Not long after I divorced I created a profile on an online dating site. Newly single for the first time in my adult life, I was excited to meet guys and go on dates and at the time it seemed like as good a way as any. Actually, for a shy girl it seemed superior to meeting someone at a bar or club where at the time all I could do was blush and look at my shoes when guys approached. This way I could hide behind my online profile, which I carefully created to be classy yet playful, and check out potential dates from the comfort of my laptop and pjs.
I was initially delighted with all the messages I received and it was all so fun. My mobile phone was on fire as I struggled to answer all the messages from my potential suitors. I felt like the popular girl! I was open to meeting in person anyone who seemed reasonably attractive, interesting, and polite in their messages, sometimes if only out of curiosity. However, I quickly realized the following:
This is no place for the grammatically pedantic. I decided I was only interested in dating men whose native Spanish was at least as good as my non-native Spanish. In the online dating community, that decision winnowed down my options to a depressing few.
When you are going to meet someone for the first time, you must have an exit strategy. I learned that meeting someone for drinks on my way to another event was usually best. Jules Evans calls it the Two Beer Rule in his very funny and spot-on post about online dating. The Two Beer Rule (or sometimes, one Coke) is a must, because:
Some people are able to make themselves attractive, interesting, and polite in their online profile and in messages, but then in person they are none of those things. (See El Higienco below for the prime example.) I once met a guy for sodas while I was shopping in the city center. From the moment we sat down he would not stop trying to touch my hands, legs, and face, as well as gaze soulfully into my eyes. I suddenly remembered that I had promised a friend to do something or other and I made a hasty departure as soon as we paid for the Cokes. When I gave him the two kisses in the Spanish goodbye, he grabbed my tush with both hands and squeezed hard. When I told a friend this story she said, “He knew that was going to be his only opportunity to squeeze that ass and he took it.” I only had to endure a few minutes of the octopus’ company, but imagine if I had met this guy for dinner or even worse, to see a movie?
I eventually stopped meeting guys online because it never worked for me. I didn’t like almost any of them. I liked several as friends but not in that way that makes your knees go weak and your innards turn to water. But then, I’m unlikely to react to any guy I first meet that way. I’m a cold one, I suppose. Nearly all of the online guys came on too strong right away and that’s always a turn off for me. I need a more subtle game. I have liked guys who tease and let me tease. Guys who give me space. Guys who are perfectly fine with me flirting gently, then outrageously, then cooly pretending I didn’t do any of that. I like to play. I hope not in a manipulative way. I don’t like to play with people’s feelings. More than a game, it’s my let’s-see-if-you-can-catch-me mating dance. Online dating does not lend itself to my elaborate, subtle, drawn-out dances. As Jules says, online dating is too efficient and brutally direct, too mechanical to be seductive.
And now, as promised, I bring you… El Higiénico.
He was one of the many guys I was communicating with on this dating website but he lived in a city about two and a half hours from where I live. He was very handsome in his pictures, American, a writer, and funny. A few weeks after we started communicating online I went to visit a friend in the city where El Higiénico lived, and we made plans to meet. I was staying at a hotel far from where he lived and unbeknownst to me at the time, he picked a meeting place close to where he lived. He told me to take the bus. That may have been only the second time in my life I had been on a city bus. I ended up having to change buses to get there and it was confusing. It was a hot late summer afternoon in southern Spain and I arrived at our meeting a bit sweaty and annoyed. However, I think I probably looked sweet, fresh-faced, and demure in my conservative skirt and blouse. I was a kind-hearted, innocent Mormon girl, excited to meet a new guy. And he knew all of this from our messages.
He was handsome in a boyish way. He was 33 but could have passed for 25. He was very fit. He asked me if I wanted to go anywhere particular and I told him I wanted shade and a drink of water. For some reason he ignored this and led me on a walk in the hot sun. I kept looking around for a vending machine or kiosk that sold water, but none were in sight. I asked him about his writing career and he told me that the last article he had written was an exposé on the dubious labeling of fish in markets and grocery stores in Spain. And then he told me all the things he hated about living in Spain, including the rude and ignorant people, food, sports, music, news programs, and weather. Topping his list of things to hate in Spain were Spanish women. He told me that he is a person who cares very much about hygiene and potential germs, and he found Spanish women to be unhygienic. He went into disturbing detail on this point. To change the subject I asked him about teaching English, which I knew he did in addition to writing. He told me that teaching English is the one cool thing about living in Spain because he was able to work only two hours per day and earn enough money to put him “in the Spanish middle class.” I don’t remember now what that sum was. However, he repeated this several times. I asked him more about his writing. I think by this time I was weak with dehydration and had to sit down. There was no shade where he had taken me, so we sat in the sun. He then asked me about my writing and the following conversation took place.
Me: Well, I haven’t written much the past year or so. My dad died about a year and a half ago and since then I…
Higiénico: [whispers] Cancer?
Me: Um, what?
Higiénico: Was it cancer that killed him?
Me: No. He died during open-heart surgery. And it changed me somehow, I guess I got depressed. I had no interest in writing anymore and I…
Higiénico: Look, Lindsay. Stop a second. I need to be clear with you here. I’ve reached the age of 33 and I think at this age I don’t have to beat around the bush. What I really want to do is fuck. Sure, I want to go out to the movies, go for dinner or whatever, and then fuck. It’s that simple. Does that seem like something that would interest you?
Me: Frankly, if that were what I wanted to do, I don’t believe I’d have to leave Málaga. I think I would likely have a fine selection right there to choose from.
At his point El Higiénico lifted up his shirt, grabbed my wrist, and placed my hand on his abdomen.
Higiénico: There. Feel that? What do you say to that? That’s nice, huh? You like that, huh? Those are rock hard abs.
Me: Very nice, yes.
Higiénico: And the thing is, Lindsay, you wouldn’t have to come to me. I [paused for effect and in a sweeping motion with his hands, indicated that his entire body was involved here] would come to you. I could come down for the weekend, we’d take the kids to the beach, eat some sardines at a chiringuito, and then go to your place and fuck.
Me: I see. Hmm.
Higiénico: I think you’d like it.
Me: I’m not seeing that happening.
When I have told this story, most people have asked why I didn’t slap him or cut him off right then and there, or tell him I had a headache (which I did actually) and go back to my hotel. But when I told my sister Maria, she said, “See, if it were me, at that point I’d have to stick around and see what else the bastard had to say.” It is in these ways Maria and I can tell we share DNA, because of course I stuck around. And the bastard had more to say.
We decided to go for ice cream. He told me about his ex wife, a Spanish woman and former model he was married to for ten years. He told me again about how much he loathes Spanish women. And again about teaching English two hours per day and that being enough to put him in the Spanish middle class. And then:
Higiénico: How many messages do you get on that dating site?
Me: The first couple days I got about a hundred messages. Now maybe 10-20 per day.
Higiénico. Wow. Well, but that’s only because you are over 35 and divorced. Everyone figures you are desperate for sex. I get probably five messages per week, which is a lot for a guy because women almost never write first. Have you ever had a homosexual experience?
Higiénico: You’re lying.
Higiénico: I know you’re lying because everyone has had a homosexual experience at least once. On a Friday or Saturday night in a club, at about 4 am everyone who hasn’t paired off already turns gay. The men start checking out men and the women start checking out other women because they are all so desperate to get laid. It’s just human nature, not a big deal. Anyway, I often get messages from guys at around 4 am on a Friday night saying, ‘Dude, I’m not gay but I just need to get laid. You up for it?’
El Higiénico had asked me earlier what my plans were that evening. I told him I was going to a friend’s orchestra concert and then we were going out after for drinks.
Higiénico: Lindsay, I’ll tell you what I think you should do tonight. After the concert, go to your hotel. Give me a call and I will go there and then go up to your room. Do you have a jacuzzi?
Higiénico: Damn. Well, we will start by giving each other massages. And then, we will have respectful, hygienic sex. And it will be glorious.
Me: I don’t think so. I’m not feeling it.
Higiénico: Lindsay, [at this point his tone becomes very condescending, as if he were talking with a frustrating child] if you would only try it, you would see that you like it. It’s as easy as that. Try it, and you will like it. You think I’m hot, right? So how could you not like respectful, hygienic sex with me?
Me: I don’t feel inspired.
Higiénico: [nearly yelling] That’s because you are so repressed! You are completely sexually repressed! I can tell by how fast you walk. Only people who are sexually repressed walk as fast as you do.
Me: Ok. Could be.
I shrugged, smiled, and hailed a taxi. As I got into the taxi, El Higiénico told me he’d be waiting for my phone call. But alas, it was not to be. That was the last I heard of him, or him of me.
Every single person I have told this story to has asked me what he meant by “hygienic” sex. A body condom? No oral? What? Everyone is disappointed that I didn’t find out what he meant by that. I’m ok with leaving it to the imagination.