My next Tinder date was a couple of weeks after I broke up with Victor Vegan. This guy is listed in my spreadsheet as “Nose Hair,” which kind of says it all. The date was like a primer for newly singly, middle-aged men entering the dating pool for the first time in years–on what not to do.
Case in point: don’t leave the house if your nose looks like there’s a tiny mouse inside sweeping with a push broom!
Because, chances are, the woman you are meeting is wearing something new that was chosen to flatter her assets, suggest sexual availability–but not too much sexual availability–yet allow her to walk, sit, and eat in reasonable comfort; underwear carefully selected for color (so it doesn’t show under her clothes), sexiness and flattery of fit (in case things go well!), and elastic concealment; a bra chosen for all of the above but also boob engineering; shoes carefully selected for style and practicality, so that if the date goes long, she can still be the game girl who’s ready for anything; a purse with tools for every contingency (lip dryness, skin dryness, eye dryness, hair flatness, spinach in the teeth, shine on the nose, runny nose, hang nail, heel blister, sunshine, rain, mortar attack, flat tire, etc.); and, if it’s winter time, outerwear that says, “I’m attractive and prepared, but not too prepared, because this is a restaurant, and even if there’s a blizzard outside, I am socially obligated not to dress for it.” And then there’s her grooming, which likely started days in advance with a mani-pedi and a cut and color, then progressed over the 90-120 minutes prior to departure, as every leg hair, pubic hair, head hair, eyebrow hair, and eyelash was carefully shaved, plucked, or pressed into place.
She did all this for you, or at least for herself, so that she could exude confidence when she met you. The least you could do is trim the goddamn booger bush hanging from your nose.
This guy was the first of many I met online who grossly misrepresented his appearance in his profile pictures. Nose Hair’s pictures were real, to be sure, but after meeting him, it became apparent that he had erred dramatically on the side of height, handsomeness, and youth. Each picture was either ten years old, taken from an obfuscating angle, filtered or photoshopped to make him appear younger, or some combination of the three. When I walked into the Starbucks to meet him, I would not have recognized him if he hadn’t called my name.
He was ten years older than his pictures suggested and at least five years older than he claimed in age. In the pictures, he still had a full head of hair, but in reality, all of it was in the wrong places: the thatch protruding exuberantly from his nostrils, but also the wiry antennae extending from his ears, and a meticulous combover declaring his undying allegiance to the past. And, despite a reported height of 5’10”, my 68 inches towered over him in walking shoes.
Let’s unpack this for a moment. Did he think I wouldn’t notice?! Men do this because they are betting that women will be too polite to say, two seconds after meeting them, “You don’t look anything like what I was expecting. I’m leaving.” He was essentially backing me into a corner, forcing me to choose between spending time with a man I didn’t agree to meet or behaving like a rabid bitch. And what did he think would happen?! It’s a special kind of confidence to assume, despite having duped a woman into meeting you, that your wit and charm will win her over.
We got our coffees and set out for a loop through a nearby public park. An innocent query about how long he had been on Tinder led, within the first quarter-mile, to a lengthy monologue about his ex-wife. I am kind, so I listened, normalized his feelings, and asked followup questions, rather like I was trained to do when working as a crisis hotline volunteer back in college. The conversation was very one-sided, with him asking almost nothing about me. But I learned a lot about this woman that I didn’t want to know. And by extension, I learned a good bit about him.
According to Nose Hair, the relationship soured years before the divorce, and the ex-wife just parked herself on a couch, taking no role in raising their children, contributing nothing to the household financially or otherwise, and letting herself go physically. According to his version of events, she was an awful, awful, terrible woman with serious mental illness, and he bore no responsibility for the failure of their marriage.
I started looking for a bailout after a polite half-hour, but we were too far into the walk. Fifteen minutes later, we neared a subway stop, so I slowed my pace and started to interject. It could not have gone more awkwardly. He went in for a hug, but I blocked and offered my hand. Undeterred, he asked me to join him for lunch. I declined.
I figured it was better to be honest: “I enjoyed meeting you, but I don’t think we’re a match. I wish you the best.”
He looked crestfallen.
I guess he went home and decided I was an approachable resource who could help him improve his chances with other women. A few hours later, he texted me through Tinder.
“You are exactly the kind of woman I want,” he wrote. “Tell me how to get an attractive, professional woman like you.”
You are exactly the kind of woman I want. It sounded like a compliment, but it didn’t feel like one. I am a person, not a type. Women are not interchangeable. And he had made very little effort to learn what was special about me. He just wanted someone who looked a certain way, had a certain profile, that affirmed what he wanted to believe about himself: that he’s the kind of guy who can “get” a woman other men might desire.
Tell me how to get an attractive, professional woman like you. The entitlement embedded within this request still galls me. He made no apology about it or indicated any awareness that he might be infringing on my time or encroaching on my privacy. And he was oblivious to the fact that I had also been on an unsuccessful first date that day. I too had made myself vulnerable by submitting to the unknown. I too had put my best foot forward, tending to every detail of my person so that I would be appealing to him. Ok, so maybe we didn’t have that in common. But I too had been hoping not just for the best, but for a dream to come true. And I too was disappointed by how it turned out. None of that seemed to penetrate his consciousness.
No, he just wanted tips on how he could improve his chances. Like it was a game. Like it was sport. Like he was fishing, and I was a talking fish, who could disclose the secrets of the bait.
Entitled. Insensitive. Oblivious. After fifteen years of that, who could blame a woman who put on weight and let herself get swallowed by the couch?
I swiped left without reply and thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t her. There are worse fates than being single.