We met at the Santa Monica outpost of the Bodega wine bar. Though it was fairly dark inside, I recognized his face at the bar. I waved and walked toward him. As he stood up, his body did not match his face, or any of his online pictures. He was not the same guy surfing in the wetsuit, or wearing the tux, or looking all skinny with his bushy brown hair. He must have gained 50 pounds, maybe more. Beneath his beige button-down shirt I could see man boobs.
"Shall we get a table?" he asked.
As I turned to walk toward the table, my mouth gaped open in disbelief, as though I were protesting to some unseen observer, can you believe this? It was deception, plain and simple. What was he thinking? That his sparkling personality would so charm me that I wouldn't mind being lured with misleading pictures?
"Do you want food?" the waiter asked.
I hadn't eaten dinner, but I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. Mr. Misrepresentation wanted to know if the fingerling potatoes were French fries. Then he wanted to know if the wine bar had French fries.
"I really like French fries," he announced.
I kept looking at him, trying to reconcile the person in front of me with the person in his photos. I asked him how many women he'd been out with from the dating website.
"More than two and less than 50," he said. His profile said he was a lawyer. He'd graduated law school a year ago but failed the bar. More misrepresentation.
"Such a lawyerly answer," I said.
He went into a long-winded explanation of how he didn't keep a scorecard but finally said, "Nine or 10. You?"
"The same." He was date No. 9.
"And how many of those were total jerks you couldn't wait to get away from?"
"Three." I didn't even have to think about it.
Though talking about other online dates is not the way to go when you're on an online date, I didn't care, and I willingly launched into my stories. After telling him about the two most obnoxious guys, I said, "and some people are deceptive."
Then I stared down at my salad.
"Are you trying to say something about me?"
I looked up at him and started reeling all over again.
"Do you think you look like your pictures?"
"Well, I've gained a few pounds."
A few pounds?
"You should put a more recent picture up," I said, looking back down at my salad.
The waiter eventually brought the check in a small glass. Mr. Misrepresentation stared at it for a while, then he took out his credit card and put it into the glass.
I did nothing. I still felt angry and disappointed. After sitting there for more than an hour, making conversation and forcing myself to get through the date, I had to say something before I left.
"You know, you really don't look like your pictures."
There. I said it.
"I think I am how I describe myself," he said.
"You weren't what I was expecting at all." He needed to hear it. "When was that surfing picture of you taken?"
"Four years ago. But the caption says 2007," he said defensively.
"I don't want to be mean, really," I said. "I don't want to hurt your feelings. But right now you're setting it up for both people to get disappointed. I can't believe I'm the first person to feel this way, though I might be the first one honest enough to say it."
"I'm not a thin person," I said, "but I look like my picture." To which he responded with some faint noise in his throat as though he were vaguely implying I didn't.
Was I a horrible, superficial shrew? No, I was tired of being deceived, of being a once-hopeful dater worn down by exaggerations about height, omissions about children and divorces, and, most disappointing of all, false representation of one's readiness to be in a committed relationship. So many guys looking for some action masqueraded as seekers of relationships, of girlfriends, of "partners in crime," even soul mates. If he would lie to me about this, what else would he lie about? I needed more than physical attraction. I needed honesty.
"I'm gonna get going," I said. "Thanks for taking me out."
I stood up and grabbed my jacket.
"You're leaving?" he said, incredulous. "You're just going to walk out?"
I started to walk away, and he shouted after me, "And you're going to stick me with the bill?"
I walked as fast as I could out the door.
The next day, I went online to reconcile the image he presented with what I'd seen. Only he'd taken down every photo and put up a more recent, more accurate shot of a heavier him wearing a baggy black shirt and standing next to Wayne Knight, the comic actor who played Newman on Seinfeld. Seriously. The caption read, "What you see is what you get."