by, Heather P. (In the boondocks of New England.) “I have a really wonderful boyfriend” is a pretty obnoxious thing to say on a website full of ladies in search of that very thing. But, not, not really – not if I can say that this website, this great dating game, this personal challenge amongst friends to try a little harder, is what I can thank for finding my gem of a guy. But…I actually wasn’t even in a Fantasy Dating League when I met him. “What?” you say, “Then how can you attribute your meeting to Fantasy Dating, then? That makes no sense!” That’s the thing, folks. After two or three league seasons with a couple of my work girlfriends here, and a couple of my community theater girlfriends there, I not only had had a blast in friendly competition with my pals, but I also had been developing a pretty awesome approach to dating and meeting new people in general. I was breaking old habits of being closed to conversation with strangers, and was chatting up all kinds of people on the bus and at the grocery stores – AND when some of them turned out not to be that keen to talk, I learned how to not take it personally, and to move on. I was using online dating – mostly OKCupid – as a way to find more dates, and would send a message to anyone who seemed interesting. Again, some would respond, and some wouldn’t, and I became more and more comfortable with the idea that I won’t always catch the other person’s eye. And boy, was I ever going on a lot of dates. And it was fun! Of course there were a few dud dates here and there, but I felt that those were a great way to continue to fine-tune my ideas of what qualities I was looking for in a man, which faults were important to pay attention to, and which were just quirks I could totally deal with. With every date, I was not only earning Fantasy Dating points in the process of beating the pants of my hapless competition (sorry, girls, but I did whup ya), but I was also learning how to put myself out there, venture outside of my comfort zone, have some fun, and really meet guys of all kinds. So, then one day, I found myself with a free ticket to a local music festival. The ticket was FREE, so I was definitely going to go, but I could not convince any of my friends to come out to the boondocks (which is where I live) and pay for a $50 ticket. Even though I was not currently active in a Fantasy Dating league at that time, I made use of my new-found dating bravery, and logged onto OKCupid to try something new. I had noticed that they had recently instituted a mobile app feature called the “broadcast” that worked a lot like a status update on facebook, except that your message, saying what you are available to do and when, would be sent to the mobile apps of other members in the nearby region (this OKC feature appears to no longer exist, but a similar function can be found at HowAboutWe.com). I posted something along the lines of “I am going to the Nines Festival on Saturday, maybe I’ll see you there!” Of course I got a couple responses not worth repeating here, but really not many (as I mentioned before, I live in the boondocks, and the broadcast goes out only to folks nearby, so I don’t imagine I was speaking to a cast of thousands), and those I simply ignored. And then I got a nice message from a guy I had never really noticed before in any of my local searches – he said he would be willing to get a ticket if I really did intend to meet up, and after reading his very well-written profile, I responded that OF COURSE I meant it, gave him my phone number and instructions to text me when he got there. The whole process was so off-the-cuff and what-the-heck that it didn’t really feel like we were setting up a date, but rather a let’s-hang-out (not that there’s much of a difference in reality). The day of the festival arrived, and I moseyed on over at about 2:00 in the afternoon. It was sparsely attended at that hour, so I wandered over to the comedy tent where stand-up routines would be on rotation all afternoon, figuring that my hang-out-date was not yet there but would let me know when he had arrived. After the comedy set wrapped up, I made my way back out into the bright sunshine and almost walked smack into him! He had actually arrived before me, but thought he might try to pick me out of the “crowd” rather than text me, and had spotted me walking into the tent. Rather than creepily coming to sit next to me during the show, he patiently waited for it to end and for me to emerge. I am glad he chose this approach rather than texting, because the silly, awkward moment created by my looking up and recognizing his face before having time to compose my own was disarming and genuine. We grabbed some food at one of the snack trucks and strolled around the fairgrounds chatting. We had a lot in common, and very similar senses of humor. And we had hours stretching ahead of us, at this festival that lasted until about midnight. While we didn’t agree on any specific arrangement beforehand, we both assumed that if things went well, we’d continue to hang out, and if not, we could certainly go our separate ways and still enjoy the day’s entertainment. But we were compelled to stay together – even sometimes checking in with the other, “You still good? I am. Let’s grab a beer, my treat!” Hours later, we had heard some great music and also knew a lot about each other – much more personal background than you usually glean in your usual first date. By the time I was too tired to continue standing up by the main stage, and he walked me back out to where I had parked my car so long ago, we realized we were wrapping up an 8-hour date (not surprisingly a first for both of us). After a friendly hug, we assured each other we should get together again soon, and then I clutched my car keys and darted in for a quick kiss. He was caught by surprise by this unexpected (and frankly, on my part, somewhat awkward and graceless) maneuver, and smiled dazedly, moving off and waving as he went. I worried that I had bungled the goodbyes, but he let me know later that he had been wondering if I was as into him as he was into me, and my kiss had given him something to think about for the week he was to be out of town, until we could see each other again. I now congratulate myself for taking risks – to broadcast an invitation to a bunch of strangers, to make plans with one of those strangers, and to let him know I think he’s awesome by kissing him goodnight. I learned to take risks like this while fantasy dating, so Fantasy Dating Game, I congratulate you, too. And thanks – I win.