We met at a bar…

24 Oct

This next story is my own – a blast from the past from my first foray into online dating.  Looking back, it now seems fitting that my first online dating experience was comically disastrous.  It was just a sign of things to come!

For the first two years after college, I lived in DC with all of my college friends.  It was like an extension of college – all the same people, just in a different place.  I lived in a brownstone that was divided into four apartments, three of which were full of girls from school.  We had barbecues on our back deck, went out to the bars together in Georgetown and Adams Morgan, and watched “Autobiography”, the sensational MTV reality show about Ashlee Simpson.  It was a wonderful couple of years and, looking back, it seems ridiculous that I tried online dating at that time.  But, I think it was boredom that eventually led my good friend and I to match.com.  Although we were having fun, we were constantly spending time with the same guys we had been around for the past 6 years.  We knew there was more out there, and we thought it would be fun to jump into the online dating world together.

I got my first email from Alex Sampson months before we actually met.  He was new to online dating too, so we exchanged a million emails before moving on to the actual meet-up.  I learned a lot about him during this time – about his family, his job, his friends.  Once we exchanged information about the colleges we had attended, he revealed that he worked with someone from my school.  When he mentioned Jonah’s name, I could hardly believe it.  Not only did I know Jonah, our groups of friends spent a lot of time together in DC.  There had always been a harmless flirtation between Jonah and I, but there was nothing more to it.  I immediately wanted to email him to ask him to give me more dirt on Alex, when I was stopped in my tracks by a sentence in Alex’s email:  “Jonah doesn’t know I am doing match.com – nobody in my office does.”  I laughed at first because I knew that Jonah was an avid Jdater, already searching for the perfect Jewish girl.  I also knew that Jonah advertised this fact the same way he talked about what he ate for dinner the night before, so I mentioned it to Alex.  Alex knew all about Jonah’s online dating – he shared some funny quips about Jonah’s sharing profiles with his office mates.  Still, Alex was not comfortable telling Jonah, or anyone for that matter, about his own online dating life.  Although I wasn’t going around advertising my match.com membership, I didn’t mind if people knew – but I respected Alex’s wish for privacy and held back from asking Jonah about him.

Shortly after the revelation of the Alex/Jonah connection, Alex finally asked me out.  I got an email from him on a Wednesday.  He asked me to meet him at Clyde’s, a popular bar/restaurant, the next Tuesday.  I said yes, and received an email back saying he was looking forward to it.  But, Alex was no dummy.  Also in the email:  “So, I couldn’t resist asking Jonah about you!  I told him that I randomly met you out at Clyde’s this past week.  I figured it wasn’t too much of a lie since we’re actually going there next week.  So, if he asks, just go along with it!”  Greaaaat.  Although this actually gave me an “in” to be able to ask Jonah about Alex, I preferred to say nothing because I have never been a good liar.  I just wanted to avoid seeing Jonah between Thursday and Tuesday so that I wouldn’t have to discuss it and blow Alex’s cover with my inability to keep a straight face.  In the meantime, I began thinking about what I’d wear on the long-awaited date, how I’d do my hair, etc.  I had fashion shows with the girls at home and began getting excited (remember, this was my very first online date).

That Saturday, my night started off in a pretty typical way.  A bunch of the girls and I went over to Adams Morgan to pre-game at our friend’s apartment (pre-gaming was a very important ritual at the time).  About 30 minutes into Power Hour, I went to the bathroom.  Halfway through peeing, two of my girlfriends busted into the bathroom, nearly taking the door down.  “What?!”, I screamed.  Their faces held expressions of shock, gravity, and amusement, all at the same time.  “Alex Sampson is here”, one of them finally said.  I was so confused.  It was my turn for an expression of shock and gravity, but there was no amusement in it for me.  “He just walked in with Jonah and two other guys”, they continued.  Of course.  Jonah was also friends with the pre-game hostess.  Of course this would be the night that he happened to bring a few co-workers along with him.  I knew from Alex’s emails that he lived 45 minutes outside of DC, so he didn’t make it into the city to go out much.  Why tonight?!  My thoughts and comments to the girls went from, “Why is he here?” to “This is NOT the outfit I was going to wear on our date!” to “Oh no, I have to pretend that I already know him!!”  I took some deep breaths and left the bathroom as calm, cool, and collected as possible, nonchalantly tossing my hair over my shoulder and laughing, as if the girls and I had just been touching up our makeup and sharing funny stories.

I entered the living room and spotted Jonah talking with three guys, one of whom was clearly Alex Sampson, just as he appeared in the photos.  Jonah began introducing me to them:  “This is Chris, and Max, and, of course, you already know Alex!”  I think the awkwardness of the moment has blocked out my actual reaction from my memory.  I can’t clearly remember what kind of fake response I mumbled to go along with the fact that I was supposed to know him, along with trying to manage my reaction to actually meeting him for the first time.  I do know there was a very awkward hug involved.  We ended up sitting on the couch and talking for a while.  He was perfectly nice and was attractive, and although it was somewhat fun, the strangeness of the situation overtook the enjoyment.  When he went to the bathroom, Jonah cozied up next to me on the couch and peppered me with questions:  “So…tell me everything!  How did he approach you at the bar?  Did you like him right away?”  Ugh, it was my lying nightmare, taking me back to high school when I had to lie to my parents about there being boys at the party.  But, I kept Alex’s secret.  We all went to the bars and Alex left shortly afterwards because he had a long drive home.

As if the night wasn’t tumultuous enough, there was even more fun to come.  After Alex left, Jonah came over to talk to me.  He asked me more questions, and I finally turned it around on him and asked him to give me the dirt on Alex.  He basically told me all good things about their work relationship but didn’t have much info other than that.  Throughout the rest of the night, I couldn’t help but notice that Jonah was being more “touchy-feely” than usual.  As I mentioned earlier, there had always been a harmless flirtation between us.  However, this seemed different.  And I knew I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it.  By the end of the night, he called it like it was.  He told me he was interested in me, that he’d like to go out on a date, but now he didn’t want to step on Alex’s toes.  Could this night get any more ridiculous?!  I wanted to scream out, “I NEVER EVEN MET ALEX BEFORE TONIGHT!!!  WE’VE EXCHANGED NOTHING BUT EMAILS!!”  But, I really did want to go on that date with Alex and get to know him, so I didn’t want to out him.  Still, being 23, I was enjoying the attention from Jonah and didn’t want to close that door for someone I had just met in person an hour earlier.  So, after a few harmless, tension-filled “forbidden kisses” outside Jonah’s building doorway, I got in a cab and headed home.

The hijinks basically ended there.  I did go out with Alex the following week and we had a handful of dates afterwards.  I put Jonah on the back burner and tried to see where things with Alex would go.  After several dates, I just wasn’t feeling it with Alex and I had to let him know I wasn’t interested in dating anymore.  Once it was over, Jonah and I “gave it a go” (read: a few drunken nights out with friends).  We quickly realized that there wasn’t much more there than flirtatious tension, which was a good thing since me not being Jewish would’ve been a deal-breaker for the son of a rabbi.  I was Alex-less, and Jonah-less, and had been catapulted into the exciting world of dating to come for the next 8 years (and counting).

Well, I hope you all enjoyed some laughs at my expense.  And, I hope that this story will inspire you to share more of your own!  An important comment about this story – Alex Sampson was a pretty great guy.  Looking back, I was just not at a point in my life where I was actually looking for a relationship, although I didn’t really know it at the time.  Strange as it seems, Alex Sampson gives me hope that there are some good online dating prospects out there!  Hmmm, I wonder where Alex Sampson is these days?  This might call for a Facebook project.

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