Tonight I was lucky enough to get to read as part of Emily Wunderlich’s monthly series Big Umbrella, and the more I do these readings the more I’m like, “I fucking love doing these readings.”
I love a microphone, I love talking to people. I love to make them laugh.
Anyway, I’m posting the story here for posterity, and because I miss writing, and writing this was very fun.
When I registered for an OKCupid account, it was basically to see if I could act my own age. I’d just graduated from college in Maine and moved away from all my friends to New York City, where the friends I was making felt decades older than me dating-wise.
They’d lived with dudes, amicably broken up with dudes, platonically married dudes to help with their citizenship paperwork… it was unreal. I had dated one guy for a couple years in college and it had been stupid and ended even more stupidly, and now suddenly my weeknights were spent in an apartment I shared with three other people, making quesadillas in my Home Goods frying pan and watching several episodes of King of the Hill before going to bed and repeating the whole ritual the next day.
I had no idea where the young local singles were, but I knew OKCupid was a place I could start. Best case, I’d meet some new people, say some hellos. Worst case, I’d have something to chuckle about with these worldly-as-fuck new friends of mine.
Before I get any further, let me just say: god bless anyone out there with the wherewithal to wrangle that festering spamcauldron of a social media platform and use it to sincerely meet people with similar interests without feeling as though their soul has been run through a woodchipper and splattered across the snowy lawn of infinity, because having this account was a harrowing experience for me.
Within moments of registering, without even a photo uploaded or any information for anyone to react to, the direct messaging from horny singles began. Was I in the area? Did I have plans tonight? No one could spell, and no one cared if I was horny too. But after about a month of weeding through my inbox, optimistically responding to people who piqued my interest, and proactively seeking out guys who seemed cool, I ended up messaging back and forth with someone I liked.
The one-month-to-one-person ratio wasn’t ideal, but it seemed promising enough. We worked in similar but separate areas of the comedy industry, often took spontaneous and stupid trips with our friends, and had strong opinions about bodega junk food brands. We agreed to meet at a bar near my office for a beer after work, and I felt like I was finally dipping my toes into what it was all about. Broadway, baby!
The date was smooth sailing off the top: he had recently driven a van across the country, liked some of the same TV and stand-ups I did, and when I recommended he watch a Criterion doc about seahorses “with the lights out while you’re stoned,” he put the title in his phone and told me he’d watch it and report back. Sick.
Everything was tepid heterosexual fun until the topic of my upcoming birthday arose, and I told him about the cake some friends and I had ordered for our party. It featured two clipart aliens flanking a word from The Sims in Curlz MT, and I was beside myself with excitement over how I imagined it was gonna turn out.
Was it niche? Yes. Did I think for a second that it mattered? No. I was glowing as I described this crappy jpeg we were having photo-printed onto a dessert. But I could see my date’s face curdling a little bit with each computer-themed word, so I pumped the brakes and asked him if he knew what I was talking about.
For the record, Curlz MT is a font. A hideous, beautiful, magical one that’s been around for as long as I’ve been using word processors, and so I used it in my story the way I’d also say Arial or Times New Roman and assume that it’s 2014 and this isn’t amateur hour. But he didn’t know what it was, so I laughed and checked myself and explained it to him.
“It’s like, curly and princessy, but in an overtly ugly way. Kind of like Comic Sans is ugly, but so in your face about it that it’s kind of beautiful.”
And instead of saying, “Cool!” or, “Oh,” or, “Okay,” he said, “You can’t just say things like that and expect people to know what you mean,” and I froze.
That, ladies and gents, is the neg.
A smile immediately re-appeared on his face like he’d just been very charming — so he was still invested in me thinking he was a pleasant person — he just also wanted me to know that he wasn’t comfortable with me knowing more about something than he did. Or steering the conversation someplace foreign. Or something. Romance.
And because I am shy, and because I was branching out, and because I was already in the heightened anxiety state of being on a date with a stranger and having to pull conversation out of thin air like some kind of social magician, my face just fell and I stopped trying to make him understand me. I probably said something like, “Yeah, I’m a fucking dweeb,” and then changed the subject because — I don’t know — I was 23 and I was like, “Welp, this is how I’m treated.”
But in retrospect, what the fuck! Who says that! To anyone!
I think it’s the “you can’t just” that gets me.
I CAN, stranger! I can just!
We have just met each other and may never see each other again and I have somehow managed to breathe air and ingest food and blink my eyes all these years without you, so yes, I can refer to a font by its name while I drink a beer during my free time. It’s not like I was not telling him that I’m kind of into murder porn. I wasn’t telling him that I make vegan lubes and am thinking of starting an Etsy for them, would he like to taste one?
I was referencing the world’s most innocuous children’s birthday party typeface — one that anyone who has used a computer in the last two decades has had a high chance of running into, and even if they hadn’t yet, who cares! You can get the gist without knowing it intimately!
The date ended with a hug, and I can’t even remember this dude’s name or what he looked like, but I’ll remember that comment forever because I was so, so happy to be telling him about that cake, and he killed my joy, and I should have burned that evening to the ground. I should have taken a shit on the table and walked away cackling.