Dating is scary at the best of times, particularly if you’re someone –like myself- with very little experience in the subject. In fact, I have very little experience in any kind of “romantic” sense. I’ve only been sexual with two men in my life, and always somehow manage to disgrace myself whenever I attempt to flirt. I’m not a sexy or sensual woman. I’m not a particularly attractive woman, either, and between that, my questionable sense of humour, and my unfortunate inability to string together a coherent sentence (verbally, at least) it’s no wonder my own reaction to somehow embarrassing myself in public has become the dry and self-deprecating: “How the fuck am I still single?”
Meeting someone via the internet seemed like a gift to silly, awkward me. At first, anyway. I met this one guy via my most commonly used social media platform, and at first, there was no expectation except a little light conversation and a few jokes. After a couple of weeks of back and forth, I was incredibly shocked when he asked me on a date. Perhaps it was the fact that I’m not great at social cues, or perhaps I just have no expectation or understanding of anyone wanting to date me, but “shocked” really is an apt word.
I liked him, honestly. He made me laugh, and he seemed friendly enough, plus we had things in common and good conversation. After a little bit of incredulity and heavily resisting the urge to respond with “Are you taking the mickey, or what?” I decided to go for it.
We arranged a time and place to meet, and I did that inevitable thing where I went through every single item of clothing I own trying to come up with an outfit that made me look nice, but not like I was trying too hard, which I almost definitely put way more thought into than the skirt and cardigan number deserved –especially considering I’m wearing the exact same clothes right now, and all I’ve done all day is housework.
That done, I did my makeup the same way I always do, and even resisted the urge to do anything particular with my hair. I wanted to be myself. At least, as much myself as I ever am when I’m meeting someone for the first time.
I was a little late as I headed to the designated coffee shop, so when I got there I had a quick glance around, and not seeing him, sent a message to let him know I was there. Surprisingly, he answered fairly quickly that he was also in the coffee shop, so I looked about again and spotted him tucked away in a little corner I’d missed in my earlier haste. I recognised him from his profile picture, smiled and waved, and picked up my coffee to go join him.
He didn’t seem particularly pleased to see me. He didn’t smile as I sat down opposite him, and immediately nervous, I kind of blustered away for a moment about why I’d been late before I even realised that he looked mildly irritated.
“You’re not what I expected.” He said, rather bluntly.
“Oh?” I blinked. I had no idea how to respond to that.
“Your profile picture…” he began, then cleared his throat and looked away. “It’s a good photo.”
Part of me wanted to laugh. Yes, of course it was a good photo. I wasn’t going to use a crap one, was I? In fact, I can tell you it’s the profile picture I use on here, too. No filter, just good, natural lighting, and a morning where I felt nice about myself, so could smile for a selfie without looking painfully constipated.
“Yeah…” He said slowly. Then sighed, and stood up from his seat. “Sorry.”
Without a single word further or a backwards glance, he left, and I sat in stunned silence as the two women on the next table over tittered into their cups. I won’t lie, it took me a long moment to realise what had happened, and when it hit me I wanted to take out my phone and show these complete strangers the photo, just so they could see I wasn’t some bizarre cat-fisher.
I felt fairly humiliated, but I forced myself to sit there and drink my coffee, and read until there were different people sitting on the tables nearby. I couldn’t tell you why, but it seemed important at the time.
All the while I was running through the situation over and over in my mind. Was it really the photo that had been the problem? Because it seemed ludicrous to me to think so; that is my face. That’s what I look like. Perhaps it was something else? Perhaps it had been because I was late and hadn’t messaged him to say so? Perhaps I’d used a perfume that reminded him of his year nine maths teacher? Perhaps my eyeliner had smudged? Worse still! Perhaps it was the cardigan?
To this day I couldn’t tell you. He blocked me, and I was torn between being indignant at the insanity of his reaction, and guilt for somehow pushing him to make such a drastic move. But I didn’t know what I’d done, and confused as I am, it does seem rather silly to beat myself up for something like… well. I don’t even know. Using a profile picture I look nice in?
My housemate has been trying to get me to sign up to proper dating sites, and I came very close the other day. Then it wanted a profile picture and I spent almost two hours scrolling through my photos, growing increasingly hysterical until I was having an existential crisis over every single one and thinking: “Is ThIs My FaCe?!?!”