Acupuncture Date

—Saturday, December 3, 2011—

First dates put many people a little on edge. Most aren’t sure how to act, don’t know what is appropriate, and yet they want everything to go perfectly. Whether it’s nerves or excitement, most of us are waiting on pins and needles each time we set up a date.

It was difficult to be in such a state that morning, as I could barely convince myself to wake up. I was beyond tired and possibly hung over. Moustache Date had kicked my ass the night before.

After waking, I stayed in bed a little longer than I should have, thinking about the evening prior. I stared at the text message I sent Jamie on the way home.

Acupuncture Date 1

I finally cleaned myself up and I was out the door a few minutes late. I had to shave off my moustache, after all. Movember was officially over and I was back to clean shaven, a rare look for my twenties.

Acupuncture Date 2

I hustled through the streets of Astoria to get to Il Bambino, where I found I had made it ahead of Alice. She arrived minutes later with a perky smile and a friendly hug. We had been in contact with each other for quite some time and it was nice to finally meet her.

Alice had emailed me way back in July 2011, telling me that she saw the segment about OHD on News for Blondes, about how she related to it and said that she would like to go on a date. She listed a number of dates she’d be willing to do with me and we finally agreed to Acupuncture Date. I was thankful that she had put that on her list because it was one of the more unusual ones. Not everyone was willing to be stuck with needles, and whenever I had the chance to cross off a difficult-to-find date, I took advantage.

We entered the small restaurant and got a table. It was 11:15 a.m. and we had somehow avoided the Saturday brunch crowd. Alice loved the place — it was one of her favorites. They crafted gourmet Italian panini, with high-quality ingredients, and they even had a breakfast menu. I ordered one of the pressed sandwiches with olive tapenade and prosciutto — one of my most loved combinations.

We touched on many of the basic date topics, like work and school. She was an actor, which for her meant that she was also a waitress. Speaking of which, our waitress was very nice and very cute. I would have liked to date her, but it was tough to ask her out while on a date.

It was strange being “aggressively single” during the year that was OHD because my radar was nearly always on. One of the rare times that I would stop taking note of women around me was when I was on a date and really into the person there with me. No offense to Alice, but we were not there yet. My radar was still active.

Alice grew up in Connecticut, so she was familiar with my alma mater, Fairfield University, in the southern part of the state. Although she initially hesitated to play the name game, I happened to know one of the guys she mentioned. It turned out that they were in a theater company briefly and she described him as the biggest douche bag ever. She didn’t want to say it at first, in case he was a good friend of mine, but when she let it rip, I found her description very funny. He was always very kind to me, but I could see why people might think he is the Sultan Kösen of douche bags. I had always found his younger sister to be absolutely abysmal, so maybe it ran in the family.

We talked quite a bit about dating while eating our panini, which were absolutely delicious. The retaurant was a great recommendation on Alice’s part. Similar to myself, she was doing a lot of dating those days and trying to have a very open mind about it all, going as far to say that she wouldn’t turn down anyone who asked her on a date. She said that you never knew who the new person would end up being, so she might as well give them a shot and assume something positive would come of it.

I knew very few women who took that approach, but I respected it. I always like to assume the best and hope life will be awesome. By this time in the project, I am fairly certain that I hadn’t turned down anyone who had directly asked me on a date, though admittedly, I’d probably ignored a few of those “throwing this out there” kind of offers.

Given her openness towards dating, Alice could easily understand why I was doing the project. It seemed to make sense to her, which made the whole date more comfortable. While some might be nervous about the topic of dating for discussion, we found there was nothing awkward in talking about our respective dating lives.

Two panini and four cups of coffee later, we asked for the check, which Alice insisted on covering. She said that since she asked me out and provided the restaurant, it was her treat. It was a kind thing for her to do and very practical as well, since I was insisting on paying for the acupuncture. Bucking gender norms in dating — it’s the coolest!

Walking to the train, I realized that we were going to be a few minutes late for our appointment. We had to trek all the way from Astoria, Queens to Gowanus, Brooklyn, where the Brooklyn Acupuncture Project (BAP) was located. As we walked up to the platform, a train was arriving and we both knew we’d have to run to catch it. Well, that didn’t happen. Since we’d missed the most recent train, we would actually be considerably late.

The trip was about an hour, with a couple transfers, but we passed the time easily. It was not hard to keep a good conversation going with Alice. We talked, amongst other things, about our expectations of the acupuncture. I had never liked getting shots, which I assumed was similar to acupuncture since they both involved needles, but for some reason, acupuncture didn’t really scare me. It seemed extremely gentle, and plus, they wouldn’t be injecting anything, which was something I definitely hated about shots.

We arrived in Gowanus roughly an hour later and as we navigated down through the station to the street, I took out my phone to call the acupuncture place. To my surprise, they had beaten me to it. As I went to dial the number, I received an incoming call, which I answered.

“Hi, is Alice there?” Well, she was, but I told them that they were looking for me. I had put my phone number down for both of our reservations since I didn’t know Alice’s at the time. The woman on the other end of the line sounded very laid back and said that it wasn’t a problem at all despite us being 20 minutes late.

I also checked my text messages. One of them was from Jamie, responding to my message from the night before.

Jamie: You’re not a fool. I really like you. I just don’t like feeling like I’m part of an experiment. I know you’re really busy with all your dates but if you want to hang out (as something not part of the project) let me know! 12:19 PM

The text message really took me out of it. I mean, I was already a bit distracted and preoccupied with thoughts of Jamie, but after seeing that, my head really started to wander off. However, since it is incredibly rude to text another date while on a date, I didn’t reply right then and there.

Finally arriving at BAP, Alice and I first needed to fill out a small pile of paperwork, which was understandable since they’d be sticking needles in us to solve medical ailments. It was funny to me, sitting there answering all those questions, because many of them were highly personal. Questions about libido, mental health, injuries, bowel movements, attitude…almost everything that could be wrong with your life. It would have been VERY interesting for Alice and I to swap papers. I’m sure it would have raised some questions and likely been strange, so it was for the best that we didn’t.

BUT WAS IT REALLY FOR THE BEST? I MEAN, CAN YOU IMAGINE?!?!

She probably would have asked why I was so infallible, because I had zero issues. (Besides a progressive case of late onset narcissism.)

Once our homework was done, I paid for the treatment. They had a great system in place where it was a suggested payment scale based on your annual income. Alice hinted that she made very little money so I kind of averageed out our two different income brackets and paid what I thought made sense. I liked the honesty of it and it seemed that both parties got a fair deal.

Once all logistics had been covered, we were directed to wait in the area between the two treatment rooms. Finally, we were both waiting on pins and needles and relating to each other our mutual nervousness.

Alice’s practitioner was the first one available, so the two of them discussed some of the things Alice noted on her form. She had one particular spot on her lower neck/upper shoulder that she wanted to have worked on. The suggested treatment involved some fairly deep probing needles, which the practitioner warned her of. Shit sounded intense. Alice was up for it though, and the practitioner assured her that she would take it easy since it was Alice’s first time.

With that, Alice went to the bathroom and changed into some more comfortable clothes. Once back, she entered the eastern treatment room.  I said goodbye for a bit.

A few minutes later, my practitioner greeted me and asked me a number of questions. I didn’t have any particular ailments on my sheet, so I just told him that I was always tired (because I didn’t sleep enough) and that I had terrible posture (which I was sure would harm me in the long run). He took these into consideration and had me go into the western treatment room without any need to change my clothes.

I was seated in a reclining chair, facing a wall of big bright windows. Alice was laying down on a massage table and receiving a very hands-on, intense treatment. Meanwhile, all I had to do was sit back, roll up my sleeves, and take off my socks.

Whatshisface stuck a few needles in my feet and ankles.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it definitely felt like needles in my body. Something about the serenity of acupuncture made me think that I’d barely feel the needles, and while there was no significant pain, I did feel like a pin cushion.

Next, he inserted a few needles into each wrist, which made me a bit nervous, but he knew what he was doing, so I calmed down.

Finally, he made motions for my head. I figured one or two needles in my scalp or possibly, temples. Nope — I was wrong. Just one needle, and it landed in the center of my forehead, for a distinctly odd sensation.

Although I was fully reclined, my muscles tensed up in way I don’t think they ever had. I thought to myself, “This must be the idea. Part of the process.” I tried to recall my actor training from college and focused on my breathing while releasing the tension in my muscles, one by one. I did the same thing while getting a massage during Spa Date. It took me about 15 minutes of this, but finally I was feeling relaxed and I didn’t particularly notice the needles any more.

Possibly the worst thing to happen throughout the treatment was that my nose kept itching. I had recently read a very interesting article about how itch is an entirely mental phenomenon, and with that in mind, I willed most of the itches away. At one point though, I scrunched my nose up and IMMEDIATELY was reminded that there was a needle in the middle of my forehead. Geesh, that one was uncomfortable.

After what seemed like an hour (and it was), my practitioner appeared again and removed the needles from my body. I returned to an upright position and put my socks back on. Then I went to the bathroom and shit a little bit, which I’d had to do all day — it’s a terrible feeling to have while on a date. I had to take advantage of the fact that Alice was still in treatment. Thanks, Drinks Last Night.

Composing myself, and coming out of the acupuncture experience, I noted that I had a tiny bruise on my wrist but it was nothing too bad.

Assuming Alice would be done soon, I waited patiently in the reception area. She turned up after a short spell and was a little bit out of it. I don’t say that because it was obvious from looking at her, but because she quickly told me that she felt different. She described the experience as “nuts.”

Out on the street, we searched for a place to grab beverages and Alice further described her treatment to me. On the corner, we found a small Spanish diner where we sat, sipping on coffee (me) and tea (her).

Alice said that she could feel her muscles tense and release, almost melting away in the process. She sounded somewhat traumatized, recounting it, but when I asked if she would do it again, she said “definitely.” She postulated that it was simply odd to do it the first time. It was a very surreal experience for her, and as she still wore a medicated relief patch, it was not entirely over.

By contrast, my treatment had been incredibly relaxing. The experience reminded me of when Ariana sat for an hour and a half tattoo while mine was a only twenty-five minute session.

What was I dragging my dates into? (Besides a date with me.)

After about 20 minutes, we had to take off so that Alice could make it to work. We walked back to the train and found it arriving just as we got to the platform. She worked at Del Frisco’s, a semi-baller steakhouse in Midtown which I was only familiar with because of my co-workers. I told her that when I first moved to NYC, some of them would want to go out for steaks on the regular, dropping crazy bills on food for only themselves and only to hang out with a bunch of guys they already sat next to all day. It never made much sense to me, so I never partook. I’d heard the steaks were great though.

Alice and I also spoke at length about acting and theatrical movement. I told her how I was using my relaxation techniques during the treatment and we related over a lot of the movement-based things we did in college. We both agreed that it would be wonderful to attend those kinds of workshops again. I hadn’t been to one in a very long time.

I ended up getting off first (surprise, surprise), and Alice stood to give me a hug. We thanked each other and I stepped through the closing doors.

The acupuncture was a really great experience and I had fun doing it with Alice, but I felt like a bit of a prick even as the train pulled away — there was just no spark for me.

It had happened a number of times, but I didn’t always acknowledge it so immediately. I think the fact that I’d been out with Jamie twice that week compounded it, because it provided a stark contrast. I liked Jamie, and having nearly ruined my chances with her the night before, it was possible that I didn’t invest as much as I could have in my date with Alice. It had been on my mind the whole time.

Alice’s train pulled out of sight, I rolled my neck, and headed out of the station to continue my day.

Epilogue:

Much later in the day, I finally responded to Jamie’s text message.

Me: Thanks. I really felt bad about it and I totally understand the project thing. I’d like to see you too, so I’ll shout sometime when I’m free.
Jamie: Ok cool. Are you mad at me?
Me: Oh gosh. Not at all. You absolutely should have sent me home. By the time I got to Queens, I was worse than you left me. I think you’re great.
Jamie: Ok good! I mean not good that you felt crappy but good I sent you home. I’ll talk to you soon!
Me: Haha. Yeah. For sure.