Reopening old wounds

I had a bad date last night, and I need to talk about it a little bit. I’m a single, lonely, healthy middle-aged man, which is to say that I would like to have some female companionship. So, a few months ago after I broke off my last relationship, I downloaded the Tinder app to my phone and decided to give online dating another try. I’ve wasted many hours swiping left and right and messaging women that matched with me, but last night was the first date I’ve been on since the break-up.

Let’s call this woman Nicki. That’s not her real name, but it’s the one that a friend of mine from work uses to refer to her. Nicki and I started chatting through the Tinder app a week or two ago. She’s a 42-year-old divorced soccer mom that lives on the other side of the city. We eventually exchanged phone numbers and switched to texting, and last Friday, we graduated to actual phone conversations.

We talked for almost an hour and half during the first call. She said she’d been drinking and she was very talkative. I learned all about her kids and her failed marriage, that she’s a stay at home mom, that she smokes cigarettes, etc. All the normal kind of getting-to-know-you stuff. I enjoyed the conversation, while also ignoring all the red flags that she was raising all over the place. I friended her on Facebook after we hung up so we could look at each other’s old pictures and posts.

Saturday night, we talk on the phone again. This time, I’m hanging out at a dive bar near the house with my grown offspring playing Pokemon Go and listening to the jukebox. It was a shorter conversation this time, but again, she told me that she’d been drinking. Red flag ignored again. I thought to myself, "It’s the weekend. It’s late in the evening. No big deal. Hell, I’m drinking too so it would be hypocritical to question it."

At this point we agree to meet in person on Monday evening after I get off work and after she takes the kids over to their dad for his turn in the custody cycle. At several points along the way here, she has asked if she has scared me off yet. Why does she keep asking me that? She’s not unattractive and she lives in a decent neighborhood. What’s to be scared of?

So, Monday/yesterday rolls around, and she turns her kids over to their father in the late morning and goes out to lunch at a bar with a friend of hers. I think to myself, why is she having lunch at a bar instead of a restaurant? But again, red flag ignored.

Later in the afternoon, she suggests that rather than meeting me somewhere in her neighborhood, that I just come to her house instead. This seems really strange for a first date, but I did meet her on Tinder. She calls me again just as I’m getting off work and getting ready to head over to her house. She’s been drinking since lunch which is why we’re meeting at her house, and she was calling to warn me about that. Red flag noted finally, but it would be rude to cancel at this point.

I show up at her front door at 6:00, and I can tell immediately that not only has she been drinking, but that she is, in fact, quite drunk. It’s hard to tell from her Facebook pictures, but in person, you can tell just from looking at her that she’s an alcoholic. She gets me a beer out of the fridge, and we go sit on the patio and talk so she can have a cigarette. We talk religion and politics for awhile. She’s got some half-baked ideas on both topics but nothing to pick a fight over.

Meanwhile, she’s reminding me more and more of my late wife Michelle. Her actual name is quite similar. Like Chelle, she smokes. Like Chelle, she talks a lot. Like Chelle, she clearly spends a lot of time tanning and looks several years older than she is because of it and the smoking.

She decides that we need to go for a drive so that she can show me where her kids go to school, where her best friend lives, and where her old house is. She’s got a quart-size insulated cup filled to the top with beer with some ice cubes in it. She keeps refilling it to the very top so that she has to drink some before she can put the lid back on. She asks if I’d like a cup so that I can take my beer with me while we go for the drive. I’m not keen on the idea of having open containers of alcohol in my car, so I decline the offer of a cup for me, but I acquiesce and let her bring her beer with her on the ride as I’m not particularly worried about getting pulled over in a good neighborhood while the sun is still up.

On the drive, she starts to ask me about Michelle, but she gets distracted. I know what she’s going to ask. It’s the first question everyone has when they find out that I’m widowed.

After we get back to the house, she gets me a second beer. She confesses that she drinks too much, as if I had somehow missed that fact. In fact, she drinks every day. She tells me about her childhood as she overfills her insulated cup again, and tries to get me to finish that second beer because she wants me to keep up with her. I told her that I have to be at work at 7:00 in the morning, and she offers to let me spend the night so that I can drink too. I take the third beer, but I know at this point that I’m not going to be spending the night, so I open it but I only take a sip.

I remind her that she was going to ask me about Michelle because at this point the resemblance is impossible to deny. Her house is a mess because she’s too messed up to clean up after herself. She sounds exactly like Michelle used to sound when she was whacked out on Ambien and Xanax. She’s got problems with depression and she blames problems of her own making on other people. So, before she can even ask, I tell her: "She OD’d on prescription pills. That’s how she died." I give her the synopsis from the botched weight-loss surgery in 2001 that started the addiction all the way up to the point where we turned off the life support after the OD in 2011.

Nicki tells me that in addition to the alcohol, she also takes Xanax and Adderall, but that she never takes the full amount prescribed by her doctor, so she’s in no danger of overdose. I have to explain that Michelle and I had problems way before she accidentally killed herself. I tell her how she was high every night, and how I tried to take her Ambien away from her, and how I was on the verge of asking for a divorce.

Nicki tells me that her situation will all be better when she gets a job, because then she won’t be drinking all day. I have to be a dick and point out that there’s no way she’s going to get a job unless she stops drinking first. "The drinking is a problem." I’m not the first guy that she’s met on Tinder, and not the first one that’s had a problem with the drinking. So, I apologize to her, but this isn’t going to work out. I just can’t put myself back in that same situation again. She’s very understanding.

So after two hours, and two and a third beers, I give her a hug and tell her that I enjoyed meeting her, and then I fled, leaving her home alone with her beer. Poor Nicki needs some help, but it’s not going to be me that gives it to her. I just can’t do it again.

On the 40 minute drive back home, I turn on a podcast and try to distract myself from the disaster that had just happened. About half-way home, I realize that my eyes are watering. I’m so out of touch with my emotions, I’m still not sure whether I was crying or if they were watering for some other reason.

When I got home, I unfriended her on Facebook, and I deleted my Tinder account. I think I’m done dating for a little while.