Oh the Wonderous World of Facebook Dating... [Reading From the BDGS Launch Event]

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I had just opened a Facebook account. Why? Because in 2005, I’d just graduated high school and was about to enter college. Because I was going through a break-up. Because that’s what you do when you’re 18 and freshly single, leaving home for the first time. Because—at the time—Facebook initiated you to the world of dorm rooms and keggers and classes that started after noon. So I chose a picture of myself with curled hair holding a margarita to display as my profile picture, back when Facebook was still reserved for college students. I was determined to meet some hot guys that might be new prospects come Fall.

Mike, my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend was leaving Staten Island to attend college at Texas State. I had known this when I met him, that he was going on a baseball scholarship to pursue his dreams of being a pitcher in the major leagues. My blonde-haired, blue-eyed athlete was leaving and I knew I was in need of someone else, hopefully some boy-man that was cute enough to make him jealous.

I was at my summer temp job in downtown Manhattan when I checked my Facebook and noticed a message. I looked at the tiny thumbnail picture of a tan guy with a backwards baseball cap posing in front of a tower of beer cans. He looked like an Abercrombie & Fitch model, one of those cocky types who were too attractive for their own good. The message read in the subject line: Fordham. This was the university I was about to attend, so I figured it was about some party and opened it.

The message from the backwards-hat-beer-can-boy named Tim said, “Hey jus tryin’ to meet some people going to Fordham. I went to the summer orientation today, too long and too boring.” I answered him and we started messaging back and forth about going to Fordham from Staten Island and about what mutual friends we had, because after all, on an island fourteen miles long, we were bound to know a few people in common.

Turns out Tim went to St. Peter’s High School and Sacred Heart grammar school, sister and brother schools to my own Catholic grammar and high schools. Turns out Tim also knew who my,-soon-to-be-ex-bf ,Mike was. They had played Little League baseball together. (And this was the reason I needed to get off the island for college, to meet some fresh faces). In Staten Island, the pickins’ were slim, and the chances of meeting someone who didn’t date your friend or play basketball with your cousin, were even slimmer.

Tim and I’s Facebook back-and-forth was turning flirty and although our face-to-face interaction with one another consisted of a profile photo, it seemed like we were starting something that resembled what could be a relationship in the real world. I thought Tim could be a nice replacement for my ex. But a day and another message later, I wasn’t so sure.

“Do you live on Alpine between North Raleigh and Clove?” he asked. Alpine, the mention of the street I grew up on, the street I still lived with my parents, and the exact cross streets that hugged our section of the block. The only things he left out were my house number and the color of the shutters.

Just one little question, enough to make anyone freak out at a time before it was second nature to Google a name to find someone’s street address.

How the fuck did he know where I lived, I thought. And why? Tim went on to reference my house, second from the corner and the two cars in our driveway. He said he often passed my house on his way to the gym.

Great, I thought. Not only did I find a replacement for Mike, I found a super-stalker. It was then that my crazy thoughts ran rampant. This was the reason why I lost my first boyfriend, my keen and highly-developed ability to over-analyze.

What if Tim wasn’t Tim in the photo at all? It would explain a lot. Meeting girls over Facebook before they started school. Roping them in with his charm hoping they’d overlook his blatantly differing features in person. The beer can picture could be of his older, better-looking brother. Or worse, someone he didn’t know.

I began picturing a studious nerd in glasses, picking his nose, while typing away at the computer. It’s no wonder I hadn’t heard of him before. Surely, a hot athletic looking guy from neighboring schools would be around at a football game or a school dance.

“How do you know where I live?” I responded while at work, secretly hoping he’d have an excellent explanation. Or maybe he’d realize he was caught in a lie and never respond, deleting his fake account. I felt the six degrees of separation shrink significantly as I watched my cursor blink on the screen. And his explanation began.

His Aunt Kim who married his Uncle, grew up with my mother. His Aunt Kim’s sister was Susan, my mother’s bridesmaid. I was Susan’s flower girl at her wedding and Susan lived across the street from our house on Alpine. So not only did Tim know exactly who I was, he also had access to pictures of me at 7 years old in a heinous flowered dress with bright red curled hair. And he knew where I lived because he attended our block parties many summers, often recognizing some of his guy friends over at my house across the street.

His Aunt Kim suggested he contact me when they found out we were both headed to Fordham. A small gesture mentioned to him and to my mother, who forgot to tell me because after all, my mother reminded me, I still had a boyfriend, even if he was leaving soon.

Now it seemed too good to be true. A guy as hot as Tim wouldn’t like me. A guy that had never had a girlfriend before college surely had some weird secrets, some insane reason why girls weren’t memorizing his workout schedule and stalking him throughout the day. A guy this sensitive and kind had to have something he was hiding. I decided to find out on our first date… at the YMCA. He would be there playing basketball with his friend and I, a starter on my own high school basketball team, would meet him there in my basketball shorts, straightened hair in a high ponytail, perfume, and full make-up.

I watched as Tim glided towards the hoop. He waved at me and smiled. He was even more attractive in person, possibly the hottest guy to ever lay eyes on me. His arm muscles bulged, his abs showed perfectly through his mesh shirt, cut like cubes of steak. His had tanned summer skin, the color of toasted almonds. I wanted to devour him and lick my fingers clean.

But he said no more than two, maybe three words to me during our basketball date. His eyes darted away when I tried to talk to him. When I left, I thought it was possible I had been the one to disappoint.

Later, through instant message, Tim told me he was painfully shy and that we’d need to take things slow. That we should build up to the next step of “talking on the phone.” In the meantime, he said, we should stick to the Internet. He said he’d get nervous or embarrassed and didn’t want to ruin a conversation with awkward silences.

Normally, I would think what 18-yr-old boy needs baby steps to talking on the phone? Where Tim seemed to be a novice, I was a skilled player. I could talk circles around guys. In fights, I always had the last word, thus meaning I won. But, instead of telling Tim I wasn’t interested in a guy that needed to gain the courage to speak to me on the phone, let alone in person. I was taken, as one might think a visual artist is to a ball of clay.

I no longer thought replacement, but boyfriend.

 

Tim and I decided to meet up again, this time at his Aunt Kim’s house who was away on vacation. We sat next to each other on the couch and watched Troy on television. During the sexual scenes, where Brad Pitt frequented his tent for some midnight ass from his hot young captor, Tim’s hand crept closer to my body. We didn’t kiss but kinetic energy hung between us like the static from our clothes.

And it was then that I questioned him again. His five words, choice-ones because he didn’t speak much in the beginning, traveled like a locomotive, heading for my gut.

I love your thick legs, Tim said. I will never forget the statement. Not the way he said it: candidly. Or the way I heard it: offensively. Or the way he put his hand on my thigh: gently. Or the way he moved on and smiled, as if he had just given me the compliment of a lifetime. My eyes widened and shock undulated to the outermost parts of my body. Where desire had been, shame prevailed. I pulled my legs up onto the couch, trying to hide them from view.

Thick was never a word a girl wanted to hear. Unless a man is referring to your incredible, gorgeous thick hair, the word should be banished from vocabulary towards women. The pudding can be thick. Accents can be thick. Fog can be thick. But not thick legs, thick breasts, thick arms, and certainly not…thick legs.

Thick was the word sitting between us now. Is this guy just stupid? I wondered. Or is he cruel? I couldn’t tell. I went home and threw out the pair of jeans I was wearing. Maybe it was the whitewashed fade down the center of the pant leg that created the illusion of “thickness,” I thought. I stared at my toned legs in the mirror, muscles that were shaped athletically from playing years of sports.

But when Tim asked me out again, on the phone, when he felt ready, of course, I thought of his incredibly blue eyes, his meager voice that didn’t match his muscular body, and I had to give him another shot.

 

It’s been six years since that date with Tim, the boy who posed in front of the beer cans on Facebook.

The boyfriend I have now, early on in our relationship, learned the meaning of thick and when to use it. He learned, while dating me, that I like to write. That mostly, I like to write about my life. And that occasionally, after six years of dating, I’ll have to write about him.

So Tim,… I hope you don’t mind. I love you.

 

-Samantha K. Smith