I went on a date with someone I actually wanted to see again.
This presented a dilemma: how long can you go without telling someone you are partly dating as an experiment, which you are documenting through long narcissistic essays about your personal journey? In almost every rom com, someone has a secret. At some point, the protagonist’s love interest will say something along the lines of, “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s liars.” We’ll pan to the main character’s face as it dawns on them that they’ve betrayed someone very special to them, perhaps without meaning to, perhaps as a lesson learned. Was I setting myself up for this extremely cliche plot point?
My date asked me if I wanted to see her again, and I said yes, then spent the train ride home wondering what to say the next time we met. I’d also had a lot of orange wine, so I was picturing outlandish scenarios in the style of She’s All That.
“Was I a blog? Was I a FUCKING BLOG?” she’d scream, in the middle of the dance floor.
But before I went on that second date with my First Date, I went on another date with someone else, who I will now refer to as Second Date.
I met Second Date at a coffee shop in my neighborhood, which was very obliging of her. After a short, but very nice time chatting, we decided to go for a walk in the park. As soon as we stepped out the door, I saw a woman I know, walking with her husband and baby. We had used to hang out occasionally, with our mutual friend, my old roommate. These were the very first words out of her mouth:
“Oh my god, I’ve been loving your blog, 2 dates A Week.”
Here I was, thrust into the ridiculous rom com scenario of trying to stop my secret from coming out and ruining what had, thus far, been another promising date. My eyes screamed, “SHUT UP!” and she did change the subject to talk about our mutual friend. Terrified that she’d bring things back to the blog, I brought the conversation to a very abrupt, rude halt, as my date hovered a bit hesitantly behind me.
As we walked away, it for some reason seemed important to explain why I had just shut down a very friendly woman in the street, so I told my date that our mutual friend was someone who brought up bad memories inside me, and I wanted to get away.
Oddly enough, this was also true, though I probably would never have thought to express that feeling out loud, even to myself, if I hadn’t been in such a panic.
Our cultural understanding of what constitutes emotional abuse has evolved a lot over the years. Personally, I still tend to forgive and explain and blame myself for the ways men have treated me in the past, and I do believe in recognizing your own agency in situations where people treat you like shit. But saying aloud that my old roommate, who I lived with for years and very briefly had a sexual relationship with, had been emotionally abusive felt like a relief. My Second Date didn’t ask more, but she accepted it, and understood what I meant.
For a minute, I just thought about my old roommate and how he used to say I was too harsh, too difficult, how he once told me I wasn’t worth being friends with, all while trying to continue a conversation with my date that was semi-normal. I used to try so hard to win him over, cooking, making him gifts, trying to make him laugh, because it was easy to believe there was something wrong with me instead of with how he treated me. Now I know that I was fine the whole time, but that self-doubt comes out when you’re trying to get new people to like you.
Then we bump into another acquaintance of mine.
I have no idea if this friend reads my blog, or knows I’m on a date, or what—but I want to get Second Date the hell out of there! I say hi and keep moving as fast as I can. My date follows as I start to laugh, borderline hysterical.
“Are you famous, or something?” she asks.
There is no avoiding it. I ask her what her hobbies are. She tells me (they’re all cool), and I segue into my hobbies, which involve dating, blogging and combining the two. Most of her follow up questions pertain more to the rules of my dating resolution than the blog, as she is clearly wondering if I have a scorched earth policy, and it’s just first date after first date. The answer is no, but functionally, it basically has been like that.
I won’t say much else about her, because after our discussion I agreed not to, though she said I could say this much.
So, now it’s my second date with my First Date. She suggested we get dinner, and I have not gone out to dinner with someone on a restaurant date in, maybe, six years. I get drinks, coffee, I do things you can bail on with ease. And even before then, did anyone ever invite me to dinner? It was whatever “Netflix and Chill” was before that phrase was invented, then beaten to death. It’s nice, but also scary to think of committing to beverages, and courses, and watching each other eat and then waiting for the bill.
We get Italian food in this very basic restaurant that I have gone to eat at alone before, drinking wine and slurping pasta by myself in the corner. I like going to restaurants alone, but I definitely feel self-conscious about lingering, like I’m not worth the waiter’s time. My date arrives, and she looks really lovely and it’s just very sweet. We order, we linger, we chat. It is awkward, but not in a bad way. She really likes facts, and a lot of them are about animals, which I like.
Afterwards, we walk to the park and sit in the field watching the sky darken. The full moon is rising. It is incredibly romantic. I don’t know what to do.
Dating both men and women, I’ve made some very general observations that certainly don’t pertain to everyone, but I will share one here: heterosexual cis men are extremely performative in their sexuality. I can tell when they want to kiss me, when they want to do more than kiss me. Women are generally far more respectful, asking questions, asking permission, and at times, maintaining a jocular friendliness that is as good as a “Hands Off” sign. This can be good! But a bit confusing.
We lay in the grass, talking about the animals around and whatever facts we have about them. Dogs, fireflies, bats. It seems like I should tell her about the blog if I’m gonna go for it and kiss her eventually, so I do. I’m not really asking her if I can write about her, just saying that I held off because I wanted her to know it exists.
“You can write a blog about me,” she says, after a minute, “But I don’t think i’ll read it. It would be like looking up my therapist.”
It’s uncannily like what I think about the whole thing. Why would anyone who reads this want to go on a date (or another date) with me? It’s learning too much about someone at once.You need a cushion for some of this shit.
Clouds roll across the moon. A light but persistent drizzle begins, and all around us people start to throw their picnics in baskets and call for their dogs. We stand and start to run across the lawn, as the rain comes down hard, a sudden summer thunderstorm. I yell at her to follow me to the gazebo I know is just around the bend. We reach it, laughing and soaked.
What would you do in a rom com if you ran through the rain to a gazebo with a beautiful woman?