The Trouble with Dating

As a fair warning, this may be the longest blog post I have ever written, but I promise you, the story is well worth it. And this one is dedicated to Janna –  a sweet friend of mine who is currently hanging out in the hospital with nothing better to do than read my blog posts.

Whenever I re-commit myself to blog writing, I feel as if I constantly teeter along the edge of the over share. On one hand, constantly sharing too much about myself, my experiences, and the people involved in them would probably make my blog that much more popular (and while I don’t obsess, I do enjoy increased readership). On the other hand, I have no idea who reads my blog, who knows me, or who would be potentially hurt by my for-entertainment’s-sake stories.

I once read a post by a friend of mine condemning the culture of over sharing. She maintained that is was class-less, unnecessary, and a tasteless by-product of a generation obsessed with attention. I couldn’t help but feel that it has all the potential to be the exact opposite – I tend to admire those who are out loud, open, and not afraid of who they are (or who they are becoming). I have always been a tad jealous of the unhindered.

It is in that spirit that I am opening yet another aspect of my life to blogging – one that had previously been off-limits, mostly for my own sake: DATING.

Yep, aside from a smattering of words on the untimely end of my engagement and one particularly forward Dominican man, I have not allowed my readers to scour my relationships. That will end today. I have a lot of stories, and I love telling stories. What could go wrong?

(I say this with all the hope in the world that no one will hate me at the end of said stories!)

For those of you who know me, and anything about my dating life, you know there’s only one place to start — AJ. Sit tight – this could be a little long …

I met AJ through a friend of a friend of a friend – that’s a far enough chain of connection that he may as well have been some guy on the internet. Put simply, I didn’t know him at all. For some reason -I’ll blame it on being younger than I am now – that didn’t stop me from giving him my address after we had talked on the phone a few nights in a row. AJ and I were going on a date, and he was picking me up.

I went through the normal pre-date routine, and he showed up on time (a good sign, except for the fact that I am NEVER on time, so he had to wait a few minutes). He drove a modest car and was pretty attractive – tall, dark features, and looked pretty put together. He greeted me at the door with a dozen roses, and in my book, flowers are never a bad idea. I was starting to think that this would go really, really well.

He continued to lay the chivalry on thick and walked me to the passenger door of his car – I also happen to like doors opened for me, so I was pleased. He reached for the door handle, one hand on the small of my back, and pulled.

Nothing happened.

He pulled again.

Again, nothing.

When he started frantically yanking on the door handle, I got my first glimpse through the facade of normal. I should have taken this as a clue and ran for my life, but he eventually figured out that the door was locked, and I was distracted by the fact that he ran all the way around to the driver’s side of the car, unlocked the door, and ran back – all while I stood there, awkwardly clutching my roses.

The door opened, crisis #1 was averted, and I was safely seated in the car. He got in, proceeded to tell me I was pretty and how excited he was to be spending time with me. No sooner than he had those words out of his mouth then – seemingly from out of nowhere – he handed me a card, as in a greeting card. From Hallmark.

I had never, and still to this day have never again, received a greeting card on a casual date. I was surprised, but still touched at the thought and the effort. It was a sweet card about friends meaning a lot and with the potential to be so much more, blah, blah, blah. Tactfully signed -AJ.

I thanked him and we were on our way. The first tidbits of conversation went a little something like this:

Him: So I wasn’t sure what you wanted to do tonight …

Me: Oh, anything is fine. I’m usually pretty laid back about stuff like this.

Him: I made several plans, in case you didn’t like one of them. The circus is in Philadelphia this week. Do you like the circus? I wasn’t sure if you would, but I thought that if you did it would be a good idea for a date. I mean, we don’t have to, but I thought we could. I went there this past weekend to see if it was any good, you know, just to check it out. I wanted to see where we should sit and at what point during the show we should leave so we don’t hit traffic and where the best place to park was. I mean, how do you feel about the circus?

Me: Uhm, wow, that’s really, uh, planned of you. I’m actually morally against the circus. I think it’s cruel to animals. Maybe we could just grab something to eat?

Him: Oh! I see! So, of course we don’t have to do that, I just thought it might be a good idea and that you might like it, but now that I know that you wouldn’t like it, we will just do one of my other plans. That’s why I made more than one plan!

Me: Uh, ok. Great.

We drove into Delaware (I lived in Pennsylvania at the time), and again, it didn’ dawn on me to be concerned that this man that I didn’t know was taking me into another state. He was taking me to a restaurant and he said it was one of his favorites, but decided at some point along the way that we should get coffee and talk first. We also made a detour to an arcade on the way to dinner, where he proceeded to kick my ass in air hockey and gloat mercilessly. I received three more greeting cards – all at varying degrees of intimacy – over the course of the dinner detours.

When we were about half way there (and by “there” I mean actually half way to the restaurant) he reached over, opened the glove compartment, and pulled out another greeting card. I accepted it politely, all the while thinking – What is going on? Another one?

I thanked him as we pulled up to the restaurant – a small Japanese place. It was actually gorgeous inside and looked very expensive. We walked in and he stepped up to the host.

Him: Hello. I have a reservation for two.

The host looked very confused for a second.

Host: We don’t take reservations.

Him: Impossible! I called earlier and made a reservation!

Host: Sir, I’m sorry, I’m not sure who you spoke to, but we don’t take reservations. It shouldn’t matter though, I can get you a–

Him: I called. I made a reservation. I even stopped here this afternoon to check up on everything. Are you telling me that my date and I can’t have a table because you suddenly decided to not honor reservations?

He had started to raise his voice. I glanced around the restaurant, and while nice, it was also empty.

Empty.

A few more moments of raised voices and we were seated. Dinner was actually really nice – the food was good and the conversation wasn’t too weird. It was dessert that had issues.

Normally, I don’t eat dessert in restaurants, but AJ insisted. I ordered rather than witness another scene. The food was fine, but the conversation turned a bit awkward. He began asking me about my family and telling me about his – including how he would like to be able to introduce me to his parents, how much they would like me, and how his only dream was to have a wife and children of his own. Now, don’t get me wrong – these aren’t taboo topics in and of themselves, but not only was this the first date, but it was also the first time I had ever met him.

I survived the topic – no worries, I’m quick on my feet after a couple of drinks. I avoided committing to anything and somehow managed to change the subject without him coming across the table. The check came, and he took it, which I never take for granted and appreciated very much. The waiter hovered around the table, and when I glanced up to see why he was still standing there, he handed me … a greeting card.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to.

We left the restaurant, and instead of politely driving me home, I was shocked to find that AJ had made even more plans. Apparently, when I opted out of the circus that meant I had to participate in every alternative plan he had come up with.

And, for those of you who are wondering — DATE TIME ELAPSED = 4:20 (yeah, that’s hours and minutes)

After we were in the car, he asked me if I liked to bowl. I grew up in South Jersey, so of course I did, and I was decent at it. Despite not knowing how much longer this kind of awkward date could possible go, there was a little part of me that was looking forward to redeeming myself after the air hockey fiasco.

When we got to the bowling alley, it was clear that something was wrong. There were a few cop cars scattered throughout the parking lot, and people seemed to be leaving. Again, assuming he would turn around and take me home, I was surprised when he parked right in front of the door, got out of the car, and walked around to open my door. Dumbfounded and a little nervous as to what I should expect, I followed him into the bowling alley, side-stepping several cops on the way.

He walked obliviously up to the counter. “My date and I would like to bowl.” He glanced down at my feet, as if I may have secretly smuggled in my own bowling shoes, “We will need shoes.”

The little blonde behind the counter – who couldn’t have been any older than seventeen – smiled apologetically. “We’ve had a bit of an emergency here today, and we’re actually closing now.”

I heard him breathe in sharply.

“Your sign clearly says that you are open until 11PM on this day. My date and I would like to bowl.”

Was he really doing this?

He was really doing this.

“Sir, I’m sorry, but we have to close early today.”

“I called this afternoon to check on your hours, and I was told you would be open for bowling until eleven. You can’t just decide to close. I planned this! You’re ruining it!

He was yelling. The little girl was terrified. Hell, I was terrified. A cop happened to walk through the door. He asked us to leave. I was humiliated, and AJ was still ranting about how he worked so hard to plan the perfect date and now the stupid girl at the bowling alley was ruining it. We stood in the parking lot for a few minutes while he continued to yell.

I was becoming very aware of the cops that still hovered around the parking lot, and for some reason, took it upon myself to fix this – even if it would just be to save my own life. I recognized the neon lights of a bar across the street. I could seriously use a drink about now.

Taking a shot in the dark and hoping to god I was right, I asked, “Do you like pool?”

He stopped yelling.

“There’s a bar across the street. I bet they have pool tables. I like pool even better than bowling – I used to play with my dad when I was a kid.”

He looked dubiously across the street. The bar was indeed there, but he kept glancing back at the bowling alley. So, I did something that no man can resist – I challenged him.

“I bet I could beat you in pool.”

In mere moments, we were back in the car and maneuvering our way across the street. I just wanted a drink.

As we pulled into the parking lot, as if to make up for the lack of bowling, AJ flipped down the sun visor over my head. TWO more cards fell out and onto my lap.

This guy was unbelievable.

We had drinks. We played pool. I lost miserably. He informed the entire bar. As we left, I thought, surely this night is over.

“I hope you had a good time tonight.”

Yessss – the perfect segue into – I’ll take you home now.

DATE TIME ELAPSED = 6:45

“I’ll drive you home, I just have to stop off at my apartment first.”

WHAT.

By that time, I was in too much disbelief to be properly frighted that this man I barely know was taking me back to his apartment in a state with which I was unfamiliar. (Since I’m writing this now, you can probably guess that I didn’t die, but still)

After thirty minutes of a near-silent drive, we arrived at his apartment.

DATE TIME ELAPSED = 7:20

He invited me up “just for a few minutes” and I relented. I followed him up to the third floor of his apartment building. He unlocked his apartment door, and as it swung open, he stepped aside to let me walk in first.

The entire apartment appeared to be empty, aside from a small television against the wall and an uncovered mattress in the middle of the living room floor. I swung around with what must have been an insane look on my face – for the first time tonight I had the thought that this guy might be more than a little over zealous or awkward.

“I just moved in,” he explained, gesturing around to the undeniable emptiness of the place.

He sat down on the mattress and invited me to sit also. He insisted on watching a movie – he needed to “sober up from all the drinks” before he could make the drive 40 minute drive back to PA. He turned a movie on without asking any further and settled back into the mattress, promising to “behave.”

Regardless, I sat perched on the edge of the mattress the entire length of the movie – shoes and jacket on, despite his requests that I do otherwise. The movie was a pointless comedy, and he laughed entirely too easily for my taste. When it was over, he told me that he couldn’t take me home after all.

I stared at him.

DATE TIME ELAPSED = 9:05

“I need you to take me home.”

“I can’t. It’s so late. Why don’t we just sleep for a while. We can get up early and I’ll drive you home then.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I really should get home.”

“No. I’m too tired to drive. I swear, I’ll take you home first thing in the morning.”

“You’re taking me home. I don’t give a shit if you’re tired, I’m not sleeping here.”

“You don’t need to yell! I’ll take you home in a few hours, just let me sleep.”

At this point, I took out my cell phone for emphasis. Pointing to it, I yelled, “Take me the hell home. Now. Otherwise, I’ll call the police and have them take me home. I don’t care how it happens, but I’m going home tonight.”

He stared at me.

I was screaming.

In silence, he got up, picked up his car keys, and walked out the door. I followed him to the car – he didn’t open my door this time. We made the forty minute drive back to my house in utter silence.

DATE TIME ELAPSED = 10:00

That’s a ten hour date, kids! To this day I have not had a date rival that amount of time (or awkwardness). I have never again received a greeting card on a date, though I have the feeling that the eleven I collected in that one night make up for it.

Oh, and the kicker? He called the next day to tell me what a great time he had and wanting to know if he could see me again. I threatened to call the police on him just eight hours before — he was bold, I’ll give him that.

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