I breathed a sigh of relief when John* turned the corner inside of Shangerila Restaurant on the corner of Buhre Ave. I had met John on Grindr and our conversation amounted to a mutual decision to meet first over sushi.
Before the date, I did what any self-respecting twenty-something would do and stalked the shit out of him. My findings led me to some Instagram shots that weren't too flattering, thus my initial sigh of relief when I came to realize that he just wasn't photogenic. In person, he was shorter than me, had a cute smile, an undercut and a voice that was very Tony Danza.
Fifteen minutes into the evening, John had given me his life story:
He grew up in the Pelham Bay Park area. (I grew up in the Pelham Bay Park area.)
He was an English teacher at a high school in Westchester. (I am a school teacher.)
He woke up every day at 5 a.m. just so he could get in a good two cups of coffee. (I woke up at 4 and had 3.)
He jacked off almost every night before bed. (I... was just too exhausted to do so.)
By the time we finished ordering, the date was going well. Then, John started repeating talking points.
"What can I say, I am very content. I have no complaints," was a great line the first time he said it. By the fifth time, however, I was starting to wonder if I was talking to a malfunctioning robot.
Reading the room and the silence, I cut the date short by mentioning it was getting late and, since we were both teachers, it was a school night.
When we got to my place, he went in for the kiss. Any self-respecting individual would have stopped the make out session before it happened, but, I've never been one of those.
He definitely was saving up his passion and energy in his lips all night, which was not really a great thing. By the time he had driven off, my lips had undergone the Kylie Jenner lip challenge.
The next day, my coworkers wanted to hear about how my date went. "Meh," I said without much explanation.
The date did have its attempts at romance, minimal good conversation, and John was cute...ish. Yet, it was equally disastrous. But, John was a nice disaster and not one of those disasters you want to forget. So, I reasoned the date was "meh."
Despite my "meh" reaction, I still found myself initiating the typical "I had a good time" text. After texting a bit, I could tell he was more into me than I was to him. It had been a while since this had happened, and I hated the idea of a nice guy like John finishing last again. So, I set up another date, attributing his "meh-ness" to first date jitters.
I had planned a staycation for myself at a Marriott in New Rochelle since it was President's Day Weekend. It also happened to be Valentine's Day weekend. Romance was in the air and so was my libido. Inviting John over to my staycation seemed like a good way to graduate him from "meh" to a "yea."
The Marriott was next to a movie theatre, so, he chose Star Wars. Based on the movie choice, I thought this was headed in a better direction, emphasis on thought. We ended up splitting the payment, which would have been fine if I hadn't already dropped money on the room. When the movie started, there was no cuddling, despite my flirtatious hand pats and knee swipes.
Back in the room, he went soft trying to top and kept talking about how actual sex was never like porn. He didn't expect much and was glad I was realistic (though I really wasn't).
Later into the evening, I was woken up by his snoring and the Valentine's Day bed banging happening next door.
During breakfast the next day, John asked me how my sleep was. "Meh," I said.
I wish I could say that was the last date. It wasn't.
But, why? I blame health benefits.
When I turned 25, I panicked. My freelance writing career wasn't providing any money, and I was reaching that age when mom's insurance wasn't going to cover me any more. So, I made a responsible adult decision to get a job with a great benefits plan. Yes, I sold my creative soul to health, dental, and vision.
Along with those benefits, I also started getting a meaty, consistent paycheck and weekends off. Life was starting to get comfortable. The rush and fast pace of deadlines came to a halt.
My life was slowing down, and I inadvertently let that spill over into dating. I wasn't rushing toward amusement parks in dating anymore; I was looking for convenient stores.
John lived in my neighborhood, wanted a family one day, and worked a similar job. He was the guy you nail down and start building a life with.
He also became my litmus test for settling down. Verdict: I didn't want to.
I ended up calling it quits with John via ghosting method. As much as I need a guy who is more "yea" and not "meh," he needs someone who is going to appreciate him for not only who he is but where he is in life.
At 26, I've reached a slow patch in my career that has me sitting comfortably. Instead of looking at as a time for mundanity and U-Hauling, I am starting to see it as a time to truly provide for myself and experience my independence in a less hectic context than my early twenties. Of course this means buying a ticket back to the tilt-a-whirl of dating and ferris wheel of singlehood, but, I wouldn't have it any other way.
*Not his real name, but, rest assured, his real name was equally meh.