de(tales): the one-piece rule
Nicole and I met online. Our friendship is a testimony to the fact that many of us have no idea what cool people are under our noses, in our very own cities. It took me a little while before I realized that this was the same Nicole whose essay in Jesus Girls had resonated deeply with me. By then, we had already become friends and it was too late for me to be intimidated beyond speech by her amazing-ness. She remains one of the very coolest people I know, and one of the best writers I have ever encountered. I am delighted to share her words with you today. ...
My goals for online dating
Find someone awesome.
Lock that down.
Leave no trace that you ever prostrated yourself before the internet in the search for lasting love.
Other guiding principles
Don’t take this too seriously.
Don’t take any of those compatibility quizzes lest you signal that you’re taking this too seriously.
Think of this whole foray as writing practice. Nothing is wasted, right? Certainly not all of that time you spent crafting the “self-summary” portion of your profile, the profile that you hope sounds modest yet extraordinary, unusual yet relatable, down-to-earth yet with a shimmer of intrigue.
It’s OK to acknowledge that this experience demands more perkiness and optimism than your saturnine constitution could ever provide.
Also, it’s helpful if, say in the six months before you launch into online dating, you break off a wedding engagement, rebound with a weird guy from church, and then begin taking an antidepressant.
I did this online stuff ca. 2011 and used both Match and OKCupid, which are owned by the same company. OKCupid is free and a bit of a junk drawer with, of course, some treasure underneath the canopy of expired coupons. Match was mostly dudes in their 50s who realized that they couldn’t score with ladies in their 20s, so they reached out to people like me. Match guys mostly just sent little wink emojis in lieu of words. I have nothing against silver foxes nor the occasional flirty emoji, but I can’t be wooed by winks alone. As my profile made clear, I’m a text-heavy dame. A girl’s gotta have some sentences to work with. Simple, compound, complex, whatever. No dependent clause? No problem! Just some subject-verb action is what I’m talking about. Or use an implied subject and let your verbs do all of the heavy lifting! Verbs are sexy! Can I get an a-men?
My online dating experience was limited to the heterosexual, W-seeking-M kind. I was tired of long-distance relationships, so I limited my search to a 150-mile radius from my town. A lot of straight guys within this radius own trucks, and they aren’t afraid to post photos of those trucks, and that’s OK with me.
Some people are just not going to dig your A material. Also, at some point, you just have to let your freak flag fly.
An anecdote to illustrate these lessons
On day on Match, Flyguyidaho winked at me. I liked the look of his dreadlocks and his variations on a mustache he called The Gunslinger. He wrote for fly fishing magazines and managed a school for kids who’d completed a wilderness therapy program. His son worked out in the field for the same program, a son with whom he was well pleased.
After exchanging several messages, flyguy ended a missive with “tell me more.” I knew this could be dangerous, like that point in a job interview when the person behind the desk asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” It’s not OK not to have questions. But how do you know if your questions are the right questions?
I figured that the outdoors would be one way to connect with flyguy. I told him that since I’d moved to Washington, I’d bought a tent for real camping. I’d started lifting weights. On a good day, I could bench 45 pounds. I told flyguy that Spokane was making me a real woman.
I hadn’t grown up doing outdoorsy things, I explained. When I was younger, camping involved a fortress of couch cushions draped with a blanket or sheet, depending on available materials and the weather forecast for the greater living room area.
Later it meant Camp Jerri, named in memory of an athletic girl who died in high school, whose soft-focus visage stared down at us in the white cinderblock building that was our dining hall and chapel.
I told flyguyidaho about the one-piece rule. At Camp Jerri, girls were only allowed to wear one-piece swimsuits, even though boys and girls had separate swim times. In retrospect, the segregated swimming likely had as much to do with the size of the pool as it did with curbing the lusts of the flesh. But I felt extra godly that our pool would not be confused with a secular pool.
I didn’t recall any discussion about boys’ swimwear. Of course, no young man in late 80s West Virginia was going to roll into a conservative Baptist youth camp with his King James Bible, a notebook, and a Speedo. It was just not an issue.
Sometimes a girl would wear a dark t-shirt over her swimsuit. What may have happened, I told flyguy, is that an unchurched girl would show up for camp, and maybe her mom hadn’t received the flier about what to pack. This was certainly a document of its time, forbidding boomboxes and Walkmans, magazines, any books besides the Bible, short shorts, and two-piece swimwear. Rather than deny this girl some good Christian poolside fellowship, the counselors must have decided that swimming with a long t-shirt over the two-piece was an adequate compromise.
I asked flyguy: Were we girls, so many of us knockkneed or spindly or chunky or covered in mosquito bites, were we really such a threat to virtue? What was everyone so afraid of?
Reader, I didn’t tell flyguy anything about Bible trivia, or about the testimonies ‘round the bonfire, or the afternoon AV presentation warning us against the powers and principalities that ruled rock music. During Pastor Dwayne’s presentation, we listened for messages released like demon genies when you played hard rock LPs backwards. (“Soft” or “light” rock was also not OK, but the evidence in this category was less impressive.)
I wanted flyguy to know that I am religious but not kooky about it. I have a sense of humor. Didn’t Norman Maclean, who also had a lot to say about fly fishing, claim that “both agony and hilarity are necessary for our salvation”?
I told flyguy that I’m planning to edit an anthology of church camp essays. Church camp is a hinge between the scatological and the eschatological, I continued. It’s formative experience for so many people, believers or no. My students tell me about roping calves for the Lord at rodeo Bible camp. They sleep outdoors in covered pioneer wagons. They launch one other into lakes. They are strapped into body harnesses and pushed off of high platforms. They sing in weird skits like some kind of chaste cabaret.
Trust me, I emphasized to flyguy, church camp is a gold mine of writing material.
I was on a roll.
I was just getting warmed up.
I dug further into the box of Cheez-its I planned to eat for dinner.
Only after I clicked “send” did it occur to me that this might not be the “more” that flyguyidaho wanted.
But it was too late.
Nicole Sheets lives with the awesome spouse she bagged on OKCupid. They share a house with her spouse’s brother and sister-in-law, who also met on OKCupid. They should really get paid to do a commercial for OKCupid.
Nicole is the web editor for Rock & Sling, and the editor of How To Pack For Church Camp , a soon-to-launch online anthology of creative nonfiction about, well, summer camp. She teaches at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. You can find her on the twitters as @wanderchic.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.