"You're very handsome, Mr. Sabarra," Joel said, as he stepped out of his Acura SUV to meet me in person for the first time.
"You're not so bad yourself, Mr. Black," I answered. I thought he was kind of cute, even though he resembled Beaker, the beloved Muppets character known for his long face and shock of ratty hair.
"It's Dr. Black. There's a 'Dr.' in front of my name."
"My apologies," I said, taken aback. "Your profession must be the one detail you left out of your online profile." Aside from that one extremely important bit-of-tid, Joel had laid out everything but the exact prescription of his reading glasses. His daily breakfast routine -- full of fiber and grains -- was a riveting highlight of his dating dossier.
"I try not to make a big deal of it," he said, "so no worries."
My father, who at 70, still enjoys a thriving career as a physician, never corrects people who use the generic "Mr." prefix in front of his name, so I was jarred by the curt speed of Joel's direct admonishment.
"I wasn't terribly concerned," I assured him. "My father is a urologist. So what kind of doctor are you?"
"A doctor of music," he proclaimed, as proudly as if he were Marie Curie. Basically, he was the medical equivalent of someone who had binge-watched one season of Grey's Anatomy. "I run the arts program at a city college in East Los Angeles," he said, clearly impressed with himself.
"Let me get a handle on this. Theoretically, if we were on a commercial plane together, and a flight attendant asked if there were a doctor on board, we couldn't ring the call button?" I asked, trying to put in perspective for Joel how correcting me was almost as ridiculous as his self-importance. Being able to play an organ rather than being capable of removing one wasn't as impressive to me.
"I don't know what you mean," he said. His cluelessly charming smile revealed a crooked tooth in the front of his mouth that was sexy in its imperfection. "Are you making fun of me?" If he had to ask, I thought, it was a good thing he wasn't teaching piano anywhere other than on a community campus.
"What I mean is that if my half note was in 'treble,' could you perform emergency surgery?" The music puns were hard to resist, but most of them were lost on Joel. He seemed to live in a blissfully unaware state of consciousness that, strangely, made him an appealing alternative to the culture-savvy men who had been applying for positions on my mattress.
I had essentially given up on Internet dating, having kissed more frogs than a Disney princess. If my little nieces knew how much like Ariel, Belle and Tiana I actually was, I would have earned hall-of-fame status in their eyes.
Joel and I went on a couple of additional dates, as if neither of us wanted to cut the other loose immediately: I hesitated because I was physically attracted to him, which clouded my concerns about his arrogance and obscured worldview. He was just out of a relationship and, I believe, wanted his men dropped from a vending machine like a needy child who had just been handed a bucket of Chuck E. Cheese prize coupons. There was no sustainable connection.
"You know, I've been thinking," Joel said as he dropped me off at my house after our third and final date. I found even that simple statement hard to believe, but I listened anyway. "I feel like we should be friends. Do you agree?"
"My life is full with friends," I answered, "and I take friendship very seriously; it's a commitment, in my opinion."
"Weren't you hoping we'd be friends?" he asked. "I would never consider being romantic with someone who wasn't a friend first."
"So you go on Match.com to find friends and feel lucky if one turns out to be the man of your dreams?" I was baffled; it was as if he were going on the Williams- Sonoma website to look for Nike sneakers.
"Exactly!" he said with an enthusiasm that indicated pride in the effectiveness of his communication. He was excited that I appeared to understand and embrace his "logic" for the first time.
"I don't agree," I replied. "I date online in hopes of finding a long-term romantic partner."
"So, you don't want to be friends? I don't understand." Clearly, I was no competition for him when it came to stringing words together efficiently.
"You are correct," I said, "I don't see a reason to pursue a friendship." It doesn't get much more definitive than that. After three dates and obvious incompatibilities, there was no friendly bond to preserve.
Following my experience with Joel, I stumbled across a number of online suitors with whom I shared no personal chemistry -- and many of them expressed similar interest in maintaining friendships.
"What's wrong with having a few new friends?" my buddy Skyler asked. "I go out with a ton of guys who don't ignite sparks but who are great people."
"I have only so many hours in a day to give to my existing friends, and I feel like those people meet my needs," I said. "The only missing person in my life is a lover, and I want to give what little time I have left to the pursuit of a boyfriend - not cultivating casual friendships with nice people I meet on dating websites." Obviously, if I met a guy who was hilariously funny and charming and who shared my interests - but wasn't husband material - I'd want to hang out. That doesn't happen often, though, and I prefer to dispense with the disingenuous "let's stay friends" bullshit that passes regularly through the dating websites.
Skyler couldn't wrap his head around my outlook, but I held fast to my sentiment. If I were looking for friends, I would join a book club, take a cooking class or attend religious services with like-minded adults.
Dating websites are for dating, not for finding people who want someone to grab dinner with every now and again or who need a ride to the airport at holiday time. I have those people in my circle, and I'm already not getting flowers and sex from them.