3 Life Lessons I Learned from Ordering Mac & Cheese

How it All Began

Online dating is complicated and obnoxious, but oddly, it is not considered weird… anymore. 

Almost a must in the city I reside in, I initially joined to support a friend who was recovering from a breakup. Like Alice going down the rabbit hole, online dating is now the norm that consumes much of my free time. 

After spending a few hours searching for the most photogenic and realistic images of myself – taken in my most sober and flattering state, I answered a series of questions. 

Do I drink? Yes. Do I smoke? No. Am I married? No – is that at trick question? Do I have kids? Do I want them? What is my intent for joining the app? So on, and so forth. 

How do I describe myself enough to stand out, and prevent myself from simply being cliché in my bio? You know, determine the perfect ratio of emojis to word when you're confined to only 500 characters. 

I tightly closed my eyes and hit save. There’s no turning back. I’m officially an online dater. Yikes!

Profiles started generating, and just like that... it was raining men. At first, I admit, I was shallow swiping. Looking at the first picture and immediately swiping right or left (mostly left.) Then I realized, if I was going to get anywhere, I needed to be more serious. I started to evaluate all of the pictures and more importantly I needed to read the Bio section.

I got a catch! (a match?!) Whatever you want to call it. 

As a confident woman, I am totally comfortable with initiating the conversation. Since I live in a hospitality driven city, my first question is designed to check for clarification that goes something along the lines of: “Hi Mike. Are you visiting or are you a local? I’m not looking to waste my time, and I’m definitely not looking to crash a birthday bash or bachelor party."

Asking this one simple question, rarely gets genuine responses. I mainly get detailed sexual fantasies, unsolicited dick pics, or guys ignoring the question all together and responding with the dreaded, “Hi, baby.” Seriously, what makes guys think this is okay?!

It’s amazing that some guys actually get positive results from their opening one-liners. But that's a story for another blog! 

When I find a local, I get ridiculously excited. I click back to the profile and check the stats. I need to know what I’m working with. Does he mention anything in the Bio that I can use as a conversation starter? 

Every so often, the stars align, and the conversation seems effortless & fun, asking silly “get to know you questions.” If the back & forth banter remains engaging for a full 48 hours, it seems promising. By day three, I’m looking to set up a date. The first date is critical because it tells me wherever chemistry is there or not! 

Now, here's where the real story begins and FYI - I was completely blindsided by my most recent dating disaster. 

He and I (let’s call him Finn) had been talking for a solid 10 days. He was actively sending texts first, daily. Previous travel plans prevented us from meeting sooner. We picked a traditional dinner date as our first encounter. 

Prepping for a first date requires both mental and physical determination. First impressions are everything. The night before, I used teeth whitening strips and applied a pore refining facial mask. I even left work early the day of the date so I could shower, apply perfectly blended makeup, and straighten my hair. My look was natural, but put together. My outfit was on point. I felt confident. A few reminders, I told myself: be engaged, don’t judge, be polite, and don’t forget you’re a Southern Belle at heart – no kissing on the first date!  

I snapped a quick picture and sent it to my best friend, stating if she didn’t hear from me in 3 hours, this is what to send to the police. You can never be too trusting. After all, I was meeting a stranger.  (side note: I didn’t just write this for comic relief, I really send her a pic in case something happens!)

The date actually went well. Conversations came easily. No awkward pauses. There seemed to be chemistry. The check came. I offered to split. He said absolutely not!  

He walked me to my car, slightly resting his hand on the small of my back. We hugged and said goodnight. We lined up Date 2 right then and there. 

I texted him a standard thank you message, personalizing it to our date. He responded immediately saying he couldn’t wait to hang out again.  

48 hours after Date 1, I arrived to Date 2.  I was more excited and less nervous. Again, he acted like a gentleman. He pulled the chair out for me and complimented my outfit. Just like Date 1, the conversation came naturally. We were at local’s spot. He took the lead and ordered a beer, so I did the same. He ordered a drink for me. I appreciated that he was taking the lead. 

We talked about our favorite entrees from this restaurant. He settled for his go to dish – an Ahi Tuna stack, and I settled for the Chef’s preferred option – Mac & Cheese.

Can we take a moment to talk about the Mac & Cheese? This Mac & Cheese is divine. The noodles are like cornucopias, filled with five different cheeses as they’re tossed in this incredible sauce. There’s grilled chicken, fresh chopped bacon, and truffle oil.

Dinner concluded, and he, once again, paid the check and walked me to my car. We kissed. There weren’t fireworks… but it wasn’t terrible. 

Sometimes, first kisses are not perfect, and I am okay with that. Needless to say, we lined up Date 3 – bowling for the next day and said goodnight. 

I'm a creature of habit so I texted him when I got home – thanking him again for dinner. It was late. We both texted goodnight. 

Here’s where things got weird.

6:45am - I receive a phone call in the middle of my morning slumber...

(Groggily) Hello?

What are you doing?

Sleeping.

Oh, okay

---Awkwardly Long Pause---

Well, I’ve been thinking... I’m looking for a girl to participate in Triathlons with me. 

 (not thinking I understood him correctly) Huh?

Athletic.

Oh, okay.

I know. And last night… you ordered the Mac & Cheese.

What?

I know this is cliché to say, but I think we would be better as friends. 

Okay. Have a great day.

---Click!--- 

And, just like that, I was judged for ordering food I enjoyed (plus, reminder! The menu clearly states it's the preferred menu option.)

Nowhere on my profile did I list that I enjoyed marathon running, swimming or biking. I’ve only ever completed week one of “Couch to 5K." I enjoy a leisure doggy paddle, or float down a river. Don't even get me started on biking. I am still recovering from the day my friend made me attend a cycling class. But, you know what my profile does say? That I am a foodie. That I enjoy cooking.

I never thought that would be one of my deal breakers, but I'll consider this my “lesson learned.”

Part of me thinks in retrospect the whole situation was funny. I mean, I did get to eat bomb Mac & Cheese on his dime. 

But other parts of me feel vulnerable and exposed. He made me question so many things. 

  • Why compliment me if I’m not really your type? 
  • Why continue to line up dates if there was no interest in dating?
  • Why call me at 6:45am to reiterate that I do not have any confirmed plans of participating in a triathlon? 
  • Was this a dream? 
  • Is this just the reality of online dating?
  • Did I just get told I’m not someone’s type because I ordered Mac & Cheese?

Rather than let this experience tear me down, I wanted to use it as a learning moment for others dating online.  Here are 3 things I want you to always remember:

  1. Never allow someone else to determine your worth
  2. Dating is tough, online dating might make the initial connection easier but don’t expect it to make all of dating a cakewalk
  3. No man is worth giving up Mac & Cheese for!