He first said “Hi” using a GIF – one of a man celebrating a victory by flexing his arms in the air, making aggressive pelvic thrusts. The victory, apparently, was that I had messaged him. See, in the world of Bumble, an online dating app, matches are made when both parties “like” the others’ photo. Then it’s up to the girl to send the first message, which she has 24 hours to do. Likewise, he has 24 hours to respond or the match will disappear. But John responded to my “hello” right away with a GIF of a gyrating man celebrating his victory through arms raised, aggressive pelvic thrusts. I responded to the GIF with: “I bet you say that to all the ladies.” He replied, “Only you girl. Your special.” I summoned Aziz Ansari as I read his response. I ignored his grammar mistake.
Shortly after being assaulted by the pelvic GIF we decided to meet. Because online dating, if nothing else, destroys standards. I thought he was somewhere between cocky and confident, unsure if it intrigued or repulsed me. To be fair, I was pretty sure it repulsed me, but like so many women, my instincts were clouded by the feeling of wanting to be liked. He was slightly quick-witted and I resigned that if nothing else, our meeting would produce a good back-and-forth.
Now, there are some things that you absolutely cannot change about a man. You can’t change his general temperament. You can’t change his pension for punctuality. You can’t change the fact that he aspires to do a comedy open-mic night with a journal full of dad jokes and you, his girlfriend at the time, held captive in the audience. You can, however, with some persuasion, change his hair. Or at least that’s what I told myself when I first met John in person. He was athletic. He was tall. He had a job. I could work with the hair.
Am I the only girl who thinks man buns and hipster hair transforms an otherwise handsome man into the male equivalent of a 1960s housewife sporting a beehive? What are they thinking? His hair was trim on the sides and two feet tall on top. It made his head look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa — like I was in some kind of augmented reality and sitting across the table from a man using a perpetual Snapchat filter. It was the kind of hair that you can see yourself surfing on. At least, that’s what I was envisioning when he flicked it back with a jerk, leaving a piece sticking straight up in the back, all stiff with product.
Hair can change I thought. And then once more with feeling: HAIR CAN CHANGE!
We were two beers deep and he had made me laugh a few times and I was thinking maybe when he interrupted the conversation to ask me a question about my hair.
“What color is it?” he asked. Baffled, I responded, “It’s kind of auburn.” Then, more baffled still I added, “I don’t know man. You’re looking at me. You tell me what color my hair is.”
“No,” he said, “Your natural color.”
“Oh. It’s basically the same, but I dye it because I’m getting a few grays.”
“I noticed,” he said. Then in a tone that was condescending in how it almost sounded complimentary, he added, “It was the first thing I noticed about you.”
I looked at the piece of hair sticking straight up from the back or his head. Ignoring the thing flicking me off, I summoned my retort: “Dude, if you were balding, I wouldn’t say ‘Hey, nice cul-de-sac.’”
“But I’m not balding,” he replied, missing the point. He proceeded to flick wisps of hair off his forehead, sending the piece in the back toppling over like a tree.
I sat there trying to decide if my anger was valid or if I was a bit tipsy. He tried telling me I was overreacting. I tried telling him he was a dick. Then he offered up some consolation in the form of advice: “You know what you should do,” he said. “You should get one of those wands – like a mascara wand.” Pantomiming himself combing his hair with a tiny, tiny brush, he added: “Then, you can brush up your roots.”
Not one to miss an obvious segueway, I stood up from the table and said to him a bit rhetorically: “You know what you should do? You should go fuck yourself.”
Questioning once again those elusive instincts, I wondered if I’d overreacted. I sat in my car in front of the restaurant staring at my steering wheel and thinking a couple things. Mostly: Oh God! He probably thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I overreacted. And then, as he emerged from the restaurant with a smug look on his face, seemingly thinking my same thoughts, I retracted those doubts. Maybe I didn’t overreact. Maybe that reaction is exactly what the situation called for.