First, the funny part:
It’s early last year. I am a floundering minnow in the dating pond, having recently been released from a smothering long-term relationship.
I know nothing, and I care about even less. In my head there is a scorecard, and on it is the number of dicks I’ve seen since the breakup. I want that number to be high, because I am insecure and also amazed at how many dicks there are out there, just waiting to be seen. They’re all different, did you know?
I’d been avoiding OKCupid because I’d heard it was full of cannibals and investment bankers (but I repeat myself, ZING), but I decided to try it just to see what was out there. What if some lonely Liam Neeson lookalike saw my profile and leapt to message me, knowing he had found his soulmate? I had to take the chance. Not for me; for him.
I didn’t have any illusions that my first OKC date ever was going to be a walk in the park. I expected it to be weird and awkward, maybe even embarrassing. What I didn’t expect was to be non-stop insulted by a guy who looked like Rick Moranis’s homely little brother.
I went out with him because his message was punctuated correctly. His come-on was that we had a similar name, we both liked dark beers, and we both wanted to talk about books. With those three ingredients, I was sure we could brew up a friendly connection, or at least an interesting heated argument.
OKC guy & I agreed to meet on a Monday night at a Southern-themed bar I’d been meaning to try. It was described as a “tongue-in-cheek dive bar,” which kind of makes my hands involuntarily form claws, but it had boiled peanuts on the menu. So.
I wasn’t expecting him to be an unspooling Fruit Roll-Up of misogyny and hate, because no one gets that lucky on their first try, but about two minutes into the date I realized that I was going to have to buckle up. Or maybe throw a drink in his face. Haven’t you always wanted to throw a drink in someone’s face? I will forever kick myself that I didn’t take the opportunity.
The first thing he said to me was “You’re a little more Rubensian than I expected.”
All of those “broadening” elective Art History credits suddenly came in handy, because I knew immediately that he was being an asshole.
I laughed out loud. I’m on the zaftig side, and I don’t mind it, but having a complete stranger bring up my spare poundage in a chillingly patronizing way made me feel like I was in an Amy Schumer sketch. He went on to opine on a number of topics:
“It’s hard to tell from your pictures whether you’re fat or not. That’s probably why more guys aren’t messaging you.”
“You went to a better school than me, how come you don’t have a better job than I do?”
I wish I could give more examples, but at some point I just kind of blacked out with rage.
The more unfortunate-cultural-movement-educated of you out there will recognize textbook negging when you see it. About 20 minutes in, the date had devolved into me watching a zoo animal. Most of my focus was on the food, since the conversation was shitty but the bar was great (I would later use OKC dates pretty much as an excuse to try new bars).
There’s one awesome thing about sharing a meal (I got duck heart kebabs and hush puppies, unintentionally symbolic) with someone who is openly antagonizing you; you don’t even have to pretend to try. I glared, I scoffed, I interrupted, I refused to answer questions, I rolled my eyes hugely, and generally gave vent to all of the things I normally want to do when some sweet but misguided guy is trying to tell me how all of the Tarantino movies are secretly connected. It felt great to let myself be mean, just once.
I was double-fisting food into my face hole and grunting aggressively in a sexy way, I’m sure, because at some point, he leaned over to the waiter and said: “She’s amusing me, we might stay a little longer.”
Oh, good. I was amusing him.
You are screaming at your screen right now about why I didn’t leave. I’m screaming a little, too. I probably should have bolted, but the one thing this guy had going for him was that he sure wasn’t boring. A rude, obnoxious cretin; almost certainly intentionally negging me; not even a little bit cute. But not dull.
He was so reprehensible, the date was like when you poke at a heinous fungus with a stick when you’re a kid, or when you Google “botfly in eye” and can’t stop scrolling. You’re completely disgusted, and completely enraptured. I’d never met someone so truly rotten at the core before, and I wanted to stick around just to hear what he would say next. He didn’t disappoint.
The unvarnished truth is that I went back to his place, out of a mixture of curiosity and drunken foolhardiness. Remember: this is about the scorecard.
A brief diversion from jokes:
I’m gonna be honest, y’all; writing this down was a rough ride for me. What started out as a light-hearted bad hookup story ended up going down a dark road. I wish I knew then what I know now, but I know what I do now because of what I did then.
There’s a reason I haven’t just forgotten and moved on, and a reason I ended up going home with him; shame, doubt, fear. I can’t swagger it off, and I can’t laugh it off. He was ugly inside, and some of that ugliness will be in my life forever. I let it in. The guy may have been human garbage, but then what does that make me?
There’s no way to take it back, but I can digest, learn, and try to laugh. Sleeping with someone who you don’t like isn’t funny. But there are funny parts.
I’ve struggled with a way to tell this story that doesn’t make me look like an idiot or an asshole. I’m pretty sure that’s because I was being both of those things. But I wouldn’t go back to change any part of it.
I don’t regret the choices I made, because as gross as the experience was, I grew and learned. I learned that some people aren’t worth pleasing, which for little old people-pleasing me was a big revelation. He made me think about why I make the choices I make, good and bad.
OK, here are some more jokes:
He dropped me off at his apartment before leaving to pick up more beer from the liquor store downstairs. (BTW, his bed was the most broken futon I’ve ever seen. It looked like a mountain range. It takes a big ego to take someone home to a bed like that.)
I pulled out a book before he left, and he took a scornful look at it before replacing it physically with one of his own; “Here, don’t read that book, read this instead.”
Every time I thought he couldn’t get worse, he said or did something that catapulted him to the next awful level. There was no way I could leave. Any minute now it would turn out that this was some kind of candid camera thing. (Spoiler: nope.)
We watched half of a movie that I can never watch again, then had ludicrous, ridiculously bad sex, during which he said the following:
“Look at these big thighs!”
“You’re like an Amazon.” (I’m 5’4”.)
“I would totally date you.”
Every time he said something terrible, I laughed. I left the next morning and went straight to work, cackling quietly to myself the whole way. It was more like a gleeful trot than a walk of shame. The date had gone so catastrophically poorly that I had to laugh or I’d be forced to look my ugly choices in the face.
He texted me in the middle of the day to ask if I wanted to hang out again, and when I didn't answer, he sent this gem:
"I'm sorry I said all that stuff about your thighs, I really want to see you again!"
That is a real text, and I cherished it for a moment before I deleted him from my life.
That text made me feel powerful, kind of like Ursula the Sea Witch. This guy wanted something from me, and I was never going to speak to him again, ever, and not even feel a little bit bad about not giving him what he wanted. Hopefully he wouldn’t come back to attack me with a ship.
This OKC asshole gave me exactly what I wanted in my hard-hearted recently-dumped state; to sleep with a person who I didn’t care ever to see again. (Remember, I was being Ursula back then. I’ve since mellowed into more like one of the women from AbFab.) It turned out that instead of making me feel better, sleeping with hateful strangers is a one-way ticket to Disappointment Village, a suburb of Self-Hate-cinnati.
After this experience, I thought more about manipulation. What he tried to do is being attempted around us everywhere, by relatives, the media, and even our friends. The world is trying to belittle you so it can influence you, and sometimes you are doing the same thing without realizing it.
Being openly attacked in such an over-the-top way made it possible for me to laugh at the posturing and twitch the veil aside for just an instant to appreciate my own value on my own terms, and to keep an eye on my own bad behaviors and microaggressions.
For example, every time I correct my current boyfriend’s pronunciation of a fancy liqueur (I know this is a terrible thing to do, every time I do it I promise myself I never will again, I NEVER DO IT IN FRONT OF ANYONE) I think of Terrible OKCupid Date Guy with a pang. Am I any different from him? Was the coincidence of our similar names more than just coincidence; is he actually a walking parable meant to show me that condescension and meanness lurk in my own heart? It’s enough to make you want to go to church.
That wasn’t my last OKCupid date. I went on one with a guy who ate Soylent instead of food, and another who was terrifically high; there was one guy whose face fell as soon as I opened the door—obviously not an art lover—but we had to limp through a basket of mozzarella sticks before I could leave.
Then a really nice guy took me to a bluegrass show and asked me about my life. He lives with me now, and puts up with my guilt-wracked correction of his pronunciation of “creme de cacao.” I guess he really likes Rubens.
Please tell me that someone out there has thrown a drink in someone’s face. I want to live vicariously through you. And has anyone ever compared you to a work of art and somehow made it unflattering? Picasso, maybe? Miró?