Justin

A few years back I met a guy named Justin on Plenty of Fish. At least, I’m going to call him Justin because this date happened so long ago that I don’t actually remember. But there is one thing that sticks out in my mind: The nickname. Let me explain. 

I met Justin at a wine bar in Hollywood for drinks. We had been chatting on POF for a little over a week and he was pretty forward about wanting to get together in person. He gave me his number right away but I had stuck to messaging on the app, so he didn’t have my number. I agreed to meet him for a drink. When I parked, he messaged me via POF to tell me he was there and would meet me out front. As I walked up, I saw a tall, slightly bearded white guy wearing a cowboy hat. And boots. Bold move. At least in LA, or anywhere outside of Texas, really. He smiled when he saw me coming and greeted me with a big hug. I was slightly overwhelmed by him right away, but I also had not been on too many online dates before so I chalked it up to my own general apprehension. 

We went inside the bar and he picked a high-top counter towards the back for us to sit. He didn’t ask me if I liked that spot, just told me where to sit. It felt a little pushy. Mostly because he picked the most uncomfortable bar stools in the whole place, (especially when one is wearing a dress) and I would have suggested literally any other seat, had he asked. But he didn’t. Not that big of a big deal, but it did sort of set the tone for the date. 

We sat down and the waitress came and grabbed our order. I got a glass of wine, he got a beer. And then we talked. Well, I should say, he talked. A lot. I learned everything there was to know about this man, including the fact that he was not actually a cowboy. He told me about his childhood, his high school experience, how he joined the military after high school, and pretty much everything up to present day. He worked at The Improv comedy club doing lights and sound, which I thought was pretty cool. I tried to ask more questions about that but he clearly preferred to talk about his military experience. I have the utmost respect and gratitude for his service, but I can’t relate to it on a personal level so it turned into him talking at me for about an hour straight. 

I would nod and say “Uh-huh” or “Wow” or “What?!” at the appropriate times, and he would just keep talking. Sometimes he would acknowledge that I had in fact spoken with a small nod of the head, or curling up the corner of his mouth just the slightest bit. So you CAN hear me… But he just kept talking. I felt like I could have been a wall, or a chalkboard, or more likely a mirror, and he would have just kept talking at me all the same. He clearly wasn’t looking for feedback or any sort of back and forth. It was almost like he had rehearsed all of this and he had to power through it before he forgot it all. Like a monologue. By the time I finished my wine he had barely touched his beer. Hard to drink when you’re talking nonstop. I ordered another glass of wine. 

Now, grown up me now knows that I shouldn’t have ordered that wine because it sent the signal that I was enthralled by his stories and wanted to stay longer and hear more of them. But little me (you know, 25-year-old me) just needed a glass in order to have something to do with my hands. This guy was talking so much I was trying not to fall asleep. Maintain eye contact. Head up. Don’t yawn. I needed something to keep me busy, alert. Not that wine made me alert, but the prospect of having a glass in my hand that would spill were I to fall asleep mid story did.  I drank my wine. He blabbered on. 

Then came an unusual moment that has only ever happened on this date. Justin decided that we should give each other nick names. I laughed it off. Don’t you have to know someone to give them a nickname? He was serious. I said “You don’t know enough about me to give me a nickname,” and he just laughed that off. I’m a fan of nicknames in general and I give them to my friends all the time. I have different nicknames from different people as well. I think nicknames are great, but they usually happen organically. You can’t just look at someone you barely know and give them a nickname because you want to. Well, you can, but it’s probably not going to be one that they’ll ever use again. 

But he was set on it. He looked into my eyes, then looked me up and down, smirked at me, and said “I’m gonna call you Tiger.” He sat back, crossed his arms, looking pleased with himself. “How you doing, Tiger?” He looked at me waiting for praise, for me to say “Oh my gosh! It’s like you know me!” But I didn’t. Because, come on guys, it was pretty lame. Tiger is a nickname for a child, not a grown woman. It’s what a 1950s Dad would call his son when they were playing catch in the backyard. It’s like Sport, or Kiddo, at least in my mind. “Go get ‘em Tiger!” is the only thought in my head when I hear the nickname Tiger. 

I looked at him, unimpressed. “How’d you come up with that?” I queried. “I don’t know, I just did.” He was so satisfied with himself. And unfortunately for me, the nickname stuck. He called me Tiger for the rest of the night. Looking back, maybe he forgot my name halfway through and decided to give me a nickname as a cover? If that’s the case, it was a smoother move than I realized. But I’m gonna go ahead and make fun of him for it instead, cool?

Once he finished his beer and I finished my wine, I got up to go to the restroom. When I came back, he was not at the counter anymore. I thought he had ditched me at first, and was feeling a bit relieved to be honest. But then I saw him waving at me from the couch. He had taken it upon himself to move over to the couches and order me another glass of wine. Damnit.

Some of you might be thinking “Well that’s sweet, what’s wrong with that?” and find me ungrateful. But here’s the thing; this was a first date. I hadn’t spoken two words and this guy hadn’t checked in with me, hadn’t asked me anything about myself, hadn’t gauged whether or not I was enjoying myself. He just moved to the couch and ordered more drinks because HE wanted to.  It was a power move and it made it much more difficult for me to just say good night and walk out the door. If we had been dating for a while and he knew that I enjoyed his company and would want a third glass of wine, then yes, this is a thoughtful move. But on a first date, when I didn’t know him, it just felt like he had decided for me that I was going to stay. 

I made my way over to him reluctantly; scouting the door to see if I could sneak out without him seeing me. I would never actually do that because I’m not a dick, but the thought crossed my mind. When he saw me he put his arm out and motioned for me to sit next to him, rubbing the couch cushion. Like, right next to him. Real close. FYI dudes, this is another creepy move when you do it to someone you barely know. I just looked at him for a second. “I got you another glass of pinot” he said, trying to tempt me to sit down. “I have to drive, you know” I reminded him. He dismissed that as if I had told him something completely irrelevant.  “Just sit with me, come on, Tiger.” I quelled the urge to throw up in my mouth and went to the bar to get a water. 

I came back and warily sat down, placing my purse in between us. I had it between his thighs and mine, very much on purpose, so that he couldn’t scoot any closer to me. And you know what this motherfucker did? He picked up my purse, moved it, and literally said “Let’s just get this wall out of the way here” as he reached over me to set it behind me on the couch. Again, gentlemen, and ladies for that matter, READ THE ROOM. This is a recurring theme in my stories and I hope it will make at least one person more cognizant of the fact that a date is a two-person activity. It’s not all about you and what you want. 

Once he moved my purse, I tensed up a bit. I was just trying to maintain my personal space. My bubble. He did not pick up on that. He put his arm around me and tried to pull me into him, and I ducked out from under his arm and sat back up. “I’m good like this” I said. He chuckled at me, looked at me like I was a horse that needed to be broken. I could see it in his face: Challenge accepted. Oh no.  

He began his second monologue of the night, occasionally putting his hand on my thigh, or scooting closer. I continued to rebuff his advances and would scoot a tiny bit farther away from him each time. I was getting dangerously close to the end of the couch. Once I finished my water, I told him I needed to go home. I tried to leave quickly so as to avoid the cumbersome walk to my car and subsequent farewell, but he was too quick. He had already paid the bill and he jumped up to walk me out. 

As we walked to my car, he put his arm around me. “This was really fun, Tiger. We should do it again sometime.” “Thank you for the drinks” I deflected. We arrived at my car. I started to walk around to the driver’s side but he grabbed my hand, pulled me towards him, and kissed me. I pulled back quickly. “Okay have a good night” I murmured as I turned away again.  I walked around the car and as I opened the door to get in, he said “I’m gonna call you, Tiger. You better believe it!” I laughed as I saw the realization come over his face that he didn’t actually have my number. “Oh wait, you have to call me! You better call me, Tiger!” I laughed some more as I waved and drove off into the sunset. Well, down Sunset Boulevard anyway.

Epilogue: One of my coworkers at the time was a comedian who performed at the Improv regularly. She asked about my date and when I told her that he worked there, it turned out that she knew him. I told her how the date went and she laughed. A lot. She asked him about the date the next time she saw him and got quite a different version from him. According to Justin, I was nervous, shy, and immature; not uncomfortable and disinterested. He said that it was kind of a turn off and that he wasn’t really interested in seeing me again. Cool cool. The feeling is mutual, Tiger. 

Danny

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is… I’m an optimist so I don’t typically subscribe to this particular belief, but sometimes the pessimists are right.

This particular time, I met a handsome man named Danny on Plenty of Fish. He had piercing blue eyes, blonde hair, a strong jawline, nice muscles… you know, the whole package. He was so good looking I was surprised that we matched. Some of his photos looked like modeling shots but he also had some “I’m a real boy” shots that looked pretty good so I listened to my vagina and swiped right. Yes, men, women think with our genitals sometimes too. 

Danny messaged me right away and I was thrilled. We chatted a little bit and he asked me out to dinner. Nice. A dinner invite? That never happens! Usually it’s drinks at best or just a general query into “hanging out.” I accepted the invite and we made a date. 

The day of our date arrived, and I was actually excited! Usually when I make first date plans with someone I’ve met online I am debating whether or not to cancel all the way up until the moment I meet the guy. But not this time. I texted Danny to let him know my ETA and he said “Great, I’m already here. I’ll see you inside.” 

We met at a cute bar that is small enough you can see the whole interior from the front door.  Since Danny had told me he was already there and knew I would be walking through the door at any moment, I assumed that he would spot me first and greet me right away. Nope. I walked in, looked around, and saw a couple of groups of people gathered here and there. There was one guy by himself in the middle of the room but he had thinning brown hair and looked nothing like Danny, so I kept scanning the room. The bar was backlit with red lights, the walls were dark red, the leather booths were red. It was a cozy, intimate spot. I saw the groups of people enmeshed in their conversations; no one peering out from the group as if they were looking for me. I saw no Danny. 

I was puzzled. Was I at the wrong bar? I did another scan of the room, growing more uncomfortable by the second. I felt like everyone in the room was watching me get stood up, even though no one was actually paying any attention to me. Except for the one guy by himself. He looked at me, looked away, looked at me again. I’m flattered bud, but I’m here to meet someone. Then he looked at me one more time, cocked his head to the side like a confused puppy, and took a step towards me. “Kelly?” he asked, seemingly confused. “Yeah?” I replied, definitely confused. “It’s me, Danny.”

I didn’t believe him. I was legitimately perplexed. He looked nothing like the person in the photos. I looked exactly like mine, and he had the audacity to question whether or not I was me? I just stared at him. “I’m Danny, from Plenty of Fish” he tried again. “I’m your date.” A short silence while I processed this information. “You’re Danny?” I blinked. “Yes I am.” I just looked at him some more. This guy looked at least fifteen years older, five inches shorter, thirty pounds heavier, and a whole lot balder than the online version of Danny. I had been tricked.

Now, for those of you who don’t know what it feels like to be catfished, let me paint a picture for you. Imagine you’ve had a couple drinks and you’re leaving the bar at 2am. You had some water and your last drink was a while ago, so you feel confident that you’re good to go and that this drive home will go well. But then there’s a DUI checkpoint up ahead. Oh shit. Oh shit. Am I good? You start to wonder. Panic a little. Your palms are sweating (you might notice this as a recurring event in my dating stories, the ol’ sweaty palms.) You want to turn around and go back the other way, but they’ve already seen you so you can’t very well just turn around and speed off. You freeze, panic a little more, question every decision that’s led you to this moment, and then concede. You pull into the checkpoint because you really don’t see any other option, and settle in for the consequences.  Except in this case, the DUI checkpoint is your date! Yay!

 “You look pretty different from your pictures.” I started, tentatively. “Oh really?” he replied, acting surprised. “Yeah, like really different.” I looked at him expectantly, raised my eyebrows a bit the way parents do when they’re trying to coax the truth out of their children. He gave me nothing. I just had to spell it out. “Like a completely different person. Is that really you in your pictures?” I had never been this straight forward with someone right off the bat and it terrified me but also felt amazing. Until he lied to my face. “Yeah, that’s me.” “You sure?” I gave him one more chance to fess up. He didn’t take it. “Yes I’m sure. Those are pictures of me.” I asked him if they were old photos, he said maybe a couple years but nothing crazy. So that was that. He was sticking with his story, and I had officially been catfished. 

I didn’t really know what to do after that. I thought that if I had the balls to ask him straight to his face about his catfish photos that he would give it up, but he hadn’t. So what’s my next move? Stand there and argue with him? Leave? I somehow felt like I couldn’t just leave. Just felt too mean. So I stayed. He had offered me dinner, after all. At least there would be food. 

We walked over to the bar to order. There were no menus, no food, and it became clear to me that there was not going to be any food. So much for the dinner invite. Another lie. Cool. He asked me what I wanted to drink. I asked him what he was having. “Oh I’m just having water. I have an early flight in the morning.” This just keeps getting better.“Well I’m not going to drink alone so I’ll have water too, I guess.” He turned to the bartender and ordered two waters with such attempted swagger I’m pretty sure he thought he was James Bond ordering a martini, shaken, not stirred. We drank our waters standing at the bar. Talk about a dream date, am I right? 

I was determined not to be shallow and to give this guy a chance. I somehow thought that I was the asshole for not finding him attractive, when in reality he was the asshole for lying on his profile AND lying straight to my face. So we talked. I asked him some typical first date questions and all I learned about this guy was that he had a lot of money and his pilot’s license. His father had some big banking company in Switzerland and Danny was supposed to take over it, only he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go back to Switzerland. He told me he was a pilot and that he wasn’t just boarding a flight in the morning, but flying the plane. Okay that’s pretty cool. I don’t know how to fly a plane.

The non-shallow part of my brain was trying really hard. But then he would say something else about his extravagant lifestyle and how much money he had spent on his last vacation, or his collection of cars, or his private plane, or blah blah blah. You would think that would trick the shallow part of my brain into liking him, but it didn’t. I’m not a gold digger by nature so it really just turns me off when people lead with their money. That’s nice, but what else is interesting about you? Are you a happy person? Do you like your job? Do you have friends? Any hobbies? Or do you just work at a job you hate all the time and fly around on an empty private plane because you have no friends? 

I kept trying to steer the conversation away from money and he just kept steering it right back. The guy had nothing else to say. Nothing to contribute. Not a joke, not a story, not a compliment, not a question about myself. I was underwhelmed. Unimpressed. Bored. Sure, I had initially disliked this guy because he lied to me and was not as attractive as his profile had promised (well, not even the same person really), but I had stuck it out and tried to give him a chance anyway. And he had showed me that he had nothing to offer but money, which at this point I didn’t even believe that he had. It didn’t matter to me if he did, I was never going to see this guy again. 

I excused myself to go to the bathroom and immediately called my best friend. She didn’t answer. How dare she! I texted her. Multiple times. I was in there for a few minutes, waiting for her to reply and give me an excuse to bail. But she didn’t. I was going to have to handle this myself. And then I had an epiphany: I could just leave. I did not owe this guy anything. He didn’t fly me here on his plane. I was not being held here against my will. He hadn’t even bought me a drink (not that that would mean I did owe him anything, but you know what I mean.) I had already sat there talking with him for forty-five minutes trying to find a connection and I had failed. I was a grown ass woman who didn’t need my best friend to call with a fake emergency. This didn’t mean I had to be rude or sneak out, but I could absolutely leave. And so I did. I walked out of the bathroom, told Danny that it was nice to meet him but that I was going to take off, and he said okay. He told me to have a good night, and I left. I was straight forward with him and he reacted kindly. 

I exhaled deeply as I walked out of the bar, smiling to myself. Not in a mean or petty way, but because I was proud of myself; proud of how I handled the situation. I had been so worried that Danny was going to be mad at me, guilt-trip me, insist that I stay, or call me a bitch for leaving that early. But he didn’t. I treated him with respect and he responded with respect. This might seem silly to the men reading this, but it’s something that women think about a lot. When we reject a man, we play out every reaction they could possibly have in our heads before we decide how to handle it.  Most men are respectful, but some are not. And the ones who are not can be unpredictable and scary. 

Lucky for me, he was just a catfish and not a predator. He let me go. So I stopped by Trader Joe’s on a Friday night, all dressed up with nowhere to go. I bought myself some wine and cheese and snacks and headed home, just in time for that made-up emergency call from my best friend.