While browsing the music section at my local Barnes & Noble I feel my phone vibrate.
"Almost there. Traffic is horrible," Mike writes, reminding me why I'm here in the first place.
Nearly an hour later, I'm deep into "Jimi Hendrix: The Intimate Story of a Betrayed Musical Legend" when the phone vibrates again. It's him.
"I just asked a cop, and I'm about a mile away. There was a parade going on and the street is blocked off so I'm walking to you."
I really don't mind that he's late. I'd be perfectly content sitting in Barnes & Noble by myself, but this time I'm about to go on a date with someone I met online. My only comfort is the fact that -- according to the new site, Alikewise
-- we share, if not the same regard for punctuality, at least a love of (some of) the same books.
Still, I have misgivings. Four days ago Mike and I exchanged numbers, and he's been texting me incessantly ever since. Who texts anyone 50 times in one day?!
Recalling the questions he's asked ("Do you dance?" "Do you like cuddling?") as well as his pithy online profile lines ("I am very outgoing and open-minded. I love to travel and explore like Indiana Jones"), I'm starting to wonder if this was a good idea.
I've always been intrigued by the dating websites my friends sign up for. An endless supply of men, right there at your fingertips! But, being the hopeless romantic I am, I've abstained. You see, I would much rather envision my love life containing one key chance encounter, as portrayed in all my favorite chick flicks, than endless clicking on pixelated hopefuls.
So, so far, I'm an online-dating virgin. When I heard of Alikewise, a site that matches people based on their book interests, all my preconceived notions of online dating changed. I've been a ferocious reader for as long as I can remember, so signing up for this site wasn't a hard decision. Having recently moved to Brooklyn -- and being the token single girl at all my friends' weddings this summer -- I figured I could afford to go on a few dates.
The profile setup was quick. I didn't have to fill out a gazillion questionnaires I've heard my friends complain about. I simply provided a user name, zip code and typed the names of my favorite novels and authors.
Then the fun (read: stalking) began.
The website allows you to search for people by book or location. A bit overwhelmed, I decided to let my profile sit for a day before I messaged anyone. Instead, I searched Brooklyn to see who was listed and weeded through two pages of dating potential.
With no real notion of how to introduce myself -- remember, I'm new at this -- I just wrote to a few fellow Brooklynites, complimented their book choices and asked for recommendations. One guy in particular, with nice looks and good choices in books, stood out to me. All in all, I found it far more disarming than having to talk about what we were really all there for.
Only, after two long days with no response, I felt rejected. Was my profile picture not pretty enough? Were my book selections not up to par? Insecurities abounded. By far the least flirty of my friends, I was starting to worry that I didn't have what it took to hook 'em in the virtual world either.
In fact, I had pretty much given up on the website when Kevin messaged me.
"nice collections there u have ..." he wrote.
He sounded like Yoda. I checked out his profile and found nothing but a photo, age and location. This was
meant to be a book-centric dating site so my reply was rather snarky.
"Thanks! Wish I could say the same for you. Upload some books!"
Apparently snark didn't scare him.
"Hi beautiful," he continued. "I like to read any recent news ... like newspapers, magazines ... but if I hang out with u, i will read any of your recommendations, where can i reach you beside here?"
Despite my roommates urging me to "just go on a date already, Annie!" I got a creepy vibe I just couldn't shake, so I listened to my gut and steered clear of Kevin.
Then, a few days later, I got a message in my inbox from Mike.
"Hi, nice smile. I think I was in the 11th grade when I read The Great Gatsby."
Simple and to the point. We exchanged a few messages and then -- this being dating, not book club -- I took a leap and invited him to coffee.
"Sounds great or even better pizza. I love pizza too. Call or text me any time," he responded.
(In my profile I had written that the two things I can't live without are pizza and music, and he'd caught on.)
Sweet, I thought. I was starting to like this guy. Humorous, attentive and good literary taste. Was it a match made in book heaven? I'd find out a few days later in -- where else? -- Barnes & Noble.
We exchanged numbers and communicated all weekend. That's when I learned he was a ferocious reader AND texter. Case in point: This was a guy who asked me what book I'd been meaning to read ("The Alchemist") and 12 hours later texted me to say he'd finished reading it.
He suggested our first date should be a pizza and a bookstore tour in New York.
"It would be cool to go with you cause you like books as much as I do and have a very cool personality besides your sexy smile," he texts me.
Really? I have a sexy smile based on one profile picture? I hate when guys say things like that. To me it feels about as personal as being yelled at by construction workers.
So, I was skeptical (can you tell?) but agreed to meet Mike on Tuesday night.
Which is why I'm here reading about Jimi Hendrix -- ironically, a book suggested to me by another guy on the site. That's one thing about dating sites based on books: If nothing else, you get solid recommendations.
What seems to be an eternity passes before my phone rings. He's in the store now, walking downstairs to meet me. I recognize him slightly from his photo (though I think it must have been taken 10 years ago) and give him an awkward hug, partially disgusted by the sweat pouring through his dress shirt.
He jokes that he now owes me a back massage for being late. Um, no thanks.
I try to change the subject and we wind up walking through the aisles pointing out some of our favorite novels. I notice a book I'm currently reading -- Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield's "Talking to Girls About Duran Duran."
"Groupie," Mike needles me.
Grrrr. He's unwittingly hit on my pet peeve: Just because I'm a female who interviews bands does not make me a groupie.
Mike obviously senses he's struck out, so he tells me how Stephen King was pissed off when his pen name of Richard Bachman got out.
We're in the Stephen King section now, where he points out each book he's read and which film adaptation best suited the book. I quickly realize Mike doesn't just love to read, he's obsessed
with it. It seems as if he's read every novel on the shelves and gives me a brief synopsis of each. I guess it's better than going on a date where the guy constantly mentions his ex-girlfriend, right?
We continue to talk over coffee and pizza, and I can't help but feel like I'm interviewing him. Blame the day job, but throughout the entire meal Mike talks about himself, while I politely smile and nod. This feels familiar, but usually it's when I'm interviewing a band, not a boy.
I'm surprised at how calm I am despite this being my first online date. The interviewer in me comes out and, surprise, surprise, Mike doesn't seem to mind our one-sided conversation. Sparks aren't flying (can you tell?), but for some reason I agree to a second date, even though I'd rather snuggle up with my new Jimi Hendrix book. Or simply wait for John Mayer.
Annie Reuter writes the music blog, You Sing I Write, where she interviews bands, travels to music festivals and uncovers what it's really like to spend the day with a rock star. Recently she interviewed Pat Benatar about music, life and just why she believes love is a battlefield.