1998 was an auspicious year. In 1998 I graduated high school. I started my freshman year of college. It was the year of Monica Lewinsky, El Niño, and the Unabomber trial. I was 18 years old.
The summer of 1998, through lack of anything better to do, turned into the summer of Get Rachel a Boyfriend. Things hadn't exactly panned out for me in my town of 5,000, with a graduating class of 150. I decided I needed a larger playing field, and so I threw myself headfirst into the online dating world for the very first time. I don't even think the site I used exists anymore. It was called Classifieds2000, in the way that everything used to have a 2000 tacked onto the end during those pre-Craigslist years creeping up to the new millenium. In the budding one-stop shopping wonder that was the internet in the late twentieth century, I discovered that by going to just one website, one could find a house, a used boat, and yes, even (I hoped) True Love.
As a nearly ten-year vetern of online dating at this point (with a few years off in the middle), I feel I can say with confidence that it was a lot different back then, in those prehistoric days before cell phones and digital cameras were commonplace. Not only could you not call someone if you were lost or running late, but you ran the chance of not even recognizing your date once you got there. Elaborate e-mail descriptions were necessary, detailing height, weight, hair color, and what shirt you would be wearing. (God forbid you spilled something at the last minute).
I wanted a boyfriend. I was ready. I had an e-mail account, a car, my best friend with me for support, and a summer full of nothing better to do. I was ready to go wherever the internet and a tankful of gas would take me.
We met my first date at the Natural History Museum. We ran up to the balcony on the second floor to scope him out first. We giggled and snapped pictures of him, in case we needed them for a police report afterwards. Eventually we introduced ourselves. He was skinny with long black hair and pale skin. We sat on the steps outside as he told us about how he juggled and went to the Renaissance Faire on weekends, and his penchant for Anne Rice novels. He had a black duffel bag with him, and he reached inside and pulled something out. A knife. Sunlight glinted off the blade, and for a second time stood still. Tal and I looked at each other, and in her eyes I saw that she was thinking the same thing I was : I've read about things like this, but I never thought it would happen to me. He reached into his bag again, and pulled something out. An orange. He cut it up and ate it.
We met my second date at the University of Maryland, in the frat house dorm room he was renting for the summer. He was blond and frail-looking. He insisted that he wasn't anorexic, even though we hadn't asked. He just really liked to run. A lot. And he didn't really like to eat. He loved the Backstreet Boys. He wanted to be a Backstreet Boy. Did we want him to sing for us? Well, ok, if we insisted. And he did. He sang for a long time, with feeling. Eyes closed, falsetto. It was...uncomfortable. You try not to laugh.
I had extra support for my third date. Jas and Tal both came with me to watch Pi in DC. (Oh yeah, great first date movie). We waited, but no one came. Not that I even knew who I was looking for. "I told him the movie theater in Tenleytown," I said. Rach, there are three movie theaters in Tenleytown. "What? How is that possible? I mean, what are the odds? I mean, really?" We headed off on foot to see if he was waiting for us at one of the other theaters. The other theaters were farther away than we had thought. Neither one was showing Pi. By the time we got back to the original theater, we were tired, and at least half an hour had passed. "Well, I guess we missed him," I said. Just then a Volvo pulled up in front of the theater, blasting bass and rap music. The window rolled down. "Rachel?"
"Um, yeah, hi. David?"
"Where the fuck've you been?"
"Oh, well, we went to the other theaters, and..."
"Ok, well I'm gonna park." He took off, tires squealing, bass still blasting.
He parked, came back. We watched the movie and went to McDonald's after. In a classic move, I dropped my Sprite on the floor, where it rolled under the table but didn't spill. I crawled under the table to retrieve it, and hit my head.
One of these guys I would deem worthy of the title My First Boyfriend. But which one was it? Care to venture a guess?