When I broke up with my boyfriend of nearly five years — my longest relationship to date — I felt lost.
It didn’t help that I was still in a band with him and faced him on a weekly basis at practice and shows. I swallowed my pride and held back my anguish every time I saw him flirt with women after our sets.
That’s when I decided I needed to jump back into the dating scene and find a way to quickly get over him.
At the time, I was organizing local shows and constantly on the lookout for new musicians to network with online. A friend posted a video of a band on Instagram that caught my eye and introduced me to the band’s guitarist. We connected on social media, and he commented on one of my posts about one of my favorite bands.
“I’m OBSESSED with them,” he wrote. He also asked if I wanted to hang out that night and continue our fandom in person: “Now I must know you,” he said.
Normally, I would have ignored or declined such an invitation, because I am strict about not dating anyone I didn’t know in real life.
Despite being a 20-something millennial, I’ve never used a dating platform like Tinder or Bumble to meet a love interest.
The idea of putting yourself out there for others to decide your value with a swipe isn’t appealing to me. Even meeting someone through social media seems like an artificial experience — the dating world has evolved into something strange and contrived.
While “stranger danger” was a big part of it, I also believe in the beauty of establishing authentic connections. But I was on the rebound, and I had just been canceled on by another date, so perhaps I was trying to compensate for my bruised ego when I said “yes” and gave him my cellphone number.
We agreed to meet outside his home in East L.A. (Since I’d already “met” him on social media and we had many mutual friends, it felt OK to meet him there.) When I arrived, he immediately walked out and greeted me with a big smile: “You’re just as cute in person,” he said. My first impression was that he looked better in real life than he did on social media. So far, so good.
He escorted me to the passenger side of his car and opened the door for me, instantly impressing me with his chivalry. We had a rock ‘n’ roll themed dinner at Grill ‘Em All, then he took me cruising around Boyle Heights while opening up about his youth there. He was charming, funny, sweet and full of enthusiasm.
We ended the night by playing video games at his place until 3 a.m. He never once made a move or made me feel uncomfortable — he respected my space. He walked me to my car. “Text me when you get home so I know you made it safe. I’ll stay up for it,” he said. I was swooning.
It was the most perfect first date I’d ever been on.
The next morning, I had 20-plus new texts from him. Texts telling me how much fun he’d had. How much he liked me. Multiple texts asking me to come watch him perform that night.
Was this the same person I’d hung out with the night before?
On Instagram, he’d tagged me in a photo: It was an image of an elderly couple at a punk show with the song lyric, “We will grow old together.”
I was stunned.
Then a friend texted me to ask if the guitarist and I were dating. How had word gotten around that fast? My friend knew someone who’d dated him and had a bad experience. “He was really obsessive and thirsty. He blew up her phone with almost 50 texts a day,” my friend said.
I felt creeped out. Actually, to say I felt creeped out was an understatement. Mostly, I was worried. The entire thing felt wrong as soon as I woke up to his texts, but when my friend gave me the scoop, it validated the feeling in my gut that had been telling me, “This isn’t right, it’s not supposed to be like this.”
I tried to figure out how to do some damage control. I wanted to avoid any aggressive and unwanted behavior from him, given that we could run into each other at shows. (Looking back, I should have just blocked him.)
So I declined his invitation to hang out that night but otherwise ignored his other texts and messages and tried to keep things civil. That didn’t work. So then I decided it would be best to just ghost him: I stopped replying.
But he continued to reach out. That night, he rang me a few times and followed each call with more texts. After the show, he left a voicemail: “We had a great set, I wish you were here.”
This went on into the next week. I briefly replied once to say I was really busy with work. I figured it was the best strategy — I’d let him down easy, he’d get over me, and everything would go back to normal.
After a week and a half of this, he finally got the message.
He tried to make things right with a DM.
“I apologize for my actions, I realize they may have pushed you away,” he wrote. “No worries,” I said, and alluded to my work situation to neutralize the uncomfortable conversation. He left it at that.
We continued to be social media friends, and he didn’t bother me again (though I’ve since blocked him on my phone and social media).
I also took the healthy approach with my ex and quit the band we were in together.
My dating options didn’t improve much afterward, but I learned a lesson: Block men like this ASAP in the future.
And I’m sticking to my original dating rule from now on: I’ll meet my prospects in real life instead of online.
The author is a journalist and producer, and is on Twitter @stephwritestuff
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