A few weeks ago, I met Ryder Strong – aka Sean Hunter – at The Liberty in Flatiron. Ok – I didn’t, but I basically did because I met his exact doppelganger. I was at the bar ordering drinks with Caitlin when I saw him. He was leaned over this other guy, whispering in his ear, faces almost touching and I thought to myself, how sweet, what a beautiful couple. Then when he turned his head I found myself suddenly drowning in a wave of childhood memories – Sean! He saw me staring and came over to Caitlin and me. I think he asked what beer was good to get here (I later found out that The Liberty is his nightly haunt). We replied that we were getting vodka. I realized he wasn’t gay. Sparks flew. Witty banter, witty banter. Yadada. I asked him to join us at our table. After a few more sips of my drink, I leaned into him and said, “I bet you get this all the time but – “
He interrupted: “I look like Sean Hunter. I know”
I nodded my head enthusiastically, “I mean, it’s uncanny. Like I just want to make out with you right now to satisfy the nine year old inside me who had the world’s biggest crush on you – except, I guess when I was nine I didn’t make out or want to make out with people, so can I just, like, hold your hand? For nine year old Kat’s sake?” (This is the kind of stupid shit I am always coming up with when I talk to attractive men – and, to be honest, all humans in general.)
He held my hand – told me he was a political cartoonist – we took shots, we laughed, he did the I’m-accidentally-grazing-my-hand-across-your-lower-back thing that only comes off as not creepy half the time (but nine year old myself and I were cool with it). Sean Hunter (whatever, ok “real” name was Walker) got my number and texted me the next day to ask me out.
* * *
Half an hour into our first date, I’d finished one Bulleit Rye and Ginger and four dramatic retellings of all the things that had somehow upset me that week. By the time we got to the one hour mark, I’d revealed to him my penchant for whiskey, forced him to co-psychoanalyze my latent mother issues, and topped it off by making out with him aggressively in the depths of our leather booth (much to our waitress’s chagrin.). For all intents and purposes, the relationship had basically run its course. We stumbled outside, and I hailed a taxi mid-makeout (winning move, if I do say so myself) and slid into it, congratulating myself (actually, out loud) on my suave exit. I was 90% sure I wouldn’t hear from him again, and when I did, I was 100% sure I didn’t want to see him again. Anyone that’s attracted to me after a performance like that has to be seriously deranged. I know when I play dates well and when I don’t. About ten seconds after he casually mentioned that he did shrooms and acid on the regs, I decided I didn’t give a fuck and just abandoned all first date decorum. So, you can imagine my consternation when I received a dinner invite via text for the following Friday.
* * *
Sure – what have I got to lose? I reasoned, besides – I gain a free meal. I took him up on the offer. On that following Friday he sent me a text mid afternoon saying something to the effect of: “Hey, can’t wait for dinner with you tonight – here is the restaurant address. etc etc”
I looked up the restaurant and it looked fantastic. As a rule, if I’m going out for dinner, I’ll have a light lunch. Not because I’m watching my weight, but because I want to really enjoy dinner. So I ate, like, nothing for lunch and rolled up to the restaurant with a growling tummy, ready to tuck into some dinner.
He was sitting at the bar when I got there.“They’re getting our table ready,” he said, giving me a kiss on the cheek and pulling out a stool for me, “Want a drink while we’re waiting?”
* * *
Now, that weekend, in particular, my friends and I had decided to boycott alcohol in favor of sobriety and healthy living. I figured though that one glass of red wine couldn’t hurt, so I ordered a Pinot Noir. I was almost finished with the Pinot Noir, when we were led to our table. We sat down and a waiter brought us menus. Eagerly, I opened my menu. Then it happened.
“Oh! Are you getting food?” Sean-Hunter-Walker asked. I looked up at him, thinking he was kidding. He wasn’t.
“Um, no?” I said, insanely confused. What are we doing at a table at a restaurant if we aren’t going to eat?!
“I mean, you can,” he said, reluctantly, “if you want.” Yeah, like I’m going to order the lamb chops I’d been salivating over all afternoon (I always read menus before going to restaurants. I plan everything ahead.)
“No, no, it’s fine,” I said, closing my menu.
“Another drink?” he said, motioning to my empty wine glass.
“No thanks – I’m having an alcohol-free weekend, remember?”
He nodded, “Right”
“But you get one!” I urged – he’d been slurping at the dregs of a gin and tonic for the past five minutes and it was getting annoying.
“Oh, no, no, no,” he insisted, “Not if you’re not getting one.”
“Well, I’m not,” I said flatly. What. the. Fuck?! No food – no drinks – why are we in restaurant?????
The waiter came back, “Sir,” he said, “Can I get you started with some appetizers?”
“Oh, no, no, we’re ok,” Sean-Hunter-Walker said.
“Another drink?” the waiter suggested.
“No, no thanks,” Sean-Hunter-Walker said.
“Are you ready to order? If not, I can give you a moment.”
I looked at Sean-Hunter-Walker, interested to hear what he was going to say to the guy who would be bringing him nothing and losing a Friday night table to a non-ordering couple.
No one said anything. I stared into my wine glass, pretending to examine the glasswork (they were totally Ikea). Sean-Walker-Hunter coughed. The waiter raised an eyebrow. I couldn’t take it.
“I will have the tuna tartar!” I burst out.
“Just an appetizer for you, madame?” the waiter asked, concerned (I’m assuming more so for his tip than for my lack of sustenance), “It’s a very small portion.”
“No, that’s perfect – just the tuna tartar,” I asserted.
The waiter turned again to Sean-Hunter-Walker.
Sean-Hunter-Walker grinned at him, “Sir – has anyone ever told you you’ve got a voice for the radio? I mean, come on! What’re you doing working at a restaurant – you should be the guy announcing the ball drop in Times Square!”
The waiter and I were not expecting this surprising turn in the conversation.
“Um, no,” the waiter stammered, frowning, “No one has told me this. Thanks.” He gave a polite smile, “So for your main course, sir, what will you have?”
Sean-Walker-Hunter, realizing he was trapped, flipped open the menu and scanned it quickly, “I’ll have the chicken spring roll.”
The waiter nodded, “And for your main course?”
“That’s it, just the spring roll,” Sean-Hunter-Walker said, flashing me a look across the table as if to say “This guy! Am I right?!”
I tried, in vain, to flash the waiter this same look, but failed; he turned quickly on his heel and walked off. Having worked in restaurants since I was sixteen, I felt his frustration. On top of that, I felt mortified.
Sean-Walker-Hunter was grinning, “You’re so pretty!” he exclaimed.
“Thanks,” I said, briefly toying with the idea of smashing my empty wine glass and using the shards to end my life right then and there.
“How about that voice?” Sean-Hunter-Walker said, rolling his eyes back in his head as though he’d just told Luciano Pavarotti that he would just be having a single, chicken spring roll.
“Yep.” I replied.
The rest of the date was awful. I toyed with my tuna tartar (which was fucking excellent and would have made a wonderful appetizer – but wasn’t exactly much in terms of main courses) and Sean-Hunter-Walker ate his spring roll in excruciatingly small bites.
“You wanna try some?” he offered, motioning to the gnawed butt of the roll.
“I’m good, thanks.” I said. I was not about to offer him a bite of my tartar – not when sustenance levels were at such an all time low.
I tried to mentally tune him out for the remainder of the date – at one point he pretended to stab himself and dramatically keeled over. I didn’t know the context surrounding this act, nor did I care.
* * *
That was the last date I went on with Sean-Hunter-Walker (obviously.) The only good that came of it was that I attempted to use it to bolster my case for Tinder with my non-tindering, skeptical, the-internet-can’t-find-you-love-believing friends.
“See, you guys, see?! I totally had chemistry with him at the bar – and even on our first date – the only thing that turned me off was the drugs, otherwise he seemed fine. Then, second date, he’s suddenly this weirdo who literally does not understand the concept of “going out to dinner.”” My point was that it doesn’t matter if you connect “organically” (which is what some of my friends like to call it when they drunkenly paw at a potential mate in a bar) or if you meet on tinder – it’s always hit or miss.
* * *
I, too, had had serious misgivings about Tinder to begin with – and to be fair, not just with Tinder, but with all forms of online matchmaking. But then, once I realized tinder was simply a game of harsh judgment and revealing insight into the human condition (more on that another time), I became a devout fan.
That said, a few days after the catastrophe that was my second date with Sean-Walker-Hunter, I had to confront the fact that Manhattan is an ISLAND, and when you narrow your filter down by age and proximity, chances are you meet people you would’ve met anyway. I saw his picture, but it took me a moment to recognize him (he had much shorter hair in it and was almost unrecognizable without his Sean Hunter locks). I nearly swiped right.