No, no, no.
Not supposed to happen.
Don’t mess with me, Cupid. Bad timing. Shoo.
It started insignificantly enough. A brief message, the kind that would make me roll my eyes before a quick delete.
A capital letter to start things off (I think the program auto-corrects for that), no period, no substance.
I reminded myself it was a hookup site. No sentences required...in messages or in person. This was supposed to be my transition period as I get ready to leave Vancouver. Absolutely no dating. I’d resolved to focus on sexual liberation, a chance to shake off fear and repression and to finally figure out a thing or two about physical intimacy.
I peeked at his profile. Just as bare-bones as they all are on this site. Two cute photos, fully clothed. I’m probably the only one on there who sees that as a bonus. Would it hurt to smile though?
What the hell...I replied.
It is a good morning! Not raining...I’ll take it.
Casual, mindless weather commentary. (He didn’t give me anything to go on.) Still, I’d managed to model decent punctuation, a sure-fire way to turn on a guy looking for sex. Maybe I wasn’t quite the awkward novice I professed to be.
To his credit, he followed my lead. He used full sentences and correct punctuation in all the back-and-forth messaging that ensued sporadically over the next two hours as we worked out when and where to meet: a cafe that evening. The public setting came as a relief. It meant there was no chance my first impression would be of the guy wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. It also offered an out. No attraction? I could always thank him for the chat and leave. Whole Foods was nearby so the outing wouldn’t be a total waste. I’d suggested a cafe that was in between, but definitely closer to him. It meant that, no matter what, we wouldn’t be going back to my place. I didn’t have to tidy up and I wouldn’t have to wash the sheets. Convenience trumped risk. If his place turned out to have a secret dungeon or a creepy roommate, I felt pretty confident I could make a run for it.
Just before I headed out, I dared to push through one of the hookup boundaries. I texted my name. Daniel, came the reply. Back to brevity. Fine. Whatever.
I arrived uncharacteristically a few minutes late. First, I battled a faulty parking meter, the damn meter declaring victory as I gave up and found another spot. Then, after I speed-walked toward Broadway, I trusted my memory as to where the cafe was located and turned left, walking one block, then two, then three. Sure enough, the place had vanished!
By now, I should know to never, never, never trust my sense of direction. I turned around and texted to announce my pending arrival. One block the other way. Clearly the cafe’s fault. They need more prominent signage. I glanced in the window and saw him staring out from a stool. I waved and smiled. He stuck with his photo stance. Maybe, in his case, it really did hurt to smile. Maybe he’d just gone through a painful jaw resetting. How would that affect sex?
We ordered our coffees in for-here mugs. Might a nod to environmental consciousness offset sleazy sex guilt? A little conversation would humanize the whole situation. (We were already on a first-name basis, after all.) Still, no need to get carried away. I knew it wouldn’t drag on too long. The place was scheduled to close in forty-five minutes. It was all part of the plan when I suggested it.
That chat didn’t go as expected. No What are you into? No mention of STDs. Not even any pointed leering between long pauses. Instead, we talked about work and family. A university professor and another middle child. Hmm,...imagine that. I shared photos of paintings of Gerhard Richter, an artist I’d first learned about on my most recent trip to San Francisco, while he entertained with stories about his adventures in India. All around me, I could see the red flags.
This was dating talk.
No. Just stop it. He’d smiled plenty of times so I knew kissing and other oral matters were indeed a possibility. How could I smoothly segue from symphony highlights to sexual positions or...or...? Damn, I still had a lot to learn about hookups.
Before I knew it, the cafe had emptied out and we were exchanging contact information. On the sidewalk, we hugged goodbye and I refocused on grocery needs—overpriced cold brew coffee, kale chips, oat milk. Clearly, I’d failed to spark any sexual desire. Should have worn flashier socks.
When I got home, I glanced at my phone and there was a message from Daniel: It was a pleasure to meet you and chat. Old-fashioned happy face...colon and closed parenthesis instead of an emoji. Proof again that the guy knew his punctuation keys. Such a turn-on!
Over the course of the next week, we had occasional texting flourishes, sharing small happenings; nothing scintillating but warm and pleasant. All part of getting to know each other. We agreed to meet again and he made reservations at Vancouver’s nicest Thai restaurant.
Damn it. We were in dating mode.
Over dinner, we exchanged notes about open houses that day. Both of us have our condos on the market. He’s downsizing from a massive place he shared for fifteen years with his ex. (Commitment oriented!) He plans to move to Kitsilano, my favorite part of the city. “And what are you going to do when you sell?” he asked. Gosh, we hadn’t even finished our appetizers.
“I’m moving to Toronto.” There. I said it. Game changer. This is what you get when you use a hookup site for dating. I didn’t elaborate and he didn’t probe. Instead, we continued to have a very pleasant, extended evening, both of us dipping into the Strong Like zone. A drink at his place followed dinner along with a lot of tender kissing. Another text dinged as I got back home and much more in the days that followed.
Not a hookup. What the hell is it? Once again, no sense of direction.