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Today I want to share a story from one of my fabulous readers, Julie. Last week she wrote to me with a hilarious and thought-provoking story, and asked for some advice. We exchanged a few emails and I immediately realized that her story must be shared beyond our measly inboxes. So here goes.

Like me, Julie lives in the Capital. She’s a fun and adventurous twenty-something, evidenced in party by the fact that she branches out into the mysterious and nerve-wracking world of online dating. In fact, she emailed me just a few days before a scheduled Match.com date with a fellow named Zack. Julie was a bundle of nerves, admitting that she couldn’t “shake the ‘what if this is horrible?!’ jitters.” As an experienced online dater, I know exactly how she feels. And I’m sure a lot of you out there can relate out well.

In the days preceding their scheduled meet-up, Julie and Zack fell into the all-too-common texting trap, playfully sending little messages back and forth as if to mimic an actual conversation. (You guys know how I feel about too much texting. I wrote about it here and here and… well let’s move on.) The two were texting about the Metro system in D.C., about how Zack sometimes sees the creepiest guys just stare at girls for long Metro rides. (Seriously, I could write an entire post book on this phenomenon. Metro etiquette, people! Don’t stare at me, don’t rub up on me and don’t put your smelly armpit in my face!)

Julie and Zack continued to joke about public transit, and she told him a funny story about a Metro pick-up attempt she’d experienced. A guy once approached her on the train and told her he was a law student, to which she countered with an obvious, “Where do you go to law school?” The reply of “Uhh, um, I go… uhhh” made her quickly realize two things: “A) He’s a liar, and B) He must be stupid too since there are like 20 law schools near D.C.”

Did I mention Julie has a great sense of humor? Love it!

But, funny pick-up line stories aside, this is where the story takes a turn — the very turn that caused Julie to write in for advice. After she shared this story via text with her Match.com date, he replied with the following:

Hey, that’s why some chemist invented rohypnol. Idiot liars need love, too.

Julie looked at her phone for a long time, reading the text over and over. Her heart started to beat faster. In her own words, she was thinking: “UH, WHAT? Did he just make a joke about a date rape drug? Before we’ve even met??”

Julie called her mom and her best friend for advice. She didn’t know how to respond. Was he kidding? Why didn’t he know it’s not okay to joke about those things? After listening to some sage advice, she settled on responding with:

Sorry, it’s hard to tell how to take a roofie joke over text. I have to assume you were kidding and didn’t mean it in a creepy way. It’s hard to tell when you’ve never met someone before.

She breathed deep and hit send. Zack responded with what seemed like a sincere apology, though it was clear he also thought she should have known he was joking. Oh, sorry not all women get your hilarious sense of humor, Fabio. (Side note: Zack Morris would never do this. And not only because his huge cell phone didn’t have texting capabilities. In the end, he always loved Kelly Kapowski and treated her well. Maybe Match.com Zack should try to live up to his namesake.)

The problem remained: Julie and Zack still had a first date planned in just a few days. So, she ended her email with this question for me to consider: “Should I still agree to meet up with him or is a guy who thinks a date rape joke is funny someone to immediately cut off?”

Wow. Deep stuff.

Let’s be honest. If it were me, I probably would’ve unleashed my diva in a calculated text back. I’d attempt to “teach him a lesson” with something harsh and dismissive like:

Umm… date’s off. If you seriously think I’m going to meet up with a stranger who just admitted he thinks roofies are okay to use in certain circumstances, you are out of your text-addicted mind. I’d say best of luck in your search, but I’m scared that search involves buying “special drinks” for unsuspecting girls at bars. Next time you try to impress a girl, how about you try to NOT allude to the illegal and repulsive act of date rape? Just a suggestion.

But, alas, Julie is not Ruth, nor can I expect everyone to be at the same diva level as me (currently at Level 12, if you’re wondering). It has taken years of practice and training after all. So, for Julie, I offered the following pieces of advice:

1. Consider what Zack talks about with his friends when he’s NOT on his best behavior trying to impress a girl. If he tells flat-out date rape jokes to a girl he’s about to date, what do you think he talks about over beer and football with his buddies? It’s a scary thought, but an important one. Consider this as you consider dating Zack.

2. If you choose to go on a first date with Zack, by all means go. But you must remember to be careful. Drive yourself to a public place for the meet-up and, for the love of God, don’t drink something you haven’t had your eyes on for the entire date. Use the time to gauge whether he is a genuine, nice guy, or someone putting up a facade to impress you.

After I sent the email, I thought a lot about Julie and Zack. I wondered if they went out. I wondered what she decided. And then, much to my delight, a week later I received an email update from her! (Made my week!)

Julie did indeed decide to meet up with Zack. They met for sushi and then walked over to Chinatown to grab a couple beers at Fado’s. She said the date went well. They even addressed the off-color text, and he agreed that he came off creepy by saying that. Still, she was careful. She met him there and she probably carried her drink into the bathroom with her. (Good call, girl.) In the end, Julie thought the date went well, and is waiting to see if another date ensues.

I’m glad it worked out for Julie. I’m glad Zack realized that bad humor can have terrible consequences, and I hope he learned his lesson — don’t ever, ever, ever (ever!) joke about date rape. It’s never funny.

The funny thing is (pun intended), in a weird way I can relate to Zack. I tend to be a sarcastic person myself. I’m always telling jokes, often under my breath, sometimes negative. Julie’s story made me examine myself and the jokes I say — even on first dates. Have I ever joked about something that might offend my date? Have I ever made a sarcastic comment about something important to him?

Uh oh. I believe I am guilty on many counts.

So, thank you, Julie, for sharing your story with me. It’s taught me a lot. I will definitely rethink how I approach conversations — whether or not I’m on a date. And thank you for allowing me to share your story with your fellow readers. I hope one of them learns something, or is saved from making a terrible mistake.

How about the rest of you? Has a date ever surprised you with an off-color comment or joke that really turned you off? How did you respond?

~Ruth

*Do you have a story you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear from you! Visit my Submit Your Story page to send it on over!