RECORD STORE TALES #903: Online Dating in the Brave New World (2000)
It was the year 2000 and the world seemed new to me again. Iron Maiden had a fresh reunion album on the horizon, ushering in a long-awaited rebirth of classic heavy metal. The snow was melting, and spring was in the air. Things were going really, really well. Especially at the Record Store. My store had a “head office” (actually a broom closet) in its back room. That’s why the upper management was always breathing down my neck. But I had heard through the grapevine (actually Tom) that head office was moving to a new location across town. They never told me, but Tom did. I was elated. Things were looking way up.
I also had what at the time I called “the best first date I’d ever been on”. I even washed my car before driving to Hamilton to see her. That’s how my parents knew something was up! Her name was Terra and she fancied herself a photographer. Strangely her apartment was filled with photos of herself. That should have served as a warning. T-Rev also dated a girl who was obsessed with photos of herself, and that didn’t work. His story was told in a song by local band The Candidates called “Who’s Your Daddy Now?” “Sold your soul for a photograph, I tore it up and had the last laugh. Who’s your daddy now? He ain’t got nothin’ on me!”
But I had to take my chances. The first date went so well that I called up T-Rev on my cell phone and told him I thought I met “the one”.
I did confide in T-Rev one thing that was unusual about Terra. She didn’t drink or do any drugs, which I liked. I rarely drank and had never touched a drug. What was unusual was that Terra was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. In my mind, trying to ease my concerns, I said “that means neither of us drink or do drugs – so that’s a good thing.” I wouldn’t be heading out to bars with her, or anything like that. I had to give her a chance for date #2.
She thought it would be fun to catch a sunrise together. She lived in Hamilton so it would take me an hour to get there before the sun came. I had never watched the sunrise with a girl before, so I was on board. The people at the Record Store thought I had a screw loose.
“You’re going to drive to Hamilton at 5:00 in the morning, to watch a sunrise?” asked one of the supervisors. They didn’t get why I thought it was such a cool idea. It sounded romantic to me and I’d never done anything like that before.
I called Terra up the night before our sunrise date and she had suddenly changed her tune. “That’s reeeaally early,” she complained about her own idea.
So that idea was off. Instead I came down in the afternoon. We hung out and watched MuchMusic. Britney Spears had just come out with “Oops! I Did It Again” and I can remember watching that video in her apartment. “I want a PVC bodysuit!” said Terra. I just wanted to do anything but sit around watching MuchMusic. After a few hours of watching Static X, Disturbed and other staples of the era, I headed home.
Date #3 was the weird one. She had an AA meeting that night and didn’t want to miss it. I offered to drop her off on my way home, and that turned into her inviting me to the meeting. Going to it was one of the most regrettable decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I did not realize it was a “closed meeting” or what that meant. I don’t know why she thought bringing me along was a good idea. I was curious, and I liked Terra. I trusted her that this was OK.
The AA meeting was in the basement of a nice church. We all sat in a circle. “When it comes your turn to talk, just pass,” said Terra. So I did. Instead I listened to stories that, quite frankly, I never should have heard. Me being there was an invasion of the group’s privacy and I felt uncomfortable immediately. I wanted out that door. I waited for an appropriate break.
When the group leader broke the meeting into smaller groups, I said to Terra, “I have to go, I’m not comfortable, I’m really sorry.” She said it was OK and that we would leave together. We briefly spoke to the group leader. His name was Mike too. “We have groups for beginners too, if you feel you’d like to come back and talk about whatever is going on.” This made me feel even worse. I was masquerading as someone I was not, for the sake of sitting next to a girl in this room. I thanked him and we left together.
I decided that would be our last date.
Which is why I am still surprised I went on date #4. Mother’s Day weekend 2000.
The phone rang on the Friday night. “What are you doing this weekend? Do you want to come and hang out at my mom’s place in Huntsville?”
I silenced the alarm bells going off in my head. The suddenness of the invite was strange but if she was introducing me to her mom, that sounded alright. I packed a small bag and headed to Hamilton to pick her up. A few hours later we were in Huntsville. We went to a bar where her friends were. There was a covers band playing. I found a spot to watch. They played “War Pigs”. I was happy. But where was Terra? She left me there watching this band while she hung out with her friends. Outside, one of them passed her a joint and she had a haul. On the way back to her mom’s place, she said “I really shouldn’t have smoked that joint,” and I was shaking my head wondering what the hell I was thinking.
Her mom was really nice and made me feel very welcome. They had a beautiful place up in Huntsville. Huge, with a guest house in the back where I slept. But by the end of the weekend, her mom was giving her shit for hanging out with her friends instead of the guy who brought her to Huntsville. I felt the same way. The whole weekend was her hanging out with friends, and me tagging along. We never did anything just the two of us. I felt good that her mom at least recognized there was something fucked up about it. They had a big argument in the kitchen while I sat in the living room with one of her friends, not speaking, just staring at the newspaper.
I raced back to Kitchener barely in time for Mother’s Day dinner. This time I really did mean it: that was the last date. That was the end of it. No more. I never saw her again. I could tell when I’ve been hosed. She promised me $50 in gas money that I knew I was never going to see. I shot off an email mentioning the $50 debt, and that was our last communication.
Iron Maiden came out with a brand new single called “The Wicker Man” which served as my cheer-up. I bought the CDs and the vinyl and immersed myself in new music. I always turned back to music when stuff went sour with a girl. In this case, one of my favourite bands were triumphantly returning with their strongest lineup. Three lead guitars. I couldn’t wait to hear it. Terra was the past, but the “Wicker Man” was the future! I felt that jolt of energy again. The life-giving electricity of rock and roll.
Valuable lessons learned here. Not many of my friends can say that they’ve been to an AA meeting. I’ve been there and I know it’s not a place for outsiders. A learning experience and not one I’ll repeat.
To be continued….