P-I Cyberdating

Opposites Don’t Always Attract—Or So Goes a Cyberdate in Tukwila

Feb. 9, 2000

By Justin Edison, P-I Staff

The cyberdate: as intimidating and problematic as a plain old blind date, but worse. Because if things don’t work out, you don’t have any let-me-set-you-up friend to blame. No scapegoat but yourself.

My date was Melanie. I’d found her in Yahoo Personals, and from her ad and following communications, she was a fun-loving, sarcastic woman, confident, easy-going and looking for a “nice guy.”

I’m a nice guy, so I was drawn to her ad.

I’d placed my own ads on Yahoo and singlesbar.net, and had gotten a few replies, including one from “Becky.” We e-mailed each other about six times, then she suddenly dropped off the face of the earth.

When I read Melanie’s ad, I thought we’d be compatible, so I e-mailed her. We hit it off pretty well, swapping jokes and lively stories. Eventually, after I told her I would be writing about my cyberdate, I talked her into giving me a call.

Soon, I was driving down I-5 to Southcenter and Claim Jumpers restaurant, a compromise location, since I live in Seattle and she’s at home in Covington. We had settled on 5 p.m. because the dinner rush wouldn’t yet be in full swing. A good idea…until I pulled into the parking lot and found the entire city of Tukwila trying to get a table.

After fighting for a parking spot in the adjacent ZIP code, I asked myself what I was doing, meeting a total stranger for dinner.

Oh, we’d talked on the phone three or four times, relating the charming faults that make a job a job and so forth. I liked her voice and that I could make her laugh. Judging from our conversations and the desires listed in her profile, I was sure that I was what she was looking for.

As I approached the restaurant, I started looking for her. I had seen her cybersite photo—slightly large, with red hair. I also had a hunch the picture might not be accurate because she’d wanted to confirm, three or four times, that I’d seen what she looked like.

In the crowd outside the restaurant I spotted three slightly large women with red hair. They were each with someone, so I thought she might have brought a friend for protection. I was fine with that, but my stomach turned at the idea of having to approach each and ask, “Are you my date?”

I went inside and learned that the wait for a table was at least an hour. When I turned around, a young woman with an untucked flannel shirt and glasses was entering. It took me a minute to realize that this was my date. The moment of truth had arrived.

We shook hands and said something pleasant like, “Nice to meet you,” and discussed the wait for dinner. We decided to try somewhere else. Outback Steakhouse was a drive, so we headed for our cars.

I was behind her green Honda, and at a red light I read her plate holder: A slam on bad spellers. We’re both writers (she’s an accountant by profession), so it made sense.

Sitting at the light, I wondered if she would bail. Then I wondered if I would bail.

It would’ve been so easy. Just keep driving, make up some story for the phone call the following week. Come to think of it, that’s an opportunity two strangers probably shouldn’t have on the first date.

I didn’t bail. The wait at Outback was 30 to 40 minutes. Following her lead, we walked next door to Toys “R” Us. “This is where I do most of my shopping,” she explained. She’s 29 and doesn’t have children, but she aired the possibility of turning a plastic kiddy pool into a sandbox for her dog.

We walked the “Star Wars” aisles, and a voice in my head told me I should’ve kept driving when I had the chance.

Still early for our table, we went to the bar for beers. She said the alcohol would loosen her up some more. She was right.

When we got our booth, we ordered appetizers. I had a feeling there would be no good-night kiss, so ordering the Blooming Onion seemed safe. She tried it with three different sauces and never decided whether she liked it.

We talked. She led, I followed. She said she knows she talks too much. That didn’t bother me. I’m a good listener. But we never got around to the real, meaty questions people (supposedly) like to discuss on a first date.

She doesn’t know why I don’t believe in God or what my favorite band is. I don’t know if she’s ever been in love or when she was last happy or if she ever wants a family outside her dog, two cats, bird and fish.

I ate my steak and she worked at her crab and we talked. I realized how little we know about each other, even after all the wacky communications we’d sent back and forth before the date.

She didn’t “like people very much.” That hadn’t come up earlier.
She despises Seattle, though she commutes an hour a day into downtown. I love Seattle.

We started to sound like complete opposites. Apparently opposites don’t always attract.

As dinner progressed, I tried to be charming and considerate, and we laughed a little. Ultimately, though, we didn’t seem to be that interested in each other. The early sparks, the twinkling in the eyes, the moments of quiet staring at each other—simply not there.

Melanie was a different person in real life than she was on the computer. I felt like I really was eating dinner with a stranger. And maybe she felt the same about me.

Maybe it was all about distance between us—not the distance between me in Seattle and her in Covington, but the distance created when a modem was the only means of contact. There, we were safe. We could be who and what we wanted to be and say what we wanted to say, and it didn’t matter.

When we had talked on the phone—in real time instead of delayed, fantasy-filled moments—the walls started to go up. Risk and inhibitions appeared. When we finally met, the romance wasn’t there. I never saw a great desire in her eyes and realized I never would.

Melanie and I parted with kind words. There wasn’t much left to say. We exchanged goodbyes and told each other to drive safely. I got back onto I-5 thinking I’d never cyberdate again.

Over, finished, hopeless.

Well, maybe once more couldn’t hurt.

-30-

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