the stranger
In honor of Valentine’s Day, The Stranger staff has put together a collection of dating stories that range from run-of-the-mill horrifying, to a brash, nasty, near-death experience, to sweet and sentimental. Enjoy!

Hillary Bumble

By Rich Smith

A few days after Bernie Sanders won the Washington Caucus, I agreed to a last-minute, late-night Bumble date. I ordered a beer and a bourbon; she was fine with water. After an hour-long conversation about her dog, which was great, the conversation turned to national politics. For a few minutes, we had the same boring conversation everyone was having at the time. Who did I caucus for? Isn’t it funny that I’d caucus for Bernie Sanders but still support Hillary Clinton? What did I think about Clinton’s e-mails? Had I seen them? Why didn’t The Stranger unreservedly endorse Sanders?

Then she revealed her real motivations for asking me out on a date: She wanted to know whether or not The Stranger was a journalistic front for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She was dead serious. She’d seen that piece in WaPo or whatever, the one where journalists were using the exact words Hillbot PR people were telling them to use—“muscular foreign policy.” Was I getting a check from the Hillary people?

I FUCKING WISH. I paid the bill with my non-Hillary money and dipped.

Good, Giving, Game, Heat Stroke

By Sydney Brownstone

I have had three near-death experiences. The first was a white-water rafting accident. The second was a car crash. The third was a date I went on to a sauna.

There are few things more satisfying in this life than being naked en plain air. When there are no cis-het men allowed to bother you, it’s even better. So when a friend suggested a cheap spa for ladies-only as a date idea, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to impress my then-girlfriend with steam, lavender oil, and complimentary massages by the Jacuzzi.

My date loved it. She was so enthusiastic, in fact, that she went down on me in the sauna. (We made sure no one spotted us.) We showered, hopped in the Jacuzzi, and then went to the unoccupied steam room. My date opened her legs, and I got the memo—it was my turn to repay the favor.

At the time, I had actually never been in a steam room before. I was also unaware of the 2009 incident in which three people paying $10,000 for a self-help ceremony involving a sweat lodge in Arizona died of heat stroke. So when I started performing cunnilingus on my date, the temperature seemed warm but pleasant. I anticipated being able to finish, no problem. That was before I started getting light-headed.

According to, it is unwise to spend more than a few minutes in a steam room if it’s your first time. “If at any point you feel uncomfortable, you should leave the steam room immediately,” the author notes. For an ambitious person who considers herself GGG (and uneducated about the hazards of steam rooms), this was not an option for me.

Luckily, it didn’t take long for my ex to finish. But when she gripped my head in preparation for another orgasm, I started wondering who would write my obituary if I died giving someone head in a steam room. I assigned the piece to a writer in my mind and tried to maintain consciousness by taking deep breaths. I’d be an asshole to stop, right? Right, I told myself. Breathe. Stay awake. You’re almost there.

According to WebMD, the symptoms of heat stroke may include dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea, rapid breathing, and a throbbing headache. While my date approached her second orgasm, I was experiencing all of these things. When she finally did come, I think I saw stars.

My date kissed me. She was ecstatic. I was just grateful to be alive.

The Best Worst Date I Will Ever Have

By Tricia Romano

He was an aspiring actor/singer type who had chosen Seattle on a whim and moved here from a Midwest state. He kept popping up in various apps—we'd say hi and then he'd disappear. One night, I saw his avatar and wrote, "Let's meet or never speak or swipe again." In his pictures, he was brooding, dark, and handsome, with his hair styled in a Caesar cut. I should mention he was also about 15 years younger than me.

We had a few text exchanges wherein he balked that he was too broke to meet (sexy!) but acquiesced when I told him drinks were $5. He met me at my local haunt where I often go to work and hang out. The guy in real life did not present as the guy in the photos: Instead of "tall, dark, and handsome," he was petite, dark, and strange. Since "aspiring actor" doesn't pay, he was actually a real-estate agent. He had come from work and was wearing dress pants hiked up high, belt, and black button-down shirt with his name tag still clipped on. His hair in real life was an interesting swirl, a creative attempt to hide early stage balding. The swirl was, I imagined, at stage 2, and by stage 10 would reach peak Trump swoop.

Despite this, he went by only one name, like Madonna.

He had an odd manner of pursing his lips and sucking in his cheeks in between each sentence he spoke. And it came out that he was broke and always in the middle of some kind of elaborate personal drama. By now he had taken off his name tag and it was lying on the table. I noticed that rather than using a pin, it was magnetic.

I picked it up and said, "Why didn't anyone think of this back in the day? So clever." And then I put it down.

He waved his hand over the name tag and picked it up.

"See what I did there?" he said, pleased with himself

"You, uh, picked up the name tag?"

He waved his hand over the pin again with a flourish. Once again, he smiled, like a cat with a secret. I squinted. He did it again.

"I have magnets in my fingertips," he announced proudly.

He admired a particular actor known for body contortions and had had body modification, but he didn't know about the RE/Search Modern Primitives book or who body mod pioneer Mr. Lifto was (goddamn millennials). After a long, fascinating, and excruciating hour, I went home and googled him. I discovered he was something of a semi-notorious celebrity in his hometown and that a blog had profiled him, writing about his exploits with women (must have been that magnetic personality) and a particularly odd habit of collecting his conquests' ID cards when they weren't looking. (In the comments, a person who claimed to be him explained, "They are like Pokémon cards." No, not terrifying at all.)

And to think, I could have spent the night alone marathoning Battlestar Galactica episodes—and instead I was on a date with a man who had had surgery to put magnets in his fingertips. What a time to be alive.

Why Did You Do This?

By Heidi Groover

Scene: Making out sloppily on a fire escape.

Him: I have a girlfriend.

Me: What?

Him: Yeah.

Me: For how long?

Him: Like two years.

Me: Do you live together?

Him: Yeah.

Me: So she's at your house right now?

Him: She's out of town.

Me: Is it, like, an open relationship?

Him: No.

Me: Why did you do this?

Him: Because I wanted to.

End scene.

LSD, Hair Dye, and a Blind Date

By Leilani Polk

When I was 19, I didn't so much date as hang out with friends who had cute friends, and I didn't get set up so much as my friends forced me to hang out with someone they thought I'd really dig. In this case, it was my girlfriend Karen and her guy Bart*, we'd all decided to drop some LSD, and without consulting me, they'd also invited along his best friend, Nolan, because they didn't want me to feel like a third wheel (I didn't) and thought it'd be a good time to introduce us because we had sooo much in common. (We both liked Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, and that was about it.)

Nolan was tall and string-bean thin with long, lank dirty-blond hair he wore under a black beret and clothes that were purposefully too large for his frame. He was smart and clever, and he had nice blue eyes behind his mid-'80s chic glasses, but he creeped me out, which was as much the fault of the tab of acid we'd all taken 45 minutes before. He spent a bulk of the time staring at me like I was a fine piece of meat he wanted to devour. The harder he stared, the more creeped out I became, until I could feel my skin itching. I suggested we all go out somewhere, but this ended up being a pretty bad idea.

Bart drove like a fucking maniac, careening down the road and going three times the legal speed limit, and his car was a disaster of garbage and papers. The backseat was worse, Nolan and I packed in like sardines, he perched on top of a stack of shit that was at least a foot higher than mine, which meant I spent the entire drive envisioning the car crash I knew was about to happen while staring out the window to avoid Nolan's gooey-eyed gaze from above. We sped along, I got more antsy and even more creeped out, and finally I demanded we stop because... I needed to buy some hair dye. (Sally Beauty Supply was fast approaching, and it was the only thing I could think of.) I picked up a bottle of Manic Panic in Vampire Red, and we headed back to Karen's house.

Of course they dropped us off so they could go fuck somewhere "private," leaving me alone with damn creepy Nolan, so to avoid having to make conversation or even really look him in the eye, I decided to dye my hair right then. It seemed like a perfectly good solution at the time, until he started "helping" color the spots I missed and I felt his clammy fingers on my neck. He stuck around in the bathroom, waiting, while I washed it out with my head under the faucet. As the dark-red dye swirled down the drain, it looked like the tub was full of blood, which he pointed out. Just as my discomfort was reaching a peak, Karen and Bart returned, and I made a hasty excuse and booked it out of there. I wish I could say that was the last time I saw Nolan, but Karen and Bart tried to throw us together again. At least I wasn't tripping balls that time.

*All names changed to protect the guilty from potential embarrassment.

A Boot Kiss, Then Bliss

By Ana Sofia Knauf

Tinder and I had reached a breaking point by the time I met Nev in 2015. I was exhausted from four too many dates with rock-climbing tech bros, but I still went on a couple dates with him. Although getting Nev to divulge anything emotional or personal was like pulling teeth, I chose to persevere. He was tall, had soccer player’s legs, and was endearingly close to his family. And I was very, very single.

I wasn’t sold on dating him until we went out for the third time—the Georgetown Date, as we now call it. I had never been to the neighborhood, and Nev, as a lifelong Seattleite, took it upon himself to set that straight. After a dinner of veggie French dip sandwiches at Georgetown Liquor Company, we drank cheap beer and played pinball at Flip Flip, Ding Ding! for hours. When our luck and our quarters ran out, we tipsily wound our way through the neighborhood until we ended up in Oxbow Park, better known as the “Hat ’n’ Boots” park for its gigantic cowboy hat and mismatched boots (surprise!).

Nev climbed up onto the toe of a boot and pulled me up to sit with him. It was freezing, and we huddled together there staring into the dark. At some point, he kissed me on that kitschy boot. While in retrospect, it felt as though we were in a scene out of a terrible young-adult romance novel, at least the date and that kiss, unlike so many of its predecessors, was memorable.

It wasn’t until nearly a year into our relationship that I discovered I was his first Tinder date. Nev has no idea how goddamn lucky he got.