Around the World in 80 Dates!

I am a self-admitted travel junkie. And I am (clearly) single. So when I came across a book entitled Around the World in 80 Dates, it definitely had my attention. Former Lonely Planet editor Jennifer Cox realizes she meets more interesting men when she travels than in her home town of London and decides to go on 80 dates while traveling around the world. The book probably won’t win any Pulitzers but it’s cute and most importantly, I was totally intrigued by the concept!

I figured I could date cross-culturally without devoting six months of my life and remaining savings to the process. I’d much rather go on the trip around the world with my future partner, rather than in search of him (although I’m making great headway in covering territory in the meanwhile!) The awesome thing about DC is that you can just walk down a street and meet people from 18 different countries (yes, eighteen rather than eighty because you know, there is no way I’m putting myself through 80 dates, not even for your entertainment). And honestly, I am hoping that like the 5th date will be the last, at least for a while!

So what does a girl do to quickly wrangle up some “qualified” international dates? Enter Craig’s List. I swear, if CL sold stock, I’d be the first in line to buy it. Not only is CL great for selling and buying pre-owned furniture and cars, it has quite an active personals section. Best part? It’s free and you don’t have to create one of those 100-question profiles or post your picture to get responses. If you’re a girl or claim to be one – apparently CL is the hot bed, no pun intended, for all kinds of weird money-making schemers posing as normal single women – you get countless responses in just minutes. Of course weeding through those to find 1 or 2 men you might want to date is the challenge. No matter, I am a woman on a mission – to find my globe-trotting soul mate and/or entertain YOU in the meanwhile!

So I crossed my fingers and toes and posted my ad entitled “Around the World in 18 dates” on Craig’s List. After a briefly explaining my literary inspiration, I got right down to what I’m looking for:

“I’d love to meet you if you are 1) a curious, whip-smart, funny, caring, successful (however you define that), self-assured single man 2) from or have lived in another country or culture 3) looking for a committed relationship with a smart, spunky, humorous travel addict.

Small print:
You are: late 20s to early 4os, single and emotionally available, non smoker and live a healthy life style. Please include your picture and I’ll reply in kind.”

What I got in response – so far – has been a mix of responses mostly in following categories 1) Dude, whaz up – call me! 2) I am a single white accountant who lives with mom 3) Are you real or trying to take all my money like my last date 4) Obscene / hostile / emotionally disturbed 5) Potentially interesting / amusing / good story for this blog and 6) my ex boyfriend!!! Oh my gosh, was that weird, particularly since he specifically mentioned “emotionally healthy and mature” in his response. Clearly someone needs to write back and ask, “Have you met you??” And clearly, that someone won’t be me. Brrrrr, moving on!

trojan-tent (the original caption!)

I’ll be sure to keep you updated but for now, I just had to share this one response with a corresponding photo from someone let’s call Billy Bob.

“hi, here is my pic. Let me know if you want to chat.”

What can I say, I am an optimist – it must get better from here, right?!?!?

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It’s Just Lunch – It’s Just Pathetic

When my colleague Sandy joined It’s Just Lunch a few months ago, not only was I hoping she’d finally meet that special someone, I was selfishly excited to vicariously live with her through $1300 worth of dates. In case you’re not familiar, It’s Just Lunch is a dating / matchmaking service – or so they claim to be – that charges $1300 for six dates or six months of membership, whichever comes last. They claim to have 2000 members evenly split between men and women in the DC area. Notice I keep using “claim” because upon further investigation, I must report, there seems to be very little truth in advertising.

And, here’s my favorite claim – that their customers are hyper-successful professionals just too darn busy to set up their own lunch dates. Because you know, of ALL the challenges of dating, it’s making my own lunch reservations at a generic mid-scale restaurant that really gets to me. Therefore $1300 for this wonderful and unique convenience is a deal clearly not to be missed by the hyper-successful busy professional! I am not sure how the said people can possibly handle these mission-impossible reservations once they’re through the membership and in a relationship, maybe even thanks to It’s Just Lunch. Perhaps there’s another level of membership – for couples – that takes care of all their subsequent scheduling needs – lunch, then dinner, then sex, then that tough coversation of “where we’re going”…. Possibilities are endless! If they haven’t come up with this level of service yet, they certainly should, don’t you think?

But after a few of Sandy’s dates, my hopeful anticipation of the magic It’s Just Lunch was bound to produce started to erode. Not only was she disappointed in her matches, she started developing major insecurities about herself. She was questioning why in the world they thought she’d be compatible with THOSE men! Was she giving out a “looser” vibe? Did they really think that she’d enjoy going out with Bud who only wanted to talk about his model trains? Or Stan who never missed a Star Trek convention? Or Larry who dressed like Screech on Saved by the Bell and silently stared at his shoes for an hour? I couldn’t believe what she was telling me – I was starting to worry she’d put my worst dating stories to shame!

It was clearly time for me to go undercover and investigate It’s Just Lunch first-hand. I called them up and asked to make an appointment. Smartly, they decided to first qualify me (basically see if I’d be willing to fork over the money and not ask for it back when they matched me up with completely undesirable dates.) Dori was the person assigned to me. In a tone of voice you might use with a puppy or a toddler, she carried on and ON about how great I sounded and how many of their men were looking for a girl JUST like me (truly, it was a miracle that all those men even joined seeing how I wasn’t a member yet!) I was getting cavities from her sugary compliments and promises by the time we finally set up an appointment. I then brushed my teeth – I just can’t handle that much artificial sweetness all in one sitting.

On the appointed day and time, I showed up at the It’s Just Lunch office and was showed to a conference room. There were framed articles all over the walls. As I looked closely at them though, I noticed that the most recent was written in 2003. Hmmm, wasn’t that when internet dating started to lose its social stigma? I then filled out several questionnaires, most quite predictably dealing with my interests and desired qualities for my mate. Nothing too deep, of course. A few minutes later Dori bounced in, chirping endlessly about how cute I was and how she couldn’t wait to match me up with the man of my dreams! Aha. She went down the list of my traits, interests, preferences, etc. I had marked quite a few boxes since well, I am a pretty well rounded person with a LOT of interests (with notable exception of model trains and Star Trek conventions).

As it turned out, the men would LOVE the fact that I enjoy dancing and sailing and cooking. Why only last week they signed someone up who owned a sail boat! AND he doesn’t kick little children as a hobby! Hallelujah, for I am sure this is my soul mate! I patiently explained to Dori that as much as I’d like to share some interests with my mate, what’s most important to me is personality compatibility. Not ethnicity, not even age or height as much, I just want someone who is brilliant, funny, sensitive, ambitious, warm, caring, and have it all be in the same package (not one trait in each of the six dates!) Someone well-rounded and balanced who doesn’t mind making his own lunch reservations and perhaps even at a not-so-generic restaurant. Someone who normally wouldn’t be using It’s Just Lunch to find his mate. I think I overwhelmed the hell out of Dori because all of the sudden she ran out of sales lines to feed me.

Yet Dori was a fighter – she desperately grasped for straws, trying to figure out how to sell me the membership, and finally asked what I most liked about my last mate. I thought about it for a moment “He was very intuitive” I replied. Dori gave me a blank stare and said, “I am sorry, what do you mean by that?” I gave her the look to indicate, if you don’t know that, are you seriously claiming you can match me?? The interview was clearly over and Dori looked visibly distressed.

In a last-ditch, half-hearted effort, Dori compelled me to be “patient and flexible” in my search. I assured her that I was neither of those things and unless she had someone in mind who matched my criteria precisely, we should part ways and wish each other well. I felt only slightly bad for intimidating poor clueless Dori. But seriously, I find it bordering on criminal to charge people over a thousand dollars for a few dates profoundly matched by their checked “sailing” or “movies” interest boxes. As I was walking out, Dori helpfully suggested, “Let me check with the other directors and see if they’ve interviewed anyone you’d like. After all, we have 2000 members and I don’t know every one of them”. I smiled at her, “To be fair, I am only interested in the male 1000 half Dori.” We were done.

I walked away from this interview convinced that Sandy has an equally good chance to find her soul mate in a bar, a party or even being run over by him while crossing the street, as through It’s Just Lunch. I sort of feel cheated on her behalf. As much fun as it was for me to play a dating detective, I am also sad. I am sad that there are hopeful people out there, getting taken to the cleaners by “matchmakers” with lots of promises but no clue or substance. Perhaps they can match generic people satisfied with generic dates at generic restaurants, but not the special, unique, phenomenal people like my friends and readers! I am not sure what to do about it. I am secretly hoping that the head of the Better Business Bureau is a single person reading this blog… Or enough of you will comment on your experiences with It’s Just Lunch (and similar services) so that we can build a strong case for getting your money back! I’d love to hear your stories about some of the services you’ve tried and whether you think they give you a better chance of meeting someone spectacular than bars, parties and the internet.

When Flies Fly Open on the First Date…

I just had one of those dates that inspired me to start blogging – a bit horrifying for me, potentially good reading for you! Not sure if you want to know more? Here’s a sneak peek (no pun intended): unzipped pants, Madonna singing impersonations (with corresponding dance moves), and barking sounds ALL in one fun-filled first-date package!

Curious yet? Ok ok, here’s the scoop. So I met this guy “Mike” at a happy hour a few weeks ago. Cute(ish), witty(ish), a bit socially awkward but hard to tell whether it was a permanent state of being or just situational. I’ll let you guess which it turned out to be. Called me the next day (good move… although sadly, the last one). Somehow over email an “inside joke” materialized about the HOT new jeans Mike bough at Nordstrom’s (you know, THE place world-renowned for sexy jeans.)

Mike promised to wear them on our date (be still my heart) and as we were waiting for our table at the bar, Mike offered to show off his smokin’ pants in a model-like twirl. He even lifted up his shirt for full effect. BIG mistake, especially since it was followed by “Did you see everyone checking out my hot jeans?” What poor Mike neglected to notice was 1) my half-mortified, half-amused expression, directly resulting from 2) his wide-open fly!!! Honestly, it was a bit like stumbling on one of those embarrassing, not so-funny and probably contrived “Funniest Home Videos” where a guy tried to impress his date with his wit, charm and suave moves but doesn’t realize all the while that his fly is open. Except in this case it wasn’t a silly TV show, it was my date! Someone had to break the news to Mike (ooh, ooh ME!)

How does one recover from flashing a girl (and the entire restaurant) on the first date? Well, of course by asking about her strangest dating experiences. “Umm, you mean prior to this one?” I joked (hey, when you don’t zip up you leave yourself wide open – no pun intended again – to a bit of gentle teasing.) I wasn’t sure how to prioritize my weird dating stories (alphabetically? chronologically??) and finally settled on the barking story. Yes, I’ve been now barked at by THREE completely different men. At least until this date it was three – sadly, my count keeps going up.

As a side note, have YOU ever been barked at? I hear from friends it’s not all that common. Apparently, most women inspire flowers or chocolate or poetry. As it turns out, not me – I inspire barking!  Anyway, I’m not sure how Mike got the idea that barking was a positive (as opposed to deeply disturbing) idea because half-way through dinner, he suddenly broke out in barks. What’s even stranger is that he went for the high pitch, little yuppy dog barks “arph arph”. Quite odd for a fairly large man – I mean the other THREE men at least chose the more size-appropriate, masculine “Woof WOOF” barks. Well… I seriously can’t believe I now have enough experience to actually compare bark tones among my human dates! Think there’s a support group for women like me?

But it wasn’t over yet. As if I didn’t have enough blog material already, next topic Mike brought up was Madonna and particularly her more recent albums. When I expressed my preference for her earlier work Mike’s face lit up “You mean Like a Virgin?” he asked. What followed next was another first for me… Mike not only broke out in song (incidentally, much closer in pitch and musicality to the previously-mentioned barking than to Madonna’s singing) but he even had corresponding choreography all worked out. He must have rehearsed this routine before because he did all this quite flamboyantly without knocking a single dish off the table! Talk about grace!

I won’t bore you with other socially awkward things poor Mike perpetrated before I managed to get away. I was getting worried that before long this story would cross the line from unbelievably amusing to plain unbelievable.  And I’d cross over from mildly amused to permanently traumatized.

So there you have it. Two firsts and one FOURTH bizarre pattern in my dating history. As always, questions, comments, and condolences are welcome!

Man behaving badly? Send him to the doghouse!

Disclaimer for my male readers: this video may be more educational than funny for you. Then again, this was forwarded by a man so please feel free to disregard the slightly sexist assumption. I laughed out loud! Brilliant piece of advertising – enjoy!

Dear John (no pun intended)

I just went on a date with John. Whereas I might normally try to protect his identity with a made up name, it would be with something like “John” anyway. No offense to anyone named John because it really is a great name, but with so many of them around… Although if he sounds like your match, I’d be thrilled to introduce you. He is still very single and at least one of my friends loves it when I – what SHE calls – recycle my former dates. I am into being a good friend AND environmentally friendly!

Anyway, John is one of those super nice, CUTE, considerate, thoughtful, well-traveled, educated, generous, smart guys that you WISH you were into but you’re just not. At least I was not. He was obviously nervous and asked quite obvious questions (and not even that many of those). I just want an inquisitive man who asks soul searching questions and tries to unravel the mystery of who I am. YES, on the first date! At least I need to see a glimmer of hope that he has the “unraveling” potential! I could tell he was kinda into me because he frequently exclamed “Wow, you’re really interesting!” or “Amazing how much we have in common!”. I can see how “on paper” we’d SEEM perfectly compatible, I knew there wouldn’t be a date 2.

I believe in being perfectly clear with people, particularly when I have no intention of dating them. Why keep them in suspense or worse yet, wait until they send you a glowing email enumerating everything you had in common and how wonderful they think you are. I mean the last part is not so bad, but SO awkward and unnecessary. I try to do all I can to help them save face and maintain a sense of dignity as I “let them down gently”. In fact, I must confess, I feel this incredible responsiblity – umm, potentially bordering on unhealthy – to protect their self esteem / ego. To this end, my “I am not interested, but you’re fabulous” email to John (let’s call it “form letter A”) read:

“Dear John (no pun intended)

It was great meeting you last night. You’re one of the most thoughtful, considerate people I’ve ever met. Thank you so much for dinner! I definitely sensed more of a friend vibe so should you ever want a museum buddy, just let me know – I’d love to be friends. Have a great week!”

I was perfectly satisfied with my Form Letter A. I had clearly stated my intentions, I was nice AND I gave him an “out” ! I certainly was not expecting the reply:

“I am confused. Did you get the friend vibe from ME? Because I am definitely interested…” It went on downhill from there. Sigh! I don’t get it! Dude, I throw you a rope – grab on and play along! Why set yourself up for further awkwardness or a blunt(er) rejection? Embarrassing and oh SO uncomfortable for both of us!

I was so confused, I had to run this by my friends. Almost unanimously women agreed that I was nice, clear and he SHOULD have let it go (apparently, most women have a version of Form Letter A and sometimes get the same response I did.) I was shocked that several male friends told me I was too subtle and left a “door open” in my email. HA?

I don’t know. What do you think? Was I unclear / too subtle? Did I leave an “open door”? What does your “form letter A” say and have you had better luck with it? What would you like to hear / read post date 1 if someone’s not interested? Would LOVE to hear your feedback and experiences!

Who Pays on a Date?

Can you think of a more awkward moment on a date (ok, get your mind out of the gutter… at least for now) than when the check arrives? Who pays? This question has been plaguing modern daters since “dutch” entered the picture. Wasn’t it so much simpler in the “good ol’ days”? Everyone knew the rules – the man pays at a restaurant, the woman reciprocates with a nice home-cooked meal. No longer is there a tidy solution to this dating etiquette dilemma and, as you know, that often causes all kinds of awkwardness.

What’s even weirder is when the guy you’ve dated now dates your friend (ok yes, that’s weird all on its own) and changes the paying rules! As an update, my friend Liz and my “Ex-casual” have now gone on two dates. They seem to be doing great with one notable exception… On date two – their first dinner together – he actually accepted her offer to split the check! Ewwwww!

I was shocked (not only because I think it’s the ruddest thing in the world for a man to invite you to dinner and then dare to accept splitting the check!) but also because on both of our dates he insisted on treating! Unless he was majorly hit by the latest financial crisis (which I doubt because he has a stable, well-paying job) that’s just plain bizzare (particularly since he asked her out again.) And doesn’t he realize that we’d be comparing notes (although I don’t know that men think about such things) and this would just end up looking plain bad! Don’t know what’s up with the dude, but I sure am glad I am not dating him! Can’t wait to see what happens with the check on date three! Did I mention how fabulous it feels for ONCE to be a blogging bystander, rather than an active participant in a dating drama?

Gosh, the check dilemma never gets less awkward, no matter how many first dates you go on (and I should know!) Am I too old-fashioned, expecting a man to WANT to pick up the check, at least on the first date or two? Perhaps I was biased by parents in whose culture a man who doesn’t treat the lady to dinner is considered lower than scum of the earth (because even scum feeds its lady!) Is it wrong to make a determination about the second date, or lack-there-of, just because a man accepts my offer to contribute? Whatever the reason for my complete aversion to splitting checks on a date, I just think it’s plain PETTY – seriously, I’d rather just pay the whole thing myself!

Now that I’ve told you what I think – but just in case I was too subtle, I DETEST the idea of going Dutch with a man – what about you?? Who do you think should pay on a date? Is the man automatically supposed to pick up the check? Do you prefer to go dutch? Does it matter on which date this is? Or who asked whom? I (and Liz, I am sure) would love your insights about this very touchy subject!

No seriously, these are REAL headlines

As I am loving writing this blog, I thought I should also see what others write about dating and relationships. You gotta love Google Alerts – you type in key words on any topic and they’ll send you everything that has hit the internet about the topic!

Today one of the alerts brought me to a website where, I swear, I thought headlines were made up (like Onion or something). They’re NOT and neither is the readers’ response to such quieries as:

I had a good laugh. And it’s nice that for once I wasn’t laughing at myself or one of my dating mishaps!