First dates fall under their own special category of people-watching. Regular, run-of-the-mill people watching -- for me, at least -- involves sitting in a public place most likely procrastinating whatever task I am supposed to be accomplishing in that public place. I justify it as exercising my all-pro peripheral vision. Or as necessary physical therapy to stem the tinnitus tide brought on by years of sitting behind a drum set. Or as necessary observational foraging to gather vivid details to illuminate future writing.
In other words, I bullshit myself regularly. That trio of rationalizations -- while technically true and, I'm sure, useful in those ways -- are pure, vile, well-warmed cow manure. I people-watch because people fascinate me.
On Saturday, I sat in a public place and had the misfortune of observing an awkward first date between a man and a woman who were both around 55-years-old. One could not write a worse ad for online dating without including a crime as the night cap. Although I do think that some juries might convict this woman for the 35 minutes of subtle psychological abuse with which she assaulted this poor guy.
The couple chose chairs extremely close to me so I could hear every word of their abbreviated first encounter. Immediately -- as I was frantically searching for a way to procrastinate from my real writing -- I noticed that this man bore some form of vocal impairment. You could comprehend his words, but his tone was thick, almost like his tongue took up too much room in his mouth. I glanced over and discovered that his lower jaw thrust slightly forward and his mouth's movement seemed restricted as a result. That malformation probably explained the unusual voice.
Other than those two minor irregularities, the man seemed to be very pleasant. He sat, smiling, holding a hot coffee. Friendly. Open. The woman sat perpendicular to him without a drink. Arms folded. Closed. He tried. The poor man tried. He brought up every subject imaginable. He asked her questions about herself. She responded with cold, abrupt and disinterested phrases.
"You don't want a coffee?" he asked.
"I don't like Starbucks."
This is probably a good place to mention that they were sitting IN a Starbucks. Assuming he hadn't kidnapped her, at some point she had agreed to meet him at a Starbucks.
"What kind of coffee do you like?" This man rolled with every miserable response she gave him!
"Honey Dew," she said then shifted deliberately in her chair by tucking her chin and pushing her torso away from him. "Starbucks is too strong."
[Dating tip: When someone asks "Hey, do you want to meet for coffee at Starbucks?" and you dislike Starbucks, it is perfectly acceptable to counter with "Do you mind if we go to Honey Dew instead?"]
Next up was her divorce (still friends with her ex). Her kids (no kids). Her job (some kind of customer service job). She brought up Dunkin' Donuts just to complain that they get her order wrong so she doesn't go there anymore. She mentioned that she was born in Boston. So he asked her questions about Boston. She shut that topic down quickly: "I don't go into Boston."
He courageously followed up on her job: "Do you get a lot of rude phone calls? People complaining?"
"I know how to handle it."
What an engaging story-teller!
[Dating tip: When someone expresses interest in your job, feel free to tell a funny or interesting anecdote about that job.]
She never asked a single question about him.
[Dating tip: Among humans, when someone asks about your job, it is acceptable to then ask them about their own job. In fact, it's the most effortless way to have a conversation with another human. Simply parrot whatever they ask you.]
This went on for about a half-hour. Enthusiastic question. Grumpy, negative response. Toward the end I even took a longer look just to be ABSOLUTELY certain that she wasn't Bill Belichick in disguise.
"Have you eaten lunch?" he asked hopefully. God bless this man. How low does his self-esteem have to be that he wanted this cruel and unusual punishment to continue through an actual meal?
"I ate at home," she said, walking the thin line of condescension. One wrong step and she might smack him with her royal scepter.
By the way, their date started at noon. Let's add this to the scoresheet: she agreed to a date with this man at Starbucks at lunchtime but ate first and doesn't like Starbucks.
"Actually, I have to get going," she said then stood up. "I have errands." With that, she flipped her maroon velvet cape and strode out the door.
(In reality, she wasn't wearing a cape. However, I would bet a pretty five-dollar bill that she owns at least three.)
I wanted to give the guy some sort of "buck up, champ" punch on the shoulder. But I didn't. I hope he can bounce back and gather the strength to go on a date with someone else. And maybe he will.
I was left thinking about what it must have taken for him to put himself out there. I imagine that maybe he has extra difficulties meeting women because of his speech impediment and slight underbite. So he took a different route and tried online dating. There -- he probably hoped -- he could meet someone on even ground. A woman would get to know his personality first before superficiality could kick in. After a few emails, they finally agreed to meet in person. Then it all fell to pieces. Again.
She sucks as a person. Fine. A lot of people suck. The part I don't understand is: why agree to meet him at all? Why even join an online dating site? The very act of joining suggests that she WANTS to meet someone. She certainly didn't act that way. She acted put out. She acted like someone was infringing on her freedoms. She acted like the founder of the ACLU being dropped into a nationally televised TSA cavity search.
Even if she were so superficial that two minor flaws in a 55-year-old man were insuperable, at least be nice and have normal human interactions. Don't act offended. You agreed to this date! I haven't checked the dating rule book in quite some time, but if memory serves, you aren't obligated to have sex with a guy just because you were nice to him. Make the most of the 35 minutes. It's small talk. There is no imposition in a voluntary situation.
Her bizarre entitlement and/or core unpleasantness spoke volumes about her. This is why you're single, lady. You think you're better than other people. Not everyone is compatible but that doesn't make you BETTER than the other person.
I should have told this guy that he deserved better. Or at least tripped the miserable lady who had probably ruined his beautiful Saturday.