses for future contact only to those who had indicated the exact same degree of interest.

Probably not surprisingly, I didn't have any matches. There was only one person I thought would be fun to go out with, and I was very clearly not his type. Everyone else was so serious, it was kind of depressing. I thought dating was supposed to be fun, you know? Unfortunately, I've gradually been disabused of that notion.

I wouldn't call the speed dating attempt a total waste, though. I certainly met some unusual people. One of my dates was a real, live Dwight Shrute, for example. He talked nonstop for all eight minutes about his house-hunting process, explaining in great, tone-deaf detail how The Art of War is essential background reading for any real estate transaction. Then there was the German microbiologist-slash-salsa dancer. They were both much more interesting than my more traditional date that month, who was a party to the dullest evening I've had in years. Considering that I spend most of my evenings working in front of the computer, that tells you something.

We had arranged to meet at a local bar, since he also lives in the general neighborhood. He was there first, and I recognized him from his online photo when I walked in the door. As soon as he saw me, he got a disappointed look on his face, and throughout the evening he made his boredom very evident by constantly looking around the room and making me carry the conversation almost single-handedly. I was convinced we were both wishing it would just be over, given his attitude and body language. To my immense surprise, however, he emailed me a couple of days later asking for another date. When I didn't respond immediately, he sent a long rant about rudeness and called me all kinds of names. Who doesn't want to date a person like that? I am obviously way too picky. But, I thought, surely I could find someone more interesting out there?

Proving that the universe has a sense of humor, I did indeed find someone more interesting. In the Chinese curse sense of the word. This person--I'll call him Philip--sounded perfectly nice and sane on the phone. When we finally managed to meet for hot chocolate, though, it quickly became clear that he was not even on the same planet as sane. I won't go into all the details, but suffice it to say that he was faking his British accent, and told me a story of his recent romantic past that was so off the wall, I'm not sure which alternative is scarier: that it was true, or that he was making it all up. And telling me about it, in excruciating detail, over hot chocolate.

The best part of the date with "Philip" was the end--not just because it was over, but because it yielded me my best dating story to date. It's much funnier when I can tell it in person, and act it out for full effect, but the shorter written version is still pretty amusing. So, picture me, having finally said good-bye to this nutjob, and starting my walk home. The sense of relief may have given me an added spring in my step, I don't know. Mainly I was just thinking my own thoughts, as I do, when I became aware of shouting behind me. I turned around, and there was Philip running toward me, yelling something I couldn't make out. He raced up to me, grabbed my shoulders, and said in his fake British accent, "Is that a sway I notice?"

While I was still trying to figure out what the hell he was talking about, he kissed me.

I was too stunned to react, except to mutter lamely when he pulled away, "Uh, that's my normal walk." He just gave me a knowing look and a wink, and sauntered away toward his car. (A friend observed that he might have tossed his keys into the air and done a little dance as soon as I turned the corner.) It took me a while to figure out that mysterious episode, but apparently he was convinced I was sending him a personal ass-o-gram. My talents, they are legion. Who knew? I sent him an email explaining that I didn't think we were a good match and wishing him luck. He didn't take it well, though: he left several long, whiny/angry voice mail messages, rhapsodizing about our "deep emotional connection" and demanding an explanation for my "change of heart." Finally, when I never picked up or answered his calls, he gave up.

And that was March.

My date in April, also via Nerve, was an effective antidote to Philip. He was over an hour late and the place we'd originally planned to go had apparently closed down, and yet, on my personal dating scale those barely registered a blip. When my date--let's call him Charles--finally arrived, he wasn't quite what I expected. I was wearing a cute skirt and a kicky pair of wedges; he showed up in oversize cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, accessorized with a string of puka shells around his neck and plastic thongs. He had just moved to Philly, though, and was originally from Out West, so I cut him some slack for cultural differences.

Charles was pleasant enough. We laughed, and talked about our respective work, and our cats, and after dinner we walked around Rittenhouse Square. There was nothing even remotely resembling chemistry, but he was tall and cute and not crazy. For me, that already counted as a win.

So, at least I can say I ended on a high note. I haven't been on a date since then, and I can't imagine I'll go on any over the next few months. My life is all about the dissertation right up until the day I leave, so it doesn't make sense to try to meet anyone even if I could carve out the time. I'll get back on the wagon once my life has settled down again. I may have to adjust my strategies a bit, though, because even though I appreciate the story potential in dating a bunch of weirdos, it's kind of exhausting.