(I have been attending writing workshops recently, and last week’s concerned fan fiction. We were prompted to write some form of the genre and encouraged to think beyond typical sources of inspiration. If you don’t recognize mine by the end, there is a link that will clarify.)
Dave laid the potato chip bag on the floor, pushed his glasses up his nose, and squinted at the glowing screen illuminating the dark, cluttered computer room. “Join for free today in less than 2 minutes,” the screen said, but Dave merely looked at the words without comprehension, then realized he still wanted some potato chips. He felt around the foot of the chair until he met the bag once again. He grabbed as many chips as he could and shoved them in his mouth.
Okay, time for business. He clicked “Join us” and entered his email, firstname.lastname@example.org. He hadn’t played a tuba since high school – from which he graduated in 1999. Male. 35. That part was easy. Then it asked for a photo. Dave didn’t have many pictures, but he remembered Matt had posted a few shots from a Christmas party a few years ago, so he used four of those. Dave didn’t reflect on the fact that the photos were grainy and taken without a flash in a dim bar, nor that there were at least three people in each. Nor that he had red eye in two of them.
Some of the questions were easy enough. Straight. 6’3″. No kids. No pets. Sales. Best Buy cashier counted as sales, he figured. Diet? Anything.
Then there were the open-ended questions. Favorite TV shows and movies. Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, Everybody Loves Raymond. Transformers, Alien Vs. Predator, Austin Powers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Get Smart. That was easy enough, but others left Dave stumped. “What are six things you could never go without?” His eyes scanned the words, but as though his subconscious knew that Dave would have trouble thinking of anything that wasn’t obvious, the words didn’t even go through his head. He scrolled back up to the top and realized he hadn’t filled out the About Me section. Gotta put something there, he thought.
My name is Dave and I live in Pittsburgh. I went to school here. I like Subway, Hardee’s, and Taco Bell. I have a Honda Accord and an X-Box.
Tired of the introspection, Dave hit “save” and wandered off to fall asleep on the couch with the TV on.
In the break room at Best Buy the next day, Dave was opening his bottle of Mountain Dew when he heard Rob and Brittany talking. “Ugh, I hate online dating,” Brittany said. “I was on a couple of websites and all the guys there were so boring. I went on like two dates but they were super awkward.”
“Give those guys a break! They never know what to say. I saw my buddy Kyle’s profile and it was so dumb. Honestly, he IS pretty boring,” Rob admitted. “Maddie and I told him to change everything, to not say anything true. We thought it would be a funny experiment.”
Brittany rolled her eyes. “So what happened?”
“He got way more girls to write back.”
“No way. But did he change his photo too?”
“No, he didn’t even do that! He just said he was a retired professional hockey player and he volunteered at a children’s hospital. And that he used to live in England. Girls love accents.”
Brittany smiled but looked suspicious. “What did they do when they met him?”
“Yeah, did he get lots of dates?” Dave blurted out.
Rob and Brittany turned to look at Dave. “He got a couple, yeah,” said Rob smugly. “Anyway, I gotta go, don’t wanna be late again.”
Brittany shook her head as Rob left. “I still don’t believe it,” she said to Dave. “And anyway, if a guy was really hot, he probably wouldn’t need to be looking online. I mean, you never see, like, a French model on there.” She took another bite of her sandwich and went back to typing on her phone.
Dave came home and threw his fanny pack on the floor on top of the chip bag. Time to do some editing. He changed around several fields and filled out ones he’d previously left blank. Done. Now to find some women.
He glanced at the photos under the heading “You Might Like…” One was a brunette with duck lips who looked a bit like Megan Fox. Another had a lot of tattoos and piercings. The third had obviously cropped an ex-boyfriend out of her photo. The last girl was a dead-ringer for Cameron Diaz.
He clicked on each photo to send a message: “Hey.”
He glanced down at the chip bag and grabbed a handful. He looked back up, and to his surprise, there was a message waiting. It was from the Cameron Diaz-lookalike. “Hi, Dave, how are you? I’ve never met a French model.”