armsI’m in the best shape of my life, or maybe just the strongest I’ve ever been. I’m seven months into Crossfit and it’s not only changed my body and schedule, but also my dating preferences. All suitors must come with a workout regimen and interest in lifting more, pushing further, moving faster or a combination of all three.

My new Okcupid interest du jour is only 27 years old. Even worse, he could pass for a teen. However, he has an adult sounding career as a business owner, an entrepreneur. A public speaker. A personal trainer. He’s got big goals.

He’s also a body builder.

I do what most women might do. I worry he will judge my physical imperfections, the way I may judge his grammar or overuse of ellipses. I read his profile and at the end of it, he actually addresses this very concern. He knows what we all must be thinking. He’s not looking for a gym rat. I like a man who’s in touch with his audience.

I rate him 4 out of 5 stars. The system will send him an alert. It takes less energy to rate someone than to message them. And while I used to message men, now I make a conscious effort not to. The chase is important. It’s already SO EASY to be on this site. It’s free. It delivers potential matches right to your email. It even give you a tracking device on your phone. Sending a message first would seem desperate.

Bodybuilder responds to my interest with a thoughtful note. We message a few times to show we’ve done the math on each others profiles. We discuss a time to meet. He suggests a bar/restaurant in Evanston. It’s not all that convenient for me. Is he taking classes at Northwestern? Is his business out there? Does he live in Evanston? I say yes and figure I’ll find out all these things on our date.

I wear a short grey patterned dress. I throw a big sweater over it- I’m not ready to be scrutinized, despite his profile assuring me this is not his protocol. I arrive at the bar first. I order water and practice my “I’m still excited to see you even though you look nothing like your photos” face.

He arrives. He looks BETTER than the photos. His eyes are dark teddy bear brown. His hair is short and blond. His smile is bright. His red windbreaker masks his torso. Until he takes it off. I try not to stare. For the first time I know how it must feel for a man when he does not want to look at your chest but in fact he does want to look at your chest. His arms swallow up the sleeves of his Polo. His shirt is stretched across massive pectorals, working at maximum capacity. It Just. Might. Tear. His legs are wide though his muscle definition is hidden by his jeans.

We talk about all the topics we’d covered in emails, but in more depth. I like him. More than I thought I would. He touches my leg when he’s talking. I know he likes me too. I know we’ll go on a second date. This is the moment when I feel like I’ve won. I get to move on to the second level, as if it’s a video game or a karate class. As we’re wrapping up, I notice he has a backpack. Luckily in it is an umbrella that he uses to walk me to my car in the rain. We hug goodbye. I wonder how he will get home and where home is. I still don’t know why he picked Evanston. He trains people in Glenview. Did I not ask the right questions? Or did he avoid them?

The following week, I joke with my coworkers about the possibilities of this relationship, like that I won’t have to walk anymore because he can carry me everywhere. It’s gimmicky but fun. I kind of like how big he is. It’s different.

For our second date, he suggests I make some of the food I’ve talked about cooking. At my house. My first thought is NO. It’s not that I don’t want to trust him but I have two concerns. One- I’m self conscious about my cooking. It’s a new thing for me- I’m not ready to perform. Two- he is really strong. It’s practically like dating someone with built in weapons. I don’t know him well enough to ensure he won’t go hulk on me. I ask him for other ideas.

He picks Philly’s Best.

I’m perplexed. It’s unhealthy. It’s cheap. It’s a dive.

I throw out some other ideas. He seems to want to stick to places right off the red line. We settle on a Mexican place at Fullerton and Lincoln.

When I get there, I tell the host I’m meeting someone. I’m uneasy and she smiles when I try to describe him without saying the obvious. He is ridiculously large. He is a cartoon. I find him at a table and we order fajitas to share. He has the same windbreaker and the same backpack from the first date. I wonder why he’s brought it into the restaurant and not left it in the car. I don’t get much clearer on his living situation. He teaches me tricks for memorizing my stories for when I perform them. He tells me he memorizes speeches while doing situps and push ups. It’s both genius and sporty.

I tell him about the practice of reiki, a way of channeling energy, and he’s interested in trying it. We’re deep in conversation and he pulls a book from his backpack- it’s about energy. I’m hooked. Maybe I’ll feel okay having him over on the next date. However, the third date is typically physical. Do I want that? I do. I’m fascinated by his muscles. I’ve never felt or seen muscles like this. I daydream, wondering if he is careful not to put his full weight on a woman when she’s underneath him. I come back to reality when we get the check and he suggests we split it. For one plate. No drinks. $12. We’re splitting $12.

I go along with it. I’m surprised, but I let it slide.

He walks me to my car. I take his arm- I love taking a man’s arm- especially this arm. It’s so warm and secure. It’s the 1940’s. Black and white. This time, it’s not raining. We get to my car. He kisses me goodbye. And it feels like…nothing. We try again. Nothing.

I deflate.

We schedule another date but a few days beforehand, I leave him a frantic voice mail message. I ramble on about having too much going on in my life to date. It sounds like something awful has happened. I nearly worry myself with my own lie. It has to happen this way- I can’t see him again. There isn’t enough there. If he were part of my dating project from years back, I might have cut it off sooner. But since second dates are now a luxury I can afford, I go on them. And then I know for sure.

In doing the triage on this short-lived relationship, my coworkers bring a few details to my attention- the train, the backpack, little mention of his home. A Google search suggests he might not only live in Glenview, he might also live there with his parents. Perhaps this is how he is able to fund working out all day. And not paying for fajitas.

Six months later, I see him again. Not in person, but in a photo in a marketing email from my reiki teacher. He has started studying reiki with her. His arms even take up a lot of real estate in this small class photo. But more importantly, I don’t feel so bad about the weird ending we had. Through me, he found this amazing new spiritual practice. And of course I am now multitasking story memorization with jumping jacks and squats.

I decide that maybe I don’t need someone with a fierce workout regimen. I just want a relationship where interests are appreciated, even if they aren’t shared. And transparency when it comes to living situations. And maybe free fajitas.