“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,
Gang aft a-gley,
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
For promised joy.” ~Robert Burns
Five months. Five long months. The experiment with OKCupid and online dating was drawing to a close. To be honest, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I had endured every kind of date imaginable and coming to the end, I didn’t foresee anything changing.
For a few days, I just ignored my account. I stepped away from the computer and gave myself a breather. If I’m honest, there was a strong possibility that the five month experiment would have ended right there. This was it. I was done.
Then, I got an email from Karen.
Karen was a graduate from Rhode Island School of Design. If there is one thing in life that I regret more than anything, it was not going to RISD. I was accepted back in 1990 but, even though it was my dream school, I couldn’t go. They offered me absolutely nothing in the form of financial aid. My dream of being a world class artist with a degree from one of the most prestigious art schools in America died when I got that acceptance letter detailing how much I would owe. And being 18 and broke from a family that was broke, my heart broke to have to turn away and go to my second choice.
So, for obvious reasons, she piqued my curiosity with that tidbit of knowledge. She went to and graduated from my dream school. Architecture and textiles were her major interests. As we talked through email, she linked me to her online portfolio and I was blown away by her work. Karen was a small unassuming woman with short black hair, hour glass figure and a huge laugh that seemed to fill the air when we spoke. And did I mention she had an Etsy page? Her family was originally from Argentina and she had a fascination with alpaca wool. Using her home textile, she made extraordinary scarves, hats, gloves. I was overwhelmed. Here was someone living my dream, creating a life out of her creativity. I was hooked.
We decided to meet in Boston and spend a day at the Museum of Fine Arts. One of her favorite artists, Chihuly, was being featured as the special exhibit at the MFA. I figured this was my moment. I studied art and art history and used to volunteer at the MFA. As most of my friends who have been to an art museum with me know, I suddenly become an art professor when I walk through the doors. A blazer with corduroy elbow patches appears out of nowhere and suddenly I find myself lecturing like I was back in college. This was my environment. And not to mention we would be in Boston. My adopted city, my old stomping grounds.
A day in Boston is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good.
We had an amazing day.
It was beyond perfect.
At the museum, she showed me Chihuly and his amazing blown glass sculptures and I gave her a tour of the museum. We talked art, laughed, talked more art and kept on laughing. It was a whirlwind day at the museum. From there, we headed into Harvard Square and grabbed dinner at Fire & Ice. The laughter continued as we wandered around my favorite haunts. Window shopping, music hunting, people watching, we ended the evening at an old diner in Davis Square. Holding hands across a formica table, sipping tea, the laughter never stopped. We took the T back to Alewife Station where we had both parked and made out like two hormonally challenged teenagers outside of her car. I was a perfect end to a perfect day. We said our goodbyes with promises to see each other again soon.
When I went home that night, I was so happy. I had been through this weird hell of online dating and finally, at the end, I meet someone who totally changed my mind. I had been ready to give up and swearing off of the whole online thing forever….and here I was looking forward to a second date with Karen. I was a little giddy..
The second date was just as spectacular.
She had me pick her up at her house. She introduced me to her cat. The cat adored me. Good start to the evening. As we were leaving, she suddenly stopped me and had to run back into her house. She had forgotten her medicine. She was so adorable running back from her house waving a baggy over her head. Up close, it was a baggy full of prescription bottles and loose pills. When I asked about it, she brushed me off and said they were her supplements. I thought nothing of it. We headed off to have dinner at an amazing Tuscan restaurant followed by window shopping. I swear, this date was the closest I think I’ve ever come to actually living a Rom-Com. It was perfect. Amazing dinner, fun conversation, beautiful date, shenanigans and the evening ended with us in the front seat of my car, fumbling around like horny teenagers.
Karen lived outside Boston and both of our dates had been down in that area. For our third date (which, by the way, THIRD!!! none of my dates had gone this far) she decided to come up here to NH. She showed up at my house with a bag full of quinoa muffins she had made the night before. It was a beautiful sunny day and we went for a ride up the Maine coast. This was when I noticed the baggy again.
We grabbed coffee for the ride and as we drove north, I noticed her emptying a powder into her coffee and taking a small handfull of pills and downing them like candy. A little amused, I asked her about this again. There was a pause. Immediately. my brain thinks up the worst case scenario… months of bad dates had trained me to wait for when the other shoe drops. I braced myself for some horrible story that she was a recovering heroin addict/drug mule/meth dealer/etc. In my mind, I was panicking. How could this be happening again? How could we have such a great time together and all of a sudden this happens? I felt a little trickle of sweat bead down the back of my neck as I awaited the inevitable, horrible revelation.
“Do you believe in crystals and energy?”she asked.
I raised an eyebrow. “Sorry?”
She then explained her belief in new age energy, the power of crystals and how the supplements and powders she took daily were reccomended to her by a spiritual healer. This “medicine” kept her healthy, happy and centered on a daily basis. I smiled. I had been wrong to worry. She was playing her crazy card and it turned out it wasn’t really that crazy after all. If that was the worst she could do, then we can get along just fine. I would never begrudge someone their beliefs. If it makes you happy and it speaks to you then it’s alright by me. I took her hand and she squeezed mine tight. It was going to be a good day.
Karen had never been along the Maine coast before, so we did the touristy thing and went to the Nubble and checked out the lighthouse and rocky coastline. We lunched at the Maine Diner and that evening, we stopped at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth for coffee and a snack before she went home. Throughout the day, I noticed that Karen was always running off to the bathroom at more and more frequent intervals. At first, I wrote this off as too much coffee and man, we had a lot of coffee that day. But when we finally got to the Friendly Toast, she spent more time in the bathroom than at the table, she barely touched our sweet potato fries we ordered and the laughing and conversation, which had been nonstop up until then, suddenly ground to a halt. I knew something was wrong, but I tried to take it in stride, packed up the fries to go and we got into my car.
There was a long awkward silence as we turned out onto Route One, heading back to my house.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” I heard her say, almost in a whisper.
I waited, here it comes, the revelation that she’s really a CIA operative and all that time she was in the bathroom, she was getting orders to kill someone, probably me. Or maybe that she was really married and her husband had been calling her while she was in the bathroom and he was waiting at my house to kill us both.
“I’m getting a cold.”
Confused, I looked over at her and that’s when I noticed she was crying.
“Do you want to get some cold medicine?”
She started sobbing. “You don’t understand! All those supplements and pills I take help ward off illness and keep my spirit in balance. The fact that I’m getting sick means that my body is fighting the supplements. My body is trying to tell me something. Because I’m getting a cold, and I haven’t had one before meeting you, that’s my body’s way of telling me that we are not a good match.”
I felt my chin smack into my chest.
She started crying more, big sorrowful tears, pouring down her face. “And you are such a nice guy and amazing kisser and I loved every minute we spent together and was looking forward to seeing more of you.”
She looked over at me. “But my body knows better than I do.”
Stunned into silence, I did the only thing I could do: hit the gas and floored it all the way to my house. Turns out I was wrong earlier. She had played her crazy card, yes, but what I didn’t realize was she had a whole deck of them up her sleeve.
We arrived at my house and, doing my best to be a gentleman, I invited her in to use the bathroom before her long drive home. I made tea, we had some forgettable idle chitchat, hugged and she was gone.
I can’t say enough about how dissapointed I was at that moment, sitting alone, re-reading our emails to each other before deleting them. How could I have been so wrong about someone? I came away from my three dates with Karen more confused than I had ever been before. How could everything be so perfect but so completely wrong all at the same time? How could I have so much in common with someone and yet, nothing?
The experiment was over and I felt like I had failed all around. Despite trying my best, being myself and keeping an open mind, I never found what I was looking for. And although the experiment ended there, the adventures of Dr. Strangedate continued…..