“So, what do you think, Cora?” Anticipation bubbled through my voice.
“So good!” she paused, obviously re-reading a section. “I think it’s your best one yet to be honest!”
I let out a grateful sigh. If my best friend Cora said a blog post was good, it was golden. She was the most honest and appreciated critic of my work.
I had finished and posted my blog late last night and had woken to a barrage of comments. My readers were the reason I loved my work. It was always nice to wake up to great feedback after a long night. Their comments made all the bad dates worth it.
“This is more hits than you’ve gotten in awhile, yeah?” she asked. I could hear her clicking around on her computer over the phone.
“Yeah, I think so” I said, scrolling down the comments. I was glad to see such a positive response to the post. Cora was right, there were more comments and shares than I had received in awhile.
“I guess Bathroom Dude was a big hit! Wait, hold on,” she said as there was a muffling noise from the other end of the phone. I could hear scratching as Cora moved the phone from her face and then bits and pieces from her side conversation.
“Okay, I’m back,” she said again.
“Really, Cora? You’re having a double shot at dinner?” I asked while also slightly covering a laugh.
“Hey don’t eavesdrop! And it’s fine, that stuff barely touches me anyway.”
“You’re insane,” I said as I reached for the post-it note with my login information.
“Me? You’re the one going out on a date your sister set you up on. Where are you going again?” she asked.
“Dinner. Keepin’ it simple,” I said. I opened up the Kindling Dating website and began browsing. My humiliating profile, the chat conversation and the website as a whole seemed much less intimidating now after the success of my last post. Success had an odd medicinal effect. I was too excited about my good post to be anxious about the Kindling Dating website or my upcoming date.
Cora chuckled. “I think it’s awesome. Tell Rosie she has my complete respect.”
“You tell her,” I scoffed.
“Oh, I totally will next time I’m in town,” Cora promised.
“Does that mean you’re coming to town?” I asked hopefully. My tone was equipped with a persuasive attempt in it. Cora lived in Orlando, and although we were in the same state it still required a three and a half hour drive either way, which made coordinating visits rather difficult. I needed to see my best friend much more than I actually got to.
“Not any time soon. Sorry, girl,” she said. “Work has been crazy. I’ve been picking up extra shifts left and right until we can hire somebody new. It sucks.”
“Darn. I was hoping,” I said solemnly.
“Yeah, I know. Me too,” she said. “Now quit changing the subject! I want to know more about this date! Tell me everything.”
I gave an obnoxious sigh into the phone before I began, “Well, his name is Gabe. He’s a business owner.”
“Nice!” she interrupted. “Maybe that means he’ll pay for dinner this time!”
I laughed and started filling out a date request on the website. “A girl can dream.”
“What are you doing?” she asked starkly, “I keep hearing your keys typing. Are you writing another blog or something?”
“No,” I hesitated for an instant, my fingers hovering guiltily over the keys. “I’m actually signing up for another date…”
“Really? Already?” she asked, impressed. “You haven’t even met this guy yet.”
“Yeah I know, I’m…” I began, but trailed off as I looked for the submit button.
“You think things are going to go that well?”
“No, I mean with another guy,” I replied, frowning. Why in the world would I set up a second date with a guy I hadn't even met yet?
“What? Why?” she was genuinely surprised. “This guy sounds like the most promising guy not for your blog that you've had in a long time.”
“Because, Cora. I’m hedging my bets,” I explained.
“Hedging your bets?” she asked. I could hear the displeased expression on her face. She was almost as bad as Rosie.
“Yeah, I need bad dates to fuel my blog. Did you forget that that’s how I pay my bills?”
Cora sighed. “Yeah, I get that Harper,” she said. “But don’t you feel like you should at least give him a chance?”
“I am giving him a chance! We have a date scheduled, don’t we?”
“Well yeah, but you’re already assuming it’s going to go badly.” She sounded disappointed.
“I have experience with these things, Cora,” I said. If I wasn't sitting at my computer, I would have put my hands on my hips.
“I think it’s just wishful thinking for your blog. And I don’t know if that’s healthy…”
I rolled my eyes. “You sound like my sister right now.”
“Well, maybe we both just want you to find someone you actually like,” she said. “You deserve some love in your life.”
“Actually, you sound like my mom,” I decided. “And that’s much worse.”
“Please,” she said, and I could hear her put her glass down. “Just give this guy a chance? I have a good feeling about this one.”
I allowed silence to be my response. All of the women in my life were hoping this would be my Prince Charming and I was the only one sane enough to be cautious. I was just glad I wasn't talking to my Mom, Rosie, and Cora all at the same time. Those were the ingredients for a storm that could wipe out the whole Florida coast.
“What if he’s the perfect guy for you, Harper?” Cora asked after a moment.
I laughed silently to myself. “Cora there is no such thing as a perfect guy,” I said.
After repeating this same conversation with different people I had developed an inventory of preset responses. Why everyone was so certain that this was a ‘perfect match’ was beyond me. “Like I said, putting another date or two in the books is just hedging my bets. If he is the perfect guy, then I can just cancel them.”
“I don’t know, Harper…” Cora trailed off as she spoke.
“And besides, everyone knows you’re my soulmate!” I said with a sort of exaggerated flare.
Cora laughed. “Okay. I am your sole mate,” she agreed. “I have to get some work done. I want to know all the details about the date! And the guy. I want to know everything.”
“Alright. I’ll talk to you soon. Love you,” she carried the last syllable affectionately.
“Love you too, Cora,” I said and hung up.
I set my phone down on my desk and continued scrolling through my old dating profile on the free website. I wasn't quite ready to test the waters with a second date from the same expensive site. What if the dating algorithm Kindling Dating actually worked? Besides, I didn't want to go through and have to change all of Rosie's hard work.
No, I knew that if I wanted a bad date, I should go with my tried and true method. Free dating site with answers that were actually applicable. If I wanted to meet actual guys, I needed to come up with better answers. Rosie's answers on Kindling Dating were mostly true, but so off the mark as to what men wanted. I had to put what guys were looking for. Not what I actually was.
I clicked to the page with my next top match on my old dating site and began scanning his profile before confirming the date. He looked nice enough. A Miami man named Dave who liked deep-sea fishing and bowling. There was nothing on his profile that screamed warning, but then again, there usually never was. At least not with the sane ones. I had seen enough profiles in my life to know that they’re never exactly as advertised. Even if their personalities were riddled with trouble, most men were at least competent enough to know what to reveal and what not to reveal on a dating profile. This profile was no different. He knew how to disguise his brand of crazy, whatever it was.
The problem was that Rosie and Cora hadn’t seen the hundreds of online dating profiles that I had. I’d seen them all—good and bad—and I knew how they played out. If they consistently saw all the pitiful profiles that I did, they would share the same pessimism. They would understand that the best and most likely scenario would mean more material for my blog. And this one—I continued scrolling through his profile and descriptions—looked like it would make perfect blog fodder.
I clicked the button to send the confirmation. Now I just had to wait for him to reply. I felt like delving into more matches to find more potential blog suitors, but I remembered my conversation with Cora. Maybe she’s right, maybe it’s not the healthiest approach, I thought. But regardless, the success of my recent post was evidence that I was doing something right.
Instead of looking for more matches, I clicked back to Kindling Dating and to the match that Rosie had found. Gabe.
The smile in his picture sure was charming. It was like he was beaming up at me through the computer screen. His smile was piercing and his emerald eyes locked on me as if he were standing two feet away and making eye contact. I felt the urge to smile back.
I knew that it was dangerous to get too smitten with someone’s online profile picture. Lots of people hide behind a good photo, but evidently there was some reason that Kindling Dating thought that we would make a good match. A perfect match, if that was even possible.
Were their algorithms really capable of assembling the perfect fit? The whole concept of a ‘perfect fit’ in general had always seemed cliché to me. Certainly great fits and happy couples existed. I had seen proof of happy marriages between two people that worked great for each other. But they were never between two people as… particular… as myself. They were always between two nice and pleasant people, not a pair of sarcastic realists, whose best friends also happened to be extremely sarcastic.
For a second I paused and chuckled at the idea of marrying Cora. There’s no doubt it would be intensely amusing, but we would drive each other up the wall.
Although isn’t that the whole idea of marriage, I thought. Find someone that you enjoy enough not to kill when they drive you insane?
I caught myself staring off into space, imagining what a perfect marriage would look like, and I made an effort to refocus. There was research that needed to be done.
I started writing my message to Mr. Bowler.
The computer screen glowed against the backdrop of the oncoming evening. The dark blue of the sky as night felt was soft and comforting like a blanket around a child. It was another warm night in Miami and the intense heat of the day had mellowed into a pleasant temperature and the humidity was actually comfortable. On a normal night, my computer screen became the only light in the room and I used it to get lost in my blog.However, this evening was different. On this particular evening I needed to research and make sure I was prepared for my date. I had gone deep into the conversation that my sister had begun. I was like a student studying over a textbook before a big test; I knew their conversation held valuable information, it was a matter of trying to dissect it and uncover his personality.The mask that Rosie had assumed while trying to imitate me was hilarious. I had already scanned their conversation several times and had paused frequently to laugh out loud. She either had no i
Here comes another great blog post, I thought, as I stood outside of the very nice restaurant and reevaluated my shoe choice. I frowned and hear Rosie's voice in my head. No, be nice. It might be great.Given my dating history, I wasn't expecting much. The best I could really hope for was that I wouldn’t get stuck with the bill like last time. If that happened at this restaurant, I’d have to go to the poor house. Dove’s was one of the nicest places in town and a two-person meal would be the same amount as a quarter of my rent.A well-dressed hostess greeted me as I entered. I was fairly sure that she made more as a waitress here than I did as a blogger.“I’m meeting someone, but I’m not sure if he’s here yet,” I explained, as I took off my sunglasses and put them in my purse. “I can just wait at the bar.”“Of course,” the woman said, as she turned and led me across the restaurant to a beautiful bar next to a giant window overlooking the ocean. “Enjoy your dinner.”She pulled the chair
“What would you like to eat?” he asked, as the waiter approached us.I hadn’t even looked at the menu. I had been too into our conversation.“Um, I’ll just take an appetizer,” I said, glancing at the menu. I picked the cheapest thing I could find. “Maybe grilled asparagus or something.”“Harper, order whatever you like,” Gabe urged, though he didn’t specifically say that he’d be picking up the tab.“I’d rather have something light, though. I’m not super hungry.” I flashed him a grin. It wasn't a lie: butterflies had begun to flow inside of me, which had put my appetite in check.What is this guy doing to me? I wondered. I was pretty sure that my blog had killed all the first date jitters, but apparently not.I stuck with the grilled asparagus appetizer and Gabe got a 10-ounce filet mignon. The waiter took our orders and disappeared around the corner. Gabe sipped his martini before fixing me with his piercing green eyes. It was impossible to not feel like the center of the universe whe
I stood up from the table and followed Gabe out of the restaurant.It had been so long since I'd even had the slightest inclination to let a date go farther. The thought actually terrified me. The butterflies in my stomach started mambo-ing.Gabe tipped the hostess as we walked through the doors and into the street. The sun dipped behind the ocean and was replaced with the fluorescent lights of the street lamps.Dove's was located along the beach in a commercial area. There was a short path to the water that would give us a nice stroll. It wasn't a long walk, but it would be a nice way to end the evening.The water rippled under the moonlight. For a moment I thought I saw a flash of a dolphin in the waves, but I was fairly sure it was just my over-excited imagination. There was no way I was lucky enough to have a good date and see dolphins. We had the path to ourselves, although we were clearly visible to everyone in the restaurant.“Have you ever been to a Blue Jays game?” Gabe asked
This is just writer’s block, right? I mean, surely there was something about last night’s date with Gabe that went terribly. There must be something for me to write about...I sat in my office chair, staring at the blank screen of the word processing program in front of me. I had been gazing at it for half an hour, trying to brainstorm what to write for the upcoming blog post. The problem, though, was that I ran a website that people visited to hear about my bad dates, not the good ones. There wasn’t anything interesting about a good date, or at least anything that my current readers would want to hear. They wanted the ridiculous details. They wanted the men who didn’t pay for dinner and the ones who wore sweat pants to their first date. They didn’t want to read about the charming, good-looking, gentlemanly Gabe.I pressed my fingers against my cheek where he had kissed me. I could still feel the soft touch of his lips, and I could just imagine what they would feel like on mine. I wan
As if I wasn’t already feeling rushed enough to get ready for a date with a stranger, my sister decided to stop by, unannounced. I had barely hopped out of the shower and squeezed into some skinny jeans before my doorbell sounded. I knew it was Rosie even before I went to the door. She was a surprise-visiting madwoman and the only one who would ever show up to my house without some kind of warning.“I’m coming!” I shouted, as the doorbell continue to ring.If she wasn’t so obtrusive, I’d just give her a damn key to the house, I thought. I realized just how awful of an idea that would be. I’d have my mother and Rosie at my house constantly if they had free access. As much as I loved them both, I didn't think I could handle that.I slipped on a simple blue blouse and then ran downstairs. My hair was still wet as it bounced over my shoulders. Sure enough, when I turned the corner, there was Rosie standing at the front door. She waved when she saw me.“Hi, Rosie,” I said as I unlocked the
The moment I laid my eyes on Dave, I knew that this was going to be a date that would result in an awesome blog post. He was standing next to his car in the parking lot of the bowling alley. The car looked like it probably belonged to his grandma. It was one of those giant olive-green boats that I would see old women driving while their white hair bounced just above the steering wheel.Dave, my date for the evening, was leaning against this car like it was the coolest thing on four wheels. He looked proud while wearing a two-tone bowling shirt and khaki-colored slacks, which actually made the car look pretty good in contrast. His blonde hair was combed over to the side and he smiled goofily as soon as I walked up.“You must be the lovely Harper,” he said, flashing me a friendly smile.“And you must be Dave.” I went for a handshake but he ignored it and pulled me in for a hug. My face hit his chest and a scent entered my nose. It was the smell of cheap cologne attempting to hide body o
Okay, Harper. Keep it together. It’s just a football game with a guy, I told myself. Your eyebrows don’t need to look perfect. Just take a breath.I was still in my car, checking myself out in the rear view mirror. I hadn’t felt this nervous for a date in a long time. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw a little blemish on my skin or a hair out of place. I felt like I had lost my mind.“This is insane,” I whispered. “He’s not going to even notice my eyebrows.”It was time to meet him. I'd gotten here early and just sat in my car stressing for the past fifteen minutes and now I was technically late. It was my first second date in a very, very long time. I wasn't sure what the etiquette was.This must be how most people feel on first dates, I thought to myself.With a deep breath, I pulled my Blue Jays’ cap onto my head and stepped out of the car. I could already hear the crowd inside, roaring with excitement. This wasn’t just a regular game. This was one of the biggest games of th