At the behest of a few friends, I’ve recently decided to start chronicling my experiences involving dating and dudes.
Let me start by saying that, when it comes to dating and love and all that, I’m pretty weird about it all. I’m
a hardcore a bit of a commitmaphobe and if someone tries to push something resembling commitment on me or talks about ‘us’ in the future before I feel ready or comfortable with it, I will disappear. This is perhaps why I don’t go on many dates. And if I do, there’s rarely ever a second one.
One of the first train-wreck dates I went on was with a boy named Oliver (not his real name). Oliver and I had met through Myspace, back in the day when everyone had Top Eights, and posted vague bulletins about their feelings.
I had agreed to meet him at a restaurant named Kona Grill. I had never been there, but I liked sushi and all that well enough so I figured I’d give it a try. I arrived at the restaurant a bit early and found Oliver standing out front. He seemed pretty nervous and stood up awkwardly to give me a hug. I was nervous too, but I think I was just better at hiding it.
Oliver looked very different from his expertly angled, black and white Myspace photos. He jawline was not nearly as sharp, he was a bit shorter and rounder than I had imagined and it looked like he had squeezed himself into the tightest pair of jeans he could manage. The scarf around his neck also seemed incredibly out of place in the August heat of South Texas.
He gave a nervous laugh as we were seated. Our date began with stale conversation about pretty boring topics. He asked about my family and possibly if I had any pets. I responded and couldn’t think of anything to ask him. I remember him smiling constantly – as if the corners of his mouth were being held up by an invisible tape of sorts. It was a bit unnerving.
Our conversation, at one point, moved into the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ territory. He began talking about something he liked – I forget what it was, let’s say…menudo.
“Oh man, I don’t like all the tripa that comes in menudo.” I said with a grimace.
“Yeah, I mean it’s kinda gross…” he said. “But it’s way better than barbacoa. I can’t stand barbacoa.”
“Oh, I love barbacoa!” I said. “It’s so good.”
“Yeah, it is actually pretty tasty…” he replied with a nod and a smile.
What was going on? His opinions were changing in real-time with our conversation. It was almost as if he were trying to impress me and make himself seem more likable? I was very confused by it all.
The date went on like this for another uncomfortable hour or so. If we agreed on something, it was nice but whenever there was anything that we had differing opinions about, Oliver would casually switch his to whatever he thought I wanted to hear.
Eventually, we finished our meal. I was mentally exhausted with constantly agreeing with him – whether or not I wanted to. The waitress came by and asked how we wanted to handle the check.
“Separate! Please.” I said, possibly a bit too eagerly.
We exited the restaurant and made our way to a good separating point. Luckily, I was parked in the opposite direction as he was. We stopped and stood for a few beats, doing that awkward thing that happens at the end of a date when neither person knows what to do.
A short distance away, fireworks from Six Flags exploded in the sky above us. Yellows and reds and greens burst through the darkness. I’m sure it would have been very romantic had I been with anyone else.
“I had a really good time…” he said, turning and giving me a look that I felt belonged in a Nicholas Sparks movie.
“Yeah, it was…cool.” I said, fumbling over my words. I wanted to be nice but I also didn’t want to give him any hope of another date. What was I to do, what was I to do?
“I’d love to see you again,” he said, his hand reached out and took mine. I threw a nervous glance around.
“Ummm well…” I began. “I….”
It was happening. I couldn’t hold it in. It was like verbal diarrhea. I had already taken the first step, said the first words, and the rest was now just tumbling out.
“…I really think we’d be better of as just friends, man. I don’t think I feel the same way about you. Maybe we just don’t click on that level.”
I gently but firmly tugged my hand out of his clammy grasp. His face was a mix of surprise and hurt – exactly what I had been trying to avoid.
“It’s not that you’re not cool or nice or anything – you are,” I couldn’t stop. I was trying so hard to let him down easily but it was spiraling out of control.
“Oh…” he said simply. “…I guess I thought you were into it.”
“I mean, you’re really nice,” I said, unconsciously wiping my hand on my jeans. “I enjoyed meeting you. And like, we can be friends and stuff.”
An awkward silence settled over us. The only sound was the deep BOOM! of the fireworks as they continued their show in the sky.
“And you know what,” I added. “ I really liked Kona Grill!”
This was my desperate attempt to find something positive in this – any glimmer of sunshine that could possibly help break through this gray cloud of angst that was so quickly billowing from the boy in front of me.
He looked at me, his eyes dark and brooding and heaved a dramatic sigh.
“I wish I was Kona Grill.”
I stared back at him for a bit, dumbfounded. I was unsure what to say or do. Part of me wanted to give him a pity hug because he was obviously not handling this well. But another part of me was suppressing the urge to laugh. I mean, how could I not? What a ridiculous thing to say.
“Well…” was all I could manage to say without cracking a smile. “…er….sorry.”
Against my better judgement, I pulled him into a brief pity hug. My hand patted his back a couple of times before I bid him goodbye and headed back to my car.
On the drive home, I reflected about what had just happened. Had I been an asshole? Had he been too dramatic about the whole thing? Had it been a little of both?
If it had been me in his position, I would have rather my date be upfront about his lack of interest. Better that, I thought, than to continue feeding my one-sided infatuation with hope.
No, I decided, I did the right thing by nipping it in the bud. There were probably a million better ways that I could have done it, but I was young and clueless. I think that had I done it any other way, I still would have gotten the same melodramatic reaction.
It’s been eight years and I haven’t seen Oliver since. I have, however, been to Kona Grill several times and I still quite enjoy it. So I suppose it wasn’t a complete bust.
What do you think? Have you been in this position before? How did you handle it? Is honesty the best policy or is it good to give someone another chance even if you’re not feeling it? Is there a way to break this kind of news to someone and NOT hurt their feelings?