Second in a series. Here’s Part 1, about being old-fashioned in a modern world. And then click here for Part 3, about how bad dating habits lead to same result date after date. Oh yeah, here’s Part 4, where I talk about age differences in dating.
Is anyone out there really “great” at dating? I’m asking for a friend, of course. Once I get in a relationship I’m golden, but it seems like such a long damn road to get there. First of all, for a while recently, I had this weird occasional anxiety that was a big turnoff to normal human beings. I tended to come off a little strong in the beginning, until I was sure there was a connection. This still flares up occasionally. My favorite icebreaker I use on dating sites isn’t “Hey, I’m Mike, how are you?”, it’s usually “MAKE ME A SANDWICH”. This works less well than you might think.
In the last post I talked about how I’m an old-fashioned weirdo and I feel out-of-place whenever I get out of a relationship, since I tend to date for long periods of time. The reaction to me admitting that I’m using the wrongly-maligned Scruff app to find husband material provoked stronger reactions than that time I stole someone’s MRIs of their brain to make art with. My favorite reaction from that Scruff admission was from my buddy Chase: “Enjoy the chlamydia!” But seriously, I don’t get the “woofs” (for the uninitiated, this is what you do on Scruff to indicate you like someone, like a Facebook “poke”)…just send me a message instead, guys. I know I should be flattered, but stop it. Somebody feed that goddamn dog some chocolate.
Honestly, it’s a wonder that anyone even wants to date me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an insecurity thing. I get told all the time that I’m a catch, that I’m wonderful…by dudes who are rejecting me (hey, pro tip to guys: don’t repeat the phrase “you never know” while rejecting me, implying the inevitability of us getting together again. THIS DOES NOT HELP ME GET OVER YOU).
I wish rejection didn’t sting. I wish I was bulletproof, an emotionless robot, or a superhero. If I had superpowers right now, my mutant ability would probably be to powerfully regret past life decisions. It feels like I’ve been in this dating game for a long damn time now. Hell, the first dating sites I used were cave drawings. But one thing that does give me hope, that makes me feel like maybe I’m not completely unlovable? The Horrible Date. Because at least I’m not That Bad.
My Worst Date Ever started off promising. I met the dude, “Rich”, a few years ago. We met on a dating site that, more recently, looks like a casting call for “The Hills Have Eyes”. Rich seemed athletic and articulate, and was really handsome in his photo…he had a nose and brow combination that practically screamed “I can provide a stable environment for our future children!” He was also younger and shorter than me…I prefer this because, again, I’m a weirdo. I messaged him, he messaged me back: oh yeah, it was on.
We talked on the phone, and it further sealed the deal. He had a nice, pleasant, deep voice. I’m a sucker for a nice voice. At his insistence, I gave him control of the date: what are we gonna do?
“I have season tickets to the Pantages theater, let’s go see Grease!” he suggested.
I hesitated. I’m not a fan of older musicals. I kind of like newer ones, but it’s mostly for the spectacle, the explosions and robots and chandeliers falling. I really wanted to enjoy my evening with Rich: this seemed promising already, so let’s not jinx it by doing something one of us sorta isn’t into. Ok, haha, just kidding. I really hate Grease. I loathe it. That doo-wop shit makes my skin crawl (that sound you just heard is the sound of two thousand mad queens removing this blog from their bookmarks and RSS readers). So I spoke up: “Sorry, not a fan, but I’m sure I’ll love anything else you suggest! You seem to have good taste, so let’s do a Plan B.” He agreed he would, we decided on a day, and hung up.
That Saturday night I was a hot mess: what do I wear? Cologne or no cologne (this was years ago, when I wore cologne. Ugh)? Clean-shaven or scruffy? I was a whirling dervish. Then the knock: he’s here! I nonchalantly tore my front door off its hinges to greet Rich.
Oh. No chemistry. Ok.
I knew instantly. I think I’ve always known right away if I was going to connect with someone, and Rich was no exception. He was tall, for one…a few inches taller than his profile indicated, which took him above my 6′ 2″ (weirdest recent compliment: “Wow, you’re lanky as fuck, aren’t you?”). While that might’ve been a pleasant surprise to some, I really don’t like it when a guy is taller than me. I’m not sure why, but it’s a dealbreaker. And why would he lie about that on his profile?! Add to that, although very handsome, he looked different than his profile. Later, I would look at the dating site profile again, and realize that the most recent photos were the most poorly lit, and his face had changed quite a bit from the time he took the clearer pictures. Ice-Wompa attack? Possibly.
But I was game to spend a pleasant evening with a new friend: “Great to meet you, Rich! What’re we doing?”
His head tilted, puzzled, and he smiled. “We’re going to see Grease, silly!”
My own smile froze on my face in a Joker-esque rigor. “Oh. Great. Yeah, like we talked about on the phone! Ok.” We left my apartment, got in his car, and started to the theater, my head replaying the phone conversation in my head. Did I imagine that part? Did I confuse him with someone else? Am I being Punked? Oh, that’s right, that TV show hasn’t been invented yet.
We went to the musical, and of course it was every bit as dreadful as I thought it would be. Not from lack of talent of the performers (including American Idol alumni Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel), or lack of enthusiasm from Rich (who danced from his seat like a meth addict needing a fix during every damn song), but because I. Hate. Grease.
The show ended, the audience applauded thunderously, and as the curtain call wound down, one cast member came forward to make a big announcement: “And now, ladies and gentlemen, here’s Taylor Hicks with his new single!”
You could practically hear the needle skipping on the record as the audience’s applause simultaneously and instantly stopped. Everyone in the theater looked at each other and sat down, confused. We didn’t sign up for this. This wasn’t part of the bargain.
Taylor Hicks started his scratchy, Joe Cocker-esque warbling as the rest of the cast cleared the stage. I don’t remember the song very well, but I remember it was some sad song about seeking daddy’s approval or such. I took a sidelong peek at Rich, who I fully expected to be weeping at this point. He was looking back at me, eyes wide. We were finally on the same page: Let’s get the fuck outta here.
So we got in his car, joked a bit about how great the show was but what was that at the end. “Hey,” he said. “Are you hungry right now?” he said.
And then a weird thing came out of my mouth: “God, yes, I’m starving.” My eyes grew wide. What was that? I didn’t mean to say that at all. In my mind, I reached out and tried to grab the words and shove them back in my mouth before they traveled the distance to his ears, but the damage was done: he swerved the car away from the course towards my apartment, and the endless date continued.
We ended up at a diner in Hollywood…ok, good choice, Rich. I’m a big fan of greasy-spoons. We chatted a bit, and though he tried to start flirting, I was definitely in “friend-mode” at this point. It was at this point that I made a couple of silly (probably bad, knowing me) jokes. One was about a string walking into a bar. One was about a dead baby.
“No,” he said, still chuckling from my last joke, “I’ve seen that.”
I laughed along, bracing myself for the punch line, but then he continued, and it was then I realized: wait he’s a nurse. He’s not joking. My turkey burger was halfway to my lips and stopped, remained in my hands there as my eyes grew wide. He launched into the explanation of how he had seen this, and exactly what had caused the infant to die. I was horrified, and one voice in my head kept saying I can’t believe this. This is horrible. That poor baby. Why is he telling me this? Of course, the other voice in my head was shouting HOLY SHIT this is going to make the most amazing Bad Date story later. I stayed frozen there, expressionless. Maybe I thought that if I stood perfectly still he would stop talking, forget I was there, that maybe his vision was motion-based like a T-Rex.
Shortly after that I asked him to take me home, and he did. I don’t remember if he went in for the kiss. I was a little numb after that. After I politely but firmly let him know the next day that we wouldn’t be going out again, he asked for feedback. I was too chickenshit to tell him the honest, several truths why we wouldn’t go out again. This was years ago, and I never heard from him again.
I’ve told this story a few times, to other guys I date, or at dinner parties, or to strangers on the street, until one day I decided to look him up on Facebook. And then I stopped telling this “Worst Date Ever” story. Well, until today. Because although his Facebook timeline is locked down tight, I could at least see his profile picture. In it, he is smiling and happy, and so is the really handsome guy next to him…and so is the kid in between them. He won; he got the golden ticket that most of us want. The joke, in the end, is really on me. Maybe, to him, I was “that guy with the stick up his ass” who couldn’t relax and enjoy himself on a perfectly good date. Maybe I was his worst date ever. Who the hell am I, flawed, imperfect, and so damn human, who am I to judge anyone?
That’s the point of me telling this story today, one final time. That it really is about the journey. Going through experiences like the ones above will make me, will make “Rich”, will make any of us appreciate the right person even more when they finally come along. And that hypothetical guy and I will laugh, trade stories about our bad dates, and the long road we had to travel before we finally found each other. We will move into a cabin outside of Portland, and it will have no electricity or running water. I shall smelt tools on my anvil and tan hides of the animals we hunt for food and clothing. He will wash the laundry and fish in the nearby creek (shirtlessly, of course), while I gaze deep into his beard from the porch. We shall waste nothing, and want for nothing, and the candles that we make with wax from the beehive out back will cast shadows of us on our log cabin walls, as he and I grapple at night like rabid badgers.
Uh, ahem. Whew. Sorry, got a little ahead of myself.
So everybody: let’s all promise to be nice to each other, how does that sound? Let’s all remember that we’re all in this together, and that the other person we’re going on that crucial first date with is probably just as nervous as us, and maybe that comes out a little awkward, a little sideways. And, most importantly…
…WHERE IS MY SANDWICH?
Click here for Part 1, about being old-fashioned in a modern world. And then click here for Part 3, about how bad dating habits lead to same result date after date. Oh yeah, here’s Part 4, where I talk about age differences in dating.