First dates are like gym memberships: you sign up for them because they sound good in theory, but then you remember that both are expensive and time-consuming and both involve uncomfortable amounts of sweating (thankfully, it’s usually only the gym thing that ends with me being surrounded by naked old men, usually). But as I deal with my perspiration issues and put in my reps on the finding-a-mate front, I am starting to realize that’s there’s really one thing that bothers me most about these initial encounters. It’s not the time factor. Let’s be honest those two hours would have gone toward watching Netflix or watching my self-esteem plummet as I realize that my lounging-around-the-house aloha shirt barely covers my pizza paunch. And it’s not the money thing. I am happy to pick up the bill (side note: ladies, are we Sheryl Sandberg-ing it or what? At least pretend to make a move toward your wallet.) What irks me most is that I run through the same questions and topics every time I go on these things. It’s like the patron saint of painful, forced conversation — Joan of Arc-ward Chit-Chat? — passed out the same script to every single gal I’ve gone on a date with. In order, it goes a little something like this:
1. Miscommunication on hug/handshake: You should not have laughed over text at me when I suggested we decide on a hug or handshake in advance. I just came in Creed style (read: with arms wide open) and you just jabbed my chest with an extended hand. Now after our public botched greeting, the entire restaurant knows we’re in a first-date situation and will eavesdrop and poke fun at us for the rest of the evening. Hope you like an audience!
2. Looks at the menu like she’s never seen one before and asks, “Sooo… what are you thinking?”: Currently, I am less concerned about what I am going to order and more concerned about how I am going to extricate myself from this situation. Plus, I know you and your friends went through the entire lineup of dishes the night before and figured out which ones would be the least messy to consume. You don’t need my input. Stick to the order you and gal pal put together.
3. Insist on walking me through the “most insane day at work, EVER”: Yes, please regale with me tales of inside jokes that have taken literal years for your office to form together as a group and that are meaningless to an outsider like me. What, the copier got jammed!?! Like at every other office? Look, I suggested a weekend night not because I wanted to sleep with you, but because you wouldn’t be fresh off a day at the office filled with “kooky” work antics.
4. Ask me how I ended up here: I’ve been wondering the same thing… Oh, this city, not this labored conversation about nothing. I then have to admit that I moved across the country for a girl and that things didn’t pan out. Ooo, just what I needed, some condescending guffaws! Another around of every available drink behind the bar.
5. To alleviate the tension, there’s an uninterrupted ten-minute interlude about “how crazy [her] friends are and how [she] wouldn’t change it for the world!”: Jenny does sound like a real wild card for drinking margaritas on Cinco de Mayo out of a tiny sombrero. And I’m sure if I make it back to your place one night, I’ll see a photo of you two doing the drunk skinny-arm pose in a frame that has your sorority name painted on it. What else is Nu #ObligatoryGreekPun?
6. Time to tackle bad first dates to keep the “laughs” rolling: Let’s crank up that whacky dial again, we’ve got some real doozies coming our way — everything from guys kissing with their eyes open to dudes developing pit stains. OMJesus Christ make this end! I think what frightens me most at this juncture is that the current date we’re on won’t crack her list. My nightmare is her glimmer of hope.
7. She then reminds me that “a sense of humor is just so important” to her: Yes, I remember you mentioning that sarcasm is a second language for you in your dating profile… like every other girl (which means she also claims she loves bourbon, craft brews, exploring new neighborhoods, all sorts of cuisine, and travel!). Maybe first find some laughs in that Jenny-margarita story before you put such a premium on humor.
8. Let’s figure out how many siblings we each have: Yup, now we’re just grasping for some sort of connection. The entire night has been reminiscent of a middle-school slow dance: minimal eye contact, awkward rhythm, and tons of stepping on toes. But maybe, just maybe, if we both realize we each have one older brother and one older sister, the whole thing will be saved!
9. As the check comes, she asks what my favorite bars are in the city: She’s lining up that second rendezvous. I can tell. Does she really expect me to disclose my favorite refuges in the city and have her ruin them with a “random” Saturday night pop-in. This is when I make up bars. I just wish I could see her Yelp-ing “The Hopped Collar,” my “favorite preppy, beer-centric hangout.”
10. “We should do this again!”: What? Why? What the hell would we even talk about… How many cousins we each have? This is generally when I say yes because I am a lonely, single guy with a pizza paunch, and I can’t pass on any opportunity for love.