Back in my mid-30’s I went through this period that I like to refer to as, well – HELL. It was a time when all my helpful friends were trying to find the perfect man for me. As I think back now I realize that the people who set me up on these blind dates were really more acquaintances than friends. My real friends knew me well enough to have seen the disasters awaiting me with each one.
Blind date #1: The Meat- eater
One day a co-worker pulled a picture of her cousin from her wallet and told me how wonderful he was. This fabulous man owned a farm with horses, was the outdoorsy-type, and baked his own bread. It was incredible that he had not met the right woman, yet. He looked very handsome in the photo – dark, wavy hair, pretty green eyes so when she asked if I’d like to be fixed up with him, I shrugged my shoulders and told her “why not?”
He called me the next day and asked if I would meet him for dinner. I said yes. He chose one of those places with a name like Outriggers or Trendsetters out off the highway near one of the small towns past Ann Arbor. I had never been to that particular establishment but I knew its reputation: dank, hillbilly, drunk, pickup place.
Well, I thought, maybe it’s got a different vibe at dinner time.
When I arrived at Outriggers or SweetDreams or whatever the hell the place was called I saw that my Jeep was but one of only three cars in the parking lot. Apparently they didn’t do big business at dinner but at least it would be quiet, I thought, trying to stay positive. I walked from my car and pulled open the oversized, two-foot thick door to the restaurant and was immediately blinded by the heavy darkness. I had to squint my eyes for a full minute just to get my bearings. The stench of beer and sweat hung heavily in the air and I lost my appetite.
Once my eyes adjusted I spotted my date – he was at one of the three tables with customers, the only man alone. I made my way to the table but he remained seated, smiling. He pointed to the other chair.
“Take a load off,” he said.
I noticed that he wasn’t nearly as good looking as in his picture, but then I told myself not to be shallow; people are always way more attractive after you get to know and like them. But it didn’t take me long to know that wasn’t gonna happen. I didn’t like him much.
“I don’t know how you live in Ann Arbor,” he told me immediately, dissing the place that held my heart. “It’s so suffocating there. I need a place to breathe.”
And before I could answer he stood up and said he had to “take a leak.”
When he stood up from the table I noticed that he very short, probably 5 foot 2 at the max – midget territory for 5 foot 7 me, another unfortunate surprise.
I looked around at my surroundings, the dank, dark restaurant attached to the cavernous night club. The waitress made her way over to me.
“Can I get you a drink, hon?” she asked. “You look like a white zinfandel girl.”
“Oh no, please. Just water.”
She furrowed her brow at me and left, annoyed that she hadn’t been able to peg me as the drinker of shitty wine. My date had still not returned after what I deemed the appropriate amount of time for leak-taking. Was he actually ditching me, I wondered both hopeful and indignant, but alas, I soon saw him making his way back towards me, his size 4 cowboy boots kicking into step. When he returned (did he see my look of disappointment that he had come back? was that a smirk on his face because he knew he had been caught being short?), I could smell the heavy smoke on him. He had been outside smoking a cigarette for ten minutes, apparently.
The rest of that night he proceeded to chain-smoke his way through our date, leaving every eight minutes precisely, and I laughed to myself at his earlier comment about ‘needing space to breathe.’ At this rate I wasn’t sure how much longer he was going to breathe at all and I knew the chance of my seeing him at the Cancer Center, where I worked, was much greater than on a second date.
In between smoke breaks we managed to order food and when our meals arrived, he dug in heartily – as heartily as a 5 foot 2 Keebler Elf could, that is. He had ordered a steak with all the trimmings – the most expensive item on the menu for $8.95 – and by God he was going to make that steak his bitch.
I wolfed down my iceberg salad as fast as possible, still hoping for a quick exit, thinking maybe I’d get out of there in time to watch Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. But he took his time, savoring each bite of that bloody, rare steak. When he was finished, he pushed the plate away and on it sat the sad remains of his meal: the red blood pooled in the middle of the plate where the steak had been, the forlorn potato, broccoli and rice left behind, untouched. That plate with its neglected vegetables and bloody red heart haunts me still.
When he rose for his post-raw meat cigarette break, I thanked him for dinner and hurried out, rushing to exit before he could say anything. But I needn’t worry.
His short legs couldn’t catch up with me, anyway.
Blind date #2: The Quote-Unquote Film Guy
Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson because I somehow let myself be convinced by yet another co-worker to go on a blind date. She had a friend who was into “films” and I had to admit, he sounded promising – an artsy-type guy, interested in cinematography, maybe a creative individual who could put pieces together into a form that spoke to others.
This time I met my date at one of my favorite downtown restaurants in Ann Arbor, a good start since I knew we were at least on the same page about one thing. He was gentlemanly and met me at the door and escorted me to our table – a nice, sunny one in the front window where you could watch the eclectic mix of Ann Arborites wander by. He ordered a nice bottle of Malbec and I admired the way he spoke to the waiter. I put a lot of importance on how nicely one treats service people, and he had scored a point with me there. Two if you count the restaurant and the wine.
I began to relax, certain that this date held some promise. I asked him about himself and he told me he had lived in Ann Arbor for quite a while and loved the town – another win!
“What part of town do you live in?” I asked
“I’m on West Huron, just a couple of blocks from downtown. Do you know that large Victorian with the big sunflower patch in the side yard?” he asked.
I nodded no.
“Well, that’s where I live. Me and nine others, that is. We call it Conrad’s Commune because he’s the one who founded it back in 1966.”
I smiled; surely he was kidding.
Now, I realize that some think Ann Arbor was and still is the hippie-central of Michigan but come on! This was 1989. I was pretty sure that by then communes had suffered some majorly bad press especially after it came to light that Charles Manson ran one for his pretty murderers-to-be back in the ‘60’s. I’m pretty certain that took the bloom right off from that rose.
Apparently unable to recognize my look of absolute shock (“We share everything,” he added – gross), he continued talking. He told me he loved books (oh? I perked up for a minute), and he loved reading, “especially Nietzsche, Homer and Tolstoy,” he said and I tried not to roll my eyes.
Nietzsche, Homer, Tolstoy?. ..you know – the guys that wrote the books that everyone absolutely hates in college. What a liar. NO ONE likes reading those books, not even Nietzsche, Homer or Tolstoy.
“I hate fiction,” he added and I nodded dully. Not only was he a hippie 20 years too late but he was an arrogant one at that.
Oh, and the part about him being into “films”? Turns out he was 39 years old and worked as the projectionist for a local movie theater.
“Free popcorn,” he smiled.
Blind date #3: The Hottie
Ok, while technically not a blind date since I set myself up on this one, I still went into it knowing absolutely nothing about the guy. Nothing except that he was hot.
I met The Hottie while I was trying to sublet my small apartment on the Old Westside. He called for an appointment and when he showed up at my door, I was smitten. Yeah, he was that good looking. But I could tell that he liked me, too and we bantered and flirted back-and-forth for a while. After I signed the lease over to him, we made plans to meet the following night for a drink.
Dressed up in my finest, I met The Hottie at the Full Moon and he asked the host for a nice, quiet table in the back. It was martini night and we laughed over the ridiculous concoctions they had come up with – cucumber, anyone? And miracle of all miracles it turns out The Hottie was more than just good- looking. He was well-read, funny, a tri-athlete and the chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
We had such a good time that I told myself I had broken my blind date curse.
As he walked me to my car I wondered if he would kiss me. With his amazing full lips he looked like he’d be an excellent kisser.
We stopped at my Jeep and he reached for one of my hands. He told me how funny I was and pretty, and so smart and my head started swimming with possibilities.
“But I have to tell you,” he continued, “you’re just too old for me.”
He said he knew when we made plans to meet for drinks that I was much older than the ‘girls’ he usually dated but he thought he’d go along, anyway. But, hell, he could see the beginnings of crow’s feet by my eyes and just knew it wouldn’t work for him.
I looked at him carefully. The man had just turned 40 a few days ago (something he had told me earlier) and his crow’s feet were more prominent than mine.
“I’m 35,” I said, baffled.
“Yes,” he answered, nodding his head as though I had a fatal disease.
He kissed me on the top of the head (like I imagined he did with his grandmother) and walked away. I stared after him in utter shock and then started to laugh.
He had no idea what he was missing.