It was 2009, and I’d spent the past year rebuilding myself as a single person after a five-year committed relationship that I’d expected to end in marriage, not a breakup. I joined OKCupid and posted a profile for free. Although I got several messages, one in particular stood out. The guy was funny, intelligent, and well-spoken in his communication and on his profile. I even liked his pictures! We were the same age and at about the same place in our careers, and I told myself: “nothing ventured, nothing gained” … so we made plans to meet for a date. My profile had mentioned sushi as something I’d like to learn more about, so he suggested a sushi restaurant, and I agreed.
My date was sitting in his car when I pulled into the parking lot. Although it was August, he was wearing black pants and a black and navy acrylic sweater. And his pictures were clearly a couple years and about 40 lbs ago! It’s not a dealbreaker if you don’t have perfect fashion sense or even the perfect body – but lying on your profile (about anything, but especially about looks!) does NOT win you points. We were seated, and as soon as the menus were opened, he began discussing the food. I feigned interest while listening quietly and berating myself for agreeing to dinner – what had I been thinking?!
He ordered for both of us, neglected to thank the server, and continued to talk about the different kinds of sushi and the history of sushi and the ways sushi is different in Asia and how to make sushi and where to get the best sushi … I finally managed to get a word in edgewise when he stopped to sip his water (he had informed me that drinking anything at a restaurant other than water was throwing your money away), and I made a little joke. He laughed – and I froze.
His laugh was a rather high-pitched evil-sounding chuckle – like a combination of Dracula and Alvin the Chipmunk. In fact, I realized, my date’s cheeks stick out just like a chipmunk’s! I was glad I’d just made a joke…otherwise I’d have to explain what was making me laugh so much. The evil laugh actually got worse throughout the dinner, and I was so ready to be out of there. He wouldn’t talk about anything I mentioned, and seemed to have zero interest in getting to know me – he only wanted to hold forth on whichever topic he chose. I had already learned so much more about sushi than I had ever wanted or needed to know!
But Alvin wasn’t finished working his charms on me. Outside the restaurant, I offered some excuse and said I really had to get going. “Okay,” he said, “but I want to give you this Japanese soda, the one I was telling you about earlier. I have it right here in my car.” I didn’t remember him describing a drink, but anything to get him to say goodbye! I went with him and stood next to his car, and he turned around and handed me a glass bottle. “See if you can figure out how to open that,” he said to me, and the evil chipmunk chuckle was already beginning.
The bottle was a little unique, in that the way to open it is to use a plastic disc to push down on a glass marble, which then pops into the neck of the bottle as it opens. This wasn’t hard to understand, however, since even if your intuition failed you, there were pictorial directions on the label. I pushed down on the disc with my thumbs, and the marble popped … and the orange soda exploded all over me, my hands, and my white pants.
Alvin was clearly thrilled, and I realized he must have shaken the bottle before giving it to me. My eyes narrowed. I thunked the bottle down on the roof of his car and fled to my own, without saying a word. I had a message from him when I got home: “Can’t take a joke? I thought that was funny.” I responded, “I know, but I didn’t. Best of luck.” Good riddance!
After that harrowing first experience, I’ve had many more first dates with folks I’ve met online. Lots of them have been great dates, and the relationship just didn’t work out, for whatever reason. A few of those relationships lasted several months, and most of them ended in friendships that are still active. And of course, a few of them have gone right along with Alvin the prankster sushi expert, into the hilarious misadventures bin that I keep to amuse my friends. I always say to them: “Online dating is like the thrift store. There are some real finds – spectacular deals on great stuff! – but you have to be willing to sort through an awful lot of junk to get them.”
I try to keep that wisdom in mind, when dates go wrong. And of course I’m much more careful about being handed a drink – even if it’s in a closed bottle.
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