It was Summer 2016, and I was back in the online dating world – full throttle. I met him on Hinge, the app where you have to be loosely connected via Facebook friends to match.
In his profile pic he was swinging on monkey bars in a grey t-shirt and bright blue shorts. He had a mud-striped face and a bright white smile: manly and fit, I thought, and great arms.
Turns out he was living in Israel finishing his doctor studies, returning to practice in NYC in 4 months time. Russian by heritage, his family moved to Boston as refugees when he was little, where they still lived. He was 2 years younger than me, and Jewish. A Jewish American doctor… the dream!
Given our different continents, there was no choice but to talk for months before meeting. Soon we were Facebook messaging constantly. It was a mix of standard, daily commentary (how did you sleep?), alongside more thoughtful, serious topics (what’s your all-time favorite cupcake flavor?).
We were consciously getting to know each other, trading views on religion, values, and what made us happy. When I wasn’t feeling well he gave me medical advice, and made a ridiculous video of himself twerking, to cheer me up.
We messaged as if we were already in a relationship. I knew we were jumping the gun, but it happened naturally, and felt comfortable.
He sent endless smiling selfies, usually from the beach. He had dark, thick hair, bushy eyebrows, eyelashes I would kill for, and a big, Jewish nose (which I liked!). We Facetimed a little, and I found his deep, steady American voice soothing and sexy.
When our messaging took an x-rated turn, I knew for sure we were on the same page. At work one Tuesday he was describing what he’d do to me if I was there, and I had to grasp the desk to avoid falling off my chair.
I was genuinely excited about him. From what I could tell, he held many traits I wanted in a partner: bright, thoughtful, gentle, romantic, supportive, loyal, attentive, steady, fun… and horny.
My friends and family all knew about the Jewish doctor pen-pal who was moving to New York. I even curbed my dating app activity; I didn’t meet with anyone else for a few months.
On paper he was straight-up husband material, but would he be everything I’d envisioned in person? The suspense was killer.
Finally, he was here. He flew straight to New York for a wedding and to find an apartment, before returning to Boston for a few weeks. His bus to the wedding departed 10 blocks from my office. Unable to wait any longer, we agreed to rendez-vous, briefly, in Herald Square.
I was wearing a black, sleeveless shirt-dress with a cinched waist, and mid-heeled sandals. My heart was pounding as I climbed the subway steps, shaking. I really, really wanted to like him.
It was easy to spot him outside Macy’s in a bright white t-shirt and jeans. He was handsome – thank the lord. He had a nice build, warm smile, and didn’t seem nervous at all. A casual chat and hug later, and we went our separate ways. No nasty surprises. I was beyond ecstatic.
An hour later I messaged him: ‘How was it for you?’ He told me that he’d had high expectations, and that I’d superseded them all. He also told me that he’d wanted to grab my face then and there – unusual choice of phrasing, but I appreciated the enthusiasm.
I couldn’t wait to see him again. It was on like Donkey Kong.
A few days later, my Russian was back, and we arranged to meet on the only day we could. He sheepishly asked if I minded going with him to an apartment viewing near his new hospital in the Bronx, to maximize time together. Not the most romantic first date, but it sounded like an adventure.
He was staying nearby, so we met at my place. I was keen to show him where I lived, and where I’d been messaging him from for the past million months.
Unexpectedly, it felt kind of awkward having him in my bedroom. Despite our open (and often filthy) conversations, we’d only met in person for 5 minutes. I guess it was too soon to be so close to a bed?
The even more awkward element, however, was that I noticed a huge, un-appetizing, bright-red cold sore on the bottom-left corner of his mouth. The surrounding area was shiny – no doubt covered in cream.
I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I was longing for some mouth to mouth, but now, if he tried, I’d have to say no and explain why. Cringe!
DOING THE ROUNDS
70 minutes on the subway and a bus ride later, I began to question my decision to join the expedition. On the plus side, we had time to really talk. He was as bright, sweet and thoughtful in person as he was online.
I was assessing my feelings towards the Russian, now sitting beside me in the flesh. The deep bond and connection we’d forged from afar was not immediately translating to real life, but I suppose that was to be expected.
We arrived in the middle of nowhere at what resembled a small, middle-American town, with front yards, picket fences and US flags hanging from windows. The air was muggy and still. We viewed a basement apartment, under a couple’s home, who eagerly showed us around with their dog.
It was the opposite of my hyperactive East Village NY life. I couldn’t imagine living there myself, but it was spacious and peaceful – potentially perfect for a doctor in training.
After, we took a stroll through a local park, and a run-down high street, before the heavens opened and rain pounded the sidewalk . On the subway back, he brought up his ex-girlfriend of 6 years. He’d wanted to settle down with her and be a young parent, but it hadn’t worked out.
The guy was clearly in the market for commitment, and not afraid to say it. It was refreshing to hear, but I didn’t immediately know how I felt. Was I ready?
We had a rushed goodbye on the street, in the rain, with no attempted kiss (phew!). He was lovely, both to look at and to talk to, but the bizarre ups and downs of the day left me wondering about our compatibility and our chemistry. The diagnosis wasn’t clear yet… and the cold sore wasn’t helping.