Mimicking form. Never fails. After that scintillating opener, Tinder James and I immediately (read: two days later) launch into a standard Tinder convo: Current state of mind (spectacular), mutual friends (one -- merely a business acquaintance for the both of us), occupations (web designer and writer, respectively), hometowns (Omaha, NE for him and Lincoln for me.) Just enough in common to feel safe, without intersecting circles. Sounds like a go.
Me: What brought you out to LA?
TJ: It's kind of a long story. I can tell you all about it over drinks tomorrow night. If you're free.
It is a go. Woohoo! My first online date!! I am both excited and terrified. We agree to meet at Willie Jane, a cute restaurant/bar in Venice.
TJ: What time works best for you? I'm free after 7.
F. What's a normal date time?? 7:30p is so early. Is 9p too late? Does that seem slutty? It's been a haute minute (and about six years) since I've been on a proper dinner date out on this coast. I decide to Facebook chat my trainer. He's a judgy man in a committed relationship. He should know these things.
Perhaps a bit too judgy. I settle on 8:30.
The next evening, I'm in my car, running about 20 minutes late, before I realize we never exchanged numbers. I don't have the Tinder app on my BlackBerry, so it looks like I'm just going to have to hope Tinder James hasn't given up on me by the time I make it out there.
Because it's Venice, I spend another 10 minutes arguing with some skateboard kids over the one open parking spot on Abbot Kinney. (They're trying to keep it clear for their "indie-street video shoot". Obviously.) Sorry, TJ!
Finally at the door to Willie Jane, I pause, prepping myself for an awkward entrance. Thanks to slight nearsightedness and bizarrely terrible facial recognition skills, I can barely pick my friends out of a crowd half the time, let alone a virtual stranger -- especially when working off a hazy memory of five inconclusive photos.
He spots me pretty quickly, thank God, and we head to a communal table. First things first: Drink orders. Second thing: Conversation. I decide to launch into a story about our mutual friend, stopping only when it becomes quite clear I'm referencing the wrong mutual friend. Apparently I've been having a few too many chats with a few too many men in my outer circle lately.
Tinder James speaks very softly and seems almost shy at first, until a surprisingly harsh bite of sarcasm punches in, knocking me a bit off-kilter. I respond by vacillating between inquisitive I'm sorry's, incessant rambling, and stilted laughter. Gulp. Cringe. Grimace.
Because this is still Venice, we look over at one point to find ourselves seated next to a semi-decent friend of TJ's, and the friend's entire family. Everyone is just dying to know how we met!
From the depths of silence that follow, you would think we had first locked eyes over a dead body or something. Tinder James eventually eeks out a, "We have a few friends in common...", and then we decide it's time to get that check before anyone asks any more questions.
Out on the sidewalk, I have absolutely no clue how this date is going -- and I'm usually pretty adept at gauging the waters. He suggests another (quieter) bar down the street. I take that as a positive. He likes cars and hates sports, so we have about zero things in common at this point, but as I always say, there's nothing that more liquor and even more conversation can't cure. Because quantity. (And Venice.)
When the clock strikes midnight, he unexpectedly nudges to continue on -- and this Tinderella is never one to leave the ball early! We amble into The Victorian on Main Street, only to find ourselves surrounded by small children. And by small children, I mean college freshman. Mkay. This might be our cue to call it a night. Though it does feel like he's finally starting to loosen up.
Back at the cars, TJ skips right over the kiss, and goes in for the full-on, old school, 30 minute makeout sesh. One of my favorite hobbies! Maybe we have more in common than I thought?
Probably worth finding out.
Oh, right. That too.
*Names have been changed to protect the possibly not-so-innocent