Foreword: This is a flash fiction about dating & relationships. All characters and stories are fictional.
Harvey pushed open the doors of the bar and said to the receptionist without turning his head: “Reservation under Rachel M.”
“Yes sir. This way please.”
The receptionist led Harvey to a table with sofa seats right next to the bartender’s. He casually scanned the room – there was a lady with wavy dark hair in a pantsuit drinking alone, one hand holding the glass and the other hand mindlessly tapping the table. Harvey saw her briefcase had the letters Kimberly & Partners marked on it – it is the name of a law firm in the office building right across the street.
She is likely a frequent visitor of this bar, Harvey thought to himself, and made a mental note to get her number some time.
His thoughts were interrupted by a “thud” sound coming from the table. He turned around to see a black notebook land on the marble surface, followed by a “cling” sound of a pen landing next to it. He looked up in amusement as the owner of the stationery took off her suit jacket, put it on the empty sofa seat alongside her laptop bag, and sat directly opposite him.
“Good evening, Mr. Weinstein.” Rachel said without a smile.
Harvey chuckled at the sarcastic reference of Harvey Weinstein – film producer and convicted serial sex offender. “Good evening, babe. Mr. Weinstein here was planning to treat you to an unforgettable night…if you look like your profile pics.”
“Scarlett Johansson sends her regrets for a last-minute schedule clash. She has sent me in her place and hopefully I would meet your high standards.”
Harvey burst out laughing while shaking his head. “Rachel Mckingsley – the girl who bites with her tongue. Painful yet pleasing. How I have missed your spice.”
Rachel smiled. “Harvey Hamilton – the guy who flirts with his little toes. Annoying yet never knows to back off. How I have not missed your shamelessness.”
Harvey signaled for the waiter to order.
“Virgin mojito.” Rachel said.
Harvey raised his eyebrows. “Very fitting drink for our upcoming conversation on Tinder. So tell me, what’s up in life? How come you are working on a reality show about dating now? I was like FML when you told me this on the phone – what happened to the Rachel who is passionate about documentaries & live debates?”
Rachel let out a sigh. “I’ve been working on the The Weekend Chat since I joined NetFox TV 3 years ago – and I love the autonomy I have in running the show, the professionalism of my team, and the depth of analysis we are able to do and present. But the viewing statistics have been dropping – and dropping hard – Alex is having a hard time convincing the management to keep the show. One of the conditions of the show’s continuance is that everyone is 50/50 staffed – so I am working on The Weekend Chat and launching our new reality show on dating at the same time. I don’t have a very good idea yet on the format of the show – there are so many matchmaking or dating shows out there, and I am yet to find THE idea that could ‘wow’ people.”
“A reality show about dating?” Harvey laughed. “Sure, I could use some advice or probably offer some as the King of Dating.”
“Who has had all kinds of fantastic experiences that blow your mind away. So shoot Mr. Charming – tell me all about your fantastic Tinder journey. What’s your count for Tinder dates now? 157?”
“Sounds about right. You wanna be the 158th date?” Harvey added a wink.
“Why not? I am open-minded to being the 158th if you are able to get me just one referral from one of your past 157.” Rachel blinked and gave Harvey the told-you-don’t-mess-with-me stare.
“Wow girl, I won’t toy with that murderous look of yours.” Harvey shrugged. “Elle a les yeux revolver. Elle a le regard qui tue. Elle a tiré la première…” Harvey started singing the French pop song Elle A Les Yeux Revolver (She Has Eyes Like Revolvers):
Elle a les yeux revolver
Elle a le regard qui tue
Elle a tiré la première
M’a touché, c’est foutu
* * *
She has eyes like revolvers
She has a look that kills
She has fired first
That has hit me, and it is all finished
Rachel couldn’t resist cracking up with laughter. She shook her head in disbelief as Harvey still sang off tune – even though this did not discourage him from joining the university choir, where he met Rachel.
Harvey was the “life of the party” at college, and has a reputation among their social circle of being the typical Butterfly – a “serial dater” as in one who hops between one “short-term date” to the other, usually a few weeks long and almost never more than two months. Rachel remembers the last time hearing Harvey say he has a girlfriend was when they were back in college.
“Okay, let’s get down to ‘business.'” Rachel uncapped her pen and started writing in her notebook. “I remember you mentioned you have been using Tinder for more than 2 years. Tell me more about what the Tinder experience is like for you?”
“Amazon.” Harvey said.
“Excuse me?” Rachel took a sip of the virgin mojito that just arrived.
“Swiping on Tinder is similar to shopping on Amazon.” Harvey clarified. “For me at least.”
“I have heard that analogy before, comparing online dating to online shopping.”
“Bingo!” Harvey snapped his fingers. “You know my style, Rachel – I am not looking for anything ‘stable’ or however you call it. At this stage of my life, I just wanna look for some fun. Dating for me is the icing on the cake – it is sweet and pleasant, but not something that I’d lose sleep over.”
“Am I right to say that for you, swiping profiles on Tinder is similar to browsing restaurants on a food delivery app?”
“That’s not a bad way to put it.” Harvey nodded. “In a way, yes. And don’t give me the ‘you are toying around with woman’ kind of line. I know it’s typical for people – especially women – to point their fingers at me and call me a playboy. But hey, you know what, when they tell you ‘all’s fair in love and war,’ they mean nothing‘s fair in love and war. There’s no such thing as a universal rule for dating – who says that I must enter the game with the ‘pure’ intention of looking for something committed? It’s a free market economy Rachel – and people freely choose what kind of dating they want. Going for casual dating is as legit as looking for commitment.”
Rachel took some notes and sipped some more mojito. “If you don’t misrepresent your intentions and are open about what you’re looking for, then sure why not? I’m not judging you for your dating model. I’m trying to understand what dating means for you.”
“Whatever.” Harvey shrugged. “You and I are both people who don’t hold back their thoughts, and I’ll be straightforward with you. I don’t care if people call me a playboy – or is there a new term called f***boy nowadays? As in guys who get a fat share of ‘Netflix & chills’? I’d say that’s just a jealous reaction from guys who have pathetically few matches and aren’t able to catch the hot women out there – who are all, unsurprisingly, falling for hot dudes like me.”
“I’ll give you 3 seconds to feel good about yourself. Now let’s come back: You don’t mind being called a playboy, or you take pride in being called a playboy?” Rachel paused writing and looked up at Harvey.
Harvey took a sip of his tequila. “Man, you’ve got some tough questions.”
“That’s because man, you’ve got some juicy answers.” Rachel smiled and raised her cup. “Plus, correction: ‘boss lady, you’ve got some tough questions.’”
Harvey pursed his lips for a while. “I think you are onto something. If I am completely honest, it does feel good to tell people things like you’ve dated XYZ number of girls this month. And it doesn’t hurt when some of them are Victoria’s Secret model material. Makes me come off as a lady’s man – which I am by the way.”
“Have you shared pictures of your dates with friends or family?”
“I know what you mean.” Harvey winked. “Yep, I confess I like to show off pictures of extremely hot dates to some pals and that’s my ego at play.”
“You see dating as a competition in a sense, don’t you?”
“Who says it isn’t? Dating – or mating – is a competition. Guys do compare who’s walking next to the hottest girl, and I bet you ladies size up each other’s boyfriends too. Come on, we are visual animals. Whether we realize it or not, we are comparing who’s more attractive than whom all the time. We all have an animal’s brain, Rachel. Not much better than the monkeys in the wild who fight to mate. It’s competition in the free market dear. By the way, have you noticed one thing?”
“Noticed what?” Rachel looked puzzled.
“Your pupils totally dilated just now when you looked at the bartender. He’s quite a handsome guy right?”
Rachel gave a shrug. “Or my pupils dilated because I couldn’t handle the strong liquor in my virgin mojito.”
“Hahahaha!” Harvey burst out laughing. “Good one Rachel! I’m glad all those years of serious investigative journalism haven’t taken away your humor. I’m starting to look forward to that dating show of yours – might be something really fun and funny.”
“And I believe it would be fun and funny to invite you to the show if I were not afraid of being accused as an accomplice in the conspiracy to break hearts around the world.”
“So what dating show ideas do you have in mind? Bounce them off me.” Harvey asked.
“One idea that’s being discussed is conflict resolution. An idea pitched is bringing in couples – married or not – who have problems and help them get over the issues.”
Harvey frowned. “Couple problems? You mean like people who can’t decide who throws out the trash or can’t figure out whether their other half is cheating?”
“Sounds like you’ve had your lucky share of problems. Tell me: what are some common problems in your past 157 Tinder dates? How come none of the amazing hot ladies you dated have met your critical eye and become your official girlfriend?”
“That’s a good question.” Harvey nodded. “I know I’ve got this double-reputation as a playboy and a picky dude because I date a lot and I’ve never ‘settled down’ with someone. To be fair, most of the ladies I’ve dated would make great girlfriends – there may be areas where we don’t gel, like I’m a night owl and she’s a morning bird – but then again there’s no such thing as the perfect girl. I’d be dating my clone – which would be boring.”
“If you accept that nobody is perfect and everybody has flaws, why didn’t you develop a more serious relationship with one of your dates?”
“I guess you could call this the ‘easy way out’ type of mindset. Think about it Rachel: there are hundreds and thousands of Tinder profiles right at my fingertips. When you’ve got a conflict with your date partner, it is usually much easier to swipe and find another date than to talk with your current partner and try to work things out. Yeah – Tinder is an easy retreat. Why not take the easy route?”
“The best one is always the next one?” Rachel rephrased. “Does that sound like a good description of what you’re thinking?”
“You could say that.” Harvey said thoughtfully. “It’s like how you ladies view clothes. The new arrivals are always prettier than the old wardrobe. Same logic.”
Rachel tapped her pen and got lost in thought for a few seconds. She recalled a book she has read by relationship expert John M. Gottman, former MIT mathematics major. It’s called Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.
“What’s on your mind?” Harvey asked as he saw Rachel fell silent.
“I remembered reading about the definition of commitment in a book.” Rachel replied. “It says part of being committed to someone means you put all your eggs in one basket – you never wonder whether the grass is greener on the other side; you never ask yourself whether there could be someone out there that could be better than your partner; you never look back and second guess your decision. What you said reminds me of this. Being committed to someone – by this definition at least – is hard, and it is even harder with Tinder. I get what you are saying. Nowadays it is more difficult to not wonder whether there’s someone out there who is a better match. This is the allure of Tinder: the promise of options, even though the next option is never guaranteed to be better than the current one.”
“That’s some deep s***.” Harvey said. “Way too deep for a drunkard like me to handle.”
“Then I’d say it’s time to put some food in your belly to neutralize the alcohol.” Rachel waved at a waiter and asked for the menu.
The waiter returned with two sets of menus – a booklet of regular food items, and a separate list of a few seasonal specials. Rachel looked at the two menus and thought of something.
“Harvey, I’d suggest we forget about the thick regular menu and choose only from this short list of seasonal specials.”
“Oh?” Harvey raised his eyebrows. “Did you have a bad experience with any of the items on the main menu?”
“Nope,” Rachel shook her head. “But a story about jam tells us that we’d probably be happier with our choices if we pick from a shorter list. When shoppers are asked to choose from a larger number of jam varieties, they take longer to make their decision and feels worse about their decision afterwards. So I’d say we start with a smaller sample and go from there.”
“Why am I sensing a reference to Tinder here?”
“There is.” Rachel nodded. “Have you ever wondered whether having more choices on Tinder is making you less satisfied with your choice? One reason could be, as you said, that you are more likely to wonder whether the other choices out there are better. Just like if you pick one jam bottle out of 1,000 options, you’d lose more sleep over whether the remaining 999 taste better, and probably fidget less if you picked one out of two jam flavors.”
Harvey chuckled. “Oh my Rachel, you could make your own show being the relationship therapist. You sound like you’ve been giving couples therapy for thirty something years!”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Rachel said as she stood up. “Excuse me for a toilet break. Tell you something interesting about a super dating app idea when I’m back.”
“Super dating app? I’m all in for it!”
“Wait and see.” Rachel smiled. This conversation on dating has turned out to be far more interesting than she expected.
(To be continued)