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21: travel_gurrl (Take 2)

November 3, 2010 | by  |  Confessions of a Lonely, Single Guy

Of all the possible permutations, of all the ways it could have gone, I never expected my first PlentyOfFish date to end quite like that.

Of course, in the days leading up to my “hangout” with travel_gurrl, I had no idea what I was in for. The week following my accidental bender was filled to the brim: work, socializing, and, as I’d been instructed, messaging five women on PlentyOfFish per day to hone my introduction skills. Some responded; others didn’t (and, in one instance, I was even contacted for a “Casual Encounter”, which I considered for a shamefully long time before finally deleting). And then, before I was properly prepared, it was Sunday morning, and I found myself sitting on the outdoor patio of a bakery on Main Street, basking in the sun and doing my best to keep from hyperventilating.

The stakes felt abnormally high. Despite all that had happened in the interim, this was still my first actual “date” since Steph and, given how marvelously that had all turned out, it was understandable that I was more than mildly terrified. It was like starting all over again, only this time, for better or for worse, I was flying solo.

This wasn’t accidental. In fact, I’d purposefully kept DJ StrangeLove out of the loop. Despite the regular use of his “methods”, I was still uncomfortable with the prospect of it all: the knuckle-pounds, the thumbs, the date-plans. It still felt like a trick, a hoax. It was like I was being untrue to myself and my upbringing, while the other person wandered around in blissful ignorance when there was no doubt about the fact that they’d just been gamed.

And it’s not like women were doing this. It’s not like women sat up late at night with self-styled pickup “gurus”, spouting junk-science and evolutionary theory, and went out to public places just looking for someone to manipulate.

No. If I was ever going to see this regimen through (and I’d vowed that I would) I had to begin making it my own, starting with the date-plan.

As DJ StrangeLove had said all those months ago, “the whole idea is to make it as low-pressure as you can.”

“Never suggest a meeting on Friday or Saturday,” he’d said, “because those are date nights. Do your nerves a favour: pick a low-pressure time like a Wednesday night or a Saturday afternoon.”

That seemed to make sense. We settled on Sunday afternoon.

The plan itself, which was of my own devising, was relatively basic: coffee first, followed by a stroll through the alleys of Main Street, then, if the mood struck us, some lunch. She, like myself, was something of a photography buff, so searching for interesting photo opportunities around the neighbourhood seemed like a legitimate, low-pressure way to spend an afternoon. Moreover, scheduling a meeting between breakfast and lunch virtually guaranteed that, unlike her predecessor, she’d be hungry eventually.

All of this ran through my head as I sat alone on the patio of Main Street’s Liberty Bakery. That, and the fact that I had absolutely no idea what this person looked like in real life. I had some concept thanks to online photos, but those could be hopelessly out-of-date or doctored through the cunning use of camera angles and Photobooth settings.

What if she turned out to be grotesque?

Or, worse, much better-looking than me?

I endeavoured to breathe from my diaphragm, munched on half of a muffin, pulled a rock-n-roll biography from my bag, and attempted to lose myself in the sexual exploits of DeeDee Ramone. As each person passed, I scrutinized their features, comparing them to the photos in my head.

After ten agonizing minutes, she arrived.

“Ian?” she said, grinning broadly.
“Hi!” I replied, overflowing with linguistic aptitude.

She was cute. That much was obvious.

Brunette. Great body. Charming style.

As I sized her up physically, I realized that she was almost certainly doing the same to me. I did my best to square my shoulders and smiled in a way that I hoped was cavalier and confident. She excused herself to grab a coffee, and, heart pounding, I sat back down, a brand-new date-plan having suddenly solidified in my mind:

She returned a moment later and we spent the next while talking, pleasantly enough, about work and our respective weekends. She seemed interesting and cool as hell, and, in spite of myself, I started to relax. The conversation needed a nudge here and there but soon enough it was flowing freely and comfortably, and we decided to embark upon our stroll. Conversation remained pleasant and playful and within a few minutes had turned to The Dependent. This was not particularly surprising, given that it figured so heavily in my PlentyOfFish profile, and that our early correspondence had included discussion of my work. Still, the minute she brought it up, my heart began to pound. After all, the last time a girl had stumbled upon my writings the outcome was about as pleasant as a bag of fresh hamster shavings.

“So,” I began, “any particular favourites?”
“Walking Tours with the Fighting Flaneur, of course. That was fun.”

She hesitated.

“Anything else?” I asked, my voice wavering.
“Well…” she said, eyes flicking towards the ground, “I really enjoyed ‘Confessions of a Single, Lonely Guy’, too.”

My mouth went dry. Suddenly, all of my survival instincts were triggered. I was seized with the inexplicable desire to bolt.

“Oh, uh, well…” I sputtered, “I guess I have some explaining to do.”

She chuckled.

“I guess.”
“The goal isn’t to fuck with people,” I babbled, “it’s to learn and grow. To examine dating as a universal experience. And hopefully, in the process, to give guys like myself a free resource for information they wouldn’t find elsewhere — an opportunity for them to learn from my mistakes.”

She smiled.

“Well, it’s certainly great for that.”
“Yeah. So many of the feelings and experiences you’re having are things that could happen to anybody.”

I was stunned.

She didn’t think I was a freak at all.

As we continued talking, I realized that travel_gurrl wasn’t bothered by the idea that she might one day end up in a Confessions article. In fact, it seemed as though she liked it.

“So,” she purred, “are you going to write something about me, then?”

I couldn’t believe it.

I had a groupie.

For the next twenty minutes, I was euphoric. We wandered through alleys, eventually making our way to Commercial Drive.

A groupie. Incredible.

I was DeeDee Ramone.

I was David Lee Roth.

I was every single member of Led Zeppelin, combined into one shining example of pure, throbbing manhood.

She knew about Confessions and was okay with it. In fact, I could set my fears of manipulation aside; she knew what was afoot and was comfortable with it. Still, I held back the extremes of DJ StrangeLove’s methods. After all, she seemed like a great girl. I didn’t really want her to feel like she’d been gamed.

As we made our way up the street (her sauntering and me attempting to keep from skipping), she pointed at a Sushi restaurant.

“I’m getting kind of hungry. How about you?”

I revelled in my cunning.

“Sounds good.”
“Well, if you like sushi, this place is fantastic.”

As we entered, I felt slightly uneasy. We hadn’t been walking for a particularly long time. While I’d certainly expected lunch to come up at some point, I didn’t know it would come up so soon; however, travel_gurrl grinned and took a seat, and I became too busy being lost in her gaze to remember much of my worries. A moment later we had ordered, and by the time our food arrived conversation had again inexplicably returned to The Dependent.

“The Sasquatch article was cool, too,” travel_gurrl said.
“Yeah. I hear that was an interesting weekend. Did you go?”

She laughed.

“I did. Can’t say I remember much of it, though. I was pretty messed up.”

I blinked, startled.

“You do drugs?”
“That wasn’t on PlentyOfFish.”

Her eyes met mine, unapologetic.

“No, of course not,” I replied with mock derision, “but it is starting to make me question your profile-writing skills.”

She tossed her hair and smiled.

“Your profile used to say you did drugs, too.”

Good gravy, I thought. How much has she read?

Suddenly, having an admirer didn’t seem like quite so much fun after all.

I began to sweat.

What if she’d looked at everything?

She would know my every move before I even made it. She would be wise to the shoves, the disses, the kinesthetic conditioning. I instantly became paralyzed by fear and retreated into a shell, terrified of even the smallest interaction lest I be discovered and called out. All the while, she was giving me smiles and playful touches and every indication that she was interested, whereas I could barely look her in the eye without turning red. I didn’t touch her. I didn’t diss her. In fact, it was all I could do to keep from gagging, so divided was I between fear of rejection and plans to conscript a conquering army for the purpose of utterly destroying the Internet.

“So, you’ll have to tell me when the article’s coming out,” she said, giddy. “I can’t wait to see it.”

I receded into bitterness. It seemed as though travel_gurrl was more than okay with being featured in Confessions. Rather, I was beginning to question whether appearing in an article was her primary motivation for meeting me in the first place.

We talked for another twenty minutes as I walked her to the Skytrain station, chatting about horse shows, online dating, and other commonalities. She would flirt and touch me. I would smile awkwardly and internally loathe myself. When we parted at the station she gave me a warm hug, which I returned, mechanically.

“I had a lot of fun hanging out with you, Ian,” she smiled.
“Yeah, me too,” I replied.
“You’ll have to let me know when the article comes out.”
“I will,” I replied, trying to disguise my rancour, “but it’ll probably be a few weeks. We should probably hang out again in the meantime.”

She shrugged. “Sure.”

Then, she raised her fist and grinned: “Pound it.”

A moment later, she was gone.

I watched her vanish up the stairs, shaking my head.

“You’ll have to let me know when the article comes out.”

I walked home in a state of total confusion.

It was only as I reached the front door of my building that I realized why.

She hadn’t been a groupie at all. In fact, whether she realized it or not, she’d been using The System.

I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t noticed earlier. It had all been there: the style, the disses, the touches to show interest and social dominance. She’d steered the conversation any way she wanted.

And she’d had a date-plan.

We hadn’t settled on Sunday; she’d suggested it. I hadn’t brought up lunch; she had put that on the table all by herself.


I couldn’t believe it. Consciously or naturally, she was operating on so many of DJ StrangeLove’s “principles”, it was almost sickening. She knew all of my secrets. As I stood by and watched, she had just turned every single of one of them around on me. And now, just like she wanted, I was going to write about her. I blushed and laughed in spite of myself.

There was no doubt about it: I’d just been gamed.

The remainder of my evening was spent in the midst of a number of my favourite pastimes, among them:

followed by:

and, naturally, after all was said, done and said again, I was right back on the road to:


Ian Hannon is currently lonely, single, and a guy.



  1. Really really liked this one.

  2. Just play up the inexperienced, nervous, virgin act. Works for me.

  3. That was hilarious. thanks for the dating tips! Can’t wait to read more about you!

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