I met Tom Tiny Horse on Tinder around the time J* moved to town. Tom was funny, and we had great chemistry in texts, so I felt bad when I disappeared on him. When my relationship with J* intensified, it seemed appropriate to delete Tinder altogether, but I wrote to Tom before I did so. It was one of those, “I really like you, but I met someone else, bad timing, etc. etc.” messages. I can’t recall if I ever deleted Tinder or not, but not long after I gave Tom the heave-ho, the universe delivered a lesson in karma. J* dumped me like a hot sack of shit, and suddenly I was single again.
I got back in touch with Tom, who was genuinely kind when I explained what had happened. He asked me if I would like to meet, and we continued to discuss and joke and plan over email. It gave me hope in some very dark moments. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed when we actually met, demonstrating yet again that online chemistry is not just elusive but illusory.
The first-date plan was for Tom to take public transportation to my side of town, where we would meet for dinner. He did a little research and suggested a kabob restaurant based on positive online reviews. I had eaten there and knew them to serve delicious food, but I also knew it was not First-Date Friendly: it’s a fluorescently lit carryout favored by cab drivers that serves no alcohol.
I gently offered these details to Tom, but he was undeterred. He must have had something else in mind, because when we finally met, and he realized how unromantic and unforgiving the experience was going to be, he apologized profusely as we fetched our silverware and napkins from the bins on the counter.
Like my previous date with Nose Hair, this date involved a bait-and-switch, but with a twist. From his photos and online profile, I understood Tom Tiny Horse to be tall, athletic, and about my age. In fact, he was of average height for a man (meaning, my height or shorter if I’m in heels, which I was); he was out-of-shape with a belly, sunken chest, and stringy arms; and he looked many years older than I was expecting–more gray hair, less hair overall, and a tired, defeated mien. Tom was ever so slightly more self-aware than Nose Hair, however, because he tried to get out in front of the situation. About an hour before the date started–too late for me to gracefully back out–he texted me a selfie unbidden. He sent it under the guise of providing me with information about what he was wearing. But implicitly, he was also confessing, “This is what I actually look like.”
Later, I did some online sleuthing that enabled me to date the photos he had posted in his profile. They were all 5-8 years old. I was able to narrow it down so specifically because the largest cache of information about him was the publicly available Flickr stream for his wedding.
Yes, through the miracle of the Interwebs, I got to see about fifty photos from my date’s betrothal to some other lady. He was divorced, and he disclosed that. But still–I think, if you’re going to go online looking for a new partner, perhaps you should Google yourself first to ensure that the first thing your date learns about you is not what kind of flowers your wife carried down the aisle.
Tom’s appearance wasn’t the only problem. As it turns out, our online chemistry did not translate into real life. The conversation was pleasant but not engaging. I felt no attraction. I wanted to go home.
Instead, I drove him to the train station so that he would not have to walk. When we parted, he pecked me lightly on the lips, kind of how you would kiss your sister if you were from one of those families that does that. I let him, because it seemed easier than resisting. But I knew I would never see him again.
All in all, it was a sad night. It was only about a week after J* dumped me, and we had our first “conversation,” via text, on the afternoon of the date. It did not go well. J* misconstrued everything I wrote, then he announced he had to “cut ties” with me altogether. It took me a long time to do my makeup for the date because I couldn’t stop crying.
Tom Tiny Horse had traveled to Iceland with his young daughter, where they visited a farm with miniature horses. On his Tinder profile, there was a photograph, from several years prior, of the two of them petting those horses in a stable. It was an adorable picture of an adorable girl, an adorable, tiny horse, and a strong, handsome man joyfully together in a beautiful place. Until I met Tom, I could see myself in that picture, in that life, which gave me hope at a time when I couldn’t imagine being happy again. Tom probably looked nostalgically at that picture too, for the intervening years had not been kind to him. I realized in retrospect that his wife must have taken it.