I Am The Worst Dater In Illinois


The last time I kissed someone, I was drunk…and on TV.

Either you know me and think, “You haven’t kissed anyone since January?” Or if you’re everyone else you think, “You were drunk on television?” Both of you would be correct.

Imagine answering questions about your dating life, what your type is, what went wrong in your past relationships (like really went wrong), what you think is wrong with you (um, possibly everything?) and letting someone write it all down. Coupled with having access to your blog and Facebook page, they may as well have a copyright to your diary.

This is how I ended up being on a talk show segment called “United Dates of America”. What did this mean exactly? Well, one person from each of the 50 states was being selected as the Worst Dater in his or her state. In other words, I was “chosen” to be The Worst Dater in Illinois. Not of Logan Square. Not of Chicago. But of the entire state. Have you been to down state Illinois?

What were the qualifications for being The Worst Dater of Illinois? Let’s see. I think there was only one: Involuntarily signing up for it.

I suppose if I was willing to admit online and in public that I had been looking for love for the past four years, that I was approaching my mid-30’s, that I’d tried every dating site, gone on dozens and dozens of dates (over 50, as the host would repeat throughout the show…which only sounds like a lot if I’d been single for six months, not 48. Oh and all 50 weren’t first dates.) and still couldn’t land a boyfriend, I was essentially living up to being a pretty shitty dater, albeit, probably, hopefully, not THE WORST. The thing is, as much as I believed I’d be able to just be myself and had a vague understanding that once it was edited, I’d probably come off differently, I wasn’t at all prepared for how much of it would be staged. But I didn’t have much of a say.

It turns out Not Having A Say was the ongoing theme of “United Dates of America” The segment would take two days to film. The first a film crew and producers taping me on two dates with two different guys. All I knew going into each date was that Bachelor #1 was a former college football player who lived in Bucktown and was looking for a serious relationship and Bachelor #2 would be with an artist/musician looking to have fun. The second day, was in studio where I’d talk with the host and we’d review the footage while he’d tell me everything I did wrong.

So how did this all come about? Like many things, it was born out of something good, something thoughtful. It should come to no surprise that it happened because of Solo in the 2nd City, a  live lit show I co-host every month in Chicago. A friend of mine is friends with a producer for a new talk show and thought it might benefit us in some way. Since the format and content of the show was based on the host giving relationship advice and helping all of us poor unfortunate souls meet someone, I contacted them.

Let’s pause here so I can answer what some of you may be wanting to ask: Why would I go on TV to talk about my disastrous dating life and allow myself to be filmed going on two blind dates? I suppose it was a few things. One, I hoped it would help bring attention to Solo in the 2nd City. That was quickly squashed when I signed a three page consent form that prevented me from talking about the show, hence the reason I haven’t told you which one it is. Second, I thought it would be hilarious. I figured making a joke of this entire situation would be theraputic. Lastly, there was of course, a tiny part of me that hoped one of these guys would be cool enough to actually date, or that at the very least, being on the show would prompt someone cool to contact me.

What was the worst part of this experience? Actually, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Was it having a minor mental breakdown fueled by alcohol? Was it skipping a group interview for a job abroad the day after taping? Was it allowing myself to be manipulated and coerced into saying and doing things I didn’t want to do? Was it making out with a stranger in front of cameras that was broadcast to an audience, both in studio and across the US?

Hard to say really.

From the scripted “plea” I had to read in my fake apartment alongside a montage of photos I submitted of me with other guys (their faces blurred out), begging the host to help me because my ovaries are on life support and I’m about to wind up in Crazy Cat Lady Spinsterville, to being instructed by Jacques, the field producer who donned a drivers cap and ascot, to answer a phone call during the date with Bachelor #1 and not apologize for it, to being handed a vodka martini in a tumblers during the date with Bachelor #2 and encouraged to shoot it, suddenly I didn’t feel in control of how I was going to be perceived at all.

While I’d never answer my phone during a date, unless it was an emergency and even then I’d explain what happened and apologize profusely, this is what they “needed” to make a compelling story. How could I be The Worst Dater in Illinois if I didn’t actually do anything wrong? I also mistakenly assumed those closest to me would know I would never be that rude, but instead I got a text from my brother: “You answered your phone on a first date? No wonder you’re single!”

Even worse was that getting drunk and making out with a stranger at a bar wasn’t even all that far from reality. The reason they poured that drink out of the martini glass and into a more chuggable glass was because after I balked at their suggestion to kiss Bachelor #2, I said faintly, “I probably would if I had more to drink.” Bring that girl on an empty stomach more vodka and let the cameras roll!

I left that night drunker than I’d been in years. I also made a complete fool of myself by telling Bachelor #2 he should meet me somewhere for a drink afterwards. I’m pretty sure my exact words were “I’ll meet you anywhere”. He gave me his card with his number and of the three texts I sent, he only responded to one.

I passed out in my bed fully clothed, clutching my cellphone.

I didn’t get to see the footage until I was onstage with the host. Again, most of my banter was scripted and the stylists made me up to the point of being almost unrecognizable. My mom said I looked like Connie Chung. I also didn’t get to go home when my segment was over and instead was whisked away on a second date with Bachelor #1 because that’s who the host wanted me to like (and I had gotten along with him, but then had to “blow” it by answering my phone). A web producer came with, but this time we were able to talk without the cameras on us. He gave me a ride home and we exchanged numbers.

The show aired the week of Valentine’s Day. I convinced myself that no matter how bad it would be, like everything news and internet related, no one would remember or care about it after a day or two. For the most part, I was right.

But the real kicker was this:

I hadn’t heard from Bachelor #1 until the day the show aired (which was two weeks later). We made plans to hang out and met for drinks. After a couple hours of great conversation, he dropped me off and said he’d like to hangout again, but had a busy upcoming week.

Days passed and I sent one text saying I hoped he had fun at a concert he told me about. He responded, “Thanks, should be a good time.”

A couple days later, I went to visit my friend who bartends on a Sunday morning. I sat at her bar eating brunch by myself when I see him walk in with another guy and sit on the opposite end. I get up to say hello and he introduces me to his little brother as his “television girlfriend”. I tell him I’m off to an interview in a bit and when I go to leave he wishes me luck.

I never heard from him again.

It turns out the worst part of being on television and given the title of The Worst Dater in Illinois is that it might be true.

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image –dsearls