Philadelphia Metropolis


The First Date

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By Maura Shenker

There are lots of things more fun than a first climbing over a barbed wire fence naked.  But if I had to spend another Saturday night alone cleaning my kitchen, I was going to stick my head in the oven. Being single was losing its charm, so I decided to check out a dating website.  P.'s profile caught my eye and after a few online chats, we decided to meet at a coffee shop off of South Street and then "play it by ear". Which is online dating code for "If I don't like the way you look and/or you seem like you might have a van with blacked-out windows waiting in the alley, I'm not committing myself to anything more than coffee". 

I arrived first and found a table that met my criteria - I could sit with my back to the wall and a there was a clear line of sight to the door. I looked up every time I heard the door open and searched each face, but no P.  Just when I thought I was about to be stood up, P. entered. We said awkward hellos and he gracefully peeled off a couple of layers (it turned out to be his smoothest move of the evening) and then got himself a small black coffee. He seemed relaxed and laughed often; then admitted he had been at a party all afternoon, drinking steadily since 2 p.m. Yes, he had shown up drunk to our first date. Now, I'm no Emily Post and have been known to make rude noises, obscene gestures and offensive comments, but I feel everyone should knows to bring their "A game" to a first date.  Couple_Getty460.jpg His cell phone rang and he said it would be quick, but needed to take the call. He didn't leave the table, and I tried not to eavesdrop, although it's hard when the person is only 2 feet away from you. I feigned interest in the paper, skimming advertisements for Asian tranny she-males.  However, 20 minutes later I was still sitting there. Having finished the paper - and noisily put it back together for the next person -- I was all out of distractions.
So I cleared my throat and gave him my Look. Every woman has a Look and every man has been on the receiving end of said Look. Mine starts with a 30-degree head tilt to the right, chin angled slightly downward. The jaw is tightly clenched, but lips are soft. Looking upward, I peer over the edge of my glasses, and open my eyes wide - no blinking. Using my magic laser beam glare I shoot this thought directly into the receiver's brain: "Hey DoucheCanoe! You're up shit's creek and I'm about to beat you to death with your own paddle!
"* Although not a single word was spoken, the message was received loud and clear (it is an incredibly effective Look). P. got off the phone immediately, realized his gaffe and apologized. {*Tip: Do NOT say the aforementioned magic mantra out loud or you lose the upper hand, as you've just called someone a "DoucheCanoe" to their face and lost a tiny part of your dignity}
A little more small talk and the date was basically over, so he escorted me to my car. I offered him a ride home, some 30 blocks away, but he said he'd rather walk. A peck on the cheek and he was off into the night. The next day I got an email from P. saying that he had stopped at a dive bar on his way home and continued to drink until last call.

He told me he had spent most of his night trying to figure out if the androgynous person who kept buying him drinks was actually hitting on him.  But as long as this sexually ambiguous person kept buying the beers, P. was fine with it. I thought this was a modern twist on the concept of "desirability." It was a variation of a dating tactic I had used myself about 25 years ago, when I was a 13-year-old girl. You see this technique used a lot on Tween TV, where the girl sends herself a big bouquet of flowers, in hopes that the guy she likes will realize that someone else finds her desirable, and miraculously realize that he too wants a piece of the action - like leveraging one job offer to get a better offer with a different company.  I just couldn't figure out why he was bothering. Then I realized that P. wasn't trying to entice me into a second date, he was probably just an alcoholic.

The women in my family have a long-standing tradition of making bad choices where men are concerned. I may not have my mom's pretty brown eyes and I don't make grandma's amazing roast chicken.  But I did inherit their crushing fear of being alone. It's a painful legacy to find myself not only accepting, but literally embracing situations I know will only end in heartache. Diabetes, good manners and bad relationships may be my birthright, but knowing the final destination has never stopped me from starting the journey. It's not the way I live my life. So when P. casually suggested we meet for drinks, I said yes.  There would be a second date.


Maura Shenker lives and occasionally dates in Port Richmond.



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