Self-awareness is a terrifying and wonderful thing. So is self-loathing. One is great for growth and change, and the other is good for…well, it’s good for self-deprecating blog posts. One thing I’ve learned in this last couple years of being single is
how to down an entire box of Franzia in one evening that it takes a lot of guts to date. I mean, it’s basically parading your entire, horrible, broken self out there and hoping that someone else loves your sad life and lumpy, misshapen body.
But what happens when it’s one too many rejections? With all the rejection I’ve had these past two years, the real common denominator isn’t that I’m attracted to only jerks (because I’m not anymore), or that I’m into something weird like ButterSports (because I’m not but God that sounds delicious). The universal factor is me. If there’s nothing wrong with the world, maybe there’s something wrong with me. So I took myself on a date, and it went about as well as you could expect.
How did I meet me? If it was recently, probably on Tinder, or OKCupid, or Scruff. We were only a 40% match. We probably messaged for a week, texted, and then Facebook-messaged enough that he started showing up at the top of my chat list. We sent each other some pictures of ourselves (“PG please”, I requested, making sure my ankles were covered up). Then we talked on the phone, at his request, all old-timey style. I literally got out my Princess phone and plugged it in and called him on my landline, like they did in the 1800s. His voice was deeper than I thought it would be. I looked at his (obviously staged) Facebook profile picture and honestly thought he would have a high, reedy, theremin-like voice. On the call, he admitted it was because HE WANTED TO MAKE SURE HE WAS ATTRACTED TO MY VOICE. What? It’s not an audition for a voiceover, you weirdo. Okay, so he asked me a lot about my family and friends. He got points there. And then he asked me out for a drink, “maybe grub after”. Ugh. Really? Does anyone really use the word “grub” anymore? For the record, this is a grub:
Sorry, I’ll give you a moment to muffle your scream. Okay, back? Great. I said yes to the drink, and asked what he liked to be called. No, not the grub, my date. Stop thinking about the grub. We’re done with the grub (“A grub is a guy who thinks he’s fly, also known as a…” OKAY I’M DONE WITH THE GRUB). He said “Oh, I don’t really care, Mike or Michael is fine”, but then I found out later that he actually prefers Mike, and only uses Michael for professional and family settings. Why did he not just tell me this up front? Strange.
So he picks me up that Friday night. Maybe it’s the image or whatever, but I kinda expected him to pull up in a vintage black Mercedes with leather interior that runs on biodiesel. Nope. A 2007 Ford Fusion. Well, honestly, I really don’t care what kind of car you drive, but I’ve dated guys (in LA) where that’s literally the first question that comes up. Ugh.
He gets out of the car, holds the driver-side door open. He looks nice, if a tiny bit overdressed. He’s wearing dark denim, a nice chambray shirt, a fitted tweed jacket. I’m wearing an untucked shirt and jeans. That’s when I look down and see it: the passenger-side damage to his car (I read about that on his crappy blog that I pretended to like and complimented him on, but in reality his blog almost kept me from dating him. What a narcissist). Then I remember what he said about the damage, that it prevents his passenger door from opening more than a couple inches. So I gamely smile and make my way around. We hug hello, and then I get in the driver’s side, impregnating myself on the parking brake while lurching over into the passenger seat.
I repeat the process, but backwards, when we get to the restaurant. It’s a cute pizza and cocktail place in the Pearl, or an obscure Pan-Asian cuisine place in Southeast, or a fully-sustainable-sushi place in Northwest. But whatever the place, it’s probably positively silly with Edison bulbs and exposed brick, ’cause apparently that’s how Mike rolls.
The conversation is nice, but also peppered with some truly bizarre moments. He asks what knuckle tattoos I would get if I got any, and we pick the same ones: “MEOW MEOW”. He tells me a couple of stories, including one about That Time He Set Up A Window Display For Williams-Sonoma That Inadvertently Looked Like Chickens Taking Off On Rockets Of Their Own Shit Because The Display Lights Melted The Hazelnut Filling Inside The Chickens. That story was funny, but sounds a little over-rehearsed, and when he finishes, he looks at me a little expectantly, with raised eyebrows, like an eager puppy that just took a crap in the middle of the living room and is checkin’ out if you dug what he just lay down. I fake a laugh, maybe a little too loud, and he leans back into his faux-rustic chair, satisfied.
Then he asks me, “Do you have any food fantasies?” and I’m like “Uh, no” and he’s like “Can I tell you about one of mine?” and I’m like “Sure” but inside I’m secretly biting the inside of my cheek because this is clearly a Red Flag and I need to go see if the bathroom has any windows that a person could squeeze through, you know, theoretically.
He starts in: “So, you know, I have this recurring food fantasy. Actually, a few of them, but this was the first. You know Star Trek: The Next Generation?” I nod yes. This is promising. I lurve Star Trek. “So, you know the holodeck? The room they go into that can recreate literally everything?” Again, nod yes. “What if the doors opened up and the room was filled with a giant loaf of bread? Like, wall to wall. A steaming, room-sized loaf of warm, white bread. Wall to wall. Floor to ceiling.” Whoa, that’s pretty intense. He has my interest. “I have this fantasy where I break through the crust, and just tunnel through the moist, warm interior.” Okay, I have a knee-jerk reaction to hating the word moist (also the phrase “new lease on life” makes me want to stab) but I’m still onboard. “I just push and eat my way through the giant, room-sized bread, and create tunnels and passages, kind of like Dig-Dug.” With that 80’s arcade game reference, he has my undivided attention. “Then at night, I carve a passage with my hands in the side of a tunnel, and just curl up and go to sleep in a fetal position, in the middle of the bread.” This actually sounds nice, and I’m about to ask if I can be the big spoon while he breadsleeps, when he almost totally ruins it: “Oh and by the way, you know the ButterBoy?” For a second I think he’s talking about BoyButter lube, but then I realize he’s talking about the kitchen gadget that would make Paula Deen drool: it’s like a large Chapstick container that you put a stick of butter in to handle more easily. “Yes, I know the ButterBoy” I murmur reluctantly. This is taking us down a strange path, I think. This date is starting to resemble a Todd Solondz movie.
He continued: “In this fantasy, I have a giant ButterBoy helmet, with a massive column of butter on top of it, and I head-butt the bread whenever I want to eat it.” And then he demonstrates this, leaning over the table and head-butting the air, much to the confusion of everyone at the tables around us. Embarrassed? No, not one bit. I have a high appreciation for quirky and strange. If anything, he’s doing good so far. I think this is the moment I decide: I am very much going to kiss this boy tonight.
So I start to share things with him: How whenever I see the phrase “Hispanic Foods” in the grocery store I giggle. How if I adopt a little girl one day I’m renaming her Astra Zeneca and I hope she’s sassy. How when they were very young I taught my niece to whisper “It’s not a choice, it’s a child” to pregnant strangers, and I goaded my nephew to shout “Allah is the One True God” in the middle of a Wal-Mart. About how when ladies say “the girls” I can never tell if they’re talking about their friends or their boobs (especially confusing/horrifying is when they say “Where my girls at?”).
I tell him more and more, my revelations becoming more rapid and confessional, his eyes getting larger: how no matter how close we are, if you fucking talk to me in a public restroom I will pretend I don’t even know you. How I had a nightmare once where all my significant ex-boyfriends turned into a Voltron made out of them. How I identify with Ms. Havisham from Great Expectations in a terrible, wonderful way, and every time I get rejected I stop all my clocks in the house at twenty minutes to nine and wear my tattered, rotting wedding dress. How I think the word “burgled” should not mean “broken into”, it should mean “covered in hamburgers.” How I think there is a secret team of time-travelers following the guys I date around, and telling them to not go on a second date with me because I am simply too important to the future. How I still sometimes blame myself for what that one ex did to me that night. How I still miss my dead fucking brother, even 23 years later.
I stop, breathless. Oh shit. Too much. This was too much overshare. These are things he could find out later. Damnit. I look down, stare at my plate of half-eaten food. I’ve tried too hard again, lost my appetite. We skip dessert, split the check. The ride home is quiet, but not in a “I want to make out with you so hard” kind of way. He pulls up in front of my place and just stares at me. And I stare back. And I finally mutter “Uh, I have to get out on your side…” and then make my awkward, ungraceful exit over the parking brake again. There’s a hug, but no kiss.
I wait for a text that night, but there isn’t one. Or the next day, either. No call. I notice that he’s stopped “liking” or commenting on anything I put on Facebook or Instagram. After a few days, he falls off my chat list, too, since we don’t interact anymore. A couple weeks later I text him by mistake when I mean to text my best girlfriend in LA, Michal, and when I text again and explain the error, he just replies “np”. He doesn’t ask how I am, how my parents’ health is. The next day I delete the pictures from my phone that he texted me of himself. This is how a crush dies. Not all at once, for sure, but slowly, sadly. This, this here is how you kill something that could have been potentially beautiful.
And that’s the simple, sweet lesson of this exercise. It’s got to be worth it, all of this rejection. It has to add up to something. I know I’m a catch, damnit, I just have to find the other guy who thinks that, too, and will stick it out, not move on to the Next Best Thing. Who thinks maybe I’m worth working a little harder for, worth getting to know me and not running when it seems like there might be roadblocks up ahead.
And then the phone rings.
Oh shit. It’s him.
Fifth in a series. Here’s Part 1, about how I’m using a hookup app to find husband material, here’s Part 2, where I learn a life lesson from my worst date ever, here is Part 3, about realizing I’m only attracted to jerks, and here’s Part 4, where I put forth that age is just a number, until it isn’t.