The Dating Game
I had a first date last week.
The last time I had a first date was in February of 2001. We went to see the Steven Soderbergh movie Traffic. That date eventually became a 10-year relationship involving buying a house together. Since that ended in 2011, there have been no first dates, so I’d more or less forgotten what one does on them.
Actually, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on any more first dates. I’d become accustomed to being alone, and from what I could remember of dating, it all seemed like a lot of fuss and bother. But I decided recently that I’m going to say yes to things that might be good for me, and so despite the voices in my head telling me to forget it, I asked out someone I had no reason to believe would say yes.
But he did. And so on Monday evening I found myself seated across from him at a Mexican restaurant, trying to pass myself off as a normal human being who knows how to do things like go on dates. Really, though, I was mentally compiling a list of all the reasons why it would never work out.
I am very good at this, and even though I have not had to do it in almost two decades (at least where romantic escapades are concerned), it all came back to me with shocking ease. By the time enchiladas and tacos had been consumed and we’d assured one another that a delightful evening had been had all around, I’d examined the evidence and come to the conclusion that pursuing things would likely go nowhere.
And then he texted and suggested that he would like to do it again.
This was a problem. First dates can be written off as momentary lapses in judgment, impulsive decisions easily forgotten. But agreeing to a second date, well, that means you’ve thought it over and decided to move forward.
Responding to the suggestion involved even more thinking about What it All Meant. Mexican was one thing. Tacos are casual, the one-night stand of first date dinners. But now we were considering sushi, and that’s an entirely different matter. Sushi is serious food. It requires thought, and care, and suggests that everyone involved has committed to something. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.
Also, to be honest, I wasn’t sure that these were actually date-dates. In our texts, he talked about “hanging out” and “making a new friend,” and that can mean so many things, none of them leading to kissing. Or it can mean absolutely nothing except that you’re just, well, hanging out with a friend. It’s one of those phrases that those of us who prefer clarity find unsettling.
Again, though, I am attempting to be more open to new experiences, and so I decided to venture once more into the breach. Like the first time, conversation flowed easily. More importantly, I did not spill soy sauce all over myself or inhale enough wasabi to make my eyes water. But we ordered separately and neither of us stole pieces from the other’s plate, and so I decided that we were probably just going to be friends after all.
Later that night, I got a text. “Hey,” it said. “This may sound weird, but I’m wondering where you think this might be heading.”
At first, I checked to make sure I hadn’t somehow sent a text to myself. But no, it had most definitely come from the other guy. That part was good. The bad part was, he was waiting for an answer. Once again, I ran over the list of all the reasons I feared making this more than a friendship wouldn’t ultimately work.
Then I stopped myself. Yes, there are reasons it might not become something more. But letting those things get in the way so early on is simply a way of preventing the possibility of disappointment at the expense of the possibility of getting something wonderful. And so I texted back “I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.”
In the thirty seconds it took for him to respond, I prepared myself for a “I don’t think we’re on the same page” reply. It’s okay, I told myself. The point is, you took a chance. And he really would be a great new friend.
My phone dinged. “So…these were dates then, right? I mean, no pressure or anything.”
“Yeah,” I texted back. “I think they were dates.”
“Okay,” he wrote. “I hoped that’s what it was, but I wasn’t sure. When’s the next one?”
I’ll let you know how it goes. ▼
Michael Thomas Ford is a much-published Lambda Literary award-winning author. More Michael Thomas Ford