I was sitting at the bar in the Hamilton Tavern eight months ago on a Friday night — Friday July 13th, to be exact. My eyes kept snapping back to the entranceway, scanning the crowd for my date. She was the third woman I’d agreed to meet since signing up for OKCupid’s online dating service earlier that summer, my third date after a year and a half of inactivity.
Janet and I had been in contact for less than a week. How much could you learn about a person through an online questionnaire and a few small photos, anyway? I didn’t even know her last name. (She was saved in my phone’s contact list as “Janet Jopler,” because I never let a pop culture reference go unused.)
Online dating, as I’d discovered in a fruitless dalliance with match.com a few years prior, comes with a healthy dose of rejections before you even get to the meet-up phase. I’d had greater success with OKCupid than with Match, but that’s not saying much. I had reached out to a few women who wrote back, leading to back-and-forth dialogues that fizzled out on their own. There was one date over drinks that seemed promising, but the girl called in sick for the would-be second date and did not respond to my handful of attempts to reschedule. My next first date begged off within an hour of our meeting to take a phone call from a hard-to-reach friend.
So these were my thoughts as I straddled my barstool, hoping I looked casual (but not too casual!) in my plain black T-shirt and jeans. I had been there less than five minutes, but the time alone in front of the taps stretched on into eternity. “Someone else is coming!” I wanted to assure the clustered, loudly-chattering groups of people I was sure were watching and judging. “I would never go out to a bar by myself! Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” My eyes darted back and forth between from the door to my phone, re-rereading her OKCupid profile one last time and triple-checking that she hadn’t canceled at the 11th hour.
Actually, Janet had contacted me first, filpping my usual script. I had tried not to take OKCupid’s battery of questions too seriously, and I couldn’t resist when prompted: “What’s the most private thing you’re willing to admit?” I replied, “I shower in the nude.” In Janet’s first message, she let me know I was responsible for frightening her dog, because reading about my exhibitionist bathing had caused her to pierce the silence of her home with loud, raucous laughter.
So I knew she had an excellent sense of humor, which is to say that she might be entertained by the weirdness that I consider to be comedy. I knew that she had a dog, that she was 31 years old, and that she was a spiritual person. It wasn’t a whole lot to work with, but it was something.
The door swung open.