Thursday, August 16, 2007

Romance is Dead: Anatomy of a Crappy First Date

This morning I read an article in Time called "Who Killed the Love Story?" . The author, who I'll note is a woman, reaches the conclusion that it's reality that killed the love story in film. While I agree with the final analysis, I think the reasoning is flawed. I take particular issue with the following paragraph:

And it's not just happily-ever-after that has changed. The global nature of dating--the access to a limitless pool of mates just a click away--means that people feel they hardly need to overcome difficulties in relationships. If the whole getting-together thing proves too hard, they can just move on. Juliet's a Capulet? Bummer. Back to Facebook. Finding a soul mate is no longer a determined steeplechase over every obstacle. It's a numbers game--about as fraught with epic drama and desperation as recruiting a new middle manager for the nonperishables division. Perhaps it's not surprising that the romantic movie that most touched a nerve in viewers last year was The Break-Up.

Is there anybody out there over that age of 25 who at the end of the relationship blasély says "Back to Facebook"? If so, clearly I don't know you. But to illustrate my ire with the above paragraph, let me describe my blind date from last night.

We had a friend in common and it was decided we should meet for drinks. He issued the invitation, I accepted. We are both new to the area, he suggested I pick the place. I did some research and footwork (with the assistance of the roomies) and found a location that was close to both of us and had a good atmosphere. I emailed him with the location.

His response: "Wow, that place looks pricey." And that's when I should have known to walk away.

Let me begin by saying that my date is a doctor doing his residency. He informed me in the email that residents really get paid very little. Ok, right, money is tight. I can understand that - having lots of loans and not getting paid much -so I responded with what I thought was a witty email that I hoped would address his concerns.

I explained that although it was bar/restaurant, we were just sticking to drinks which saves money; I am no flighty girl who thinks she's going to squeeze a super expensive evening out of someone. I further explained that the place's signature/frou frou drinks were $14. and their beers were all $5-6. I reasoned that this meant their regular drinks would be in the $6-8, which for D.C. is average. I explained that though $6-8 is not rock bottom cheap, that these prices were reasonable for the location and atmosphere and that if we were going to go to the trouble to look nice for one another I thought we should chose a location that matched. I even volunteered to buy my own drink (please remember he invited me and also that I am UNEMPLOYED at present). I ended the email with "But should you be interested in a more jeans-and-t-shirt-beer-garten-sports-bar-shouty sort of place, well, I'm afraid you will have to chose it. "

Let me take a moment to address my gentlemen readers. Please for the love of god, on a first date, don't take a girl to the sports bar where you hang out with the dudes. I'm not saying that the place has to be expensive. It can be a cool dive that you know about, as long as there is a decent atmosphere and you'll be able to hear one another. We ladies are totally impressed if you are able to plan, and we will always notice.

At any rate, he agreed to go to the place, but said he "would only have one little drink". And then wrote something like "dress up...gee, haven't done that in a while." Another bad sign.

Ok, gents, again this is for you. If you're over twenty-five and definitely if you're over thirty, you should have one decent pair of pants, one shirt, and a pair of closed-toe shoes that you can wear on a date. Again, expense is not the object. Cleanliness of presentation is important. After all, I fucking spent an hour shaving , exfoliating, and then putting shiny lotion on my legs for you. And that's just the lower half of my body. You can show up looking like you spent at least 15 minutes to get ready.

But let's cut to the date itself shall we? So at 10 minutes to meeting time he calls and says he is running late. Note: He lives one metro stop away; I live about 7 stops away and I ended up getting a ride from my roommate so I would not be late. "How late do you think you'll be" I politely inquire - asking this so I know when I should be looking for him, if I should order a drink, etc. He seems slightly perturbed by the questions and says "Well, I could get there on time but I would be naked." I am not amused. He then suggests he'll be about ten minutes late.

So I go into the bar, get a table and sit down. He arrives, he's not bad looking which is a nice surprise, and he is nice enough. We order drinks -- I order my usual, a gin and tonic, but I go with well gin instead of my favorite Tangueray to be considerate. He orders one of the $14 dollar frou frou drinks. In some circumstances, this might be a turn on. Hey, he's comfortable enough to drink a pink drink that comes in a champagne glass. He's secure in himself, right?

Except that when the bill comes, he looks at me expectantly. My drink was $6. I say "Shall I pay for my drink?" He looks relieved and pockets my cash and pays for the rest on credit. He bought himself a $14 drink, more than twice the cost of my drink, and made no effort whatsoever at gallantry. I find myself wondering how I've gotten into this situation. Wasn't I invited on a date? Didn't I make a respectful selection? Am I not worth six dollars?

We now leave the bar at his suggestion - he has no wish to pay for himself anymore drinks. Nor does he have a plan of anything else to do or where to go, so I suggest we walk around a bit. It's a muggy night and I find myself feeling sticky and what not, but I dutifully walk along trying to remain cheerful and conversational. After all, I put in a lot of work to look good, so I would hate to go home after an hour.

However, he seems to have very little interest in anything I might have to say. I ask all the questions -- I only talk about myself if I have a story that relates to what he was saying. But He never asked me a single question the entire evening. Gentleman readers, pray tell, what does this mean? I have had this experience on a number of dates and don't understand its meaning. Does this signal disinterest? Arrogance? Nervousness?

And then 2 hours and 10 minutes later the date is over. He gives me a hug at the metro stop. Again, I'm not sure what this means. Gents?

At any rate, what this date does signal to me is that Romance is dead. My prospective date issued an invitation but made no effort to follow through. He made no effort to select a location and vetoed mine without finding an alternative. He seem to make little effort with his appearance. Though issuing an invite, he made no offer to pay for my drink. He made no plan for an alternative location after our drink. On the whole, I don't understand what he thinks a "date" consists of.

And now that I've written this I find myself feeling somewhat uncharitable. Despite all of these annoyances my date was not a bad man, and I'm sure he probably found me annoying as well. I tend to not make eye contact in these sorts of situtations because I'm nervous. Perhaps I came across as high maintenance in my selection of a meeting place. I played with my hair too much (the humidity kept making my hair fall in my eyes). I would never describe myself as "a hottie". And please let me say, I know there are plenty of good guys out there.

But in the end, this date made me feel...well I just felt kinda crappy at the end of the night. Maybe he didn't go out of his way to be a jerk, but the aggregate effect of all these little things made me feel like I simply had not been worth the effort.

Oh Time author, I don't feel that there's a "limitless dating pool" out there. On the contrary. I feel that the pool of men that I would actually like spend time with is continually shrinking. That the more men I meet/date, the more I am convinced that very few are willing to extend a few common courtesies that indicate mutual respect. For god's sake, I'm 30 years old and I've never been invited on a real dinner date for a first date.

The love story genre is dead because most women can't find a man who can ask them out for a nice evening -so it's impossible for them to believe in a film hero who gives up everything for his love of a woman. Seeing these films have become merely a cruel reminder of what most women will never find.

If I found the guy who I loved and who made me feel loved and respected I would do what it takes to make the relationship work.
Oh you are so wrong, Time author. Finding a soul mate is a determined steeplechase over every obstacle. For a woman.

I'm just not sure how much run I've got left in me.

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