How to identify a psycho

Back when I was relatively new to the dating scene, an older friend taught me some rules. It’s OK to hook up with a hot guy you meet in the bar, she said, but before you start a relationship, it’s important to establish that he meets certain basic criteria. Her requirements were a job, a car and a phone.

After one of my roommates dated a guy who had those three down but slept in his truck (and he started scheduling a “date” when he wanted to shower or sleep) I added “place to live” to the list.

But I recently met a woman, a fellow speed dater, who has a real get-to-the-point/is-this-guy-trouble question in her holster. Forget “What do you do?” or “Where do you live?” She asks “Do you see restraining orders as a normal aspect of dating?”

When she said that, I laughed, but as she kept talking, it became less and less clear whether her answer would be yes or no, based on her dating experience. Maybe some things are better left unasked.

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What do Steve Urkel, Forrest Gump and my date have in common?

I probably would have noticed that buttoning a shirt all the way up when you’re not wearing a tie was uncool, even before I read this Slate.com article. But unfortunately, the article–about the author being mistaken for a mentally disabled person due to her buttoning habits–was still fresh in my mind when I walked into the cafe where I was to meet my online date for the first time. “A fully buttoned shirt is the universal costume symbol for special,” I remembered as I walked toward the gawky guy with the totally fastened white shirt.

To complete the impression, he greeted me at a volume usually reserved for sporting events, or in his case, math competitions. Yes, he was an example of the alternate definition of a fully buttoned shirt: supernerd. I suddenly remembered why I like speed dating so much. Even if you’re on a coffee date, it’s pretty hard to escape in under 10 minutes. (In the U.S., at least. In Italy, where everyone drinks espresso standing up at a bar, I once went on an awkwardly short date with an Algerian drug dealer. Remind me to tell you that story someday.) But this date, which dragged on for a whole hour, was further proof that sometimes 4 seconds of talking to someone can tell you more about your compatibility than 4 pages of email.

Don’t say that #98

Everyone’s familiar with the problem of non-native teaching assistants giving unintelligible lectures, but even worse things happen when they go speed dating.

“I want a serious relationship,” he said. “If I wanted a casual encounter, I would go to a website or go to school to find one of the little kids.”

(Before you call “To Catch a Predator,” note that I’m pretty sure he meant college students, not actual little kids.)

Cinco de Mayonnaise

Last week, I celebrated Cinco de Mayo, the holiday that commemorates how Mexico freed itself of cheap beer and ugly sombreros by exporting it all to bars in the U.S. This wasn’t just any Cinco celebration; it was “PHILADELPHIA’S LARGEST SINGLES PARTY!” according to the many email invitations I received.

A friend and I were lured in by the promise of drink specials, prizes and free hors d’oeuvres. The last attraction seemed to be the most popular: every time some food appeared, a line formed and stragglers in the back were left with the garnishes. Lettuce and sour cream– yum! That was actually a more appealing option than some of the new products being promoted. (Even when mixed with good vodka, SkinnyWater tastes like liquified sugar-free gum, in my opinion. And, Nabisco, there’s a reason pretzels and crackers are two separate foods.)

It’s true that none of this has anything to do the holiday we were supposed to be celebrating, but I did have some Mexico-themed conversations. One guy, for example, had this input: “Mexico, it’s pretty different down there. When I got off the plane, I walked down stairs outside instead of them having one of those tunnels into the airport.” (Be fair, you’re thinking, the jetway was just the first of his interesting observations about the country. No, I swear. That was it.)

Luckily, my friend and I had a good excuse to leave him. The Cinco de Mayo (pronounced MAY-o, in this case) competition was starting. As if the embarrassment of coming to this party and wearing stickers that said “Kiss me, I’m single” weren’t enough, some attendees had volunteered to dig through vats of mayonnaise for 5-dollar bills. Ok, I make fun, but to be honest, when I saw some of them had won more than $100, I was a little sad that I hadn’t signed up.

The next event, the grand prize drawing, provided some small consolation. I won…a free order of chips and salsa! It only diminished the thrill a little bit when my friend said, “You know, if you go to Qdoba, they give those cards out for free.” Add in that no guy had the nerve or interest to take my sticker up on its offer, and it’s clear that next year I’ll be attending just to look for the cincos in the mayo.

Don’t say that #1

“I voted for McCain.”

P.S. Name-dropping other unpopular Republicans doesn’t make it any better. My speed dating buddy recently encountered a guy who said he’d met a lot of celebrities. “Like who?” she asked. “Oh, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice,” he said. A few minutes later, he had moved on to the next girl and my buddy overheard a snippet of conversation: “Oh, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice.”