In Conclusion/What I Learned

**If you're coming in late, click here to start at the very beginning - God bless and good luck**

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely aware that I once decided to go on thirty online dates in thirty days and (over)share my experiences with complete and total strangers. (And yes, you too, Mom.) The actual 30-day period took place in the fall of 2013. Why did it take me a full year to start writing about it? Let’s just say it was a rough and bumpy road to recovery. 

This brings me to the warning I should have placed at the beginning of this experiment. If you cherish your soul, do not try this in your own small-but-full-of-character studio apartment. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. Are there things I’d do differently? Probably not, because I don’t believe in learning from my mistakes. Are there things I should have done differently? Indubitably, but I try to avoiding admitting when I’m wrong, so we’ll go with…nope again. (Yes, I can play this game all day.)

Here is a brief, self-asked/answered Q&A to wrap this sucker up:

So wait, what happened with Tinder Oliver*?!

Remember that Tame Impala concert we were supposed to go to? We never made it because we ended up attempting to grab a “quick bite” before at Alma. That quick bite turned into an intimate** three-hour dinner followed by a scary movie back at TO’s place. Where there was a toothbrush. For me. Like, my own toothbrush. This was a big step up from the last time I had a toothbrush at a guy’s place (purchased/placed there by me) and he later texted me, asking if I could come pick it up/remove it.  In short, I took this super-romantic dental implement as a sign that we were exclusive. (I think I was actually right this time.) 

Fast-forward four days to us at another dinner. TO tells me his parents are “quite curious” about me and then jumps into a big reveal about a super personal family situation. I decide that this is probably the appropriate time to come clean/tell him he was part of an experiment. Words cannot describe the awkwardness of this conversation. (Well, there are probably a few that could, but I’m pretty sure they’re medieval/or German.) I decide to start by telling him that my mom calls him “Tinder Oliver”, Tinder included.  When he shifts somewhat uncomfortably at that, I know we’re in for a more-than-slightly torturous tete-a-tete.

All things said (too many things, some might say) and done, he pretended to be okay with it, but I’m pretty sure he never was. Actually, I know he never was because in the midst of our nothing-if-not-memorable break-up, he used the phrase, “that’s not normal” in reference to this project. That came seconds after he told me his attraction to me had most likely been Oedipal in nature, so the brusque dismissal of a fairly transformative experience barely bruised my newly battered (and utterly grossed-out) sense of self.

This answers my next few questions:

1.     Are you still together? No. The first two months were magical/wonderful/easy/full of I love you’s (him), meeting parents (us), and pick-ups from the local jail (me)(more on that [much] later in another, still-to-be-written post). At week eight, the relationship did a complete 180 and became confusing/weird/emotionally destructive. I apparently “ignored a lot of red flags” (another quote-pull from aforementioned break-up), and to be honest, when sh*t went south, I spent most of my time trying to figure out what I did wrong/who he wanted me to be, which wasn’t great for me, my sanity, or our relationship. (Or my writing, for that matter. Turns out, not everyone pens their best sh*t at their darkest hours. There goes that heroin habit idea.) To sum it all up, we covered a lot of emotional ground very early on/internally combusted a few days before Christmas. Unfortunately, the super cute inside joke gifts I had purchased for him were non-refundable. Fortunately, the orchid I had purchased for his mother, as I was supposed to be attending their family holiday celebrations, was also non-refundable. That indulgently pricy blossom was a true f*cking beauty/looked amazing on my vintage desk for the next four months.

2.    Did you learn anything from this experience/or grow in any way(s)?

Yes! I’ll expand on this with a pros/cons list:

PROS of subjecting myself to this grueling gauntlet of Internet-initiated dates:

  • I no longer feel like a high-class hooker when I go to meet strangers in public places.  Stare all you want, curious/judgy onlookers – zero shame over here.
     
  • I met some really nice dudes! Some I’m still friends with, some I still have inappropriate dreams about, and some were just lovely to cross paths with on this awkward journey we call life.
     
  • I learned that 8/8:30 is an age-appropriate dinner time in this city.  No more 9:30/10. Unless you want people to think you’re 24. The whole, I’m-just-trying-to-fit-more-of-my-own-single-life-into-my-day-before-squeezing-in-this-date-with-you thing is not an explanation that makes guys want to marry you.  (Sorry, Mom, I will try to be less comfortable/happy all by myself.)
     
  • I ended up with a boyfriend! Now the world can stop asking me how on earth I’ve never had a bf and stick to asking me how on earth I’m still single.
     
  • I learned that there are a lot of really nice guys out there on the Internet/in life in general. Could I have learned that without this experiment? Sure, probably.  Would’ve I? Probably not. There are many, many, many creepers and douchebags to sort through in order to find the nice guys. My notably low tolerance for all things shudder-inducing would have led me to abandon all apps at the first DTMO***.  I spent probably somewhere between four to eight hours a day swiping and scrolling to excavate a, for the most part, pleasant lot of manner-minded men. You can’t really do that if you have a real job, but that shouldn’t rule out anyone still reading this.
     
  • I got gifts! Spotify playlists, restaurant recommendations, P-90x .mov files…I may have lost a small chunk of my soul, but I gained many, many life enhancers.
     
  • I learned a lot about myself. One of my favorite realizations was that I definitely have a first date sales pitch. And, boy, do I have that sucker down. Now if only I could live up to those buzzwords.
     
  • Forcing yourself to go on dates can actually be a really great thing. The problem with being totally okay with yourself/by yourself is that it makes it really easy to be lazy/not put yourself in potentially uncomfortable situations. Even the worst dates I went on had lasting merits. Read: Blog. Fodder.
     
  • I talked to so many strange men! For me and for many of my friends, years and years of being creeped on by skeezoids have resulted in a reluctance to acknowledge any approach by strangers of the opposite sex.  Online dating takes the pressure off/gives us back a little control – if the initial convo gets weird, we can get out at anytime without explanation/abuse/or apology. Not to mention that handy little block button. 
     
  • I learned that a third-night stand in Manhattan Beach will always be a little disappointing. This may sound like a negative, but I think it’s something every girl should learn at some point in her life.

THE LESS FANTASTIC THINGS:

  • It’s exhausting. I’m probably stating the obvious here, but a date a day is a lot. Even if you’re mildly employed. Mostly because I apparently get schmammered on all of my dates. Remember that part earlier where I said I’m not 24 anymore? Social drinking now requires a very reclusive recovery – a recovery that lasts longer than 24 hours/isn’t solved by a Bloody Mary brunch. Jumping right into dating a self-proclaimed functional alcoholic didn’t really help the whole cringing-liver/loss-of-brain-function situation either.
     
  • It eats up a lot of time. Please see PROS: #5.  I stopped talking to almost all of my friends during these thirty days. Which made drumming up hilarious screenshots/content later much harder than it should have been. How did I not fwd that spectacularly creepy Tinder convo to anyone?! Oh, because I was too busy nestling up in fetal position/attempting to pick up strange dudes from the comfort of my bed. My bad.
     
  • It is a little weird. TO’s break-up declaration wasn’t wrong. I’m overly honest/have a totally monogamous nature – to the point where I generally have trouble dating more than two guys in the same month, let alone eighteen. I found myself white-lying about my evening activities on more than one occasion and feeling not wonderful about it.  On this note, the temptation to create a fake life story is definitely strong when it comes to online dating. When you have zero connection to a person, what kind of obligation do you have to keep things honest? Isn’t it much easier to tell them you’re going spear-fishing in the Cayman Islands for a week than to be like, sorry I’m going to be having liquor-fueled heart-to-hearts with nine other men in the next seven days, so I’m going to have to ask for a rain-check on this date situation.  Even if you’re a grown-up and can say that to a guy (I’m not/can’t), who’s to say he’s going to act like a grown-up and take it in stride. (I like to underestimate all of the men I date, because I hear lower expectations lead to higher highs.)
     
  • You don’t know anything about these people. If you can construct a new personality, so can they – and I don’t necessarily mean in a malicious way. Everyone wants to present their best (read: fantasy) side, but sometimes it would be helpful to have a little bit of that friend-of-a-friend background intel.

I’m sure this list could go on for days, but I’ll leave it right here because the pros greatly outweigh the cons, and I think that’s a fairly accurate assessment. I’m glad I did it. I absolutely recommend a less manic version – unless you’re a totally manic person, in which case, please – follow in my delicate, generally pointy-toed, shoe steps.

3.    Damn it. I always forget to have a third.

(For a mini little site-specific recap, click here.)

 *Not his real name
**I hate the phrase ‘intimate dinner’, but this one really was that cheesy/lovely/may as well have been the cover of Montecito Magazine.
***Those of you who know me might be like, “But wait, I thought making out was one of your favorite hobbies?” It is. Only I prefer mine to be with a stranger I just met in the very real corner of a very dirty bar I’m so embarrassed to be at I won’t even bother pocketing a matchbook.

Trust Your Instincts

About halfway through the experiment, I began to fear I would never lock down an actual eHarmony date. Even with the experiment’s rules locked firmly in place, I wasn’t even remotely attracted to a single earnest soul. Too pale, too old, too cheesy, too short, too far away. Where were all the easy-going, adventuresome guys next door??

I decided it might possibly be more fruitful in terms of narrative to stop hoping for Mr. Right and start searching for Mr. Very Very Wrong. I didn't have to look very far.

Read More

Date 30: Tinder Oliver

This is a modern dating experiment. One girl. Five dating sites. Hundreds of chats. Thirty days. Thirty dates. Eighteen guys. (?) boyfriend. To start at the beginning, clickhere -- or jump right in at date thirty below.

Date 30/30: Tinder Oliver* (!!!)

Tinder Oliver invites me out to an Oktoberfest celebration in Newport with his friends for the afternoon, but my group is having a pumpkin-carving shindig in Laurel Canyon.

TO's name has come up in girl gossip seshes along the way, but today it begins its trickling descent to the full crew.

Crew: Corliss - you got a guy?? (Laughter. Heyyyyys.) 
Me: (Shoulder shrug) Maybe. I don't know...you know. It's just like, fun. He's, like, really kind. Whatever. We shall seeee. Besides, I'm probably, like, not even going to see him until, like, Wednesday.

(TO and I already have a date on the books to see Tame Impala play downtown that night. Because nothing that has happened so far has been anything we can control?)

...

TO: Come downtown for dinner tonight.

...

Or tonight. Ok, so technically I was supposed to go on another Match date tonight and teeecchhnically I'm not supposed to break any of my dates unless there's a really, really, really good reason - but dinner with TO counts, right? (My conscience shrugs impotently in fine-sure-whatever-you-say agreement.)

TO's buddy Morgan joins in for dinner as well, and we all gather at Tinder Oliver's around 7. I arrive last and walk into a bit of pre-din drama. Apparently, the boys originally met through TO's ex. Apparently, Morgan had invited TO's ex to dinner, not knowing TO had invited me. Apparently, TO's ex was not stoked on the situation. Specifically, me.

Awkward. Especially considering I was previously unaware of her existence? Like, three minutes ago previous.

Me: She should come.

It's halting. But it's genuine.

TO: Eh, I don't think that's a good idea. I know you'd be fine; I just don't know about her. Give me one second - I should just go handle this real quick. I'm sorry.

TO takes the phone into the other room, leaving Morgan and I to chat it out.

Morgan: You're handling this well.

I sort of feel like this whole situation should faze me more than it does. Unfortunately, I was never really blessed with the jealousy gene. Also, I'm still friends(ish) with basically everyone I've ever dated**. (Just friends(ish).) Can't fit a lot of judgment in this tiny room!

A few minutes later, TO returns to the kitchen, and we head out to Izakaya for a delightful little dinner full of so much proper etiquette.

[Sidebar: Once upon a time, I held my fork with a firmly clenched fist. My parents told me to eat like a lady. I told them I didn't want to be a lady. They enrolled me in etiquette classes. Always the consummate brown-noser where strangers were concerned, I quickly acquired delicate handholds, proper posture, and an affinity for all things Emily Post. Forever. Great for my parents; less great for my dating life. Calling all Patrick Batemans - quick snare in aisle three! Thankfully, TO seems to supplement his decorum with sanity. Yay, growing up!]

Mid-meal, Morgan brings up a woman from Tinder Oliver's past. TO seems less than thrilled to follow him down that road. There's a moment of befuddling silence. Turns out, several years back, TO shacked up with a married woman and her kids for a solid length of time. (I'm assuming that marital status had a few qualifiers.) He hadn't planned on sharing that little nugget with me this early on. So many reveals, all in one night! Again, I'm sort of feeling like this whole situation should faze me more than it does. Mistakes. Learning. Moving forward?

After dinner, we move forward back at his place.

...not that far forward. Just, like, I get to wear his softest t-shirt.

TO: It's been awhile since I've been with a new partner.

I hate the word partner.

...
...
...

Holy sh*t, THE THIRTY DATES ARE OVER.

The next morning, I wake up completely and totally unsure of how I feel about everything. Now that the experiment's over, reality's starting to sink in. This is real. Like, real real. Shudder. Gulp. Shudder. I also wake up to text messages from a few of this experiment's loose ends. I guess I have some tying up to do this week...

*not his real name
**And by dated I mean, went to dinner with one to six times (and you know, like, planned our future weddings/named our future children and all that stuff)

Date 29: Tinder Oliver

TO:

M'lady,

Dinner is at Lawry's on La Cienega at 9pm. It's at Lawry's (which might seem an odd choice) bc my out-of-town college friend wanted to go there.

I'm going to head toward Beverly Hills around 8pm. I hope this does not come off as either presumptuous or an imposition as regards where I will lay my head this evening, but I thought I'd park my car at or near to your place and we could take a taxi or Uber from there to the restaurant. I'm anticipating enough martinis and wine to make driving a dumb idea.

Here is some weird music: http://bit.ly/1f1oZhZy

Let me know if the above plan sounds ok and I will see you soon.

Me: The above plan does not sound ok. Please revise and advise.

...just kidding. But I'm seriously considering upping my maintenance level for my next experiment. Not that my sanity (or my liver) could survive another one of these suckers.

Dinner with TO's college friends! Excellent impression, here I come. He warns of potentially bland, law-centric conversation and invites me to bring along a friend for reasons of comfort. One of my most entertaining cohorts signs on for the gig, but comes down with the plague the morning of. At this point, I'm pretty sure TO thinks I have no friends. I've met so many of his and he's met...zero...of mine. I'm really active on Instagram? (I am. You should totally follow me here.)

We stroll over to Lawry's and join his friends in the entry. I am immediately overwhelmed. They have all known each other for years and their group seems to be pretty insular, with no one reaching out to include me in convo. Never stopped me before! Heeded or not, I toss my two cents in wherever I see a slot, determined to win 'em over. Conversation picks up over prime rib (them) and fish (me), when I discover the chick seated to my left is hilarious. Fantastic. We have some laughs, take a few photos, and head across the street to Bazaar at SLS to get properly trollied.

A few hours later, Tinder Oliver and I are back at my apartment. I decide to play one of my favorite drinking games: Self-sabotage.

TO is looking a little confused at my lack of, um...protective devices, so to speak. I steal a trick from improv and jump right from A to C.

Me: I just, I don't know, I haven't, like, slept with that many guys.
TO: I haven't slept with that many girls.

Excellent yes and. I press on, determined to make it weird.

Me: This is the point where I usually bail out.

What are you even talking about? Please stop. Please stop now. Thankfully, TO seems to be equally over-intoxicated and counters with a few sweet nothings that fade into sleep zone.

The next morning, we awake to multiple phone calls from one of my nearest and dearest. By the fourth call, I decide it's probably an emergency and he's probably dying, so I answer. It's not. He's not. He wants to have a boozy brunch.

Me: I hate you for waking me up. I thought you were dying.
N&D: You love me. Are you coming? Come now. We're hungry.
Me: Maybe. Hold on. (to TO) Do you want to go to brunch?
N&D: Are you with someone?
Me: Maybe.
N&D: (laughing) You slut. Tinder Oliver?

I'm really happy he throws out the correct name, as my BlackBerry is decently close to TO's ear.

Tinder Oliver agrees to come for a quick bite, but says he must run home to a full day of work after that.

Seven hours later, we've migrated from Pearl's to Rock and Reilly's to Cabo Cantina. Happy Saturday, Sunset. I had been slightly afraid he might think my friends were a little too crazy, due to a couple party-happy out-of-towners, and that my friends might think he was a little too boring, due to his seemingly serious nature. Thankfully, everyone seems to love each other. Er, everyone actually says they love each other.

When Tinder Oliver steps out for a moment, I turn to my friends:

Me: (totally tipsy) Do you like him?
N&D: (smiles up at TO, who, unbeknownst to me, had just returned from the washroom and was standing directly behind my right shoulder) We love him.

Not embarrassing at all.

We have a rollicking good time/plan future double dates/etc etc. TO and I part ways with the group around 7p to get me home and changed for a costume party. As he helps me into 137 hook-and-eye closures, I start to think that it might be sort of really nice (and useful!) to have him around on a more regular basis.

...

RULE #1: YOU MUST BE COMPLETELY OPEN TO THE PROCESS - INCLUDING THE IDEA THAT IT MIGHT ACTUALLY LEAD TO A RELATIONSHIP

...

So many deep breaths.

*not his real name

Date 28: Tinder Mason

Tinder Mason requested my friendship on Facebook. I accepted, assuming he was one of the many men I had met at our mutual friend's recent birthday.

That assumption was incorrect.

He was unsure as to whether or not I would give him the ol' right swipe on Tinder, so he cut the line. Conniving. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

...this is a real conversation? No, I do not want to watch something before I crash. I choose to forgo a reply.

"I'll make it for u one day." UGH. THE CHEESE. The whole planning for the future before we've even met thing is so transparent slash nauseating. Also, 'u' is not a word.

"I have already eaten. As you can see." Right. I gathered as much. Thank you so much for the reminder. STABBYSTABSTAB.

This entire conversation is making me want to die, so I go to Yogurtland to suffocate my troubles with bizarrely accurate artificial flavors. The conversation unfortunately continues en route.

Am I really going on this date?

RULE #4: SAY YES TO SOMEONE WHO IS TERRIBLE AT COMMUNICATING VIA THE WRITTEN WORD

I had crafted this rule with grammar in mind, but I suppose douchebaggery counts as well.

Also:
RULE #5: SAY YES TO SOMEONE WHO IS 39 OR OLDER

Cutting it close on getting this one in.

Old man creepy douchebag, here I come! There is not not enough cookie dough in this toppings bar to quell my anxiety.

As he continues an inane one-sided chat right up to our date, I begin to gather that he thinks he's much more charming than I think he is. This should go smashingly.

Spoiler alert: It doesn't.

From intro to exit, every word out of his mouth is laced with condescension.

I inquire about his work, his family, his hopes and dreams - searching, nay, BEGGING, for one nugget of earnest decency. Fruitless.

I finally realize what this is. He's that guy. That stereotypical LA guy on Tinder. Get in, get buzzed, get out, get busy. Gross. This is the worst.

When he has tired of picking apart my every word and attacking my idealism, TM heads to the bathroom. I brace myself for his return. The bartender cringes in commiseration. He's been privy to a few of my less memorable dates, thanks to the Duplex's close proximity to my home. Really digging our rapport.

TM's return is delayed as he pauses to lay it on thick to some girl at the other end of the bar. I might vomit. How did I end up here?

I prepare for a quick exit. TM is completely amenable. We walk outside.

TM: See you on Facebook.

At least we're both on the same page - er, newsfeed - here? Stomach. Churn. He heads back in, presumably to track down his post-washroom prey.

I trudge home, inexplicably upset by the date. On one hand, I am so happy this disaster came at the end of my experiment. On the other hand, I am so disgusted and disheartened. After such a good run of genuinely nice guys, I had almost forgotten about the other shoe. Thanks for dropping that fungal reminder, Tinder Mason.

I call my best friend to cry out my general disappointment in boykind. Can I stop dating now please thanks.

*Not his real name

​Date 27: eHarmony Gabe

Day 3: 
eHarmony Gabe: Hi, it's Gabe from eHarmony. How is your week going? Hopefully not too crazy.

Day 24: 
eHG: What does your Wednesday look like?

...It took us awhile to get here. (Turns out scheduling thirty dates in thirty days is every bit as onerous as it sounds like it would be.)

Me: Wednesday's pretty open ☺

eHG: Can you do lunch on Wed. Or would later work better.

Me: Lunch is perfect.

THANK GOD. This means I'll get an entire night to myself. Oh happiest of happy days. (So few men seemed to be up for afternoon adventures during this experiment. I'm guessing that was largely related to their desire for a cocktail-fueled meet and greet. Either that or they have real jobs to attend to during the afternoon. But this is L.A., so I'm going to go with number one.)

eHG: Let's say Literati Café on Wilshire at 1. I think that's sort of close to you, and it gives me a good reason to leave the valley ☺

eHG: Oh and I just realized my beard is pretty full right now compared to the pictures on eh. Grew it out for a costume party.

Part of me wants to tell him that's a total deal-breaker/the date's off just to f*ck with him, but I (grudgingly) restrain myself.

Come Wednesday, I'm a little nonplussed at the idea of driving out to the Westside for lunch with a stranger, but I'd like to get my eHarmony numbers up, and lunch with a seemingly kind soul seems like a very non-threatening way to accomplish that goal.

eHarmony Gabe's soul is every bit as kind as I had anticipated. There is also every bit as much chemistry between the two of us as I had anticipated -- er, every bit as little? There is zero chemistry. Just zero.

When eHG ducks into the restaurant to place our orders, I check my phone for messages. When he returns, he asks how many questions I have conjured up for him.

...

Oh, right. I was supposed to be thinking about you. (The novelty of the first date as a concept has definitely started to wane at this point.)

...

eHG shares some personal tales from the Internet dating world, and my oh my does he have some doozies. Apparently, I've been lucky to encounter a generally sane lot of suitors. His gold medal winner is a woman who threatened to pull a gun on him, out of nowhere, as they sat on the couch in her home. On their third date. Welp. I'll never feel safe on one of these suckers again.

We somehow manage to stretch our meal over two hours. He says he'll take that as a good sign; I don't have the heart to tell him that I'm sort of just a really good (read: excessive) talker sometimes.

Somewhere along the way, the topic of post-date etiquette is broached.

eHG: I think, in this day and age, if you don't get a reply to a text message, it's safe to assume the other person isn't interested. No harm, no foul.

Excellent. Duly noted. eHG texts the next day, inviting me to the Sunday night Kings game. I uh... don't reply. There goes that whole being a grown-up thing.

I do definitely appreciate the sentiment though, and sort of wish I could like one of these really, really, really nice guys. If they were just a little more confident. A lot more confident. And witty. Just a lot more confidence and wit.

RULE #6: NO BAILING ON A DATE OR A GUY UNLESS THERE IS A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GOOD REASON.

ZERO CONFIDENCE AND NEGATIVE WIT IS A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GOOD REASON.

...

I don't have to explain myself to you?

*Not his real name
**As handy/painless as this non-confrontational brush-off seems, it can also be the worst thing ever. Like when your BlackBerry decides to malfunction just two weeks into a new fling and you have no idea if he's been replying to your text messages/you haven't received said replies or if he's just attempting to Irish-exit on the whole dating situation. But that's a purely hypothetical story for another post. Seriously. Totes hypothetical. And it definitely didn't end with me coming off like a stage-five clinger. *hypotheticalfacepalm*

Date 26: Tinder Oliver

TO: I'm leaning against doing that party in Bel Air today, but would still love to see you tonight if you're game. I may get a few folks together for dinner and drinks down here.

Me: Ok cool. I'm game ☺

TO: Great. I will figure out plans. Aim roughly for like a 730 arrival if that works.

Totally works. Dates onetwothree, & four with TO were all spectacular successes full of fun slash conversation. At this point, normal me would have stopped dating anyone else because I like to tote all my eggs around in the same (questionably crafted) basket. But, thanks to the rules of this experiment, I have remained busy/slightly unavailable/dating other people, all of which I think has played well in terms of that whole 'keepin' 'em wanting more' thing I've heard so much about. Date five here we come!

Tinder Oliver and I have a glass of wine at his place before heading over to meet his friend Morgan* at Honda-Ya. Honda-Ya is a yummy sushi place inside what appears, at first glance, to be a deserted mall, straight out of a horror movie. What that first glance belies is the adult child's wonderland that awaits upstairs. Bowling, arcades, bars, sushi, and karaoke all under the same roof?! Be still my pre-pubescent heart.

Morgan's running a little late, so TO and I settle in at the bar next door to wait. I'm definitely going to need a solid cleanse after this experiment. Stick with me, liver!! It'll all be over soon.

TO delves a little deeper into family stuff, and it sounds like he and his sister have a super cute relationship, which I think is always a good sign. I choose to forego earnestness in favor of self-deprecation, tossing out a couple zingers that revolve around my awkwardly broad shoulders and incessant need for attention. He promptly dismisses both, stressing my femininity amongst other excessively redeemable traits. It sounds like he's got me on a standard-sized pedestal, which is always a great sign?

Eventually, Morgan arrives. He's a total sweetheart. Apparently a recent ex of his is not. Apparently everyone hates her because she totally f*cked him over slash was dating other guys while they were together. A Friday night flashback hits with the force of a mid-size vehicle. TO and I obviously aren't at the whole relationship point yet, but this conversation is still making me a little uncomfortable.

I feel even more uncomfortable a few hours later.

Back at his place... after telling me he's never made out with someone like this/or this much -- or at least not in, like, five to ten years (big range, much?) -- he finally goes in for the proverbial home run. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for my feelings of post-Friday whoreishness) things don't exactly... work out.

TO: I think I'm still a little nervous around you.

Having spent 29 years of my life trying to get guys to not have sex with me, I'm not entirely certain what I'm supposed to do/or say here.

I go with over-honesty.

Me: Ha. I'm usually the nervous one.

...

Really, Stacie? Just let him have this one.

When I wake the next morning, we're on opposite sides of the bed, and I immediately feel kind of weird slash sort of abandoned. I tiptoe out to grab some water, and find him in the middle of the bed upon my return. Cue: Several hour cuddle sesh. (All feelings of abandonment are immediately vanquished.)

TO: Ugh. I have to get up. It's 11 a.m.
Me: Noooo.

He goes out to the kitchen. I lag behind. He returns five minutes later.

TO: It's not quite 11 yet.

We return to super snuggly dreamland. The [late] morning [eventually] proceeds with breakfast -- this time around, he has black tea in his cupboards, presumably purchased with me in mind. Twinge. Ache. Swoon

TO: I'm requesting you on Facebook and Twitter, so I can see if you post anything new on your blog.

So many steps!!

TO: I gave your blog a read over the weekend. You're a great writer -- your personality really comes through, as does your funny.

Looks like someone's learned the way to my validation-hungry little heart.

...

We go ahead and put a date six on the books. I just, uh, have to make it through two other dates with two other men first. Is this experiment over yet?**

*Not his real name
**I asked, for the five millionth time.

Date 25: Tinder James

TJ: Would you be up for doing something in Manhattan Beach Friday night?

Translation: Would you be up for doing me in Manhattan Beach Friday night. Heyo. Reading right between those well-spaced lines, Tinder James.

AHERHEROIESJRSEJJKAWHEJKAH. I'm not really the one-night stand kind of girl. (Not that I think there's anything wrong with being the one-night stand kind of girl...it's juuust not really my MO.) Granted, this is our third date, but it still sort of feels like the same thing. With TJ's half-baked plans and could-be-(much)(much)-better conversation, I don't really see a date four in our future. Alas, this whole experiment was about opening myself up to new experiences**, sooooo South Bay here I come! (Sorry, Mom.)

I tell TJ to expect me around 8p.

TJ: Okay. I'm going to get cleaned up. You can park at my place and we can head out from here. Cool?

Absolutely. Not even pretending to meet somewhere else. Really digging the efficiency here.

...
...
...

8:03p: I arrive in Manhattan Beach.

8:07p: I circle the block for the third time, still searching for the address. My GPS continues its campaign for most useless navigation device of the year.

If I could use the map to navigate to this destination, I wouldn't be asking you, now would I. UGH.

8:10p: TJ is guiding me into the incredibly tiny driveway from his vantage point in the window above. No, really, don't come down.

8:14p: I am met in the entryway, already itching for a spirited beverage of some sort. Fun fact: Long distance drives do not make anything grow fonder.

TJ: Are you hungry?

I mean, I haven't eaten yet, if that's what you're asking.

...

Please see fun fact above regarding distance/general attitude on life.

...

We walk down to Pisces Sushi on Highland, where we have an almost average conversation over sushi, sake, and Sapporos.

Might need something a little stronger to make this happen.

We stroll down to a little dive bar. Well, I should specify, we stroll down the street and stand on the corner for a solid six minutes, debating where to go. This is your hood, TJ -- call an audible. Please make something audible. (His voice hasn't gotten any louder since our last date. I still don't understand how a voice can be so consistently soundless.)

He settles on OB's Pub & Grill. Sawdust on the floor, peanuts on the table, and remarkably stiff cocktails a mere order away. Divine. And somehow perfectly appropriate for the evening at hand.

Two loaded cocktails later, TJ finally starts to open up -- about his anger management issues and penchant for bar fights. Ho-kay. Maybe we should go back to that less conversation thing. He also hates his roommate, so I have that to look forward to when we get back to his place. Thank you, Jesus, for bolding and italicizing the expiration date on this one.

We stop at a liquor store on the way back to grab, well, more liquor. Because, you know, our souls are so compatible and stuff.

Everything goes pretty much as expected from here on out -- except for the part where he insists on carrying all 118*** lbs of me from the couch to the boudoir. Thirty feet away. Seriously, man, I can walk. This is so awkward. (Currently regretting every peanut.)

The next morning, he's fixing me a cup of tea, I'm fixing to leave, and my BlackBerry has found itself in a fix. It's dead. In all the excitement over my one-way trip to Ho-ville, I neglected to charge my precious phone/I'm supposed to be meeting up with friends and sort of need the address of where that meeting spot is. Cue: One of the more excruciating hours of my life. LINGER LINGER LINGER.

Later that evening, I'm at dinner with one of my guy friends:

Me: Dude. My ABS. So much pain. WTF did I do to them.
GF: Hahahaha. From all the SEX you had last night. You've got to get yourself in sex shape, girl.

He then theorizes logistics, landing on what he believes to be the exact play-by-play of my ab-ripping rumble in the heyyyy. Really happy he's finding so much pleasure in my pain. Really happy all of our mutual friends are finding so much pleasure in my pain. (GF thought this landmark event was 100 percent deserving of a group text announcement.) (I need new friends.)

Tinder James would text weather nonsensicals for a couple days and send a status check one week later.

TJ: Hey, how was your week and weekend?

...

And scene.

*Not his real name
**Is that what this experiment was all about? I can barely remember anymore. (Also, heyo.)
***Not my real weight

Date 24: Tinder Oliver

Monday:
TO: Party above Sunset Plaza on Thurs?

Sure! Why not. This will be date four with Tinder Oliver. Date one was an hours-long cocktail sesh at Chateau Marmont, date two an Arctic Monkeys concert at the Wiltern, and our third date consisted of dinner and a haunted house. Rollicking good times all around.

After receiving the above text, I go ahead and cancel Friday morning's activities, just in case of a sleepover. Because I'm classy like that. (And a planner! But, like, you know, totally spontaneous, too.)

Thursday afternoon, I realize I'm a bit overdue for a visit to Anya, my favorite wax-wielding Russian. Half-a$$ed home sesh it is! Because the only thing better than paying someone else to strip each and every hair from your lady parts is conducting the massacre yourself. HOW DID THIS EVER BECOME A THING.

I thankfully survive the procedure/recover in time for TO to swoop me up at 9. The house the party is at is gorgeous and the people are friendly - we run into a couple of our mutual friends, which I find delightful/nerve-easing. I also find that I really enjoy being in this new, sort of burgeoning couple stage - I have never felt so adored. Except possibly at a gay circuit party, but that's a whole 'nother ballet.

When we're chatting up the party's host, he inquires about TO's recent trip to Asia.

Host: After experiencing all that, are you content to settle back here in LA?

TO starts to say he has considered moving to Asia full-time, but backtracks, glancing sideways at me. Hey - you do you. It's probably best not to start planning out our future life together at date four. But also...duly noted, sir. Duly noted.

We continue our meander through the festivities, chatting, checking out views etc before settling in with the crowd out on the patio.

Random Friend: So how long have you guys been together?

TO and I smile at each other, his hand on my waist.

TO: Uhhh four dates?

I nod, shyly, in confirmation.

RF: Oh wow - that's it? It seems like you've been together for a while.

TO: They were really long dates.

Me: We logged a lot of hours.

We then proceed to elaborate on each individual date, at RF's request.

RF: So whose turn is it to plan the next one?

Everyone looks at me, expectantly. I pretend to look over my shoulder, spinning (innocently) in a circle as if searching for someone on whom to pin this responsibility. Everyone laughs.

We are so annoying.

Around midnight, we've exhausted all hors d'oeuvres and my stomach is still grumbling. (If left to my own devices, I tend to forget things like dinner.) We cut out early and hustle over to Dan Tana's for some late night carbo-loading. Once again, the conversation takes a turn for the deep 'n' personal. I can feel myself trusting TO more now, revealing snippets generally reserved for the nearest and dearest. How unnerving.

Post-dins, TO drives us back to my place, pulling over on the street as if to park. We start to make out in the car...as if teenagers. Do I ask him if he wants to come in? Do people actually say that? And if so, how exactly do they say that without sounding like they're in a completely predictable rom-com? He starts to get a little handsy. Welp. Here goes nothing.

I pull back, looking up at him, channeling my best Julia Roberts. (I probably land more on...not Julia Roberts.)

Me: Dooo you want to come in?

...

Bye, dignity.

I hold the coquettish thing for almost a third of a second before I start snickering in a decidedly un-provocative way. So the delivery could use a little work.

...

Turns out, he does want to come in. (Shocking, I know.) His first time in my apartment! So revealing. My space is pretty much a direct reflection of my gypsy soul, so I always feel a little exposed when newbies enter. He seems to appreciate every last detail, grazing his fingers over every last tchotchke.

TO: Ah, it's all coming together now.

I shall choose to take that as a good thing.

...

I'm pretty sure it was.**

THE NEXT DAY: 

TO: Are you doing anything tonight that you can't blow off to come hang w me eastside?

UGH. As delightful as that sounds, I'm pretty sure I have a third night stand waiting for me in Manhattan Beach.  My stubbornly monogamist heart is feeling a a little twinge-y, but I remind myself that we have only been on four dates, and nothing is anywhere near official yet. I uh, sort of have a tendency to jump into things head first - much better to take things slow! This is so good for me? 

...

...

...

*Not his real name.
**Not like that, Mom, sheesh.

Date 23: JDate Jeffrey

JDate Jeffrey: Hey, it's Jeffrey. I made an 845 reservation at Eveleigh. Does that work for you? Also, happy to pick you up, unless you'd prefer to meet there...

Me: Hey! 8:45 is perfect. I might meet you there bc I'll be coming from a work thing. Also because I think you might be an axe murderer.

JDJ: Fair enough. But I can assure you that I'm not an ax murderer. The blood gets everywhere - it's just a mess. I prefer hiring someone to do my dirty work (I'm Jewish)

Me: Thank God. I don't care how I go, so long as the scene is spotless.

MY FIRST JDATE! When I first signed up for that bastion of #truejews, I expected my inbox to be inundated with messages from its millions of John Krasinskis**. Hundreds of John Krasinskis? Ten? One. Can I just get one.

What I did get were a lot of "flirts" from the 5'4" population.

...

Is that even a real height? And how are there so many of you? And why do all of you want to date a 5'11" chick who's not even a member of the tribe? (...yet. I have been informed by many a Jewish friend that I am most welcome in their circle. Ahem.)

Clocking in at 6'1", JDJ is a good-looking guy with a seemingly decent to above par personality. We realize pretty quickly we've already started a chat on Tinder as well.

JDJ: I guess neither of us thinks the other is attractive or intriguing at all.

Me: Pretty sure that Tinder nod was a drunk swipe. Here...let's just say the competition's not exactly fierce.

(Half true.)

We decide to share a meal. I'm excited to be going on another first date - let's get some new blood in here!

I arrive late to Eveleigh, coming in hot from my work event.

Me: I'm so sorry! My gay bestie needed a ride home from the event and he's quite possibly the slowest moving human ever invented.

JDJ: Don't worry about it; you're fine. You should have brought him with you!

Smart. If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my gays -- er, perhaps not with exactly...

We chat about a lot of things. Mostly my things, as that's where he keeps steering the convo. Smooth. He starts to inquire about my work projects, but changes his mind, saying he'd rather hear about my blog and my comedy writing, since it sounds like that's where my passion lies. Straight to the passion. Super smooth.

Born in LA, JDJ loves his family, loves his job, loves his life...who knew there were so many well-adjusted men nestled in the bosom of this city?

We close the place down and debate, but decide against, seeking out another bar.

JDJ: We should continue this somewhere else later in the week.

Me: Yeah, that'd be fun!

He walks me to my car and we hug it out goodbye.

...

JDJ: Home safely?

Me: Safe and sound ☺

JDJ: Good.

Me: Haha I trust you're home safe as well?

JDJ: Nope. Drunk driving accident. In the drunk tank - with my cell. Bail me out tomorrow and we can continue? ☺

Me: Sorry, I think you have the wrong number?

...

Super excited to break out my shiksa necklace for date 2. In a totally creepy I-plan-on-marrying-you kind of way.

*not his real name
**I also thought, at the time, that John Krasinski was Jewish. I have since been informed he is not. Awkward. (I still love you, JK. Forever.)

Date 22: eHarmony Andrew

eHA: Hey there - I'm sorting out my week; are you free for dinner? Tonight, possibly, or toward the end of the week are best for me. Check out Jake Bugg if you need to stave off a case of the Mondays.

Tonight sounds spectacular. Jake Bugg works his magic on my maudlin Monday, crooning me into a contented state for my third date with eHarmony Andrew. (Our first was a marathon chatfest at Frolic Room and the second an ultramarathon chatfest over football and a Malibu drive.) eHA picks me up at 8:30, and we head over to The Little Door for a delightful dinner. He's loosened up a bit since last time, which makes me a little more comfortable as well.

I know exactly what I'm going to order -- shaved Brussels sprout salad and scallops, please and thank you. eHA is less decisive, and asks our server to select his courses for him. So trusting. I feel like there's a metaphor in here somewhere.

Conversation flows easily, as it has from our very first date. There is something quite comforting about having so much in common with a person. And he's such a solid, grounded guy, with an obviously genuine heart. In between courses he beckons for my hands, holding them across the table. Oh God. So sweet. So romantical. So...awkward. Feelin' a little PDA-y over here. (My apologies to the couple seated approximately 3 inches away from us.)

...

Back at my place, he walks me to my door where we have the customary date denouement chat. Pause. His hand goes for my hip as his face goes in for the kiss. It's been quite interesting to see each guy's go-to technique.

Brief pause. He goes back in for round two, "I've been wanting to do this for about three dates now, so I'm just going to keep it going a bit longer." Oh man. So earnest.

When I finally turn to walk inside, he grabs the door before it can close behind me and draws me in for a good ol' third time's the charm. Ho-kay.

And then he self-consciously comments on the door handle.

How is this attractive, successful, gentleman of a man so nervous right now? And why do I find it more wearying than endearing??

...

Because I'm usually the nervous one? Because I'm usually the one saying dumb things with absolutely zero pertinence to the events at hand? Because I am usually [read: always] so mortified afterward?

Nothing like seeing one of your least favorite personal traits reflected in a suitor to bring out your worst emotional reaction!

Regardless, it was quite a lovely evening, and I could definitely get used to being treated so gently.

...

I think?

*not his real name

Date 21: OkCupid Taylor

My fourth date with OkCupid Taylor! Our first was a lovely sushi din, the second an adorable trip to the LA County Fair, and the third a sweet little dine-in movie.

OkCT: Let's meet at the Natural History Museum around 12. Depending on the weather, we could picnic outside the museum. If not, they have a cafe inside or we can walk to some places nearby.

Cute. Er, it should be cute. Conceptually, I understand this is cute. Unfortunately, the morning of our date brings to light a saltier side of Stacie. I had been out way too late the night before due to a surprise visit from my bestest friend in the entire world. I was tired. I was hungover. I was still a bit swoony over Friday night's adventures withTinder Oliver. OkCupid Taylor didn't stand a chance -- especially after he sent this text, mid-sandwich orders:

OkCT: I was thinking of getting onions myself and then I remembered how much I wanted to kiss you ;)

Oy vey.

Deep breaths. Be nice. Just be nice. Remember all that chemistry you guys had just one week ago?!

...
...
...

When I get to the museum's main entrance, OkC T is nowhere to be found. Apparently, he entered through the backside of the building.

OkCT: Wait, where are you? 
Me: At the front entrance.
OkCT: I don't know where that is.
Me: Well, if you entered through the back, it's probably on the other side of the building?

...

He declines my offer to meet him in the back, and instead has me stay on the phone with him while he breathes heavily en route/refuses all attempts at chatter. Cool. I'll just listen to your footsteps. This is awesome.

He finally appears, sweet smile and optimistic outlook intact. I will myself to be kind. We set up a picnic on the lawn in front of the museum. Some things are a bit better in theory than in practice. It only takes us about twenty minutes to consume our deli snacks...and then we spent the next fifteen hiking back to my car to drop off the blanket, etc before starting our tour of bones.

I adore the Natural History Museum, and OkCT does his very best to be the most adorable companion. We take ridiculously adorable photos, which we decline to purchase, but it's nice just to know they exist?

All in all, I maintain a decent degree of pep and appreciation. Upon our exit, I'm giving myself a mental pat on the back, when OkCT asks if I'm hungry. I should say no; but, as luck would have it, I'm starving, and keenly aware of my empty cupboards back home. I say yes.

He asks where we should go -- after all, I went to school here. Uh yeah, seven years ago. Chanos? Are we drunk? Is it 4am? My sorority house? Despite my severe lack of knowledge, I offer a few suggestions, directionally speaking. He challenges every single one of them. I seriously consider hailing a cab back to my car.

We end up at a newer venue called Lotus. A fine - not to be confused with fine dining - establishment, offering students and locals the chance to supplement their sushi with a hit of hookah. Fantastic. We'll stick with sushi and soju, thanks. Post-meal, we continue to sit there and chat. Still sitting. Still chatting. I have thrown out more conversation closers than I ever knew existed. My phone is vibrating with text messages from other online suitors.

IS THIS EXPERIMENT OVER YET? I just want to sleep. So much sleep.

I excuse myself to the restroom for a text check. This is when I see it is eight o'clock. PM. We have been hanging out for EIGHT. HOURS. Dear Jesus, please let me go home now.

I scroll through my messages. eHarmony James wants to know why I've gone radio silent. Radio silent? I just talked to you three days ago. We've been on one date. Keep scrolling. Nothing urgent. Gah who is eHarmony Nick?? We'll research that one later. Keep scrolling. MMS from Tinder Oliver featuring a photo of our stolen rose from Friday night. Cute. Sigh. Back to this date I go.

When I finally convince OkCT that it's time to head out, we start on a slow meander to my car. Emphasis on both the slow and the meander. He pauses awkwardly here and there, sort of inching toward my face as we talk. Is he trying to work up the nerve for our first kiss? I pause, hoping to help him get it over with so I can get home. He stammers and shuffles back a few inches. We continue our desolate march.

Back at my car, I offer him a ride to his, as it's a bit of a trek. He accepts. This was a bad idea. Down in the depths of a now-deserted parking garage, he refuses to exit my vehicle. Not vocally -- I mean, I at no point demand/or even request he open the door and GTFO. I just keep saying how tired I am and how I'm about to fall asleep and how I can't wait to get home, and sort of think he'll get the hint at some point. He doesn't. What he does do is start to massage my shoulders. Holy mother of Jesus, how do I kindly bring this to an end?

OkCT: How was that? Feel better now? 
Me: [visible grimace] Magical.

At this point, it dawns on me that I am all alone in a parking garage with someone I barely know. As it's our fourth date, I didn't even really tell anyone where I'd be/with whom. What if I trusted too soon? What if I die down here? I'm trying to recall if I have a pepper spray stashed anywhere in my Prius when OkCT goes in for the kiss.

...

It. Is. ...horrendous. Is this his first kiss?? There is darting tongue action, sloppy lip stuff, hands around my neck in a decidedly not hot way.... I am backed so far into my seat, I'm pretty sure there's going to be a permanent indentation. When the salacious assault on my face finally comes to an end...

OkCT: [silly smile] Magic?

...
...
...

I have a funny feeling there will be no date five.

*not his real name

Date 20: Tinder Oliver

3rd date with Tinder Oliver! Our first was a (few) lovely round(s) of drinks at Chateau and the second an Arctic Monkeys concert at the Wiltern. That was almost two weeks ago. We attempted to calendar a dinner in the middle, but our schedules refused to match up. Distance slash enchantment? Here's hoping.

This third date was to involve both dinner and a haunted house.

TO: Before the day gets away from me, am thinking we will do dinner downtown tmrw if that works. I have a hodgepodge of friends going to the spookhouse who may also join beforehand to eat.

Excellent thought.

I meet TO at his place downtown and we walk to meet his crew at the newly opened Peking Tavern. Dinner is delish, friends are welcoming, drinks are plentiful. Enchantment indeed.

We Uber over to Echo Park for the "spookhouse," but find we have about 20 minutes to kill. We also find that they don't serve liquor at their "bar." None of us are trying to remember our death by fright, so we hit up a Mexican restaurant down the street for tequila shots. And then we hit up the liquor store next door for portable flasks of vodka, because apparently none of us are trying to remember anything. I, personally, am attempting to self-medicate my severe case of nerves slash social anxiety. Third date. Meeting friends. Trying too hard to be cool. You know, the usual.

The haunted house is tons of fun. It's wonderful to have a hand to hold through the dark, winding hallways and someone to laugh at me when I get dragged up onstage to the guillotine. Look how good I am at couple-y things!!

Post scare-fest, TO and I separate from the group to get some late night grub. Lord knows my over-intoxicated liver could stand to see a few nutrients float by. We have another one of our slightly too deep and one hundred percent too personal chats over food I probably couldn't taste at Pacific Dining Car before stealing the rose from our table and heading back to TO's for a decently PG sleepover. (You're welcome, Mom.) Notably, the first sleepover of this experiment -- though, possibly only notable to my super classy guy friends who can't believe that I've, "like, gotten, like, twenty different dudes to take [me] out and, like, pay for sh*t without putting out. What a bunch of suckers." Like I said, supes classy. And it's only been 13 different guys thus far. Ahem.

One home-cooked breakfast, a mini Ryan Adams tutorial, and an awkwardly lengthy parking lot makeout sesh (sorry, parking attendants) later, I'm heading home -- secretly super happy I haven't heard back from Tinder Lucas about our possible second date tonight.

TO: You left a sweater here lovely. Just so you aren't worried you lost it. Will bring it next time I see you.

Love next times.

*not his real name

Date 19: Friend Zone Ryan

In the midst of my experiment, who should appear, but a blast from the not-so-distant past. Friend Zone Ryan and I have been pals for a few years now, starting back when we used to be neighbors-ish. We sort of hooked up a couple times that first summer, with me pumping the brakes pretty swiftly. FZR stopped trying and I proceeded to pine away. Because there's nothing more addictive than that oscillating trifecta of affection, ambivalence, and disinterest.

A few months ago, he skipped my birthday for a stupid reason and I decided we weren't friends anymore. The next week, I ran into him at a mutual friend's party and decided his reason was totally valid and we were totally still friends. A few shots, one very platonic sleepover, and a room service brunch later, FZR was dropping me off at home, saying he was going to take me out for a birthday dinner.

And then I never heard from him. We were so not friends anymore.

Until last Monday.

Walking home from a writing session, I hear my name being shouted from a familiar vehicle. Oh, hello stranger. Brief catch-up sesh. We're still friends.

FZR: I still owe you dinner!
Me: Oh, that's right - you totally do. [So much nonchalance.] 
FZR: Just let me know when and where...

He continues on to his office; I head back home. We may still be friends, but I have zero expectation of a follow-up to this conversation.

A few hours later...

FZR: Where/when are we dining?

Well, color me surprised.

I slot him in for Thursday (So weird how calendar space can open up like that!) and suggest a smattering of restaurants that run the gamut from casual/trendy to fine dining. He makes a reservation at Hatfield's -- or, as the LA Times termed it back in 2010, a gracious restaurant for grownups. Look, Ma -- I'm a grownup!

Really excited for this best friends forever reunion dinner. Right? This is a friend thing. Totally a friend thing. Not a date. Why would it be a date? That'd be weird. Gross. No way.

...I'm a child.

FZR's house is pretty dead center between my place and Hatfield's, so he sends an Uber to grab me, with further instructions to swoop him up en route. Belted in the backseat, it doesn't take FZR long to inquire about my personal life. I pause. We've never really talked about our personal lives before. Is this his way of making it clear that this is a BFF situation? Or is this him attempting to get a clearer view of the landscape before the night's momentum kicks in?

I decide he's asking because he heard about my 30 Days of Online Dating from one of our mutual friends, and is just trying to make conversation without coming off like a stalker. I delve in real deep to the stories of my multiple suitors. He hadn't heard about my project. Oh, that's cool. NBD. This is just me cementing my feet in the friendliest of areas.

FZR is all manners and charm every step of the way, as per usual. Be still my etiquette-obsessed heart. We cozily settle into the back corner table -- my favorite spot in almost every restaurant. (Feel free to pocket that piece of information for future use, gentlemen.)

Over the Croque Madame, we chat recent trips, etc. Just a month before, I had travelled to his hometown for the very first time. "Why didn't you tell me you were going?" Because you said you were going to take me to dinner and then you never called, so I decided we definitely weren't friends anymore? In lieu of way too much truth, I fumble out something about not knowing why I didn't, but I should have, and would absolutely hit him up for the phone-guided tour next time around.

Thankfully, the next course arrives to alleviate my awkward. Momentarily. Just as I'm about to take a bite of buttery black cod, FZR launches into a story about a girl he was recently set up with by a friend of ours. Apparently, she is just as smart and witty as I am, and he totally f*cked it up. Of course she is. Of course you did. Did I mention this cod is delicious? The topic of my brainy twin somehow bleeds into 50 Shades of Grey, a book I have not read and refuse to endorse. FZR says he has encountered more than a few senoritas suffering from post-Christian Grey syndrome -- they come into the bedroom hot, but not necessarily in a good way. Oh man! All this talk of whores has me dying for another cocktail.

...
...
...

We're still friends. Just friends.

The LA Times said we were not to miss Hatfield's "sugar and spice beignets shaped like soft little pillows and served warm with a complex Venezuelan chocolate fondue and a charming milkshake shot dressed up with preserved ginger". So we don't. FZR immediately spills the charming milkshake shot, attempting to slice into one of those soft-ish pillows. The server's there in seconds to clean it up, assuring us that it happens all the time.

FZR: Thank you for that; I appreciate you trying to make me look better in front of her. Isn't she the best date ever -- didn't even skip a beat.

My pathetically slutty lashes flutter at the D word. Calm yourself, children; it's merely a polite turn of phrase. Seriously, stop that. You're making us all look bad.

We Uber me home; FZR walks me to my door; we say goodbyes.

FZR: If you feel like going out and getting really drunk, you know who to call.

Right. Yes. Yes, I do. I might just go ahead and wait a few weeks for my dignity to piece itself together, though, if that's cool with everyone.

We're still totally friends.**

*not his real name
**We really are, though. FZR, if you're reading this -- don't make it weird.

Date 18: Tinder Blake

Good-looking guy from Calabasas. Friends with some of my closest USC buddies. Right-swipe. Immediate match. Immediate hello. We've barely exchanged Konnichiwas when Tinder Blake asks if we can switch to text, as he is mere moments from deleting his Tinder account. Feeling really special to be his last hurrah?

I give him my number on a Monday. He waits until Friday to text. How underwhelming. We chat about my week, his dogs, recreational water activities in general, the usual. Sunday evening, he checks in for the actual date-making.

TB: Hey! Good weekend?
Me: Hi! It's been great. How'd yours end up?
TB: Good thanks! If you want to grab drinks this week lmk.
Me: This week's a little crazy, but maybe over the weekend or early next week?
TB: Ya let's do next week. Tuesday!

Friday he asks about my weekend plans. I answer. I ask about his weekend plans.

...

No answer.

His silence rings like a procedural sound check. Courting by numbers over there, TB?

Monday we set up the whens and wheres for Tuesday. Tuesday I reschedule to Wednesday.

Shuffle shuffle. Shuffle shuffle.

Our date eventually happens over beer and wine at 3rd Stop. He is very attractive and very my type, aesthetically speaking. Conversation is easy, if not remarkably simple. "Let's start from the beginning." Seriously, though -- what handbook are you reading from, TB?

His friends are having a joint bachelor-bachelorette party that weekend, complete with matching T's. He's less than excited about it. What he is excited about is the@abikiniaday Instagram he recently discovered. I get to see pictures. Somehow, we manage to keep this conversation going for two and a half hours, at which point my brain gives up. In the midst of answering one of his standardized questions, my train of thought completely derails.

Me: Wait. I have no idea where I was going with this.
TB: It doesn't matter. Should we head out?

Yes we should. But also... it doesn't matter? How... abrupt.

TB: We should do this again.
Me: Yeah, that'd be fun.

Should we? Would it? Did that go well? Why do I feel so off-kilter?

The next day...

TB: Had fun last night. I look forward to my blog article.**

Welp. Here it is!

(In case you're wondering how this one ends -- he texts through the weekend... and then I never hear from him again. Guess I'll have to find someone new to chat with about my new favorite Insta account.)

*Not his real name
**The guys did not know I was doing this as part of a social experiment, but I did tell them that I have a blog where I often dissect my dating experiences. You know, for like a sort of heads up and stuff without completely coloring the whole thing.

Date 17: Tinder Taylor

Tinder Taylor works as a sports agent, so it doesn't take long for our Tinder tête-à-tête to segue to a shared love of college football. Two days later, he sweetly asks me to dinner. Common interests and visible manners? I accept.

We set a date for that coming Sunday, which I manage to completely forget about. (Really need to step up my Outlook game.)

He waits a week to ask me out again. I wait a day to reply. (Not purposefully - just having a little trouble keeping up with all this communication. This experiment has turned into the full time job I've always tried to never have.)

TT: Hey Stacie! Hope you had a good weekend. I'm pretty open this week if it looks good to get together.

Really hoping he can do tonight - I just had a cancellation and need to squeeze someone in to stay on this whole thirty dates in thirty days schedule.

Me: Hey! Weekend was great, thanks. This week's a bit packed bc a friend's coming in town. I'm actually free tonight, though, if you happen to be around.

TT: Ya that sounds good. Have you ever been to Gyu-Kaku? We could meet there at 8 if that works.

Me: Make it 8:30 and that's perfect ☺

Tinder Taylor turns out to be an absolute doll. Shorter than I expected, but a huge sweetheart. And Lord knows my 4.5" heels aren't doing much to help the height discrepancy.

Seconds after our hello, we run into a friend of mine in the entrance of Gyu-Kaku. I introduce TT, immediately adopting the most friend-vibey of mannerisms. The whole blindish date aspect of this thing is still a little weird for me.

As we fire up our Japanese BBQ, we talk. TT is super fond of his job and adores his family - - we discover we both have an autistic brother/it's quite nice to chat similar experiences. We cap it all off with a s'mores sesh, before grabbing the check and hitting the pavement.

Post-goodbyes, I turn to walk toward my apartment. TT gawkily inquires (half at my back) if I'd like to go on a second date. This is the best situation when you like a guy and are so stoked to say yes. This is the worst situation when you think a guy is such a nice guy, but you sort of don't want to say yes.

I say yes.

I say yes knowing I'm probably going to ignore his text messages. Because I'm a child who avoids even the smallest confrontation like the plague. No, you know what - this will be such good practice! Practice being a grownup and saying, hey, I think you're a really great guy, but I just don't think we're a match in the board game of love. But yay to both of us for passing Go?

One week later, I tell him I have gotten back together with my ex.

It's a work in progress.

*not his real name

Date 16: OkCupid Taylor

First date: Friend vibe-ish sushi dinner at Sugarfish in Beverly Hills.
Second date: Super cute trip to the County Fair.

Third date:

OkCupid Taylor: Are you free Sunday night? I was thinking we could go to one of those full-service movie theaters.

Adorable. I'm totally in.

Sunday night, I'm running late yet again and am weirdly nervous about it. Probably because it's rude and annoying of me. Hopefully not because I'm already starting to get a tiny bit attached.

Thanks to some excellent navigation, I make it to the theatre just five minutes behind schedule. OkCupid Taylor is nowhere to be found. Well, this is entirely odd and uncomfortable. I grab a table over in the bar area and wait it out. Ten minutes later, I wonder if I'm being stood up. Does that actually happen? Like, is that a real thing, and is it happening to me?

I decide to text him to find out.

Me: I'm here! 5 minutes early for my usual 15 minutes delay.
OkC T: Hah just parked on my way.

Amazing. Possibly a real thing. Not happening to me. Thank God.

He already has our tickets in hand and we make it into the theatre just in time for the last of the previews. I learn that "full-service theatre" means "dine-in movie". Comfy seats, a menu with decent enough options, and a full bar -- big fan.

This should be a pretty foolproof date -- I mean, all I have to do is sit there and not do anything weird while staring at a screen for two hours. Perhaps easier for some than others.

I start by kicking out my footrest just seconds before a ten-person group comes down our aisle, forcing every single one of them to maneuver (poorly) around my 6 ft. long legs and dangling feet in the dark. Then, in the middle of the first particularly weighty cinematic moment, I forget how to hold onto a fork and it clatters against the ground for an abnormally lengthy amount of time. Awesome. Really holding it together over here.

About halfway through the movie, OkC T and I both find out that the seats make those never-get-old sounds of flatulence when they recline. Because we're five-years-old, we think this is hysterical. The people around us do not think this is hysterical. OkC T decides to take this special little bonding moment to reach over and interlock his hand with mine.

Oh God. Already? There is so much movie left. How long are you supposed to do this for? How am I supposed to know when it's okay to unlatch my gentle, gentle grasp? (Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE holding hands...but like most things in life, I like to know that I have an easy out in case things get awkward. I'm looking at you, gym membership.)

Fortunately, the whole handholding thing goes pretty smoothly (read: not sweatily) and we decide to decamp to the restaurant next door for a post-movie drink and dessert. Several truths are revealed. Namely, that OkC T was a huge nerd in high school. Like, LAN-party huge. If you're like me and have never heard of a LAN party, Wikipedia defines it as, "a temporary gathering of people with computers or compatible game consoles, between which they establish a local area network (LAN), primarily for the purpose of playing multiplayer video games." Hilarious -- and so very endearing. So many things make so much more sense now.

Back at my car...

OkC T: I really want to kiss you, but I have these cold sore things from the fair last week. It's really embarrassing -- I get them whenever it gets really hot.

Ok, so slightly less endearing -- but also kind of hilarious. We'll just go ahead and hug this one out.

*not his real name