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22: Karyn

November 18, 2010 | by  |  Confessions of a Lonely, Single Guy

Then, just as quickly as the gates had opened, they slammed shut again.

No matter what I did, no matter how many messages I sent, it was like I’d ceased to exist.

A week went by.

Two.

Three.

Nothing.

It didn’t make sense. My messages were succinct. Funny. Charming. Yet, out of the hundred or so emails I’d sent hurtling into cyberspace, only four or five of them had ever been returned. And what had become of of those four or five? What had those conversations yielded?

One date.

One single, lousy date.

Maybe I just hadn’t hit my groove yet, I thought.

Maybe I wasn’t being assertive enough.

Maybe I just plain sucked.

Whatever the case, there was something I simply wasn’t comprehending. The website itself provided a helpful mechanic, didn’t it? Surely, PlentyOfFish made dating easier by removing all of that pressure and the unease of meeting strangers. But if PlentyofFish was meant to make dating easier, why the hell was it so damn hard?

I called DJ StrangeLove in a stubborn funk.

“What am I doing wrong?”

“I dunno, pard,” he shouted. “It’s a big ol’ conundrum.”

Behind him, I could hear the sound of a crowd, and the distant strains of “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy.”

“Did you just call me ‘pard’?”

“Yessah.”

His voice was laboured. Affected. In fact, it reminded me a lot of what John Wayne may have sounded like if he’d had a childhood collision with a cement truck.

“Um. Why?”

“Country/Western party at the Swinger Club. The lady and I came as them fellers from Brokeback Mountain.”

Amongst the crowd noise, I heard a cheer, and the muffled sound of a DJ on the microphone.

“Sorry, did you just say ‘Swinger Club’?”

“Yessah.”

I was startled, not only that Vancouver had its own Swinger Club but that, apparently, they also had theme nights.

I struggled to control a laugh.

“Country/Western Night?”

“Laugh it up, fuckface.”

“Is that why you’re talking so weird?”

“It’s my cowboy accent.”

“You sound like a stroke-victim.”

“I’m in character.”

There was another cheer from the crowd.

“I’ve gotta take a break from this for awhile,” I said. “I’m beating my head against the wall.”

“Listen,” he replied emphatically, “it’s not that bad. Dude, you’re so close. All you need to do now is make sure these women know you’re in charge. You said it yourself: the last few times you’ve been out with girls, you’ve been the passenger. You’ve been doing what they wanted when they wanted. You need to be the driver, dude. You’re on the cusp of something incredible here and, trust me, once you start taking an active role with people you’ll be amazed at what can happen.”

He belched.

“Anyway, must get on back to the party,” he drawled. “Good luck.”

“Right. You and Custer enjoy the OK Corrall.”

“Yeah, yeah…”

“I just wish I knew how to quit you.”

“Oh, fuck off.”

Cackling, I hung up.

Forty minutes later, I met Leon and a few friends at a downtown nightclub. It was Saturday night and, in an attempt to gain some distance from my recent PlentyOfFish shame, I was determined to lose myself in a healthy session of weekend crapulence. There were four of us at the bar: Me, Leon, Terry, and Brittany, Leon’s girlfriend. Together we were an elite drinking unit, having sworn a solemn oath to consume any and all alcohol that came our way. We chatted amiably and, after some liberal consumption, were ready to hit the dance floor. I spent nearly an hour dancing — sometimes with friends, sometimes on my own — and it was close to the end of that hour that I saw her.

Brunette.

Dark eyes.

Smooth skin.

I’d seen her more than once that evening, but any time I’d attempted to make eye-contact she’d been whisked away by her exceptionally muscular male companion. And suddenly here she was, nearly beside me and grooving with such abandon that her elbow almost connected with my sternum.

“Hey!” I shouted, in mock-derision, “watch it with your wild-ass dancing!”

She laughed.

“I like your shirt!”

Shakespeare himself couldn’t have written a better introduction.

We stayed together for a while, dancing and attempting conversation. She seemed cute and fun and interested in me, and (best of all) her male companion was nowhere to be found. As it turns out, dance floors are wretched places for conversation, and we quickly gave up on shouting in each other’s ears. Instead, we grooved to the music, awkwardly dancing beside one another and occasionally connecting when I’d give her a playful shove or hip-check. The entire time, I could hear a little voice in my head screaming over and over:

“Be the driver! Be the driver!”

I danced a little closer.

Then, she danced a little closer.

Be the driver.

Within a few minutes, our dancing brought us closer still, our movements getting more intimate. I spun her around a few times and moved in closer still. Soon, we were face-to-face.

I balked.

It had worked. And, what’s more, she didn’t seem to mind. But now what?

The politics of dance floor pickups were completely alien to me. I began to panic as she moved her body even closer to me. For a brief, electrifying instant, our faces brushed one another.

Holy shit, I thought.

Could it be? Was she attempting to initiate a dance floor make out? I’d certainly seen it happen — at parties, in clubs, anywhere a dance-floor could be found, but I’d certainly never had it happen to me. What was the protocol? How would I know when to move in? How could I keep my bearings with all this movement going on? For all I knew, I could get disoriented and miss her face completely. Driver, not passenger, I thought to myself.

Driver, not passenger.

And why not? I’d escalated the physical contact to the point where she was unafraid to be in my space. She was touching me, brushing me with her hands. Politics notwithstanding, her body language was giving me all the signals. I leaned forward and went in for the kiss. Unfortunately, just as I closed in, she hesitated and in that moment I completely chickened out. I stopped a mere millimetre from her lips and laughed nervously.

She giggled.

“Sorry,” I said lamely.

She giggled again.

“Don’t mention it.”

I was filled with self-loathing.

This is why I never went into politics.

Nonetheless, we danced together for the rest of the night. I found out little tidbits here and there: her name was Karyn, she was 20, and she was going to veterinary school. Around one o’clock, she turned to me and said:

“Fuck, I’m hungry.”

“Me too,” I agreed.

“I think I need some pizza.”

She looked at me half-expectantly. Clearly, this was an invitation.

“Yeah. Sounds good,” I replied. “Let’s do it.”

Her face broke into a grin.

“Sweet!”

Taking me by the hand, she led me out of the club.

I spent the next five minutes internally high-fiving myself.

For the next hour, we sat in a restaurant across the street, sipping pints and munching on french-fries. Our conversation was enjoyable and interesting, and I even managed to “showcase my best self” by steering the conversation towards things I was good at. I brought up my work for The Dependent, Maggie, the time I’d spent sleeping on couches in California, and to my surprise it didn’t feel like shameless self-promotion.

“That’s so cool,” she breathed.

As it turned out, Karyn was also a photographer and, taking that as a common point, I passed her one of my official Dependent business cards.

“Sweet!” she gushed. “Can I keep it?”

I raised my eyebrow, attempting to appear serious.

“I don’t know. How do I know you won’t just lose it somewhere?”

She’d lost her wallet twice that night already.

“I won’t! I won’t! I promise!” she pleaded.

“Well, okay. But only if you keep somewhere safe. I don’t give those to just anybody.”

She giggled.

“I’ll keep it close to my heart.”

“What, like, in your bra?” I joked. “That does seem like a safe place.”

She laughed, tucking the card in beside her left breast.

“It’s a deal.”

We paid our bill, and wandered onto Granville Street. Just as we emerged from the restaurant, Karyn’s male companion crossed our path.

“Karyn!” he exclaimed. “There you are.”

“Uh oh,” I grinned. “Am I in the middle of a domestic situation here?”

Karyn chuckled, embarrassed, and her male companion went a deep red.

Silverbacked.

The three of us talked for a moment, and the male companion, despite being muscular, funny, and much more attractive than I, simply had no idea how to interact with a woman. He had no skill with disses, showing his status, or giving worth to his affections, and, as a result, resorted to an endless volley of lame compliments.

“You look so good tonight,” he’d say. “You’re so stylish.”

“Thank you,” Karyn would say.

Then she’d turn and resume flirting with me.

I felt a surge of accomplishment.

In this brief moment, I had received indisputable proof of how far I’d come. Only a few months ago, I wouldn’t even have known what those mistakes were, let alone have been able to keep from making them. After ten minutes of being ignored, he gave up and, with a bemused look in my direction, wandered off.

Amateurs.

I said goodbye to Karyn on the corner as her bus pulled up.

“We should probably exchange an awkward hug, don’t you think?” I said.

She laughed.

“Those are my specialty.”

“We should do a photo session next time you’re in town.”

“Yeah. Sounds great. I’ll give you a call.”

I returned home that night in the grip of euphoria. I’d managed, in less than an hour, to accomplish what four weeks of online slogging couldn’t: I’d made a connection. A real, human connection. It dawned on me then exactly why PlentyOfFish doesn’t work nearly as well as it ought to: it’s a dating website. No matter how witty your messages may be or how clever your comments, the end goal is still to get a date. It puts women on their guard. It makes men seem needy. It takes that entire mammalian concept of display and selection to a whole different level divorced of any other social context (like friends or fun). In the end, that isn’t going to make meeting people easier at all. If anything, it’s actually more pressure. There and then, I resolved that I was done with PlentyOfFish. In terms of the cost/benefit ratio, it simply wasn’t worth my time. There was a world out there, a world of women who were fun, exciting and, apparently, interested in talking to me. Plus, it didn’t take months to meet them; it took less than two fucking hours.

I lay down on my bed that night and beamed.

It was working.

I was improving.

Meeting people was getting easier every day. And, against any of my original predictions, I was actually starting to enjoy myself.

I was in the driver’s seat, and nothing was going to get in my way ever again.

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

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5 Comments


  1. I would love to say something more eloquent, witty, ragingly hilarious, but right now I’m reduced to choosing between “hear, hear!” and “Amen!” (or as it happens, both).

  2. Great article and I fully agree with the conclusion. Man up and do it in person.

  3. “her name was Karyn, she was 20, and she was going to veterinary school.”

    There are only five veterinary schools in Canada, none in BC.

    You also don’t get in until you’ve already finished at least 60 credits of post-secondary courses – science and math primarily, not just arts.

    But hey, benefit of the doubt and whatnot… She’s been busting her ass since she finished high school and was just visiting Vancouver for the weekend.

  4. “I spent the next five minutes internally high-fiving myself.”

    That had me laughing pretty hard good sir. Excellent work!

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