Throughout the years, you’ve read about the temper tantrum throwing pilot and fashion buyer, the despondent waiter, the crestfallen anthropologist, the pants dropping marathoner, oh. . . and who could forget the financial cyber stalker?! But, last year I cheated you out of the alcoholic artist and the paranoid producer—not because the stories weren’t worth telling, but because one of them wasn’t a first date, and the other just wasn’t’ worth remembering.
Well forgetting about the second date hasn’t worked, and I think I’m doing a disservice to women by not talking about the first, so I’m including this special “Best of Dates 2012” (sarcasm implied) for those of you who find my dating mishaps as bemusing as they are amusing.
We’ll begin with the Alcoholic Artist, who made his first appearance in my life the summer of 2011. At first, he seemed harmless enough and generally respectful, but it was only a matter of time before his appearances began to wear off. My birthday that year, started off wonderfully, but ended in disaster.
He had planned a day of apple picking for us in upstate NY. He’d picked me up at dawn, and we’d driven two hours out of the city to spend the day exploring orchards and breathing in fresh air. It had been absolutely perfect, minus one thing—I’d have very little to eat all day. That morning, I grabbed a slice of bread before leaving the house, and asked him if we could stop somewhere along the way so I could grab breakfast. We never did. Around noon, I’d snuck away from him at the orchards long enough to buy some cider and eat an apple, and by the evening I was famished, lethargic, and an hour away from turning into an intolerable beast. As we walked back to the car, bags of apples in each has, I smiled up at him and said, “That was fun. Mind if we stop by a convenience store or some small ‘Mom and Pop’ place on the way home so I can grab a sandwich or a snack to eat?”
“Yes,” he said.
I paused for a moment. Bewildered I asked, “Yes you mind, or yes we can stop?”
“Yes, I mind,” he responded in a bit of an exasperated tone.
Annoyed I replied curtly, “Well it wasn’t really a question. I’m telling you we have to stop somewhere because I’m hungry, and I’m starting to feel light headed. I don’t need anything big, a sandwich will do.”
“Eat an apple,” he snapped back.
“What?” I replied, “Are you being serious!”
He took one long hard look at me and decided, “Ok, but I get to pick the restaurant. There’s a place up here that has good beer.”
“Than you,” I sighed.
But the thanks came too early. The food and service had been horrible, and he was furious about it. When the waitress came with the bill, he pointed her toward me and nonchalantly said, “she’s paying for this.”
I stared, shocked and thinking, “WTF! Why’s he being such an ass?!” I didn’t know whether to scream or cry. I wanted to do both. Instead, I somehow managed to keep my composer and after she walked away said, “You know what, why don’t we split the bill.”
“No,” he bit back, “This was your idea, you’re paying for it.”
I stared back, “No, I said I wanted to grab a snack, I never said anything about a meal. You are the one we insisted on going to a restaurant—this one.”
He stood up, grabbed his stuff and as he walked away muttered, “You pay for this. I never would’ve taken you here if you hadn’t been hungry!”
Needless to say, I paid the bill. I thought the painfully awful silent drive home would be the worst part of the night, but I’d been wrong. Once the care was parked, I immediately jumped out and started walking home. He chased after me, and pulled me to a stop, I thought he was going to apologize, but instead he asked. “Where are you going, I was expecting you to spend the night.”
“Say what?” I asked myself, but instead said, “What makes you think that restaurant fiasco I would want to spend the night with you?”
At first he gave be a blank stare, then frustrated responded, “I spent the entire day with you and I spent a lot of money on you today, it’s not wrong for me to expect you to spend the night.”
Instead of yelling, I just looked at him sadly and said, “Yes, it is. I’m a person. I’m not some pretty flower you can buy and pluck at your will.”
He just turned away and muttered, “Well that was a waste.”
“What was a waste?” I demanded. “The entire day,” he muttered back.
Feeling defeated, I turned away struggling to hide the escaping tears, and insisted on walking home on my own.
The next day, he’d called me over to apologize, but I wasn’t feeling very forgiving. “I’ll accept your apology,” I’d said, “but you and I won’t be going on any more dates.”
Confused he’d asked, “Is being alone really better than this?”
“Better than what?” I asked, “Better hanging out with someone who consistently makes you unhappy? If that’s what you’re asking, then YES, being alone is better.”
“It’s not,” he replied, “I only take you out because it’s better than being alone.”
Stunned, I asked, “Do you even like me?”
He didn’t answer at first, but when I started to walk out the door he whispered, “I like it when you smile.”
“That’s not good enough,” I whispered more to myself than him. Then for the second time in one weekend I walked home with tears streaming down my face like a waterfall after a rainstorm
This had happened in October of 2011, and by late January, I had started to feel forgiving, or maybe just pathetically alone. My life stress was at one of its highest points, and panic attacks and fitful sleep plagued most of my nights.
The artist had never let me be. He’d made a habit out of calling once a week to plead for forgiveness and a second chance. It was a routing. By January, I was well aware of his addiction to alcohol, and on most days it was easy to refuse him. But one morning, he called during the onset of another attack and the last thing I wanted was to be alone. So I accepted a dinner invitation, but only after he agreed not to order any alcohol with our meal.
We me at one of our favorite local spots, and split a couple of appetizers and an entrée. The conversation was easy and flowing, and over all it had been a good night. (Yes, he picked up the bill). But things quickly went sour during the walk home. When we arrived at the corner where we normally split, I stopped to tell him good night.
“Why are you telling me goodnight?” he asked, “Aren’t I coming to your place?”
“Why would you be coming to my place?” I returned.
“Why not?” he asked, “We had a good time now, we had a good time at dinner, can’t I just spend the night?”
“No,” I sighed. “Just because we had a nice time doesn’t mean you’re going come home with me. I didn’t even think this was a date, I thought we were just catching up.”
“It wasn’t a date,” he confirmed, but then we were having a good time and I thought . . .”
“It doesn’t matter what you thought,” I cut him off. “The bottom line is that this wasn’t a date, and even if it had been, I get to decide if you come over. Nothing is going to happen with us tonight. Thank you for dinner, now I’m going home. ALONE.”
I started walking away, but he quickly caught up to me as said, “I’m sorry. Let me at least walk you home.”
I stopped walking, turned to him and said, “No. You are not walking me home, because I’m not letting you into my building, and I’m not letting you into my apartment. I do not want to have this discussing when we get to my place, so we’re saying ‘good night’ now.”
He just sat there and stared at me for a minute. Then his face got red and turning around he muttered, “Well, that was a waste of my time and money!”
“Excuse me,” I asked, “What was that?”
“You heard me,” he replied, “and I meant it.” Then he continued to walk away.
I stood there. Dumbfounded. On the corner for a minute, and made two decisions that night. The first was that I would not go on another date until my life was relatively stress-free, and the second was that I would never let anyone ever pay for an entire date again.