Hookah Bar Date

—Wednesday, December 7, 2011—

We had agreed to meet at the restaurant, Le Souk Harem, which I had read mixed things about online, but upon arrival, it seemed decently cool. Since I was a bit early, I grabbed a seat at the diminutive downstairs bar.

Hookah Bar Date 1

The bartender, a young guy who couldn’t have been older than 23, asked me if I was there for a date. I told him that I was and he asked if I was nervous. I was not, and I explained that I was going on a lot of dates for a project I was working on. I handed him my One Hundred Dates card. I had OHD business cards.

“No shit!” he exclaimed, and proceeded to tell me that he also went on a lot of dates, but not like me. He was an NYU student, so his dating life was understandably different.

Within a minute or two, it was apparent that I had found myself a Chatterbox Chet.

“Hey man, have you found that a lot of New York girls are whores?” he asked in a way that suggested it as fact.

“No. I don’t think that’s what they are. But I get why you might say that. I think they know what they want and sometimes what they want is sex, so they go out and get it. But they’re not whores,” I answered him back.

“I don’t know man. There’s a lot of whores,” he said, not accepting my rebuttal.

He continued on to ask how I got my dates and more importantly, what percentage of the women slept with me. I told him that I got them every which way — online, friends, set ups, random women, etc.

I roughly ran the math in my head and told him that so far in the project, a little under a quarter of the women had slept with me.

“See! Whores,” he said.

I ignored his persistent ignorance and, as I played with my phone, thought to myself that I should really tell him off. Yes, a lot of women in New York would have sex with men they didn’t necessarily know very well, but it had always struck me as a matter of confidence. I couldn’t think of one situation when a woman had slept with me out of some kind need for validation or money. I think that’s how I would have defined a whore. Even then, I was not in the business of condemning anyone.

I don’t think I’ve ever really known a whore. It’s possible I have, but mostly, I’ve known women who wanted to have sex and weren’t totally fucked by society’s misogyny to really give a shit.

Of course though, I didn’t lay into him, because as much as I can write about it on my blog, I didn’t have the balls to stand up for women when it was most important — in real life.

Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. Maybe that shit head just wasn’t worth the energy.

I was glad to end the conversation when Kira walked in. I greeted her at the door and we were shown upstairs to a large room, which was nearly empty. Despite the scarcity of patrons on a Wednesday night, it was a cool space, which looked like it could be fun. There was a single cushioned bench stretching along the lengthy wall, with small tables and low chairs spaced out every few feet. I felt like a child sitting at the stunted table, with my knees hitting its edges, but at least it provided the first laughter of the night.

Kira had found me on OkCupid and asked me out, acknowledging that she liked the idea of the project. As we waded through first ten minutes or so, it was just like any run of the mill internet date — a little reserved, polite as could be and we did our best to feel each other out.

She worked downtown at a PR/marketing type place and lately she’d had beauty clients, so that day she was brought out to have her nails done. Sounded like a great part of the work day. Between her clients and co-workers, it seemed like she had a fairly hip work environment. My co-workers were cool, but I was always jealous of people with fun clients. My clients were financial compliance officers, so…yeah.

The hostess explained the prix fix menu to us, which had an option for hookah, and gave us a few minutes to figure our shit out. As we decided on what to order, and waited for our server to return, Kira asked a lot of typical first date questions, which was fine, but when she asked me my favorite color, I almost though that it was a joke. It might have been different had she delivered it in a playful, “I know this is dumb, but it could be fun” kind of way, but instead, she seemed dead serious when asking. I couldn’t figure out what a favorite color might say about a person, but in answering, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there was something revealing about it that I just didn’t know.

WHAT DID BABY BLUE SAY ABOUT ME???

I heard about her current living situation out on Long Island and about going to college in New Rochelle, which was just a little ways north of the city. She had had a long-term boyfriend when deciding on a college and had not wanted to go too far from him or home. I could relate — I had been the same way. When it was time for me to go to school, the furthest I considered was NYC, which was only about four-and-a-half hours from home.

Ordering was kind of awkward as they told us about what was included in the pre fixe and what was extra. I was using a LivingSocial deal to pay for the meal, which Kira knew about, but I was not sure I would use those kind of deals for any more dates. They almost always ended up being awkward. It was not so much that I looked cheap, which I did, it was more that I was limiting the night’s possibilities. Nearly any restriction put on a date makes it seem like you care less.

Now, we all know that for practical reasons, people need to put rough price restrictions on dates, but there’s a little tiny voice in the other person’s head saying, “I know he has to do this, but if he really cared, he would splurge.” Anyway, that was how it felt. I would have to make it up to her with banter.

We figured out our order and the bread arrived shortly, followed by soup just minutes later.  I was happy that the food didn’t suck, as I found that both the bread and soup were delicious. The bread in particular was giving me a food boner.

Humorously, Kira questioned how we were meant to eat soup when the height of the table prevented it from coming any closer than our knees. Normally, one’s head was right over a bowl of soup, but we had to lean far forward and be very careful not to spill. It looked pretty silly.

As we ate, we talked more about more basic things, like work and living. She was thinking of moving to L.A. if she got the chance, like if there were a cool new client involved. That sounded potentially exciting, but it was just a possibility at that point.

Everything about this date was fairly straightforward so far, save maybe the awkwardness that the menu and table had provided us. Then again, a little awkwardness was nothing out of the ordinary for a first date.

It was cool to find that she had read a good bit of the OHD site, but it was unclear how much. She and her co-workers had been talking about it that day at the office. She mentioned my tattoo, since I had written about that already.

I told her how my dad was never much into the idea of me having tattoos, but that he was cool with that one, since it held great significance. He used to say, “Hey. I made it through the 60‘s without getting one. I think you’ll be okay.” Dads, am I right?

Kira talked about her somewhat overbearing mother. As a teenager, she had gotten a tongue ring without her parents’ permission. When she showed it to her mother, she got cracked across the head with a wooden spoon so hard that the spoon broke. Lesson: Do not anger mama bear.

Here’s the thing with telling me that you had a teenage tongue ring — I will assume you were sucking dick at a higher rate than the average teenager, and if we flash forward to today, I bet that your willingness to suck dick is slightly higher than most. Is this possibly a fair assumption? Can I say this without sounding like the bartender downstairs and hating myself? [Have I just made enemies by writing it?]

It’s an admittedly naive stereotype left over from high school, but I don’t know that it’s wrong. After all, I’m just talking about general trends, not hard and fast rules. The same goes for tramp stamps, but with sex. I don’t want to get into a long discussion on unfair physical indicators of sexuality and/or slut-shaming here, so I’ll just say this — I don’t think these attributes nor the propensity to perform sexual acts makes you a better or worse person; there is effectively no shame in any of those things. However, I do believe that you can tell a lot about a person by what decisions they’ve made in their life. You could assume a metric ton about me if you knew that I idolized Blink-182 in high school and that I didn’t drink until I was 21. You could be wrong, but I bet you’d be in the ballpark.

Despite the fact that the date wasn’t an immediate success, that single statement from Kira put the idea in my head that maybe, just maybe, she would hook up with me, if only because she was slightly more likely to do so than the average woman. As such, I decided to step up my efforts a bit.

When asked how to go on a good date, I often tell people that you only need to find one reason to make it worth your time and energy. Once you’ve done that, you’ll enjoy yourself much more and probably make the whole experience better. What you find worthwhile is entirely up to you, but for me it can be anything from romantic feelings, effortless conversation, friendship, a truly interesting person, a fun activity or, in this case, sexual potential. In my view, sex is just as good a reason for going on a date as love — it all just depends on what the two people are looking for.

Me? I was not looking for anything, so I would take whatever I could get. Without many of the other incentives making a strong case for themselves, I was going to follow the path of sexual potential.

Our main dishes were both good and the sangria did its job by loosening us up a bit. Oh, and the baklava we had for dessert was tasty. It had been a while since I’d had the sweet phyllo dough pastry.

Once we’d eaten, we got down to the business of the evening and ordered a strawberry hookah. It was only the second time I’d ever smoked from a hookah, which made me feel like a first semester college freshman. Kira, by contrast of experience, was a cool upperclassman showing me the ropes.

A couple a trips to the bathroom later and we were sitting on the same side of the table, on the long cushioned bench, with the fruity hookah in front of us. My move to the bench, to sit with her, was an intentional one. If any mouth touching was going to happen that night, I needed to have proximity on my side. I asked if she was okay with sharing a mouthpiece and she didn’t mind. We were half way to kissing already.

The place was starting to fill up as she told me about the grocery store back on Long Island that her family owned. We exchanged stories about our home towns and how we used to spend time with our friends in high school. The theme of general date conversation continued.

The restaurant filled up to the point where I would be comfortable calling it a club. The music got a bit louder and the people sitting down didn’t seem to be ordering food. We asked our hostess what the deal was and she said they had stopped dinner. Soon, the tables would only be for bottle service. We could finish up there but then we needed to go to the bar if we wanted to stick around.

As more bottle-buying patrons arrived, the former diners, us included, were moved further and further down the bench to make room for the real money.

We got into a long discussion about being called a bitch or asshole based on this article at Good Men Project that I had read earlier that day. It was unfortunate to think that any woman who was direct and assertive was deemed a bitch. Men of the same demeanor were often conversely celebrated for being decisive and outspoken. This bled into another conversation about the term slut and how it was often misplaced upon women who confidently demanded attention or wanted sex.

I told Kira about the bartender downstairs and how he had called NYC women whores. I told her that I didn’t agree. Unsurprisingly, neither did she. In fact, she enjoyed the confidence that women in New York were permitted and knowing that she could get a man when she wanted one was something she valued.

That night, I was hoping that I was a man that she wanted, and I could feel us inching closer to that reality.

On this kind of date, in which my companion wasn’t particularly forthcoming, it was all a matter of leading conversations to where I wanted them to go in order to find out the information I wanted to know. As mentioned previously, sexual potential had become my guiding light for this date and so I was curious to know how she viewed topics of sexuality and promiscuity. In this case, I saw that the bitch vs asshole conversation offered an opportunity to segue into slut-shaming and female sexuality in New York, which would obviously clue me into her own views on the matter. Even just her willingness to discuss the topics told me something.

To cleanse our palettes after such a discussion, we chatted about what kind of music we enjoyed. She seemed indistinctly into lots of stuff and went to house music / EDM festivals each year in Miami. If anything, she was kind of into that scene. I was decidedly not in that crowd but I could appreciate it more than when I was younger.

We settled up with our server and decided to leave to find another bar, one that was not morphing into a club. We were just south of Bleeker Street, so we walked a bit west on there, ending at the inoffensively boorish Thunder Jackson’s. In retrospect, I find this place kind of offensive.

That year’s biggest hits were blaring from the speakers in the room, but for all its volume, the bar had hardly anyone in it. We ordered beers and settled into our seats, continuing our previous discussion on music and relating over the resurgence of pop in both our lives.

I could feel that we were settling back into cliched conversation topics and making no progress on the making out front, so I steered us toward the topic of relationships. We had both experienced the difficulties of making long-distance work, but every relationship had its challenges. I was reminded of a recent piece I had read by Dan Savage, in which he professed his GGG theory of being a good sex partner and its importance to the survival of long term relationships.

The three G’s were Good, Giving and Game, which meant that you had to be some combination of competent, generous and open minded when it came to your sex life with your partner. Truly committing to all of these, Savage insisted, would make for much stronger relationships.

Being Game had stood out to me as the hardest of the three to master. No one liked doing something they were uncomfortable with (say, a new sexual act) or jeopardizing their relationship in the hopes of saving it (as he’d shown with extramarital sex). Kira agreed that it may not be for everyone, but she didn’t think that it would be tough for her, since she was always game. Interesting thing to tell a guy on a first date, but I appreciated the honestly.

I was getting tired and it was getting late, so I asked Kira what it was going to take for her to get home. She had a long trip ahead of her, she said, at least an hour. If we left right then, she would have made it home at 3:30 a.m. Damn. She was out late without a backup plan. Apparently though, she didn’t have work the next day and she said she could stay with friends in the city if she really needed a place to crash. She just had to call them and see if they were awake.

Even though I had been trying to convert the date into a sexual encounter, I had been mostly coy about it and I was still nervous when I offered her my apartment. She debated, texted a friend or two, and after a couple minutes, agreed to crash on my couch.

Kira paid for our beers, since I had covered dinner, and we tried to leave but there was a drunk couple in the doorway, making out. The hostess actually pushed the door open, into them, to clear a path for us. They laughed with each other, moved over a bit and we snuck out. They were actually kind of cute.

As we rounded the corner, Kira pulled out a pack of cigarettes. She needed a smoke. She was only the second smoker I’d been out with in all that time. I wonder if that was about average or if I didn’t attract smokers. We only stood there for a few minutes, but it was cold out and I was glad when we finally made it to the train.

Neither of us had anything very interesting to say on the ride back to Astoria, nor was I gushing with words when we entered my apartment. I did my best to play it cool while also leading her enough to make sure she knew I was interested.

Without so much as a prior kiss, or even a wildly flirtatious night, we both climbed into my bed and I turned out the lights.