You Can't Judge a Match by Your Skype Chemistry (The Scarier Side to Online Dating)
**warning: this post contains several references to alcohol**
Remember this post where I mentioned all the grief my friends gave me for setting such a “narrow” radius on my match distance?
Well after a month and a half of…ahem…less than ideal matches, I decided to widen my scope a bit and give some of our neighbors to the north a chance.*
Sirracha** and I breezed through the guided communication and exchanged phone numbers. An hour-long phone call, followed by several long Skype conversations later, I admit: I was pretty sold. He was charming, eloquent, and seemed solid in his faith. He made me laugh (though I often wasn’t sure if it was intentional). His quirkiness intrigued me.
We talked about our online dating experiences, which is a pretty standard ice-breaker when you’re matched with someone in this manner. As he shared, I felt like he was telling my story (only, you know, in reverse): he was tired of meeting all these really “nice” girls who were perfectly lovely, but with whom there just wasn’t any chemistry.
Freaking chemistry. It’s ruining my life.
I loved the freedom he offered me when he shared his perspective on chemistry. He quoted the repeated phrase in Song of Solomon, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it arrives,” which he interpreted as a reminder that God gave us chemistry for a purpose, and we should not ignore its absence.***
When he offered to make the trip down to Portland to meet me in person, I eagerly accepted. For the first time in a long time I felt a connection, and I was excited to see where it would go.
My gosh, ya’ll, he was even more handsome in person than he had been through my computer screen. As we sat across from one another sipping our beers, I remember thinking: “Finally, God, You sent me a good one.”
We left the first location, walked a few blocks up the street, and ducked into the next place where we enjoyed a second Portland brew out on the patio. The conversation was light and natural, and I felt at ease in his company. Sirracha consumed yet another beer before I decided it was time to move again.
We closed out our tab and kept walking several more blocks, until he noticed another bar and suggested we go in. To his credit, he did ask if I was okay with it, and I agreed - but made it very clear this would be my last.
We again sat outside and continued our conversation, this time speaking a bit more candidly as we tested our willingness to be vulnerable with one another. This was when I began to observe his demeanor changing.
It’s hard to describe, really, but his eyes sort of lost their sparkle and a sense of darkness began to wash over him. I could sense he was uncomfortable, and I felt it too.
He mentioned he was going to go inside to see about his tab, and then came out holding another beer. My discomfort mounted and I requested we please go somewhere with food after this. He agreed, and then began acting strangely.
He started making various comments on my appearance, which became increasingly objectifying, until I asked him (kindly) if he wouldn’t mind switching gears since I believe I have a whole lot more to offer than my looks.
I suggested he close his tab (for real this time), and stepped inside to use the restroom. I splashed cold water on my face and attempted to shake off my feelings of uneasiness, reminding myself of the (poor, as I see it now) advice a friend had given me about my need to “relax more” and “not take everything so seriously.”
When I returned to our table, I noticed he had his sixth beer.
“I like you, Natalie. Do you like me?” He asked over and over again.
This was when I legitimately became frightened.
Not for my safety, per se. Again, it’s difficult to describe, but even in his clearly inebriated and darkened state, I still wasn’t worried about Sirracha physically harming me. He was irritating, sure, but not aggressive. (Plus, we were in a highly public place and I intended to keep it that way.)
No, where I felt unsafe was in my heart.
“I like you, Natalie. Do you like me?”
I sighed, sent up a quick prayer, and then responded with the kind of gentle confidence that only comes from knowing to Whom you belong. I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “I did. I really did. But then you drank far too much, forgot that you were supposed to buy me dinner, and I no longer feel safe. I’m sorry but this date is over.”
I cried myself to sleep that night, alternatively thanking God for my safety, chastising myself for my stupidity, and grieving the crash-and-burn of my first glimmer of hope in this online dating vortex.
I know this isn’t as humorous or amusing as most of my online dating stories, but it’s an important one nonetheless. For those of you brave souls out there fighting the good fight of online dating, please learn from my frightening mistake.
Don’t confuse the convenience of technology with true connection. Skype-chemistry ≠ real life chemistry.
Don’t rush. Take your time. And be safe with your heart, sweet friends.
*Well, most of them. One guy eliminated himself from the running when he asked to skip directly to eHarmony mail and simply said, “Hey, your pictures are cute. I’m not interested in long distance. Any chance you’d be willing to move to Seattle?” Why yes. Yes dear stranger. I absolutely am willing to move 173 miles north for a man I’ve never met. You won me over with your eloquence and chivalrous pursuit. (again, I repeat, I can’t makethis stuff up)
**nickname prompted by his favorite condiment (and provided to protect what remains of his dignity)
***or as I like to think of it: I’m not a jerk just because I don’t want to kiss you.
Update on Sirracha: A few weeks later, curiosity got the best of me and I emailed to see if he was still alive. His response was deeply humble and brutally honest. He confessed his life-long struggle with alcohol and other drugs. His denial system was so strong; he truly believed that because we were “only drinking beer,” he would be okay. (He wasn’t.) He lamely explained that he feared admitting his problem to me earlier would somehow be a “betrayal of manhood” (which I promptly identified as a lie straight from the Devil himself).
Whether he meant it or not, only God knows, but he did say this experience prompted him to realize his deep need for help, and I pray he has since found it.
As for me, the irony of this situation is not lost on me: I spent 45+ hours a week working as a professional in addictions recovery, and yet I couldn’t even seem to identify an alcoholic when he had nearly completely decompensated before my very eyes.
I’m reminded yet again that addiction has nodress code.