1. Going on a first date with an internet stranger at their humble abode.
2. Going on a first date when you know you have more first dates lined up for a project and you know, you absolutely know, that you’ll have to be 100% committed to dating other people.
3. Going on a first date in lieu of twenty-gagillion other things that need to get done and people you’d like to see, particularly when you’ve been on several first dates recently (admittedly, if you have not been on first dates lately but want to be in a relationship, I would have to say that prioritizing dating would in fact be something I recommend).
But the day I returned from the lower 48-state road trip did not fall into the “normality” of my life. So I went to meet Adam, at his house, at about 11:00pm despite knowing I had a life to get started back in the Bay Area and probably should start that life right away.
I went to meet him because for months my life had lived in one-off meetings, because I’d been texting with not just Adam, but with guys I’d met IRL (that’s “In Real Life,” mom) while on the road who I’d driven away from with reluctance. I went because it felt like it might become reality, and because all the other imaginary guys had become real over the course of my trip, and I wanted Adam to be real too. And let’s face it: I went because I wasn’t sure where else to go.
He’d cleaned his room. He paced outside waiting for me. We texted up until the moment I parked in front of his apartment, and then in a flash he was at the driver’s side door, pulling me out of the car, smiling a crooked-tooth smile I didn’t know he had, shaking my hand, hugging me close, and staring at me. I stared back.
“You’re real,” we whispered to one another. “You’re a person.”
I knew how Adam spent his days, what he did in his limited free time. I knew the boundlessness of his talents, and I knew who his closest friends were, how they met their significant others, and how his nephew liked to dance to pop music at baseball games. But strangely, as I learned immediately upon meeting Adam in the flesh: I didn’t actually know him.
Which is how every first date from the internet goes, whether you’ve been corresponding with your date for a few weeks or just a few hours. You know what they tell you and how they tell you it through written mediums, thought their own interpretations on their profile.
But you don’t actually know them.