I have been on exactly five dates in the past ten years. Four of those have been since January. One of my New Years Resolutions this year was to join a dating app and go on some dates. The idea was to take the pressure off of dating by facing my anxieties and realizing that a first date is not, in fact, a life or death moment. Well, not generally. I’ve been watching Criminal Minds recently, which has not done anything to alleviate my paranoia.
So I joined a couple of dating apps.
One day, I matched with this dude whomst we shall call Lionel. His profile said he was a pro soccer player and featured a video of him feeding a giraffe. My friend Kelly said this meant he was probably a winner, because giraffes are her favorite animal. So I started a conversation with him. We arranged to meet up for dinner at a Japanese Barbeque place in Midtown one Thursday evening.
I put on my first date outfit–high-waisted Gap skinny jeans, a black tank top, my studded leather jacket, and my cream, high top Air Jordans–and minimal make up and jewelry. When I arrive, Lionel is sitting at a table in the bar section talking to a woman sitting next to him. This woman who was more than a little drunk and therefore couldn’t read the social cues to know that we were on a date and maybe it was a good idea to leave us alone. In between her interjections, Lionel asked me a few questions about myself. He didn’t seem to be interested in my answers. When I told him I was a writer working on a book, he said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” He then proceeded to tell me what his book would be about and how amazing it would be.
There wasn’t a server for our table, so he got me a menu. After a few minutes, he asked what I was thinking about getting. I pointed one of the drinks out. “What about food? Are you hungry?” I vaguely gestured toward a few things I was considering. He grabbed the menu and went to the bar. My back was facing the bar, so I had to turn around awkwardly to keep track of him. Every time I turned around, he was talking to this group of people. Dude was gone for at least five minutes, meanwhile I’m chilling at the table with the drunk lady still chatting away. I couldn’t talk to her and monitor my drink at the same time, so when Lionel finally returned to the table and handed me my beverage, I thought,Welp, I can’t drink this. As a woman, it is bad practice to drink anything that has not been in your direct line of sight at all times, unless said drink comes from a trusted friend or a server. As I didn’t point to any one food item that I wanted, I assumed he hadn’t ordered any food. I wasn’t catastrophically hungry, so I figured I would eat later.
He sat back down and said, “Those are my friends at the bar. We’re all hanging out tonight.” Nothing says, “I’m interested in getting to know you as a human” quite like making me compete for your attention with 5 of your closest friends.
Lionel then regales me with tales of his professional soccer career. He mentions that he plays for a European team, and he gets four free airline tickets a year. Perhaps I would like to come see him play some time? “Oh, interesting,” I say, though internally I was like Dude, I don’t know you and I’ve seen Taken. You must be out of your mind if you think I’m going to Europe with you. Perhaps he sensed my hesitation, because it was at this point he first suggested I Google him. Over the course of the date, he told me to Google him thrice. Friends, once is too many times to tell someone to Google you, especially on a first date.
A waitress came to the table with some food. “What is this?” I asked. He replied that it’s what I had ordered. First of all, I didn’t order anything. Second of all, why would you ever order for someone on a first date? Third of all, there is one food on this earth to which I am allergic. It is egg whites. Guess what was all up in this fried rice? Eggs. Eggs scrambled to the point that I couldn’t just pick around them.
In talking about his soccer career, he mentioned that he is sponsored by a major athletic brand and could get me a discount. He pulled out his phone to show me the cleats he was going to buy next, and said, “Oh, but you don’t know anything about soccer.”
“Actually,” I said, “I played soccer for thirteen years of my life. I don’t really follow it because I prefer playing sports to watching them, but I know the game pretty well.”
Toward the end of the date, Lionel made this big deal about being born in New York, all but saying that he was raised by Brooklyn himself. He asked what neighborhood I live in. When I say the Upper East Side, which I have already disclosed several times if you include our pre-date conversation, he says that there’s a great brunch place right around where I live. “Jacob the Pickle, have you been?” he said. First of all, it is called Jacob’s Pickle. Second of all, it is on the Upper West Side with an entire bless-ed park between it and me. Third of all, WE HAVE HAD THIS EXACT CONVERSATION ABOUT JACOB THE FREAKING PICKLE THRICE ALREADY. Instead of saying all that, I stayed calm and merely said, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never been. I’ll have to check it out.” ‘Twas a conversation in which truth was never going to win out.
For this Oscar-worthy performance, I’d like to thank my acting teacher for believing in me, and Jesus for giving me the strength to persevere. I made my excuses and departed the date with a vague, “See you around.”
I went to my usual Thursday night hangout with friends, who told me I looked great and commiserated with me about said date. The manager came over to the table and asked if I wanted my usual beverage. We laughed and exchanged war stories. I felt known and it was a glorious juxtaposition to the past hour and a half.
Perhaps my standards are too high. Perhaps I should give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Many people, including myself, are nervous on a first date. Nerves make our brains short-circuit and we might find ourselves derping up big time. It is perhaps natural to want to impress someone on the first date, and entirely conceivable that this guy felt insecure and wanted his buddies there to bolster his confidence. I am not exactly the most forthcoming at times, so perhaps his incessant, self-focused babble was a nervous attempt to fill the silence. In my defense, when someone makes it clear from the get-go that they are not interested in what I have to say, my inclination to disclose information dissipates.
I arrived back at my apartment around 11:30 and looked at my phone. Lionel had just texted me, What ru up to? I sighed and decided not to respond. If he texted again, I’d give the “not interested” spiel, but that night… I sat down on my couch and decided to try again another day.