Bad With Men: A Study In Jeff

This was originally published at In Our Words: A Salon For Queers & Co. Republished here with permission.

Dana Norris once went on 71 Internet dates. This is date no. 18 (we posted no. 17 here).

Jeff is wearing a necklace in his profile picture but his message calls me pretty so I agree to go out with him. He wants to meet in Lincoln Park, where he lives, so we can go to some nearby bar that he likes.

I drive to Lincoln Park after work and park outside of his apartment building. He walks out of his building, sees me, acknowledges me with a head nod, and looks away. Not a great sign. Why don’t these Internet men smile when meeting a new person? He’s also still wearing a necklace.

We start walking west on Fullerton. We’re chatting a bit, telling stories back and forth, and he mentions cruises, and I say how I once went on a Star Trek cruise with my aunt, and he mentions that he once went on a cruise with an ex-girlfriend who tried to cut his dick off. I put my hands out to both sides, stop walking, and almost yell, “You must tell me this story, in complete detail, immediately.”

He’s dating this girl for three months and she wants to go on this cruise but he doesn’t want to go so she somehow forces him to go by pouting a lot. So on the cruise he gets drunk and starts a religious debate with their dinner companions, like you do. His ex-girlfriend is very religious while he’s a professed atheist so she tries to stop him and he responds by calling her a psycho and she leaves dinner crying and he goes back to their cabin. Later, he wakes up with her on top of him, holding a butter knife to his dick, threatening to cut it off. So he pushes her off of him and they break up and end of story.

I’m disappointed. Because his dick was never in any real danger. I mean, it was a butter knife. We start walking again and we’re walking and we’re walking and I’m wearing my go-to date shoes, black Mary Jane pumps, which are comfortable to walk in for about three blocks. But it’s been eight blocks so now they’re shiny black blister machines. I ask Jeff, “Where is this bar?” and he responds, “Ummm…just a bit further.” Even more blocks later we end up at State, a crowded DePaul bar where it appears that every chair is taken. Me and my feet are not having it so I don’t even look for two bar stools—I find one open seat that I’m probably stealing from an undergrad and sit down. Sweet foot relief.

We order beers and some terrible bar food from the bartender. Jeff comments on my footwear, “Your shoes are dumb.” I think they’re awesome shoes but I realize that everyone has their opinion and I like a little verbal back-and-forth, so I come back with the always witty, “So’s your face.” He laughs but then he suddenly stops laughing and pretends to slap me. Now, I’ve been fake slapped before. Many friends have fake slapped me and I’ve fake slapped them, but I just met this man and we are by no means on fake slap terms yet. I decide that I don’t like Jeff, that I will never like this Jeff, and that I will never see him again after this night.

I consider just getting up and limping back to my car but our food has arrived and I’m hungry. I decide to stick it out and turn the evening into something other than a date. I turn it into a game where I occupy myself by studying Jeff like I’m an anthropologist. I count the number of times he says he isn’t as smart as his brother (15), the number of ex-girlfriends he mentions (three), the number of times he tells me that his job is to make people laugh (seven). I spend my time memorizing quotes, such as: “…that’s why I love weddings, because it’s my job to make everyone laugh but at weddings I don’t have to work because everyone is already laughing.”

On our way back to my car he asks if I want to stop at another bar. I agree because it’s still early and there’s more anthropological work to be done. We stop at a nice bar and sit down at a quality wooden table and order some whiskeys. Jeff asks me about my writing, which is nice of him, and tells me that he wants to write a fantasy novel. He sketched out the plot when he was in high school and he knows that his characterization isn’t any good, but he’s working on it. He pauses and looks into his whiskey for a moment and I think, you know, this guy is kind of a jerk and I’m never going to see him again but, really, I’m pretty lonely and he’ll probably listen to me talk about whatever. So I tell him about my recent breakup and how I wake up every day feeling so sad and worried and how I have to fight to not be depressed and how exhausting it is. He sympathizes and tells me about the darkest time in his life, when an ex had emotionally abused him and slept with his friends. He reacted by going out, getting hammered, falling asleep while driving home, waking up with the car in a ditch, getting arrested, and then the cop arresting him broke his necklace, which he had been wearing nonstop for five years straight. And that story is ridiculous but I kinda feel him. That’s a long time to commit to a necklace.

At the end of the night Jeff walks me to my car and hugs me goodnight. Before pulling away he gives me the briefest, lightest kiss and I don’t mind because he’s had a hard time of it. He asks me to be Facebook friends, which I agree to. He starts to walk away, then stops, turns around, and asks me to give him a call when I get home. The request gives me such a warm feeling in my chest. It’s been so long since anyone noticed whether I got home or not. This guy, he’s not a bad guy.

I do call him when I get home. He sends me a Facebook friend request the next day. I ignore it.

Dana Norris is the founder and host of Story Club, a monthly show for stories. She has served as the Nonfiction Editor and Managing Editor of TriQuarterly Online. She performs around Chicago with Mortified!The KatesEssay Fiesta, Stories at the Store, This Much is TrueBeast Women, Waiting for the Bus and Cafe Cabaret. Her stories have been published in Tampa Review, Partner Dance Press, and been featured on (89.5 FM). Dana received a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Religion and from Wittenberg University and a Masters in Religious Studies from The University of Chicago. She has a Certificate in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Northwestern University.

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