Summertime. Williamsburg Piers. A man approaches me in the typical hipster summer uniform – super-short magenta khaki shorts, a button down shirt unbuttoned to the third button, vintage lenses. I look him up and down and then down further, where his dog Caroline is walking. Caroline is a medium-breed mutt, a cross between a Husky and another breed. Matthew, who is approaching me, has dressed Caroline with an American flag bandana. Everyone he passes, thinks this is cute.
I love dating in the summertime for this very reason – you can go to parks and outdoor spaces and rooftop bars and enjoy skylines and waterfronts and pristine grass. I met Matthew on a dating site (aren’t they all from dating sites?) and upon finding out that he had a dog and that I love dogs, we decided on a Dog-Walk-Date.
Caroline, it turns out, is completely uninterested at me, even though I try to pet her she’s more taken by everything else. More importantly, barking, pulling and making Matthew tired.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with her,” he said. “I’m so sorry I don’t know why she’s misbehaving.” I didn’t feel that he needed to apologize, for the same reason why I don’t think parents should apologize for unruly children (it’s polite, but unnecessary). “I don’t mind,” I kept saying.
We sat and talked on a park bench by the water. A few kids came up and started to play with Caroline until she barked and whimpered simultaneously. Matthew was annoyed by this, and shook his head.
“I almost asked them to leave,” he said, expressing a parental love of his dog that I’d never seen. “some guy was pulling her face once and I didn’t like it and I had to ask him to stop. No one loves your dog like you do.”
After the usual exchange about our backgrounds and our goals, we started to walk through Williamsburg to find a bar. He knew the perfect dive that would allow dogs, so we went north. We got close to the bar and Caroline, in a tantrum, lifted her head and dramatically tossed her American flag bandana into the street.
“That was so vogue,” Matthew admonished.
At the bar, Caroline had a fit, so he decided we should walk him back to his house in Bushwick, foreign territory. Everyone in Brooklyn puzzles me, I love their cool clothes and attitudes and as hard as I try to be that laid back I can never do it. There is some wall in my personality. A flaw, essentially, that keeps me wound tightly. I do not have the key to that other way of life.
Matthew knew how to access this. He talked about his life so casually. In his world, things could be “this or that” and for me “good” or “the end of the world.”
He lived in a gigantic, messy, loft with three other people. One of his friends was in town visiting. He was hunched over about 4-7 Mac computers, making music. In the living space the ceilings soared a full two-stories high. Matthew was a painter and a darn good one. I’d seen some of his work that he sent before our date, a few of his pieces up in the small galleries on Madison Avenue. I loved his paintings, they were surreal and vivid, with deep reds and blues. On one wall, he’d hung his painting, nearly 12 feet tall, 10 feet wide. I wanted it for my own place, but wouldn’t have a wall wide enough.
Caroline, now sedate, walked to the center of the room and layed down for a nap.
Matthew and I found a small bar tucked near the Morgan stop on the L train, and settled down for a few beers. At the end of the evening, we went out a back door to an alley. All the kids were there leaning against the graffiti-covered walls, smoking. He had never mentioned smoking before. I decided that it was the perfect activity for him, but not for me.
It was a bad idea to have Caroline around, we could have been having those conversations earlier on. But in the end it did not matter, like so many online dating one-offs (good for essays; not for relationships) we did not speak again.
I met another fellow with a dog via another dating app. I wasn’t going to suggest any dog-related first date activities after the Caroline incident. But he was coming up to my neck of the woods to take his dog out in Ft. Tyron park, literally, almost, a few blocks from my apartment. He suggested we meet at the coffee house.
I put on a light coat.
Unlike my date with Matthew in the summer, this was only a few weeks ago, right after my dating sabbatical had just ended. Pre-sabbatical, I always felt like I had the upper hand on dates. I was the most bubbly, talkative person. I had snappy responses for everything, and jokes to smooth over even the most awkward of conversations.
I just don’t know what happened. I was actually nervous about this date! Even if it was low-key, free, and likely to last under 30-minutes. A little after noon that day I entered my neighborhood Starbucks and he was sitting in the window. I learn that he’s driven uptown. He suggests we drive up to the park because his chocolate-brown Vizsla named Riley is relaxing in the back seat.
(My brain instantly recalls Lovelace and Paolo. )
I say OK, and climb into a 1980s Mercedes sports car. My date is telling Riley to go into the back seat, and I climb into the front, expecting that Riley will immediately try to jump in my lap and lick my face. Instead, my date tells Riley to sit, and he sits magically. I look back at him, erect, and regal and hardly interested in me. I put on a faux British accent.
We make it up to the park and find a spot for the car. It’s nearing 40 degrees and still snow on the ground. We go all the way to the top of the park. It ends at a major cliff, overlooking a highway. I’d never gone that far past it before. It’s really quite nice.
Riley wants to pee on everything and walk in the snow. He starts to shiver a bit, and wimpers whenever we stop walking for a second. We sit on a park bench and Riley slobbers and rubs his head against my boot. He wants to keep going. We want to rest.
My date asks me about relationships. I knew this was coming. He asks how long my longest relationship was – he’s already got me beat having just ended a three-year one.
“Er, two months,” I say so fast because I’m trying to conceal it.
“Really? Only two months?!” he asks. I look down.
I used to be so good at answering that question. I used to have a round, Ms. America version that worked famously, but I’ve forgotten it.
“I, um, I’m not sure why,” I say. There’s a look of horror on his face. I want to say, “I promise I’m not crazy, or whatever.” But I’m actually not quite sure.
He has a prior engagement, so we go back to the car and he drops me back off near my apartment. I track mud through the entryway, and it’s still covered over my boots. I contemplate what conclusions can be made from dates with boys with dogs. But, I find none besides the plain obvious, they will always win a heart because they’re cute, fuzzy, mute and require less commitment, or whatever.
This is part of a series of essays, for the previous one, "Boys with Cars", click here.