—Wednesday, July 20, 2011—
When will we kiss?!?! That was the biggest question I had going into this date.
I was going to my first Mets game that night and I was excited about it because I’d heard great things about Citi Field. Plus, it had been too damn long since I’d been to a baseball game. Additionally, the potential was high that I would get to kiss Ariana. She was my date and I already knew she was cute. At least, that was what the internet had led me to believe.
Ariana and I met by way of OkCupid, the free online dating service with reviews ranging from “fun & flirty” to “a total creepfest”. I always tried my very best not to fall into the latter category. This was actually my first OkCupid date of the project and only the third of my life.
Her first three messages to me included smiling and/or winking emoticons, so I had a feeling from the start that the date would be a success story. We exchanged a number of messages, commonly littered with emoticons, and finally after a period of my own unresponsiveness, I received a message saying, “Hey. Hey you. 555-555-5555.” I saw the message on my phone and texted her within two minutes, apologizing for my busy schedule and that I hadn’t had a chance to meet her yet. It was true—I was terribly busy and had no time to meet her at that point.
Also, it’s important to note that we started talking before OHD had begun and I hadn’t told her about it. I was hoping she would be one of the dates who was unaware of the project. Remember, before starting OHD, I had conferred with friends and decided that some dates would know about the project and some would not.
She had read my other, older blog, which was comically focused on kissing celebrities, and within the first eight text messages we exchanged, she brought out the big guns:
Ariana: Damn that was a fast response! Impressive. 9:59 PM
Me: Smart phonez. 10:00 PM
Ariana: So smart. I hear the busy thing. You know where to find me 😉 10:06 PM
Me: Cool beans. Have a great night. 🙂 10:07 PM
Ariana: Until then, I’ll just wonder…when will we kiss? ;-p 10:08 PM
Me: Hahaha. Probably 15 seconds after meeting. 10:10 PM
Ariana: Sounds good. See you then. 10:10 PM
Immediately, I had put way too much pressure on meeting this woman. I friggin’ told her that I would kiss her as soon as we met. Was I crazy? Yeah, kind of. I know myself, and I know that I’m not that bold.
It was weeks before we texted again, and this time, I had tickets to a Mets game. I invited her to go and she quickly said yes. Some time shortly thereafter, I saw that she was following me on Twitter, which meant that she would find out about OHD. I sent her a text message to get it out there in the open and to my surprise, she was totally cool with it.
Since the beginning of the month, Ariana and I had texted each other nearly every day, to the point where she was a regular feature in my life despite having never met her. With so much prior contact, I really didn’t know what to expect when meeting her.
My friend Matt hooked me up with free tickets through a friend of his at SNY and he told me they were decent seats. Unfortunately, I forgot my glasses at home that day, so I expected to be squinting quite a bit, no matter how good the seats would be. After having my glasses for only a year, I typically only needed them at night and for distance, so a baseball game was kind of problematic. Maybe I could get a direct feed of the jumbotron on my iPhone? Just kidding—that’s stupid.
Also, Ariana told me she had a thing for skinny guys with glasses and I had promised her I’d wear them. Look at me, I was already letting her down.
After I changed into my casual clothes at the office, one of the managers gave me shit for wearing pants even though it was hot out. “You’re such a hipster,” he told me. Um, I’m not sure what he knew about hipsters, but they didn’t go to baseball games. But, I guess if they did, they’d go see the Mets. [Editor’s note – Not true. In fact, hipsters go to Bensonhurst Little League games and cheer for the team with the most socially conscious sponsor. Choosing your team based on the better sponsor is simultaneously admirable, senseless, and therefore, ironic. Just like true hipsters.]
I took the express 7 train to get out to Mets – Willets Point. It was the first time I’d taken the 7 anywhere past Queensboro Plaza. With Citi Field to the north of the train stop and the entirety of Flushing Meadows Corona Park to the South, the whole area appeared to be an expansive, interconnected complex. From where I arrived, there was a long elevated boardwalk leading over to an LIRR station and, since she usually took the LIRR to Mets games, that was where I waited for Ariana.
It was windy out there on the boardwalk, which was not good for my hair. I had very thin, lightweight hair and a high widows peak, so the last thing I needed was for it to be blowing around, never landing in a flattering manner. Furthermore, Ariana was a hair stylist, so that only made me feel more like a fool.
I kept thinking that the whole Flushing Meadows area was a huge oasis in the urban jungle that is Queens. I waited patiently, facing the LIRR station. Then, I texted her.
Me: As you walk from the LIRR toward the field, I’m on the right side of the ramp leading to the subway. I have red sunglasses on, like an idiot. 6:44 PM
Ariana: Ur red sunglasses will match my red shorts ; ) 6:51 PM
Uh oh. I could hear the star spangled banner being sung over at the ballpark. I hated being late for games. I was a stickler for not missing any part of a baseball game. Something about respecting baseball a lot as a child. My dad was always my coach and my older brother was an all-star. As a young kid, there was nothing more important than baseball.
As I continued to wait, I was half nervous and half super excited. Considering the amount of communication we’d had before that night, I understandably had high hopes. I hoped she would look like I thought she looked. I hoped she was as fun and flirtatious as she seemed. I hoped she was not crazy or totally weird. Or if she was, I hoped it was crazy fun and endearingly weird.
Ten minutes later, Ariana was running late because, as she told me, she took the 7 instead of the LIRR. I walked over towards the park, retrieved our tickets from Will Call and picked a new spot to wait. She texted me when the train arrived. I could see the flood of people coming down the stairs from the train and I was more than a bit nervous for the moment of truth.
The Internet, and even text messages, can be a dangerous place to judge the character of a person. A place to be tricked. She emerged from the crowd in her red shorts with a smile. She was, well, very attractive. She looked better than her pictures. Ariana hugged me hello and said it was nice to meet me. She then apologized for being late and I told her it was fine—I’d only been waiting an hour and a half. Hah! Classic dad joke! I hadn’t been waiting nearly that long. I handed her a ticket and we went inside.
Fifteen seconds had come and gone, and still, I had not kissed her.
Ariana told me that she used to go to many Mets games growing up nearby in Long Island, but hadn’t been in the past couple years, since the demise of Shea Stadium. The game we were attending was actually her first time at Citi Field and I was grateful for that fact when she expressed her excitement over finally seeing a game at the new park.
Although the game had already begun, we decided to walk around the promenade a bit to check out the stadium. I was impressed before we’d made it even half way around the field. Everything was laid out well and you could see the field from almost any location. The Shea Bridge in right-center field was a bit confusing architecturally and I wasn’t sure why the stadium needed a Verizon store, but maybe it was there just in case you wanted to hear about mobile WiFi promotions while your date was peeing. Or maybe people had no better time to move their contacts over from their CRZR.
It was well into dinner time, but we decided to grab beers and leave food for later. Citi Field had the best concessions of any ballpark or arena I’d ever visited. We stepped up to Big Apple Brews, where they had 28 different beers. Ariana ordered a Hoegaarden and I went for a Red Hook ESB. I couldn’t believe they had that kind of selection at a ball game. We could have had the league’s cheapest Bud Lights for under $6, but I couldn’t pass on the good beer train.
We finally headed down to our seats. I still had not tried to kiss her.
Wow. The seats were sick. Okay, maybe not amazing seats, but definitely better than any free pair I’d been given before. We were about half way up the right field line, only 16 rows back. I really liked the layout of the field. The backstop, with its low wall and open structure, really gave the feel of a ballpark from another era. It was funny, I told her, that I played baseball longer than I’d done anything else in my life, 13 years, but I didn’t really follow the MLB too closely. I still don’t. I guess once I stopped playing, I just stopped giving it my focus.
She laughed a lot as we talked. I loved that, obviously. I perform improv comedy, so laughing at my banter is probably the best thing a date could possibly do. The little girl next to us pointed at the man selling souvenirs. The man said, “You want a finger? That’ll be 13 dollars, sweetie.” Ariana and I both laughed. You want a finger? Thirteen dollars, sweetie??? Hilarious. The fact that she wasn’t afraid to giggle with me about something stupid like a middle schooler scored major points and made me look like less of a loser.
A foul ball flew in our general direction and I made a comment to Ariana that I laugh when I think about how people are always cheering when a ball heads their way but sometimes people get hit in the face, which is the opposite of fun. Ariana was a bit more gun shy, assuming that people usually do get hit in the face. My first reaction was to laugh and hers was to cower, yet somehow we found common ground. The Kiss Cam made its rounds and although I’d explicitly told her that I would kiss her that night, all I could do was joke that it would be hilarious if our first kiss were on the Kiss Cam. It would be very Fever Pitch if it were to happen that way (RIP Jimmy Fallon’s film career). For some reason, I didn’t use the verbal mention of kissing as a chance to pull the trigger. I just laughed and talked through any awkwardness I had created.
This little girl was waving her giant foam finger in front of my face. I couldn’t see the batter. I was upset with her parents for allowing such innocent behavior.
After the 5th inning and a Carlos Beltran home run to tie the game, we decided to get some food. Unfortunately, someone ran out onto the field and we missed it. Should have waited another five minutes.
Being that I’d never had Shake Shack, we decided to go there and each got a Shack Burger with fries. While we were in line, I told Ariana that she disproved all the critics of online dating. She asked me what I meant and I told her, “Well, you’re better looking than your photos and you’re not crazy.” “How do you know?” she replied. I told her that she at least didn’t seem crazy, and if she was, it was probably a good kind of crazy.
Ariana bought me a beer when ordering her burger, which was really generous. She didn’t owe me anything. Heck, I had asked her out and then told her she’d be part of an experiment. She didn’t need to be paying for things, but she was just that kind and insisted on it. Already, we had a very natural sense of respect for one another.
We ate our food and drank our beers. My first Shack Burger was a good one. Innings passed us by. In fact, it wasn’t until the bottom of the 9th that we left the concessions area to return to our seats. Everything was going well, but I still hadn’t had the gall to kiss her. She stopped to use the bathroom and I checked my phone. My friend Mary had sent me a text asking, “Didja kiss her??” The pressure was on. I needed to man up.
Ariana returned from the bathroom, locked her arm in mine and we began to walk back to our seats. I knew it was my chance. We were linked arm in arm by her doing. As we rounded the corner, I used the arm she was holding to turn her toward me. As I tried to slide my arm out from hers, my elbow caught on her bag and I was momentarily stuck. The snare ruined any semblance of what would have been a fairly smooth move. The look on her face said, “What do you want?” Frustratedly, I mumbled something like, “I just want…” and I trailed off as I moved in to kiss her. It lasted maybe three seconds.
“Is that all?” she asked.
“Well, yeah. I messed it up. I’m sorry,” I apologized.
She told me it was okay and we returned to our seats for the start of extra innings. No little girl with a giant foam finger this time.
It was not long before Angel Pagan’s walk off home run into the right field upper deck ended the game. What a great way to end a first date at a ball game. Ariana worried if anyone was hurt while everyone else celebrated. It was awfully cute.
As we left the park and I saw the flood of people racing to the trains, I suggested we hang back and wait for the crowd to die down. I wanted to sit with her and not have a million other people around. We found a bench and talked about the excitement around us. I noted how silly it was that we were way out there in Queens and there was no good place to get a drink after the game. That was one of the beautiful things about Fenway in Boston: It was right downtown. Before the game, after the game; there was somewhere to go and you could walk almost anywhere. Such was not the case out there in Flushing.
It took me a couple minutes, but I finally kissed her again. The second time, it lasted more than three seconds. A chance to catch our breath and then it happened again. And another couple times.
We decided to head back to Long Island City to grab a drink. She lived in Brooklyn, so LIC was the fork in the road for us. By the time we boarded the 7, it was running locally again, which meant a long ride back towards the city. We talked more and some things arose in our conversation that opened both of us up a bit and I got my first look into Ariana’s last relationship.
It’s terribly cliched to say but it continually surprises me to learn that everyone has their own, often touching, stories. Everyone has their unique trials and tribulations. Our problems are all relative to our own experiences and circumstance. It’s nearly impossible to say what will be hard for one person and easy for another. Everything is personal. Ariana’s story seemed universally difficult though.
I felt as though I’d stirred up a lot of bad memories and I apologized to her. It’s not generally a good move to make someone sad on a first date.
The bar I had wanted to go to was closed so instead, we settled on Domaine Wine Bar, which was dark and well decorated with a casual elegance. Very laid back. Very sexy. Most of the patrons there when we arrived seemed to be friends of the owner. We ordered a carafe of Pinot Blanco and settled into a dark corner. We had shown some vulnerability towards one another and being that we’d already kissed a bit, I soon found myself making out with Ariana like a teenager at a school dance. Who cared if people were watching?
Eventually, as our carafe ran dry, most everyone exited the bar. We became that lush of a couple in an empty bar playing kissing games. After another 10 minutes or so, I stopped the kissing to say that they probably wanted us to leave.
I paid Robert, the bartender waiting for us, and he looked towards the corner at Ariana. Any man would have been lucky to be seen with her. He looked back to me and with a nod in her direction, wished me a good night. Ariana and I strolled out into the warm summer air.
Maybe I should have made bold promises to kiss more of my dates.