Cuffing Season – when does it exactly end? Maybe on Valentine’s Day? … culminating in the offish Olympics of all dating games? If you don’t know, cuffing season happens in the Fall and Winter months, when outdoor temps drop and singles tend to get themselves a boothang at all costs to cuddle through the dreary days. Overnight parking near my apartment gets tighter, weekend brunch lines get longer, and in the early morning, over-dressed strangers can be seen winding through my neighborhood on their slut walk home. I say ‘slut’ as a term of endearment. All these symptoms can be super annoying – not only because I’m usually in a rush while these cuffing season players are too busy cupcaking in their cars to notice the traffic light has turned green, but it’s also a blunt reminder that I still haven’t found the kind, sexy, funny and honest love-of-my-life boyfriend, who’s going to embrace me, cancer-history-and-all.
Since living with cancer, I’ve made a new bucket list every year, and one of the big categories that has stood its ground from year to year is romantic love. Specifically for 2013, I decided that I want to approach a guy that I like on my own volition, for the first time in my life. I know, it sounds crazy. As Jade Gangster as I am in other aspects of my life, I’ve never simply approached a guy that I’m interested in dating. Honestly, I’m tired of accepting what comes my way, and I want to be more proactive about finding what I want for myself … and what better way to solve for my shyness than taking cuffing season to The Interwebs.
Online dating is ubiquitous among my friends. Some of them use it as a way to meet new activity partners and others are more explicitly in search of a relationship. So, after my friends prepped me with their own tips, tricks and stranger danger warnings, I created a fake profile on one of the sites to prowl and preview the experience, strategically answering enough questions about my interests to generate some likely suitable bachelors.
I got stuck on one particular profile. His kind eyes disarmed me, and the tone of modest sincerity and free spirit with which he wrote was very touching. A professional ballet dancer, among his profile pics was a striking photo of him twirling with intense confidence and an easy grace – the image alone spun my senses. I kept looking at other profiles, but repeatedly returned to the twirler.
I had to meet him. I quickly started creating a real profile for myself to make it happen.
Some of the survey questions seemed relevant, asking about dating goals, personality traits and personal preferences, while other questions were outright ridiculous attempts to assess intellect. For example, What number comes next in this series? … 1, 4, 7, … I skipped those. It seemed degrading to even consider. In the end, the dating site’s algorithm determined that the twirler and I were a very likely love match and an even greater friend match. I figured I had nothing to lose.
Well, except about three hours. It took SO tediously long to set up my profile. I was especially tripped up by a simple fill-in-the-blank that asked, “I spend a lot of time thinking about …” I wanted to write CANCER. I wrote something else, but that knee-jerk reaction triggered me into thinking that at some point, I would have to tell the twirler that I’m a two-time cancer survivor. I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to hide, but not exactly something I wanted to advertise in my online profile. My mind went racing in a million directions about how I might set up a get-to-know-each-other scenario that would lead into sharing my cancer status without seeming like I’m exclusively cuffed to cancer. All the hypotheticals in my head wore me out and jerked me around.
What do I say about why I’m taking a break from work right now? What if he asks what I write and blog about? Does cancer make me not worthy of a long-term relationship? What do I say about wanting kids? …
Despite all the build up and my madness of mental gymnastics, I was still eager to message the twirler. I had no idea what to say. I ended up sending a lame note that barely said anything:
“Hi there! It’s nice to meet you online. I enjoyed reading your profile. :)”
I may be a writer, but my online crush reduced me to inarticulate – a pathetic note, completely devoid of personality.
I didn’t expect the twirler to respond to that. I thought I’d just cut my losses and call this an object lesson in online dating. But the twirler actually messaged me back. We wrote each other back and forth, and our chatter was much more candid and down-to-earth than I expected from a stranger on The Interwebs. Eventually, he asked me to meet for coffee. I can’t do coffee, but didn’t want to open with my chronically illin’ food allergy restrictions, so I got around it by suggesting a café that also served tea.
I Googled the twirler only knowing his first name, occupation and where he lived. It was enough to pull up his work bio, which checked out. I then made a point of telling three people where I was going that afternoon, and kept reminding myself to never leave my drink alone. I was excited, but cautiously so. When we met in person, our conversation continued on the thread of personal sharing that began in our online exchanges. He talked about his own encounters with health issues and family loss, which got me comfortable enough to say that I write about young adult cancer, because I’m a two-time survivor.
He didn’t bristle. He listened. And we kept talking and laughing.
Before this encounter, I had built a reputation for clipping dating prospects within a week – to the point that my wifey Crystal labeled them my “four-day relationships.”
The other day, Crystal text me, “So, four day return on #twirler?”
I text her back, “Nah. Think I’m popping the tags on this one. #dancerswag”