—Wednesday, August 3, 2011—
I was there pretty early. I guess I was about an hour early. That’s what happens when you don’t plan anything to do between work and your date. You end up staring at a mannequin in a wash tub while you have your first beer of the night. But then again, that was the appeal of the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill.
Rita had texted me to say she was running a bit late but it only ended up being ten minutes or so. Before she arrived, I was getting a little bit nervous that she wouldn’t be able to find me sitting at the bar since my back was to the door. I stood up at the bar and readied myself, waiting for the first sign of a young woman at the door. It was not too long before I saw her enter the bar. I picked up my bag and faced her so that she could be sure that it was me. We greeted each other with a handshake which was a little bit awkward but also appropriate considering we didn’t know each other at all.
Rita had found me on OkCupid three weeks prior and immediately asked if I wanted to check out a comedy show. I made reservations for a show at UCB and replied to her, asking if she’d like to go. Women like a man with a plan, right? She was unavailable for that first show, but I made reservations for the show we were meeting for now and she was on board. We had a solid (99%) match percentage on OkCupid, and she seemed cute, so why the heck not?
Well, there was one thing: she didn’t know about One Hundred Dates. It was the first date I’d been on where my date didn’t know she would be written about. As soon as we met, I felt a bit uneasy about that fact.
One thing that people may not know is that before the project began, I had asked various friends and trusted sources how to go about my 100 dates. Many people mentioned that I should have some dates who knew about the project and some who didn’t, all for the sake of scientific research. Having some dates who didn’t know about the project would provide a sort of control subject sample set. I generally agreed with this suggestion in theory, but in practice, it felt uncomfortable almost immediately.
Adding to that subdermal layer of guilt, was the fact that I’d been texting with Ariana that day — my Sporting Event Date. I’d seen her twice since our date — as recently as the night before — and she told me that night that she was also on a date in Chelsea — something she wasn’t really feeling — so if I was around later, she wanted to meet up. I knew the chances of something happening with Rita were slim to none, so yes, I wanted to meet up if we could.
This wasn’t something I had expected to happen in a year of one-off dates.
Rita and I walked to the back of the lounge, beyond the bar and grabbed a table. I noticed right away that I was just barely taller than her. She was in heels though, so I cut myself some slack. In fact, she seemed a little bit dressed up. Maybe that was why she had to go home. I should have stayed in work clothes, but at least I was wearing a button down.
She asked me if I frequented Trailer Park, since I had suggested it and she’d never been there before. I had been there a handful of times but it was not a regular spot for me. I mainly knew of its existence because of my improv troupe from Boston. We used go there before the Del Close Marathon each year and I had been back a few times since because well, it was kind of a novel place.
The improv team story explained that I was once living in Boston so she asked how long I’d been in New York. I told her that it had been just about one year and she then asked where I went to school. All this occurred before the waitress asked us to move to a different table. There was a large party coming and they needed our spot. We got up and moved.
We sat back down, were handed menus and began contemplating drinks. Rita was pretty quick with the questions. I suppose this was standard first date practice, and while they were not naturally occurring in conversation, she still had a certain tact which didn’t make it feel like an interview. You know, as in, “Duh, let’s find these things out about each other.” The waitress returned and we ordered our beers. We talked about where each of us lived. She was in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, but had at various times lived all around the village when she went to NYU. I lived in Queens at the time but used to live all around the dorms when I went to Fairfield.
She had recently begun working at a mazagize as a copy editor, which immediately impressed me since I really enjoyed the publication, and up until recently, had had a subscription. She had gone to school in a combined program for food writing and cooking, for which she was able to take classes at the French Culinary Institute. Up until a week or two before, Rita had spent about a year working as a hostess at a super posh restaurant at Lincoln Center and she had a thing against CIA grads. I was not particularly surprised, only because I knew how elite that place can be and I was sure there were some arrogant chefs that come from there. I assured her that they were not all like that, since by buddy James was a CIA man and he was great. I mentioned also that it was a beautiful school. She said it looked like Hogwarts.
Unsolicited Harry Potter reference? Maybe she was a keeper.
Rita asked me if I did the OKCupid thing often. I wondered if this frequently came up on internet dates. Seemed like it might. I told her it was only my fourth OkCupid date and that I’d been on the site since late March. She vaguely seemed to say that she’d been on even fewer, but her friends had had good experiences. The one date she had gone on, she thought would be bad, and it was, so I don’t think she had much faith in the system.
She said she was on the site often but didn’t ever take the chance to actually go on dates because she thought of herself as overly awkward in such scenarios. I could somewhat see why she might say that or maybe, that she had been awkward years earlier, but she seemed to handle herself very well. I don’t think she was any more awkward than I was. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask her why she decided to take a chance on me, but it would have been interesting to know.
I told her that online dating didn’t daunt me because I liked meeting new people and improv had maybe prepared me for entering situations blindly. Actually, I know it had helped, but I was trying to play it cool. I didn’t want to come across like dating was easy and make her feel stupid about being nervous. That would have been a bad move.
Our food arrived. I was having a grilled cheese sandwich. Rita was eating tater tots.
We talked about going to school in NYC versus a suburb, like where I went to school, or a total college town, like Amherst, Massachusetts. I mentioned how cool it would have been to be in the city for college because I felt like I would have achieved more, but she saw the appeal of having a true campus, which city schools usually lacked. We both agreed that the grass was always greener on the other side. It was definitely something I’d thought about often since college, but alas, we’d never know what could have been.
Rita was from a small town outside of Kansas City, Missouri and a self-proclaimed country girl. Her dad had moved to New Mexico though, so I told her about my family there and the one trip I had taken to Taos. We also ended up talking about my upcoming travels to Japan and Hong Kong with my brother. She asked if he was my only sibling. You’d think it obligatory, but I didn’t ask about her siblings in return. What a dope.
I learned early on that sometimes I’m simply not a very inquisitive date. This didn’t surprise me though. I definitely tend to talk about myself for than anything else. If ever I doubt this fact, all I need to do is remind myself that I have a dating blog dedicated to my life. Since becoming more aware of my failure to ask questions, I tried to do it more on dates.
She asked me a bit about improv and about how I practiced for it. This led us to a discussion on sports, since the two were so obviously related. Rita swam in college, which I was not expecting from the food writing/cooking student. I wowed her with the fact that I used to play a couple sports. I could tell she was really impressed (not really).
Finally, we got around to talking about music. It was an inevitable discussion on most dates, but I was not always super psyched to have it. I love music, but I fear that I won’t like my date’s taste or that I’ll come off as somewhat pretentious. Also though, I like so many kinds of music that it’s a bit daunting to talk about. I told her that I liked a lot of my friends’ bands. There was nothing more fun than listening to your friends and loving it. She was raised on No Doubt, Biggie and The Shins — a very solid selection that I could get behind. Seemed like that combination would make for an interesting person.
However, Rita told me that she was too torn up over The Shins’ breakup to listen to them any longer. She had deleted all their music from her computer and wouldn’t even listen to Broken Bells. She also told me that she liked a lot of sad music. I guessed Elliot Smith as she agreed, Elliot Smith. Spot on. I was pretty good.
Rita was the first to bring up an ex. That was with whom she had last lived when she’d been in the Financial District, which was between NYU and Brooklyn. She even lived there for three months after breaking up. Woof. No thanks. I don’t think I could handle that. Although she lived in Brooklyn at the time, she was planning a move to the Upper East Side and feared that it might too “bro’d out”. I told her all about Hoboken and that I was pretty sure it had the UES beat.
I was watching the clock and making sure we would get to the show on time. She asked how I knew about the show and I told her that the actor/writer had been a substitute improv teacher for me and was also the friend of a friend. She fiddled a bit with her blouse as though she was not quite comfortable in it. Maybe see felt overdressed, but I thought she looked very nice.
We asked for the check so we could get going. I was faster on the draw, and since we were in a bit of a hurry, I simply handed my card to the waitress. I had paid for almost every date thus far, and this was a cheap one, so I was not worried about it.
As the waitress turned away, Rita stopped her and asked, “Can we split it actually?” and to me, “Is that ok?” I told her it was fine and I didn’t bother explaining why I felt like I had to pay, but at least I knew then that she was adamant about splitting things and I liked that.
I used the bathroom, we signed our checks and left for the theater. It was sprinkling rain as we exited Trailer Park, and since it was so light and I didn’t have an umbrella of my own, Rita didn’t even open hers. Rather, she just walked with me uncovered as the mist fell down on us.
She told me that she had broken a heel on the way there, so if she fell, she was apologizing ahead of time. I told her that I’d do my best to catch her, but I couldn’t make any promises, not with my muscles. She also apologized for being in her work clothes, as she hadn’t had time to change. Her heels, skirt and trendy blouse all combined for an outfit that both retained a certain modesty and professionalism but also accented her figure. I hadn’t noticed her body at the restaurant, but as we walked down the street, I could see how good she looked. Really though, I was taken aback. I simply did not get a good look at her while sitting at dinner. I assured her that it was okay she was dressed up — I had come from work myself and had only changed into jeans.
Rita asked me if the comedy club took credit cards and I told her that it was cash only which prompted a pit stop to a shady ATM outside of a convenience store on 8th Avenue. She tried the machine several times but it didn’t want to cooperate. Another couple doors up and we found an ATM inside a convenience store which seemed to work. I texted Ariana while Rita got her money.
We arrived at UCB with several minutes to spare and retrieved our reserved tickets. We found two seats together in the center section and settled in. As I often did at such shows, I felt like I wanted a beer but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to make the effort to go get one. I knew that I needed to decide quickly so I made the call to get one and asked Rita if she would also like a beer. She said, “Sure,” and went to her wallet for money. I would normally have insisted that it was no problem for me to pay for a three dollar beer, but she had made it clear, between dinner and the show, that she insisted on paying for herself. I liked that she was outright and clear about it. It was helpful to date a woman like that.
I returned with our beers, and Rita’s change, just as the first show got started. Mike Still: Dictator for Life was a comedic one man show about the one man actor Mike Still and his reign as one man dictator of a small island nation. I really enjoyed Mike’s sense of humor and how he improvised, although the show that night was entirely scripted. As we watched the show, I found myself laughing often and I kept checking in with Rita to see if she found the same things funny. Also, I wanted to see if she was offended or turned off by anything. Didn’t look like it! It looked like she was enjoying herself and laughing. Success! She was not a robot! I didn’t really think she was anyway.
The second show was the incredibly entertaining one man show Sertainly Seth, staring one man actor Seth Kirschner. The show was a satirical take on many of the campy television programs seen on places like TGIF, ABC Family and the like. Seth played every character, using minimal props and superb character acting, throughout the piece. The whole thing was really enjoyable and we were both cracking up.
By the time we left the theater at around 10:30 p.m., it was raining for real and I didn’t have an umbrella. Rita offered to walk me to my train but I told her I was just going to wait it out for a bit under the awning and that I’d be okay. She thanked me for a good time and said goodnight.
I stood there in the shelter of Gristedes and watched her walk away and out of my life.
Immediately, I felt regretful that she didn’t know about the project. I thought she would be fun to go out with again but she would probably be quite offended when she found out what I’d done. What if I never told her and I just faded away? It was not like me to do that. It would have been dishonest to simply disappear.
Hmm. What was I going to do?
Well, I didn’t have much time to think about it that night, because as Rita walked away, my phone buzzed with text messages from Ariana. Ten minutes later, walking through the pouring rain, Ariana approached me under the grocery store awning. She smiled as she reached the covered sidewalk and greeted me with a lip lock. I stood there, with rain falling down all around, making out with a woman other than the one I’d taken on a date that night.
The guilt was crawling out my pores and I didn’t care. I wanted Ariana and that was all that mattered.