Let’s be clear. Nerds are hot right now. Sometimes I’m swiping on Tinder and the absolute bro-iest dudes write in their profiles, “Nerd at heart” or “Secretly nerdy” or “Nerdier than you are” or “Nerd out over nerdy things.”
These are men wearing tank tops that are basically a rag—no arm holes to speak of, just gaping voids down the sides of the body—in the gym, freelifting a Prius. Their necks are thicker than my thighs. Both my thighs. Put together. They have a tattoo of a Seahawk whose wings beat when they flex. Their heads are tipped back—because they’re simultaneously chugging two beers while lifting.
Yeah, I don’t know.
Anyway, Date #12 had the trend-aware glasses, and the trend-appropriate button-down, and the no-longer-a-trend-because-the-Internet-is-here-to-stay job in the tech field, and I’m willing to bet he spends more time reading than in the gym but still looks like he knows how to breathe fresh air. Aka, my kind of nerd.
I’m actually still a little baffled by Date #12. He was so cute! Smart! Had a sense of humor! Had lived all over the world!
And then…nothing. We just didn’t care about each other.
Not that we were supposed to “care-care” within 30 seconds of meeting, but we didn’t care. You know that moment when you first meet someone and your little antennas go off—that didn’t happen. Zilch. Nada.
So we had a very nice night exchanging pet stories. I really don’t even know how we got on the topic.
That’s a lie. I totally know.
When I went to Colorado, I changed my profile from “Just trying to date one lumberjack before I die” to:
Just trying to date one cowboy before I die.
I didn’t change it back when I returned to Seattle. Because, you know, I was ready for men to apply to be cowboys instead of lumberjacks. You’d be surprised how accommodating they were of both.
Him: How strict is this cowboy rule? I have an uncle with a sheep farm, how close does that get?
Me: Hahaha. Are sheep as dumb as they say?
Him: Oh my god, so f***ing dumb. But their babies are cute as hell.
Me: Right?? I’m with you.
Him: I did have to be around for lambing season, definitely felt pretty cowboy like. Maybe a cowboy horror movie. But certainly rugged.
(Note: I have a friend who quits talking to men if they have comma splices in their replies. I, um, am either more generous or have lower standards. Or my desire to make out with people overcomes the comma splice. Or I’m so aware of the fact that I don’t want to date English teachers that a lil’ comma splice is actually a good thing in my world. Jury’s still out on the exact reasons, but the result is the same: I hang in there.)
When we got to about minute 45, we turned back to the sheep. There’s always a point in a date when you reference either how you met—in real life—or the exchange you had leading up to this point—in online dating. It usually happens right before you start talking about your experiences on Tinder.
Am I starting to sound predictable? Should I mix it up? Every time I vow not to talk about Tinder on a date, whoever I’m with invariably says, “So how’s Tinder treating you?”
“Tell me more about this sheep farm,” I said, genuinely interested.
“Sheep are so dumb they just walk around with their babies falling out of them. Then they keep walking,” he said. “So during lambing season, you have to walk around behind them and pick up all the baby sheep.”
Did you guys know that? Online dating is the best. I learn so much. I’ve learned about online dating algorithms from that guy who worked at a start-up, and I’ve learned about glacial climbing, and about what sort of apartments Amazon refers new recruits to (Belltown or South Lake Union, air conditioning, built-in gyms and parking garages), and that no one can explain the difference between software engineers, coders, and programmers, but everyone thinks there probably is one.
Goldfish, newts, cats, dogs, sheep…car accidents, bathroom accidents, toy accidents, names, obedience school, breeds, tails, ears, two legs, four legs—Date #12 and I covered it all.
Pets are interesting Tinder date fodder. It can get sentimental really quick, or it can be funny. It lets you tell stories about your childhood without being overly personal or revealing or schmaltzy. People’s animals—and how they treat and/or talk about those animals—say a lot about them.
I can be sort of callous about the cats I had as a child, but I tear up when talking about my first dog if I’m being honest. And I talk about the family dog like she’s a person, calling her a “weirdo and a goofball.” This dog also happens to look like a lamb when her fur is clipped short. FULL CIRCLE.
We still had some fries left in the basket, so I started telling my grossest animal stories.
When I was living in San Diego, my best friend came to visit for my birthday one year. We drove up to La Jolla, where there’s a little cove called Children’s Pool Beach. It’s always covered in dozens of harbor seals and sea lions. The website says you’re allowed to swim there, but I’ve never seen anyone in the water.
This time, we noticed there was one seal pretty far up the beach by herself. Maybe she’s dying, we thought. I wandered by a volunteer table and overheard the woman sitting there saying that the lone seal was in labor. “I’m here for eight hours today,” she said. “She’ll probably give birth five minutes after I leave.”
Dying, giving birth. You know. They look awfully alike from a distance.
We hung around for another five minutes, keeping an eye on the uncomfortable mother. She inched forward, and her body grew longer. A smaller, browner version of herself slipped out and she began maneuvering her heavy, muscled body around to clean her pup.
Meanwhile, the seagulls were circling closer and closer.
“What are they going to do?” we wondered. “There’s no way they think they can take off with that baby. It’s got to be a hundred pounds.” (I just looked it up. Newborn seal pups are between 8 and 26 pounds. Same difference to a seagull, I say.)
The mama snapped at the seagulls occasionally, but they were little and quick and there were dozens at them. Down the beach, not one of the hundred other seals moved to help her.
I felt like I was watching the Animal Kingdom episode of the Bystander Effect.
The seagulls moved closer, inching around her back while she was focused on the newborn little one. One distracted her by flapping near her face. Another squawked loudly at her baby.
And a few stuck their sharp little beaks right up into her birth canal and dragged out the afterbirth. Together, they hauled it down the beach to eat.
My other gross animal story also involves seagulls, and it’s much shorter:
When I was in Rome, I saw a seagull eviscerate a live pigeon. The sounds were indescribable.
Rome isn’t even on the sea, so it’s unclear to me why there are even seagulls in that city. Pigeons, of course, are rats with wings, but I’m still not sure it deserved to be disemboweled while it was still alive enough to talk us through the horrible amount of pain it felt while that seagull’s beak penetrated its soft underbelly and hauled its guts out into the street.
Both of our inflections stayed pretty neutral, the french fries were just okay, and everything felt companionable.
On our walk towards home—I never let dates walk me home, but since Tinder is at least partially geography-based, I often go out with people who live in my neighborhood and in this case, we were headed in the same direction—I asked some more probing questions about what he does and it turned out he owns his own software development company.
Why do people always save interesting pieces of their lives until the end?
Look, first dates are essentially a black hole of 1.5–2 hours you have to fill with conversation. Don’t downplay the fact that you lived in Tokyo. Don’t omit the fact that you started your own company at the age of 25. Don’t assume I don’t want to hear who your favorite philosopher is when I just asked you who your favorite philosopher is. If you have a horrifying emergency room story, let’s hear it. If you met someone famous, tell me everything. If you recently bought an ant farm, tell me all the names of the ants.
Totally forgot that my dad gave me an ant farm for my 8th birthday. Dammit. I could have used that one.
Grade: Neither of us ever texted the other one.