I was supposed to be working on my writing exercise. After telling myself I was going to attend a local writers Meetup for over a year I finally dragged myself out into the world and did it. I was at a neighborhood coffee shop, surrounded by eight other women writers from Seattle, and we were doing a 10 minute character exercise. Except I couldn’t concentrate.
I couldn’t concentrate because there was a first date at the table next to me. And they’d clearly met online. And it was clearly uncomfortable for both of them.
To be perfectly honest, I could sit and listen to first dates all day long if I could. I love those first moments of sheer terror, of hope, of uncertainty, of wonder and fear.
One of my first serious, head-over-heels crushes was with a man I met online. Or, we were introduced online by a mutual friend and started exchanging emails. And lemme tell you, hot shit was he dreamy and witty and perfect. And for the first time in my life I felt genuinely desired by a man, which made me feel more drunk than if I’d been on a cruise with free booze.
He lived in another state. And about two months after we talked exchanging emails (and talking on the phone) he visited with a few mutual friends and we quickly brought out some board games. It was a competitive game, one that required teams and guessing and drawing.
What I quickly realized, with my stomach dropping and my cheeks lightly burning, was that he was not the easy-going, carefree person he’d seemed over email. In fact, he was sort of nasty. His idea of a joke was a cruel stab at his friends intelligence and a mocking comment on another’s slow response. He grew defensive when he got an answer wrong. He argued about the timer, the drawings, the score.
The charming and lighthearted man I’d fallen for over email wasn’t exactly charming in real life. And I found myself wishing we’d met in person much, much earlier. I wish I’d seen the way he rolled his eyes at people. I wish I’d heard his tone of condescension. I wish I’d felt the way he repeatedly told me to “take a joke” as if we were in third grade and the gum I’d just sat in had been my fault.
It was such a bummer of a night.
But you know what? I’m guessing I was also a different person than I’d portrayed online. I’m sure I wasn’t as confident in person, as sassy, seductive and easy-going. I imagine he was expecting someone else, too.
But this is also why I tend to encourage people who are connecting online to meet in person sooner rather than later. While my anxiety and ever-growing-tendency-to-stutter makes me appreciate the chance to clearly communicate my thoughts and feelings via writing, I also know how impossible it is to reflect those subtle personality quirks online. They can’t see the way your smile blooms when you see a dog walk past the coffee shop window. They won’t see the way you gently thank the barista as they hand you your drink. And these moments are what make us truly fall for each other.
Let’s just get the cliche out in the open: actions speak louder than words. That shit’s the truth.
It is exhaustingly scary to plan to meet up in person. But it will also allow you to quickly realize whether or not this is something you want to pursue or if there might be a better fit for you out in the world. Because let’s be honest, anyone who threatens to throw a Taboo buzzer across the room because they got an answer wrong is not sexy.