For the past six months or so, an acquaintance from a class I took a few years ago had been pestering me to “hang out”. How he got my number I’ll never know. I had been deferring his advances for quite a while.”I’m swamped right now, I can’t…hang” “Uh…my great aunt died, I’m inconsolable” “Series 3 of Sherlock is airing tonight, that’s going to keep me occupied for the next two weeks”. But a week ago, one of his incessant text messages managed to catch me during a rare fit of optimism. Perhaps he wasn’t, as I had presumed, boring. Deciding that I needed to improve myself (What was I even thinking? I’m perfect.), I realized that I had been judging the book by its cover, a bad practice that children’s stories the world over advise against. I agreed to meet up and asked pointedly if this was a date, as it no doubt was.
He didn’t respond for quite a while, and fearing I had scared him off, or worse, made myself seem like a needy girl, I followed the message with another.
It’s fine if it is or isn’t. I just want to know whether I can wear sweatpants.
He responded that it was a date, but nothing formal, and that he hoped my sweatpants were cute. Because objectifying your date is a foolproof way to start out on the right foot.
So we agreed to meet at Starbucks before watching American Hustle, a movie I’ve been wanting to see since it came out. I arrived early, and ordered one of Starbucks’s disgustingly expensive reserve coffees. I live in a small town that can best be described as a hippie’s armpit (I say this with fondness) and work in no less than the local health food store: the free organic coffee I get on my shifts has given me standards I wish I hadn’t been exposed to.
He came in ten minutes later, appallingly handsome and starry-eyed. I don’t exaggerate when I say he was starry-eyed. He has these wonderful deep chocolate irises that reflect even the dimmest light, and has this way of looking at you like you’re his holy water.
Unfortunately for him, I’m impervious to that shit.
“Hi,” he said.
“How are you?”
“Well. And you?”
“I’m good…” He nodded, and trailed off into an awkward silence. If well executed, it could have been sexual tension, but it was quite obvious that he simply couldn’t converse. He asked me how my weekend was. I told him a hilarious story about the two girls I babysit, and their family. He laughed, declared, “That’s really funny” (that’s why I’m telling it, idiot) and we slipped into silence again. I asked him what was happening in his life, but he never gave me enough details to ask further questions, and I ended up making snide small talk that digressed into a one-sided mockery of typical date discussion material. He didn’t catch on. After thirty agonizing minutes of lopsided conversation, he suggested we make our way to the theater. We began to walk through the mall to my car.
I had to get rid of him. I achieved this in the time it took to walk from the alley exit to Safeway. I told him that judging by our conversation, we weren’t exactly going to hit it off, and I didn’t think there was a point in going to the movie at all. It was obvious that he thought nothing was amiss with our palaver, because he looked very hurt. As much as I hate the practice, I threw myself into the customary “it’s not me, it’s you” routine. I explained that I typically err on the apathetic side in these sort of things in the first place, and he was not at fault for my disinterest. He was of course, but someone else will break it to him later.
He didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t want to watch a two and half hour movie in a darkened theater with him (an uncomfortable scenario even to think about, and possibly compromising). So I said, “I’d really rather not lead you on. So I’m going to go home now.” He genuinely thanked me and we parted ways.
I started up my car and prepared to go home. Then I decided, Fuck this. I want to see American Hustle. I’ve driven all the way over here. I’ll just go on a date with myself.
So I watched the movie by myself. It wasn’t pathetic, sad, or depressing.
I had a genuinely good time. I didn’t have to share my popcorn, or my candy, or explain the plot to anyone. In the past, I’ve settled for a date simply because I thought I needed one to prove my maturity or self-worth. Once I realized that was bogus, I felt obligation to continue with whatever the boy in question expected from our relationship, even after falling out of love, or rather, the insecurities that made me start the relationship in the first place. I certainly had felt an obligation in this scenario I’ve been discussing to continue the evening with him, but I think I made the right decision, and I hope it leads to more of them.
Now I understand that social conventions typically require us to follow through with the entirety of the date. Perhaps I was premature or hurtful, but I think in this case it was the right decision.