Came and Went: A Dispatch From the Dating Trenches

"What are you wearing?"

It was an unexpected and somewhat intimate question from someone I'd met on a dating website only one day earlier.

Wait...what? "Um, jeans and a t-shirt?"

"I was just wondering what you might look like under those clothes." Our entire relationship, to that point, had consisted of a few messages within the OK Cupid app, a handful of texts and one phone call. Already, Sean mistook my 310 area code (I lived in LA; he was in San Francisco) for 900.

"What made you change careers?" I was trying to steer the conversation away from my (admittedly) tightening denim, and back to the mid-life shift from occupational therapist to attorney he'd described in his profile.

"I got bored," he said. "Unlike right now; there isn't one part of my body that's not at attention. Do you like the sound of that?"

"Hmm, sure," I stammered, "but don't you want to know more about my background, my family or maybe my interests?" I was turned on but also surprised at how quickly things were heating up.

"In due time," Sean replied, "and you'll have plenty of time to tell me everything when I come to visit next month."

"How do you know that you actually want to spend the money to make a trip to LA?" I questioned. "Will you decide based on how much I moan during this call? Or maybe by the volume of my climax?" I was making a joke, but clearly Sean considered those to be viable units of measure. I should have known by the photos of his chest and back that were peppered among pictures of his face. Instead, however -- as had been the case a number of times before -- I wanted to believe that my soul mate could very well be sitting at the other end of the keyboard.

"Well, that will certainly give us an idea of whether or not we're compatible, won't it?"

Was he serious? Our chat the night before had established that our preferred sexual roles were complementary, but weren't my values and life goals of as much interest to him as how quickly I could spit dirty words into the receiver?

Apparently, Sean had one thing on his mind, and it wasn't a subject with any emotional substance. After all, our courtship was just 24 hours old, and he already wanted to have phone sex.

I was horny and reasoned that Sean had to be interested in more than my penis; he was talking about flying nearly 400 miles to meet me in person.

For the next thirty minutes, I listened while he described his body parts, their length, girth, scent and how hairy he was all over. Dirty chat, in the past, never did much to excite me, and Sean wasn't exactly turning the beat around. Despite my initial arousal, the thrill had worn off. That said, I offered the requisite "oohs" and "aahs," giving him enough aural pleasure to generate a fairly loud eruption.

"Did that work well for you, too?" Sean asked. How considerate; he didn't just roll over and fall asleep.

"Oh, yes," I lied. "Didn't you hear me? It must have been at the same time."

"That's so cool; we're totally in sync. I'll definitely have a smile on my face all day tomorrow. I'll look forward to talking again when I get home from work." Sean seemed confident that our interaction so far had put us on course for a paperback novel romance. I, likewise, loved the idea that he was so enamored with me, giving little thought to the realistic doubts that threatened to keep my feet on the ground. I wanted to be wanted, a force almost greater than reason.

"Sounds good," I said. "Give me a call when you're home from the office."

"Of course," he answered, "and I'll shoot you a text in the morning to say hello."

There was no text the following morning, and, when I attempted to be in touch later that day, my message went unanswered. Then, Sean's online profile disappeared from the matchmaking website. He was gone, without a trace, like the ghosts that had managed to creep into my life a few times before. It felt emptier than an actual one-night-stand, which, if nothing else, engages all of the senses. He didn't even have to make the effort to meet me or sit down for a meal. He came, and he went. He played me, and I made it easy for him. Shouldn't I have known better?

In my head, I did. There was no way that any man whose person was firmly planted in reality could have been so easily taken with someone he'd met by text message and phone one day earlier. Sean wanted one thing: to get off. And, in a sense, I was his perfect match -- at least for the night. After all, I wanted to buy into the notion that a random, furry man in the Castro district could actually care enough without bothering to get acquainted.

I continue to work tirelessly to afford myself the respect that Sean wasn't even man enough to fake. I still fall into the sticky traps that come with online dating from time to time, but I am much more conscious of what it takes to keep my soul healthy. Perhaps Sean deserves more of a "thank you" than a "fuck you."