The worst part about meeting online is that it’s not a good story—from a romantic comedy perspective, you’re dooming yourselves. But when the algorithms align and you have a 99% match, you suck it up and agree to one drink. Especially if he’s hot.
My 99% sent a text as soon as I sent my number, and though his typos let me down, his wit left me hopeful. My grammar nerd was silenced when he texted a self-made .gif the next day, as my Internet nerd fought off an orgasm. We set plans for a drink the following week, and I looked forward to studying his facial symmetry in person.
The day rolled around, and having just invested in a pedometer, I was pleased he’d picked a bar within walking distance. I clipped the device to my bra, and 2000-some steps later we hugged hello and ordered. Right away we clicked—almost painfully so, as it hurt how well the system worked. Talk of our hobbies and hometowns evolved into a dialogue about Rothko, ecstasy, and NPR; of Micronesia and our favorite words. We got another drink, and another, another. Somehow, suddenly, it was 1 am. We kissed.
At 1:15, we were still kissing. It seemed only logical to take society’s advice and get a room, and the closest, cheapest one happened to be his apartment. The walk—if you could call it that—was one of make-out fueled disarray. Most of the clumsiness was accidental, but when we pressed each other against the grimy city walls, it was with utmost intention.
By the time we reached his door, I no longer felt the need for foreplay, but he, almost ten years older, knew its necessity. He led me to the couch, put on a record, and kneeled to unzip my pants.
Though cocky from a cocktail of alcohol and impending pleasure, I still managed to summon a few confidence issues. As my jeans got lower, I dwelled on the hideous cursive inked on my right hip: a mistake made when I was barely of age to make it, usually evading my memory until points of extreme sexual vulnerability. To make things worse (and to make him sexier), the man was a designer, ripe to judge my choice of typeface. I jumped at the chance to plead self-awareness, and whispered with my signature combination of confidence and regret. He proceeded, and it became clear keeping my volume to a whisper was more offensive than any font.
The rest of the sex remains a blur—I recall only a flash of us in his full-length mirror, a hint of electricity in the eye contact of our reflections. The high lasted until, on the walk home, I felt a confidence crush more potent than the tattoo: I’d forgotten to remove my pedometer. He’d definitely seen then blue gadget on my bra, and upon glancing it must have realized I’d had no intention of nudity that night. It was a stain of embarrassment on an otherwise perfect evening, one that made me feel seduced and powerless. My hope that we’d meet again began to fade, my so-recent memories struggling against the new context they were forced to take. I fought the discomfort by focusing on the day’s high step count, and struggled toward my bed for a few hours of dreamless sleep.
The next day, he texted. I texted back. We bantered for a bit until eventually he left me hanging on a question. To get an answer, I replayed our night, digging into the flaws I’d already found. It became clear I’d done more than just ‘give it up,’ as our chemistry could have survived an end so clichéd. Rather I’d boosted his ego with a small, cyan symbol of his triumph, and I’d made myself small and unworthy by comparison.
I felt the onset of physical chords of regret, my full body blushing, but when I took a breath, it disappeared. And with a simple exhale, I realized I wasn’t mad at him, myself, or the pedometer.
I was mad at the algorithm.