A few weeks ago, a brand-new escort dating service, Plus1 Dating, contacted me to ask if I'd like to get set up on a free date.
In cooperation with my manager and a co-worker who conveniently just graduated college, we created an event to get our co-workers out at a bar on a Friday night.
Lying to people you know fairly well is very tricky.
I'm friends with a good number of my co-workers, and I'm generally fairly open about my dating life. I knew that no one who knows me would believe I'd been keeping an artsy, Chris Pine–type boyfriend secret. Instead, I go with the story that Travis and I met very recently and hit it off supernaturally well, and that, because my general dating life is typically abysmal, I hadn't wanted to jinx it by telling everyone about him too soon.
Still, lying to my friends made me feel guilty, especially since they immediately wanted to know every little detail and were so truly excited and happy for me, flooding my chats with heart emojis and all-caps. I found myself waiting for the experience to be over just so I could tell them the truth.
My sweet, sweet friends! I'm sorry I deceived you!
I worry a LOT about what people think of whom I’m dating, even if it's a pseudonymous escort I hired/am not really dating.
As boyfriend material, Travis comes with a couple of red flags. One is that he is a hired escort. The second is that he is gay.
There was a 0% chance of my date turning into a The Wedding Date situation. Even still, I worried about meeting him for the first time, and stressed out about how he'd act around my co-workers. Would he be too withdrawn and barely say anything? Or would he be super talkative and keep bringing up some avant garde art show?
Once I met him, I felt better. He wore a sensible fitted button-down and had perfectly coiffed hair. He had a gentle voice, laughed easily, and spent, like, 20 minutes talking to me about Mad Men. My mom would love him.
The feeling of being a couple in the spotlight can be addictive, even if there’s no actual spark.
There's something really ego-boosting about having people stand in a circle with you and your hired date and ask how the two of you met. I studied people's reactions as I told them that Travis and I met through a mutual friend, all while batting my eyes a little too much for anyone's comfort.
Time felt slower when someone would ask Travis where he went to school or what he did for work — I would watch people's eyes light up when they learned he was into graphic design and came from a state school he hated. It feels so good to have people you like and respect genuinely approve of your partner and enjoy seeing you together.
I don't need big, romantic gestures.
Travis didn't arrive in a tux, shower me with compliments, or hold my hand in the cheesy way I imagined escorts do. At first it felt like even a HIRED boyfriend doesn't want to be my boyfriend! Was I THAT severely undateable?
Instead, we took turns buying rounds, joining the group as if we were friends. A lot of people assumed Travis worked at BuzzFeed until I hinted that we were together together. As time wore on, I actually liked this more — the narrative felt like we were, above all else, great friends who happened to be dating, which are my favorite types of romantic relationships.
All in all, it wasn't that awkward!
Originally, Travis and I were supposed to talk for a bit before the actual event to hammer out the details of our backstory. We instead talked about cinematography and what we considered were the best show on TV right now. Whoops!
Once everyone arrived, I kept forgetting to "introduce" Travis, and instead ended up getting into one-on-one conversations with him about Mad Max and Wes Anderson. We happened to naturally have a lot of common interests, so talking to each other didn't feel scripted. It felt like simply meeting a new acquaintance who happens to like a lot of the same things I do. After we left the bar together and hugged goodbye once we were a short distance away, I just felt like I made a new friend at a party. If this were a real date, I'd say it was a success, because the things that were meant to feel forced just weren't at all.