"Be careful—Tinder's kind of sketch," a best male friend and dating app veteran warned me.
My friend had no idea of the connection I'd just made: his pictures, his profile, our texts.
I'd just been laid off from my executive assistant job and was determined to feel wanted again. His name was Dave. A designer and musician with spiritual leanings, fanciful blue eyes and a kiss-craving cheek mole. I'd hit the dating jackpot on my first try. As a single 53-year-old New York City woman, this was akin to Lazarus' resurrection.
"I really like your pictures," he wrote me. "You've got a great smile!"
I immediately felt desired, which is what I needed most.
When I suggested a coffee date, he texted, "Let's do it!"
He lived in New Jersey, so I offered to meet him halfway. "How about we speak on the phone first?"
We set up a call for that same night. The advantage of a call as our first real-time communication was that I could sit on my couch in fluffy pink socks, baggie sweats and no bra.
We spoke of spirituality, had mutual friends and loved the old TV show "Laugh-In."
Artie Johnson imitations in our first conversation! Could I have met my soulmate?
Dave asked me my sign and recited Taurus characteristics from a website: independent, loyal, averse to change, intelligent, self-indulgent and quick to temper. He then read whether our signs were compatible:
"Scorpio and Taurus, compatibility is desperately dramatic, hauntingly intense and poisonously potent. These two signs are opposite one another in the zodiac and in theory they fit very well together, like two halves of a heart. Together, they can take one another to heaven, hell or (frequently) both."
Well, two hours and 47 minutes after we said our hellos, we'd taken each other to heaven and planned to be in touch.
"Nice day, 'eh?" read his text message. It arrived at 12:30 p.m. the next day. A day-long text volley ensued.
His last message was delivered at 11:30 p.m. It read: "You are luscious. Sweet Dreams."
And sweet dreams were had. My friends warned me not to invest in a text romance: "It's just a fantasy, it's not real." Come Saturday afternoon, the fifth day of our text-mance, my Taurus "quick-to-temper" gave way.
"If I try to kiss you," he wrote, "will you let me?"
"What the hell?" I sneered at the screen of my phone.
"WE HAVEN'T MET!" was my text reply.
The desperately dramatic aspects of our signs reared. We spoke that night.
"I didn't think a week was too long!" he countered.
"But we're texting like we're in a relationship and I've yet to see you in person!"
"I'm coming to the city on Wednesday," he said.
Then all of a sudden, he gasped, "I have to go now, the show I've been waiting all week to watch started five minutes ago!"
And just like that, we hung up. I sat dazed on my couch.
Are we meeting on Wednesday or did we break up?
Over the next two days, I sat in various recruiters' offices with one ear on job descriptions and another willing his message alerts from my phone. Wednesday turned to Thursday without so much as an emoji. I went back to the dating app and swiped like a poker dealer; then began to download more dating apps: Bumble, OKCupid and Plenty of Fish. The more I scratched, the more the need itched. In my inbox were messages from an Italian photographer, a Brooklyn mortician and a man with a Subaru-sized fish.
Thursday night, I soldiered home from a day of interviews getting pummeled by rain. A block from my apartment, I felt the pulse through my coat. Just barely inside my building, I pulled out my cell phone.
"Are you warm and safe?"
It was a message from Dave. I dropped my bags and responded at once.
"Yes, thanks for asking! Are you?"
"I've got a fire going and am watching the storm from my window."
I pictured us cuddled fireside and wrote, "Nice!"
That ended our communication for the night.
"Forget this guy!" my colorist implored while he bleached my naturally dark brown hair blond the next day.
What happened to the card carrying NOW-NYC member, who protested in the Washington D.C. Women's March and idolizes Eve Ensler with all her heart?
I thought I'd retired this boy-crazy person years ago.
Then he called. It lasted as long as the first time we spoke. An hour into our conversation, he sang Buddhist chants. My body melted on the couch like grilled cheese. I hinted at weekend plans. He wondered whether to re-open his ice cream parlor this summer and sent me a promotional video for the shop. It boasted of natural ingredients: real cocoa beans and green tea. The camera then moved from the cones to the owner. The ice cream peddler looked 20 years older than the fantasy boyfriend who'd accompanied me for weeks in my head.
I asked about the discrepancy. He said his profile photos were a year old.
"This is why I wanted to meet in person!"
We broke up for the second time.
Weeks later, on Valentine's Day, the dating apps were abuzz. I woke to find a picture of Dave on my phone. "Selfie taken yesterday," the text read. It was just like the profile, except the top of his head was cut off.
"So, nice to hear from you!" I wrote him back and glowed during my interviews the whole day.
Two days later, I sent him a Moth podcast I thought he'd love. He wrote back, "I'm in the city at the Javits Center Toy Fair."
"You're kidding!?" I wrote. "Let's meet up!"
The whole day passed without a response. Four days later, I heard from him again. This text was about a fake olive oil scam. I blocked his number at the urging of friends.