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April Fools #4: 1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out

April 9, 2010

I met Sean on Not surprisingly, almost all my bad date stories begin similarly. This is why I no longer do online dating.

I actually emailed him first. I didn’t usually do that, because my response rate was pretty low. People claim that the medium of online dating changes the dating “rules”, but I didn’t find that to be true in my experience. Maybe those of us who grew up in a generation where online dating wasn’t always available still go by the old fashioned rules. Men make the first move. Women who make the first move are perceived as too aggressive and are subsequently ignored. I didn’t feel bad about it because the overall response rate for most online dating messages is pretty low. You can’t take it personally.

What had prompted me to email Sean was that one of his pictures was from the set of a popular game show he had once been on, and he jokingly mentioned in his profile that he’d buy a beer for whoever could guess where the pic was from. He seemed like a  nice guy, and sort of cute, so I emailed him with my guess, and I was right. After a couple of emails, we exchanged phone numbers, and he called me one evening and we talked for almost two hours. Correction–Sean talked for almost two hours. Two other people called me during that time and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to put him on hold. I chalked it up to nervousness on his part.

A few days later Sean called back and we made arrangements to go to a baseball game–his idea. I liked baseball and he grabbed onto that as a potential date idea. The Mets and Yankees were out of town, so instead he bought tickets to a local minor league team. Because it was right around the Fourth of July, there’d be a fireworks display after.

I was running about 15 minutes late because I hadn’t anticipated the amount of ballpark traffic. We arranged to meet out front at Will Call, and as I drove to the parking lot, I passed by the front gates and took the opportunity of going slow to see if I could pick Sean out from the crowd. I saw a balding, stocky guy in a purplish polo shirt and glasses waiting by a bench. He looked nothing like the pictures I’d seen, but he was the only single guy waiting there. I started to feel apprehensive.

It was a little bit of a hike from the lot to the main entrance of the ballpark. I hoped beyond hope I was wrong. I approached Will Call and the crowd was thick, but I caught eyes with the purple-shirted guy and his eyes lit up. It was Sean.

Sean looked nothing at all like his pictures and I tried to hide the disappointment on my face when I met him. The first thing out of his mouth was, “Wow! You’re so much prettier than your pictures!” Cringecringecringe. Why don’t you just make an announcement to the entire crowd that we met online? Even though the stigma surrounding online dating has lessened in recent years, I much preferred to keep that on the DL when I met a date. Most had the good sense to do the same. But Sean kept referencing it (and quite loudly) throughout our date: “I read in your profile…” “Meeting online like we did…” There were several points where I wanted to just sink into a hole in the ground and die.

Unfortunately, the bait-and-switch with the photos wasn’t the only problem. Sean talked obnoxiously loud the entire game. So loudly that people in our section were turning around and giving him dirty looks. I tried to get him to talk more quietly by keeping my voice low. He didn’t take the hint. I also tried to concentrate on the game, spending most of my time following the ball and not keeping my eyes on him, and giving him one word or short answers to his questions. I tried to convey as little interest as I could so he’d just shut up already.

He bought us hot dogs and beer for dinner. I was hoping that he’d volunteer to go get them himself while I watched the game, so that I could make a phone call to someone, anyone, and arrange some sort of thing to get me out of there. Or at least bitch about the fact that this was a terrible, terrible blind date so that the people who were sitting around us and also getting highly annoyed by Sean would know that I would never voluntarily spend a Friday night with this guy. Instead, we walked together to get food, and he stepped on the back of my sandal, sending it flying halfway down the stairs we were climbing up to the concourse, nearly hitting someone in the head. He retrieved it and talked about what a bad impression he was making. Uh…yeah, but please don’t add to the awkwardness by actually saying that. He was so socially awkward, I felt bad, but I also felt like escaping.

A friend did actually call, but I didn’t pick up the phone because I knew that he was calling about a barbeque he was having the next day and I knew that if Sean heard that he was likely to invite himself along. He’d already talked about coming back to the park for future games and telling his brother about me, and all sorts of things that let me know that he was utterly smitten and was not picking up in my visible disinterest at all.

The rest of the game was almost physically painful. Sean talked my ear off, or as a friend of mine would say, he could talk the hind leg off a donkey. I learned about how he was once in the hospital for seizures and that the bill was $16,000 but he only had to pay $31 because of his awesome health insurance, how he had to go to DC to get fitted for a Hawaiian shirt for his stint as the best man in his friend’s wedding in Maui and OMG how cool would it be if I could go to Hawaii with him for that, how he had been afraid of The Count on Sesame Street when he was little, and how a guy at the gas station asked for his number the previous day. Each time I thought he couldn’t come out with a worse thing to say, he did.

It finally occurred to me at the end of the 8th inning that I should have just excused myself to go to the bathroom, and then slipped out the exit nearby, ran to the parking lot, and left. I hemmed and hawed over this, and nearly laughed out loud at the possibility. What a great story that would have made for. But I can’t do things because it would be a good story at parties. I felt bad, but what really stopped me from doing it was the logistics. By the time I felt that I really had the balls to walk out, it was the middle of the ninth, with the home team trailing by 3 runs. I could have made it to the parking lot with no problem, but I would have had to go through crawling traffic along with everyone else who was leaving early, and I was sure Sean would eventually figure out that I’d ditched him. With my luck, I’d have been stuck in traffic right in front of the ballpark as he exited and he’d catch me as I sat there behind the wheel, too much of a coward to make it another half inning. Too bad I hadn’t thought of that in the 7th. I prayed for extra innings so that I could take that opportunity for my exit.

It didn’t happen. I stayed put for the end of the game and the fireworks.

Sean walked me back to my car after the game, even though he was parked in a completely different lot on the other side of the park. “I had fun, we should do this again sometime. Can I call you or email you?” he asked. He was so sincere, and I felt bad, so I said I had a good time, and sure, he can call or email. As soon as I said it I could have smacked myself in the face. It’s so hard to tell someone face to face, “No, I really didn’t have that great of a time, I almost ditched you because you were so loud, obnoxious and weird, and by the way, you need to get some pictures that actually LOOK LIKE YOU.”

What I learned from this date:

1. Baseball games are a 3 hour commitment, and should be attended only with someone you know you can put up with for that long.

2. You should always make sure that someone has the photo equivalent of a mug shot on their profile so that there’s little doubt about what they look like (afterwards, I realized that all of Sean’s photos were old, from a distance, or from extremely flattering angles, if they were him at all).

3. When in doubt, leave the scene.

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