This date had a very compelling profile. He was an artist, he had a cute pic, he said he loved thunderstorms. As we started chatting, a storm rolled in, drowning the street outside the laundromat where I was folding underwear and digitally flirting. It seemed like a sign. Again, beware all signs except red flags.
A big red flag is when someone is too into you before they actually know anything about you. My date messaged me a lot, persistently asking to meet up every day. I was genuinely too busy, and on the night we finally planned to meet, I actually told him I could only stay for an hour, which was true. “Aw,” he wrote, never having met me, “I wish you could stay later!”
It turns out, we only needed fifteen minutes.
Here is everything that happened in those fifteen minutes to the best of my recollection:
I arrive and my date is smoking outside the bar. He looks unkempt, which I expect because he’s just getting off work. But there’s something a bit dissolute about his appearance, and as we hug he smells like he’s already had a few.
Inside, he gets me a seat by shooing off a business man who is using one of the few available seats as a briefcase rest. Good! But when I sit down, our chairs are too close and I can’t move back along the bar without bumping into that businessman, who is notably annoyed.
I order a tequila soda with lime. He tells me about his job, which involves making music to accompany performances and installations. That’s cool, but the noise in the midtown sports bar makes it hard for me to understand him—I have trouble hearing in spaces with lots ambient noise unless someone really enunciates. I subtly try to curve my ear towards him to amplify his words. His words are getting very weird.
Him: So, when I swipe on someone, I’m into it. I’ve tried one date, I’ve tried five dates, and it’s all the same result. You are either into it or not.
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Like, if the chemistry is there you should just go for it.
Me: Do you mean sex?
It’s been about 7 minutes. I inhale my tequila soda to relieve the stress of this brief back-and-forth. I try to defer this offer of sex from a virtual stranger who likes thunderstorms.
Me: Well, I’m on my period.
Him: So? That’s no big deal, you shouldn’t feel weird about that.
Me: A lot of guys say that. I don’t think it’s gross, it’s just physically uncomfortable to feel bloated and have something repeatedly jammed inside you.
Him: That’s so vulgar.
Me: You just suggested we have sex in the bathroom.
Him: Yeah, but that was a joke.
Me: We just met, how am I supposed to know that’s a joke?
Him: You know, because I did this—
He scrunches his eyebrows in a way I am going to describe as the universal sign for: “I am making a joke about having sex, but if you said yes I wouldn’t treat it like a joke at all.”
The bartender comes to ask me if I want another drink. He’s a sweet faced man with an Irish accent, and he seems to know he is witnessing one of the worst first dates in history. I want to walk out, but it seems like an insane thing to do so early, even though my date is acting insane. He isn’t scaring me, he is annoying the shit out of me, and I’ve met a lot of annoying, harmless dudes. There is something about him that’s a little sad, lonely, desperate, and I’ve felt that way. I’ve had a few too many drinks before meeting someone or stepping on stage or going to a party alone. And also, I can’t help but wonder where the hell he is going to to go with this.
So, I order another tequila soda.
Him: You paused for so long I really thought you were just going to ask for the check.
Me: I thought about it.
Him: I could tell. So, maybe we could make out a little is all I’m saying.
Me: Could you speak up? I actually don’t hear that well.
Him: (leaning in closer to me) Oh, my poor little deaf bunny—
I put my hand up to stop him from getting closer, touching his chest, which I do not want to do. I ask the bartender for a check, and he hands me one for both of us. I say, no, just for me, and he turns away to correct it, stone faced. My date leans over his drink on the bar. In a paroxysm of guilt, I say, “I’m sorry. You seem really cool and interesting, but this is too weird for me.”
“I am really cool and interesting,” he says. He sounds angry and sad and embarrassed and I understand all those feelings, but also, don’t call me “bunny.”
The whole experience made me mad as hell, but mostly for being sucked into even meeting with this guy, because of all his flattery and excitement. Of course! Of course it was all really about him! What normal human would be so excited to hang out with me?!
Even though we only spent fifteen minutes together, possibly less, the encounter stuck with me the rest of the night. I wanted very much to just talk to another person, one who could help reset my sense of normalcy. Buzzed from drinking tequila too fast, I ended up in the lingerie section of Macy’s, charging my phone. Sitting on the floor under a bunch of beige bras, texting everyone in my contacts, I had more in common with my terrible date than when I’d been sitting across from him. We were both searching and searching and searching and ending up alone.
On the bright side, he was at the bar on time.