Sweatpants Guy Meets Ponytail Girl

If you’re between 25 and 45 and single or know someone who is, then you’re probably familiar with online dating.  The Internet makes it easy for singletons to find people who, on paper, are a perfect match.  We seek our mates online because as we say to each other “How else will we meet someone?”  Yes, we’re all walking around out there but unless we log on to one of our many interweb gadgets, we’ll simply never meet.

I’ve had many experiences with online dating.  Some good, some bad and some downright hilarious (fodder for a future blog post perhaps) but the problem I continue to run into is authenticity.

Let me explain. For those of you who aren’t familiar with online dating, here is a download:

You log on to your favorite dating site, find someone attractive, and then you chat via email and instant message with chosen attractive person (sometimes for a very long time). In these emails and IMs you flirt. You use your best vocabulary, you talk about all the smart things you’re both into and how clever, yet grounded and normal you both are and then, finally, someone bites the bullet and types, “let’s meet”.

You meet somewhere not too romantic but not too casual and then the interview begins:  “What do you do?”  “Wow, what an interesting name you have.”  “I’ll order wine if you do” and so on.   At the end of all of this conversation you walk away feeling it went fine and then four out of five times you never talk, email or IM that person again.  I think it’s because even though you were both respectful and somewhat interesting you don’t really “see” the other person. You know a whole lot about how much he loves NPR and running marathons but you have no idea how he treats old ladies in grocery stores or how he looks in his sweatpants on a Sunday.  But we have to online date right?  After all, how else will we meet someone?


I was in Whole Foods a few weeks ago when I noticed this guy in the checkout line next to me.  He was smiling and chatting with an older lady behind him and helping the lady in front of him pick out some sort of chocolate bar.  He was charming, funny and helpful and he had these ladies beaming.  Actually, he had quite a few shoppers beaming.  Folks would pass the line and smile or make a remark about a conversation they had with him earlier in the produce section.  It seemed like he affected the whole store with his dynamic personality.

Sweatpants Guy wasn’t overly attractive and per my colorful nickname, he was wearing an old tattered sweatshirt and yes, sweatpants. Normally a guy in sweatpants at the grocery store would be a red flag but not this guy.  He seemed like a lot of fun.  He was happy and true.

As I left the store I seriously thought about saying something to him. I wanted to say, something about how his personality was contagious or how I thought it was nice the way he treated the older lady in the check out line. Instead, I just walked out of Whole Foods and into the store across the street. While waiting in the check out line at the second store, I saw Sweatpants Guy again.  He was heading up the aisle next to my check out section. I thought, ‘okay this time I’m going to say something to him, this time I’m actually going to communicate.’  I was about to reach over and tap him on the shoulder when a super cute girl wearing a long, straight ponytail approached him.  She was extremely nervous and her voice shook just a little when she said “I never do this, I swear, but I think you’re amazing and you seem like so much fun and, well…here’s my number.”  I stretched my neck to see what she had in her hand and it was a yellow Post-it note.  She had written her number on real paper!

We waited, the ponytail girl and me. We waited to see how Sweatpants Guy would respond to the numbers on the Post-it.

He looked her straight in the eye, gave her the most authentic and lovely smile and said, “You just made my day. Thank you so much, wow.”  She giggled a laugh much younger then her years and repeated what she had said before. She told him he seemed like a nice guy and to have a good day.  Then she half skipped out the door.

As fate would have it Sweatpants Guy and I left the second store at the same time so this time I turned to him and said “It’s not every day a gal asks you out in the super market.”  He flashed that amazing smile and said, “I know, she really made my day.”

I have no idea if Sweatpants Guy and Ponytail Girl got together but I love that I was there to witness their real life encounter.  As I walked home with arms full of groceries I decided to make it a goal to ask a complete stranger out on date in person before the end of the year.

Thanks Sweatpants Guy and Ponytail girl for reminding me there are other ways to connect, ways that are spontaneous, true, real and a bit magical.

Have you ever asked a total stranger out in person (in the last 5 years)?  How did it go?


I Found My Superhero On The R6 Local

On September 12, 2001 I made a promise to myself. I promised that I was going to live each moment as if it were my last.  I promised I wouldn’t take my family or friends for granted and I would work on obtaining a pure heart.  Making these promises made me feel alive, sort of like I had been reborn and I couldn’t wait to meet all the other enlightened people who made similar promises to themselves in the wake of a national tragedy.

But, unfortunately, as time passed I forgot my promises.  I got back into my daily groove and became my old selfish self.  I took my family and friends for granted. Frankly, I became impatient, uncaring and I wasn’t all that nice to people.  And, all those other people I looked forward to meeting, all those enlightened souls who made promises similar to mine — they just didn’t exist, or if they did I didn’t see them. What I did see were shouting matches over parking spaces and doors slamming in neighbors’ faces.  I saw rude, insincerity and I worried about all of us.  I worried that everyone forgot and broke their promises.  I worried that we might become a selfish society that simply forgot to be nice.   Luckily for me all this changed when I encountered an unlikely hero on the R6 Local.

I was trekking home from the city on the R6 local and I was tired, hot and miserable. I found a seat near the window and prepared myself for a relaxing 23-minute snooze. My head propped up against the glass, I mentally perused my fridge for dinner options when a very vocal man entering my train car interrupted my thoughts.  He strung together profanities in a way I never thought possible.  He stumbled down the aisle and while rushing through the middle of the car he managed to offend every  race in the train car.  He grabbed the side of my seat and I began to feel sick with disgust.

He was ranting and loud and I just wanted him to stop. I wanted him to stop moving, to stop yelling, to stop being, to just stop!   I wanted to jump out of my skin.  Why today after my terrible workday did I end up sitting in this train car?  Please stop!

He was so disruptive I almost didn’t notice the women behind him.  She was one of those people you just don’t really notice.  She had no style, poor posture and she barely said a word.  I thought how pathetic she was to be with this awful man. How could she stand it, couldn’t she find a different companion?  As the two sat down the man oscillated between offending people and asking the woman a million questions;  “What station are we at now?” “What stop is next?”  “This is where the black people live right?”   The more questions he asked, the more it became clear to us R6 passengers that this man was obviously mentally ill.  Even though all us worker bees in our business casual attire understood he was sick he still made everyone nervous and uncomfortable.  You could feel the tension on the train growing and even though I knew it was wrong to think this, I just kept saying to myself “please be quiet, for all our sakes, please be quiet”.

A well-dressed man in a loose tie got tired of some of the racial comments and started to shift in his seat.  Tension heightened and everyone sensed something dire was about to happen and then all of s sudden the ranting man was calm and quiet. The women I had barely noticed before seemed to magically soothe him.  She seemed to know how to calm him down and make him comfortable.  She not only tolerated his behavior, she seemed to embrace it.  She was completely content to be with him.

I strained to hear the young women over the man’s rants. She was answering his questions as she stroked his back. She was patient and full of grace and she seemed to have more compassion for this person then I had ever seen one person have for another.

This woman probably had to live with this man’s rants and humiliating behavior every day.  She had to endure things I could not even begin to understand and yet she was strong and calm and maybe the coolest person I had ever encountered.  She was such an unlikely hero…and yet she had the most profound impact on me.

The six of us in the train car didn’t notice the man’s disorder at first because we were absorbed in our own discomfort.  We forgot the promises we made to ourselves.  We forgot the promises we made to our neighbors.  All we cared about was getting home, forgetting our workday and forgetting this man on the train. But the woman made us remember our promise, to step out of our comfortable self and realize that we all need to be patient, we all need to be neighborly and kind.  And we need to do this not only after a tragedy such as 9/11 but every day.  To not feel guilty about having to work at being a better person, but to be sure that we are working at it.

As I walked off that train car that day, I leaned into her seat and told her to have a good evening.  She smiled a big, beautiful smile and said “thank you” and told me to have a good evening as well.  I knew I met a superhero.  She may not be more powerful then a locomotive but she was the most compassionate person on the train that day and she had enough strength to remain kind, caring and dignified under intense stress and circumstances.  As I stepped off the train I felt so lucky to have met her. I felt energy from my toes to the tip of my head!   As she stepped of the train, I can’t be certain, but I think she might have been wearing a red cape.

Up, up and away!

When Men Were Kings

My grandfather (Poppa) turned 103 this weekend.   In his lifetime he lived through wars, prohibition, the depression, the first moonwalk, the invention of talking motion pictures, Penicillin, television, credit cards, and so much more.  He also held over twenty jobs in his lifetime including taxi driver, mechanic, and he even ran the player piano at a local roller skating rink.

Poppa was lucky enough to be of sound mind until he was about 101.  Even today he remembers things from his youth with the clarity of someone much younger.  Once I was old enough to understand how fascinating Poppa’s life experiences were, I began to ask probing questions hoping to spark a story. “Tell me about making home brew,” I would ask.  “Did you know any gangsters, members of the Black Hand perhaps?”  These questions would start Poppa down an enchanting path full of characters named Zig Zag and Gooch.  He told of hiding men in barrels, smuggling them out of town to safety and of high stake poker games behind iron doors in Pittsburgh. He also spoke of a time when men were kings.

When Poppa ended a story with “but that was when men were kings” the story sometimes involved accounts when women were considered less than men.  Stories about a time when men expected their wives and children to walk behind them when they walked into town.  Stories modern women would consider shocking. However, more often his “When Men Were Kings” stories were about how hard everyone worked and how respect, kindness and chivalry were fundamental qualities that men possessed.

My work and lifestyle enable me to meet many new people, sometimes up to fifty or sixty a year. The more I meet, the more I notice the lack of fundamental qualities men possess that, in my eyes, make a man a king.

Things like really listening to the person across the table – the conference room table or the dinner table.  Complimenting how someone looks. Taking an interest in someone’s life, or friends.  Treating people with genuine kindness and dare I say, even displaying a bit of chivalry.  Opening a car door, paying for a first date, leading a lady through a door, not cursing like a sailor and dressing like a man, not a boy, for a formal occasion are things I find less and less the norm.

Please understand, I know there are many men out there worthy of a crown.   I know a few personally.  I’m simply making a broad observation.   It just seems that genuineness and chivalry are slowly becoming obsolete and sometimes I wonder, should I ever have a daughter, will she encounter a king or will she only find them in the tales I tell of time when men were truly kings.