According to OK Cupid, I “reply often”, a trait that is made public on the upper right corner of my profile, next to my user name and age. The words REPLIES OFTEN are housed in a small green rectangular box. The green, I presume, stands for “please proceed”, or, to put it frankly, “I am submissive”. Women who “reply selectively” get a yellow box, while women who “reply very selectively” get a red one. Green, yellow and red. Get it? When dealing with men, it helps to simplify the complexities of social interaction to a three-color system.
I do not receive a lot of messages. This is not because of my physical appearance. (I am very attractive; I have a great smile, cute bangs and a D-cup, and I do this adorable little thing when I laugh where I touch the bottom of my upper teeth with my tongue and roll my eyes—I constantly roll my eyes…in an adorable way). The reason I do not receive a lot of messages is because--DUH-dum—I am sober, and it says this loud and clear in my profile. Yes, sober. As in recovery. As in Alcoholics Anonymous. As in one night when I was living in Williamsburg with my ex-boyfriend I allegedly fell asleep naked in my apartment building’s foyer next to a puddle of puke. Allegedly.
But that was two years ago, and since then I’ve had what us alkies call “a spiritual awakening”. For me it was Kabbalah, then Christianity, then Islam, then plain-old Spirituality, then Kabbalah again. I’m totally into fundamentalism. Lately I’ve been exploring Orthodox Judaism. My dentist is an Orthodox Jew, and recently I saw her walking down the street with her husband, full gabardine, head wrap, the whole nine. She looked absolutely gorgeous. So…
…I’m good now.
Men do not like sober women. A sober woman is not easily duped. A sober woman will not do shots of Jager and let you take her home and fuck her without a condom and then Snapchat naked pix of her unconscious body to your bros. What a sober woman will do is see through your bullshit and call you on it. A sober woman is strong, together, and capable of kicking your fucking ass, bee-atch.
Sober women act; they do not overreact. Sober women do not prejudge. Sober women do not immediately scroll down to the “Income” section of a man’s profile. Sober women have tolerant, rational, open minds, and they believe everyone deserves a chance. Sober women reply often.
Last week I received a message from WAxl, an obvious homage to the icon of woman-beating himself, Axl Rose, the mouthpiece of that retardo 80s rock n’ roll jizz machine known as Guns N’ Roses. I rolled my eyes (not in the cute way) and read the message:
Hey there! I love your profile and your pix. You play music?? Awesome. Oh BTW…I’m sober too. Hope you write back. Danny
Oh yeah, I play music. I neglected to mention that tidbit because it’s not a character trait or a personal preference. It’s just…me. It’s who I am. A musician. You sorta have to be one to know what I’m talking about. I don’t really like to make a big deal of it, but since my main profile pic is this awesome shot of me with my acoustic, behind the mic at a Brooklyn coffee house, it’s usually the first thing a dude will comment on. Sometimes men are so fucking perceptive it’s almost enchanting (eye roll).
I clicked on WAxl and was transported to his profile page, where I found what I expected: late-30s white male, short brown hair, brown knit sweater, sitting on an unspecified stoop looking up at me with a safe-zone smile (as in somewhere in the safe zone between lecherous cool guy and Christmas card nitrous oxide). I scanned through the rest of his photos—all proved similar, including one on Halloween with him dressed as (ahem, eye roll) Axl Rose, standing in a group shot with Prince, Freddy Krueger and a yellow M&M with white arms. How festive. Yeah, and what is the deal with Boston? Everything is white and brown and has short hair. Where are the full beards? The Chinese military caps? The European cheekbones? The John Lennon eyeglasses?
I moved on to his profile. Mildly entertaining, somewhat original. Some clever jokes, some decent vocab. From the corner of my eye I saw that he left his SALARY blank. Whatever, but under JOB he listed “Advertising”. As in image peddler. As in sell-out. As in d-bag. As in needed something to fall back on. Yuck. Too gross for an eye roll.
For the I’M REALLY GOOD AT section he listed “crosswords”. I thought of the crossword from the back of People Magazine, where the most intricate answer is usually “Beyonce”. Then I thought, what kind of person is good at puzzles? Then I thought of the Unibomber. Under FAVORITE MUSIC he listed Nine Inch Nails (yikes), Joni Mitchell (pandering), and, of course, GnR, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Because that’s what every strong-willed, independent, 30-year old woman wants: a teenage boy in acid-washed denim.
And then the ultimate kick in the vag: under FAVORITE BOOKS he listed Stephen King. Did this guy grow up in a fucking Stop n’ Shop? I pictured him on Revere Beach with his bros while “Paradise City” wafts out from some Camaro and he’s all lathered up in Hawaiian Tropic reading The Celestine Prophecy or The DaVinci Code or the unauthorized tell-all of some former NHL star who snorted a lot of coke and fucked a lot of flight attendants during the ’86-’87 season. I sighed, then remembered my designated motto: reply often.
So I did. We went back and forth for a couple days with some generic banter and then he asked for my number so we could upgrade to texting. I obliged and decided my first text to him would be pass/fail: I informed him that I was about to order groceries online for the first time and that I was paralyzed with anxiety over it. Take that, Axl Douchebag! I expected him to vanish.
Nope. He texted back ten minutes later saying he understood my fear and that I should just place the order, and how he makes it a point to always move toward his discomfort. Now there’s some fucking AA scripture for you.
I moved to the grading system and gave him a B-. He asked if we could meet up soon, and I said yes, Sunday night could work.
I went commando (no makeup), wearing a black cardigan with a string of thrift shop pearls, black stretch pants and a mini skirt. I made sure I was twenty minutes late to the gastro pub, which he picked, conveniently located in my general area. (How gentlemanly, eye roll). When I arrived he was sitting at a corner table, with his chin propped on his fist, staring at nothing. Not the football game on the bar TV, not even his phone. I wondered how long he suffered through that posturing.
He was handsome enough, his brown hair longer than it was on his profile. We said our hellos and shook hands and I took a seat. Before the awkwardness could fester I asked him about his job. He shrugged and tried to downplay it but I persisted. I wanted him to describe exactly how an ad was made, to take me through the process from concept to design to the guy who hangs the billboard over the expressway. Whenever he tried to gloss over any part of the production I called him on it. A couple times he fumbled and told me that “wasn’t really his department”, to which I looked him in the eye and said, “So basically you don’t know, is what you’re saying.”
He asked me about my music, nothing groundbreaking, the same shit everyone asks a singer-songwriter such as myself, one with a fully mastered EP, her own Youtube channel and a publicist who used to work with The Supremes. He told me missed the days when records sold millions of copies, when he used to tailgate in the parking lot of Tom Petty concerts. “Tailgating?” I said, breaking out into laughter. He looked at me funny. I wanted to remind him that tailgating and music were two concepts that should not share the same bedroom, but I restrained myself.
The server came and took our order. I asked him if he had any hobbies. He told me liked to write and that he had just finished a book. “Oh, cute,” I said. “What’s it about?”
“Crohn’s Disease,” he said. “It’s a chronic bowel—”
“I know what it is,” I said. Right. Because women are dumb and sheltered and aren’t familiar with any medical conditions unrelated to the reproductive system.
“It’s a memoirs, actually. Hopefully a funny one.”
“Mm-hmm. So do you follow a special diet?”
“Well I try and eat sensibly and avoid certain—”
“So you just eat whatever you want and then cry about your stomachache. I see.”
“Excuse me? I don’t cry about anything, least of all my health.”
Heel, boy, heel.
He let out a breath and looked around the restaurant. The server dropped off his coke and my water. I eyed his coke reproachfully and fought the urge to make a comment about sugar intake. He rubbed his hands together and said “So…” all drawn-out, and then he changed tack and asked me about my apartment. Back to me. Good boy.
Then we talked about Brookline, where I currently reside. This led to mutual accolades about the city. Oh, lookee, we agree on something. Yes, Brookline’s a nice place to live. I upped the ante by telling him how much I loved Jews and Liberals, how fascinated I am with the empowerment of female prostitution and how much I hate Republicans because they’re so hateful. He nodded along through all of this, adding in the occasional “interesting” or “gotcha”. He asked me if I was going to vote on Tuesday and I quickly returned with “I’m not registered in the state of Massachusetts”, followed by a little smirk, just to quell any bullshit he might give me about civic duty.
The food came. Pan-seared trout for him and roasted chicken for me. I expected him to get the hangar steak with French fries but he surprised me. After a few moments of chewing he asked me about my band. I told him it was in a rebuilding stage. He asked if the band had a name and I said yes, two names in fact: my first name, followed by my last name. It took him a moment to realize (can I get a halleluiah) that my band was me, and some other musicians.
“Have you ever heard of Jewel?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said.
“How ‘bout Alanis Morrisette.”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Well, there you go.” I waved the server over to take my plate away.
“Gotcha,” he said, nodding, piling his sautéed vegetables onto his fork.
“I just found a new rhythm guitarist. Her name is Brittany Lightening, and I love her. There are two people I love in this world: Jewel, and Brittany Lightening. And my dentist, so that’s three.”
“Cool,” he said. There was a lull, during which he finished his meal, cleaning the plate spotless. I wanted him to carry it to the sink himself, but the server promptly took it away.
“So,” he continued, rubbing his hands together, as if conjuring a new-and-improved form of small talk, “is your band an all-girl band, or…”
And there it was. Thank you, Gods of Kabbalah.
“Wow. That was the most sexist thing anyone has said to me in a long fucking time, Axl.”
He straightened up, confused, alarmed, and, ideally, frightened. “No, I just meant…”
“Do you refer to Led Zeppelin as an ‘all-boy’ band?”
“No, I…guess not. I mean, I refer to L7 as an ‘all-girl’ band; I think that’s how they refer to themselves, in fact.”
I’d never heard of L7, and, either way, that’s not the fucking point. The point is: after making an asshole of yourself, don’t try and rectify the situation. Period. The best thing to do when your foot is lodged in your piehole is…
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think of it that way. I didn’t mean to offend you,” he said, calmly, looking me in the eyes.
Fuck that, but okay.
I examined my fingernails. “Well, now you’re aware.”
He sat back in his chair and looked around the restaurant, searching for a salvageable change in direction. The awkwardness was his now; he owned it. After a moment he perked up and pointed to the ceiling. “Great song, huh?”
I tilted my head and listened. The song was “99 Red Balloons”. I turned back to him with a pitying smile, the kind of look you give someone who accidentally wore their underwear on top of their pants. “Oh, of course. You’re Gen-X.”
He rubbed his forehead, and without looking up at me said, “Let me guess. The 80s suck, right?”
“They’re just…sad. I think everything about your generation is sad, actually.”
“Really.” Now he was looking for the server. I waited for him to ask why his generation was sad, but he motioned for the check instead. I answered him anyway.
“I think people who hold onto things are kind of sad. Like the past. Like anything outside the present moment.” I twirled my Kabbalah bracelet around my wrist.
He nodded slowly, closing his eyes. The server dropped off the check. He threw a card in the vinyl check holder and handed it back, and then he looked at his watch, which appeared to be a Rolex.
After paying the check he told me he was tired and asked if I was ready to go.
“You look tired,” I said.
Outside the restaurant he asked if he could drive me home. I shrugged and said “sure’. Some might say that is effectively sending a message, the same people, for instance, who think “no” means “yes” and that eye contact means “please talk to me”. But sober women do not play games, nor do we concern ourselves with the pettiness of subtext. It was cold and I didn’t want to walk. Regardless, I was fully prepared to stonewall any sexual advances. With my can of mace, if necessary.
“You need a new car,” I said as we climbed into his Jeep Wrangler. I pointed out some rust spots creeping up from the chassis.
“Nope, this one works fine,” he said, backing out and heading down Beacon Street. I leaned over and spied the odometer, which read 172,000 miles, and smiled to myself.
We pulled up in front of my apartment building. “Well, it was great meeting you. Have an awesome night,” he said through a yawn. I turned to give him a hug but his head was leaning against the driver’s side window and he was rubbing his temples.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll talk to you later in the week then. Good night.” I climbed out of the Jeep and heard him say something just before I shut the door behind me. It could have been “you too” or “okay” or “bitch”.
Back home, inside my apartment. I peeled off the thrift shop pearls and the cardigan and got into my sweatpants. I picked up my acoustic and strummed a few chords, then I got up and turned on the GoPro camera that I keep on a tripod (I videotape myself whenever I write songs…footage for my upcoming Youtube “Behind the Music” video). I strummed a few more chords but, alas, nothing came to me. Maybe my next date will inspire me.
That’s why I reply often.
Daniel Pellegrini is a recovering drug addict with an aggressive form of chronic bowel disease. That means he can't take painkillers after undergoing rectal surgery. He's here to show you just how beautiful life is.
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