My second-to-last online date ordered spaghetti and meatballs. He slurped each forkful with a slow, excruciating sucking noise. The urge to slap his face right off his head hit me so hard, I had to sit on my hands. No, really, tell me more about why you're bored by the visual arts but work in a gallery. Slurp. Slurp.
I'm not saying I'm Miss America. I present with my own special range of abnormalities and irritants. There are myriad reasons I needed dating sites. But man, it was a bad date, and after too many just like it, I was done, burned-out and hostile. Spaghetti Guy made me dream of going full Grey Gardens, mass-mailing a Christmas card photo of myself with a cat family and burning my Spanx in a ritual bonfire.
I went home and logged into my dating profile, bent on obliterating it. My inbox blinked. It was a note from another fellow I'd nicknamed Ukulele Guy. We'd traded a few flirty messages already, but hadn't gone on a date yet. Now here he was on the eve of my dating retirement, wondering would I like to meet him for a beer soon? Not really, I thought. Too bad. He was so cute and nice-seeming with his big hazel eyes and mop of long curly hair. He loved his job in special education, he listened to the Meters. We mighta been nice together. Buddy, you just got to me a little too late.
I hovered over the delete button, but hit reply instead. There was something about him.
The night Ukulele Guy and I met in real life, I scoped him out from across the bar first, like a creeper. His profile hadn't done him justice. His long mane was absolutely rockstar in person, topping a lumberjack build. This was my kind of hunk. I channeled my best date face and tapped him on his big shoulder.
He was soft spoken and funny. His real name was the same as a classic country western singer I'd grown up listening to on 8-track. He was a native Long Islander, an Eagle Scout, a drummer. Weird and wonderful. He lit up talking about the kids he taught. If he'd slurped spaghetti out of his beer mug, I'd have thought it adorable. When he told me I was prettier than my profile pictures, I said it was the best pickup line I'd ever heard. He asked me out on another date.
Ukulele Guy told me he loved me early and often. I deleted my profile. He danced like a circus bear to old soul music to make me laugh, wrote me letters, built me campfires. He even humored me when I begged him to never, ever cut his beautiful hair, and let me go to the hairdresser with him the one time he did. I made damn sure she didn't trim off too much of it.
We've been dating over two years, the two of us. There have been downswings and course corrections, and it's not without its moments where we both sit on our hands in frustration. He's an introvert, I'm a chatterbox. I'm a planner, he wings it. But it's mostly really great, and I am always thankful I hit reply.
Relationships all have make it or break it moments. Breast cancer is one long continuous one. My diagnosis has exploded everything I thought I knew about where we were heading. I'd be naïve to think it hasn't altered our path, but I'd be crazy to predict what's coming. Cancer teaches you to not count your proverbial chickens. It's enough for me that in this moment he's holding my hand, sitting with me in the quiet and the uncertainty, loving me through it.
Last week, he walked with me to the barber shop down the street from my apartment. It was his idea for us to shave our heads together, to flip my chemo the bird in solidarity.
"In a year from now, this'll be behind us," he said. "And I'll grow my hair back to the same length contractually required of the 'Game of Thrones' cast, I promise."
He knows me too well. Even without his curls, he's still a rock star. And no matter what happens, he will always be my last online date, ever. There's just no beating Ukulele Guy.