Previously: As a kid, Greg Estrada suffered from what he calls "horrendous, disfiguring acne" that left him deeply scarred, emotionally and physically. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Greg Estrada was in his late thirties before he ever asked a woman out on a date. He'd had a few girlfriends in the past, he says, but he always depended on the women to make the first move. "The acne, you know, it just kind of shook my confidence," Greg, now 41, explains.
Nerves trembling, Greg read from a clipborad of scripted jokes. Most of them terrible.
Even after he had the plastic surgery that dramatically altered his appearance, he found little time to troll for dates. During the day, he ran his family's carpet business. At night, he was consumed with a postoperative passion: stand-up comedy.
To meet women, he turned to Match.com, an Internet dating service. He's had lots of dates, but none of them has led to happily ever after.
One woman, Greg remembers, insisted on meeting him in a parking lot. She was pretty and intelligent, he says. So he asked her for a second date. Again, she wanted to meet in a parking lot. This time he demanded an explanation -- she blushed, he says, and confessed that she was married. And then she said that her husband was a gun owner: "If he catches me, he'll probably retaliate. So we can't be seen anywhere." Greg made sure of that by not asking her out again.
He quickly learned that online profiles don't always jibe with reality. He met more than one woman who had described herself as "athletic and toned," only to find her obese. "I want someone who looks like me, in body shape and appearance." he says. Namely: short, slender, brown hair.
Greg says that his own online profile generates a steady flow of hate mail from women who find him arrogant. In the profile, he writes that he's looking for a woman who is "#1 cute #2 funny #3 smart in that order -- everything else is immaterial -- if a guy tells you different, he's lying . . . yes, i speak for all men -- we just had a big meeting & they appointed me Spokesman."
Internet dating is a wonderfully efficient tool for meeting lots of women, Greg says. Sometimes he would go on two or three dates a week. Many dates ended with a smile and a handshake. Others morphed into lasting platonic relationships. Some led to intimate encounters.
For a while, he was "like a kid in a candy store," he says. Women, women, women. The revolving door was his way of compensating for more than 20 years of living on the sidelines. "It was just consumption, with no thought of anything," he acknowledges.
Recently, though, he says he's started to change: "After a while, the kid doesn't want any more candy. So I had my fill. I want someone I can talk to, a friend, a partner, like a real relationship."
Recently, Greg responded to yet another online personal. Soon a snapshot landed in his in-box. The image set his heart on wings: She was short and slender with brown hair. Greg was smitten. He wanted to meet her. There was just one question. Who was that little boy wrapping his arms around her?
-- Tyler Currie