Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Time I Was on a Sitcom Date
A Very Special Episode

I called her up and asked what she was doing that evening. She said, "I'm going to a concert. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils are playing at [some bar I don't remember the name of]. Wanna go?"

I said sure.

This girl, you should know, looked like a brunette Farah Fawcett, so as we made our way into the place (she had some sort of big important person pass, so we were ushered past the line), heads turned, and not just because we were getting in ahead of everyone. I think that was the first time I heard an actual wolf whistle that was meant.

We sat and had a drink or two before the show started. She excused herself more than a few times to go to the restroom and stayed there long enough to complete every conceivable task one might have, but my training at that point prevented me from inquiring if anything was wrong; you know, in case it was - possibly necessitating an embarrassing explanation.

Then I thought I caught a glimpse of her over the bar sitting at a table over on the other side, with another guy. It was very hard to see them where they were ... and then it dawned on me; they were very hard to see on purpose!

You laugh at things like this when they happen in a sitcom, but it's a little difficult to come to the conclusion that it is actually happening for real. Imagine if Mary Ann walked up to you on the street one day and coyly suggested that Ginger wasn't the only spice on the Island - I think you get my drift. Your rerun memory collides with your sense of déjà vu, which ends up giving you kind of a mental wedgie.

She came back to my table, and made nice nice for a while, then excused herself again. The guy across the way sat alone whilst she was with me. But, sure enough, that brunette mane was evident at his table moments later.

Well hell.

Next time she came back, I asked her outright, "Are you here with another guy?"

There was a pause while she tried to concoct some sort of bullshit story. The eyes really are the window of the soul. I could detect her going down her little internal terminator list*, rejecting the options there. I believe that she considered about four before she realized she had no other choice than to fess up.

*In the "Terminator" movies, we often switch to Arnie's point of view as a robot and watch him select from a drop-down menu of possible responses.
"Yes," she said, "but I'll have you know that I already had this date planned when you called."

"What freakin' difference does that make?" I asked, "You could have just said you were busy!"

"Well, I didn't want to hurt your feelings." (We were supposed to be dating each other exclusively, btw.)

"And the humiliation of being on a date like this was the better option?" I practically yelled, drawing some attention. "Does he know I'm here with you?"


"Wonderful. I'll even bet he's over there getting big yucks over how clueless I am. Maybe we should alert the bartender so he can enjoy this little tableau as well!"

Then she said, "Well, the other guy is the DJ here, so everyone who works here has probably figured it out."

The expression on the bartender's face was a tad too smirky, so he probably did know. The barmaids would suddenly avert their gaze as I checked around. Dear God. I suppressed the urge to look down to see if I was naked, too, just in case I was really in a vivid nightmare.

I had read somewhere that you never abandon a date, regardless of the situation, because it's beyond rude, somewhere in the karmic vicinity of shooting her dog or replacing her shampoo with Nair. Still, I imagine the person who came up with dating etiquette hadn't been marooned in the midst of a polygamous date from hell where the entire staff's entertainment for the night was seeing one's pride ripped away with like a cosmic bikini wax.

"Can you catch a ride home with the guy?" I asked after a big gulp of my drink.

She said she could. As I left, I understood how a cat must feel when a cruel kid had tied some cans to its tail.

A couple days later, she called and wanted to talk. I was somewhat interested in what she might have to say, as I couldn't imagine what I would say were I in her shoes. Hell, I wouldn't have called ever again, so this might be worth the time.

Just as I had opened the door to leave, the phone rang. It was B_____'s (name changed to protect the guilty) best friend. She informed me that I was walking, essentially, into a trap. (Evidently a sitcom isn't over until the credits roll.) She said I was going to get jerked around and B_____ intended to apologize and ask that we try again, all the while intending to date around behind my back (but more carefully, of course) until she decided if she really loved me or not. She said she didn't know why B_____ was being so dishonest and cruel, but she felt I didn't deserve to be treated this way, hence the warning. And, of course, I hadn't heard this from her.

I was already pissed off enough and had no intention of dating someone who had so little respect for anyone, including herself, that she would do what she did. However, the fact that she was going to try to play me sent me over the edge.

It was a blisteringly cold winter day, and my anger literally steamed up the windows. I sat there, listening to her do exactly what her buddy said she would do, as we gazed over a view of the city (neither of us wanted to be in a public place for this). I noticed for the first time that her nose bobbed whenever she talked, which would seem cute had I a single warm feeling for her, but now it made it hard not to burst into an acidic cackle. By the time she finished her monologue on forgiveness and second chances, I was so livid I bet my eyes would have glowed in the dark.

I said I wasn't interested in a relationship anymore. The exact words I used elude me. I know I didn't curse, at least.

Then she said, "Well, then, maybe we can be friends."

I had once seen a comedian who offered what I think is one of the funniest possible responses to that particular, much loathed, proposition. He said one should bellow, in response, "NO! LET'S JUST BE ENEMIES!"

I wussed out (we were in her car and it was a long way back) and merely said, "I could never be friends with someone who did what you did to me."

After a pause, she said, "I see." And that was the last time I ever saw her.

This episode (heh) was a watershed moment in my life. It soured me enough on dating that I dated infrequently in the decade between that moment and when I met my wife. I think other people would have defaulted into misogyny/misandry, but I've never been the type who extends blame from the offenses of one person onto the rest of their general type. But I certainly would rather have remained single than put up with that kind of crap again.

TLD: The only significant relationship I had during those years was the wonderful and healing time I became an "older woman's" "maintenance man." That was more like being drafted than being dated. Boot camp was educational to say the least, and my subsequent time in the service was enjoyable. I would have reenlisted for another tour given the opportunity, but I think she was getting too attached, and I was gently retired back into civilian life. Being the pet of a sweet and benevolent but confirmed divorcee/bachelorette was fun! I recommend it heartily to any young, lonely guy. All the myths and legends of the benefits of being with an "older woman" are true. Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.
Eventually, I met my wonderful wife, who had faced her own dating waterloos and was as cautious as I. Along with finally finding someone (thus, leading me to believe there is someone out there for everyone), I was saved from a life of, "No! I'm NOT gay!" Which had already become a bit of a nuisance. The modern world does not believe in the confirmed, and heterosexual, bachelor, alas.

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