Lunch Date

—Saturday, March 3, 2012—

For one reason or another, lunch dates seemed to be relegated to the province of weekday office breaks and spur of the moment decisions to eat together. On the weekends, brunch reigned supreme and lunch seemed to take a couple days off.IMG_1858

When I asked Sandra to lunch, for our second date, I made sure to specify that this was not a brunch date. She agreed but lamented over the fact that she would want brunch. I was determined to find a lunch place though, which was difficult because every restaurant in NYC turned into a brunch place on Saturday. I figured that Cafe Mogador, being a Moroccan and Mediterranean place, wouldn’t have brunch.

I was wrong.

Arriving at Cafe Mogador, there were plenty of people waiting outside, but no Sandra. I quickly checked the menu outside and saw that they had a brunch menu. I was annoyed, but what was there to do? I didn’t want to change plans and I figured I could just order lunch and that the honest attempt would count.

I waited patiently for Sandra on the sidewalk and I saw her approaching in no time. I was excited to see her again. I hadn’t ended our first date on a great note, but she continued to express interesting in seeing me again, so I was looking forward to getting a second chance. I told her that I needed to put our name in, and that they were serving a brunch menu, so she had lucked out.

As soon as I entered the cafe, it looked unfamiliar. I had attempted to have dinner at Mogador a couple times previously, but the wait times had always been too long, so while I had been there before, I hadn’t actually eaten there. But there wasn’t here. I looked at a sign on the wall and it said Café Orlin, not Cafe Mogador. Oh dear.

Walking back outside, I shook my head and told Sandra that this was the wrong place. She acknowledged that she had thought it was wrong, that Mogador was further down St. Mark’s Place, but when she saw me waiting on the sidewalk, she figured I was in the right spot. It was funny because I’d thought the same thing, but Orlin looked very similar from the outside and I had simply took it to be Mogador.

Oh well. I was actually relieved because having this not be Mogador meant that there was still a chance of avoiding brunch. As we walked further down St. Mark’sPlace, Sandra asked me what was new. 

I didn’t have much to report — just dating, work and improv — same as when we’d first met five weeks prior. Sandra was the one who had recently traveled to Puerto Rico for Spring Break (from teaching kindergarteners). She told me a little bit about the trip and it sounded awesome. I had been meaning to visit PR for several years as I had a couple college friends who were from there. It was interesting to think about how I viewed Puerto Ricans growing up and how I viewed them in adulthood. College had done a good job of changing my close-minded view of Puerto Ricans as people who largely immigrated into the US to work in service jobs to one that considered them to be the 52nd state and filled with a far more diverse population of peoples.

One avenue over, we came upon a scene much like the one outside Café Orlin, but this time we’d actually found Cafe Mogador. We stepped inside to give them our name and when the hostess heard that we were merely a party of two, she seated us right away. This was so great. What wonderful luck.

I used the bathroom straightaway, but I was back at the table soon enough and what I found waiting for me was disheartening. I took my seat, looked down and saw a brunch menu staring back of me. Dammit. Of course, not even a Moroccan place could avoid serving something resembling American brunch on a Saturday in NYC.

Still, I was going to order lunch, regardless of how stupidly pervasive brunch was. Conversely, Sandra was very pleased that brunch was available and informed me that she would not be eating lunch. I told her that I would allow it, but she’d now cheated her way out of two dates by paying for that one game of Big Buck Hunter and now, ordering brunch. She had told me the first time around that she didn’t like to follow rules, so I suppose I knew what I was getting into.

Truth be told, I was into her. There was something about Sandra’s stubbornness and unwillingness to appease me that I was drawn to. I guess it was just a different version of playing hard to get. However, she was already more approachable than the last time we’d gone out and I could sense that our date would go well. 

“I should get a prize for being two of the dates,” she said to me as we looked over the menu. I didn’t have anything to offer her, but I said, “Maybe a signed baseball?” I was thinking of a story that had come out about Yankees captain Derek Jeter sending women he’d bedded home with a gift basket of autographed Yankees memorabilia. This got a good laugh out of Sandra and she suggested that I put together a gift basket of my own, something to send the dates away with. It was important to give gifts, she said.

We both got coffee, Sandra ordered some version of eggs and I chose a plate of merguez (spicy sausage), hummus, salad, pita and falafel. If I was finally going to try this place, I wanted to get a good sample set. I was pumped for my food as soon as I’d ordered it. 

The coffee was exactly what I needed. I didn’t have any caffeine in my system yet and it was already after 1 p.m. I did, for the record, eat some oatmeal when I woke up that morning so that I would have already had breakfast, making this meal officially my lunch. I took pride in my dating work. 

We caught each other up some more on what we’d been up to since we’d last seen each other. She told me more about her trip to Puerto Rico, work, graduate school and how she was dating a couple other guys, one of which was an asshole.When I asked her why she would go out with an asshole, she told me coyly that she didn’t know. “He’s good looking, right?” I guessed. “Yeah…” she confirmed. We’re not so different, men and women. We both get to be shallow sometimes. 

I told Sandra about improv mostly, since that was what had been going on. That and dating. Work too, I suppose. She asked me about work and I explained my job to her. Apparently, we hadn’t really discussed it much on our first date. She mentioned that she’d seen another show at UCB recently, Doug Moe Is A Bad Dad, and I had just seen a scene from said show at a sketch and character showcase. I recounted to her some of the funnier bits from that show. I hated recounting funny bits while on a date, and yet, I found myself doing it. Ugh.

She humored me at least. There was a scene from Doug Moe Is A Bad Dad, Fran Gillespie’s motivational speaker, John Gemberling’s Winnie the Whiney Baby, a scene from Death Wears Stilettos and Dan Chamberlain’s incompetent Mortal Kombat voiceover actor. They were all hilarious when performed, but when retold by me at the lunch table, they were chuckle-worthy at best.

We talked more about PR and my upcoming trips to Los Angeles and New Orleans, which put us on the topic of travel for a while as we ate. The food was awesome. The falafel was killer. Sandra tried some of my hummus. She was cute and confident, yet Sandra was still largely a mystery to me. It was definitely one of the reasons why I wanted to go out with her again. 

As our meal began to wrap up, Sandra asked me,”What do you have planned for the rest of the day?”

Uh oh, I thought. I realized that she wasn’t planning to have much of a date and I felt stupid for assuming otherwise. “Nothing. I’ve got nothing planned. I cleared my day to go out with you,” I told her. “Oh, right. Well,” she continued, “I can’t go to that thing with you. I have to get some work done and I have plans later.” I had asked her to go see the Jim Henson exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image and she’d told me maybe, but it was in a way that I thought communicated “maybe we’ll do that on our date” rather than “maybe I’ll have time for you”. Text messages — you can never be sure.

I immediately wondered if she had another date for that night, but then she said that she had work to do. Hmm. It was suspect. Not that it was a problem if she had another date, just that she had me in the palm of her hand and I was curious as shit.

Following this bad news, she also mentioned that she had a few errands to run before she went home. She needed a new pen and a couple other things that she planned to shop for nearby. Sensing that this date was slipping away from me, I told her that I’d like to tag along if at all possible. “Yeah, of course. I’d like that actually,” she agreed, so that was nice. Great. Disaster averted.

Disaster? Well, maybe not a disaster, but I really valued and enjoyed longer dates. If we’d parted ways after lunch/brunch, the date would have been pretty damn short and uneventful.

I offered to pay, since she had treated me to video games and a PB&J the last time around. Sandra thought that was perfectly fair and I was happy to pick up the bill. She collected her bags (she had two) and I grabbed my umbrella before we left.

Back on the street, I asked if she knew where she wanted to go and she looked up the stationary store on her phone. We began to walk north and I asked why she needed a new pen. She had to do report cards for her students and a new pen both motivated her to get them done and made it feel more official. I could understand that. A new piece of equipment often carried a bit of inspiration with it.

The store was closed, so we needed a backup plan. Sandra said that she usually went to MUJI, but the closest one was in SoHo. However, she also wanted to stop into Buffalo Exchange, which was nearby, so we began walking in that direction. Sandra asked me how OHD had been going and I told her it was going fine. There was nothing crazy to report. She wanted to know if there been any triumphs or disasters lately. The best I could think of was to tell her that I’d gone snowboarding recently, which I hadn’t done in 12 years, and managed much better than expected, so that was awesome. “I meant with the project,” she challenged. I clarified that the snowboarding was part of a date and she clarified that she didn’t realize that. I told her that almost everything that I did which was of any significance those days, improv aside, was part of a date. OHD was my life.

Had I learned anything from OHD? This was her next question and it was one that I got quite often. I told her about how I had learned that I was not a creep. She asked why I would feel like a creep? It was hard to explain clearly, but while going on a lot of dates, asking many women out and hooking up somewhat frequently, there were observable actions I was doing which I’d seen creeps do in the past. Of course, it was all about how one did certain things, but the what was what had me nervous that I come off as a creep.

Sandra told me that I wasn’t a creep and that she thought there are only two situations in which guys were creeps: when someone was fratty and drunk and basically trying to date rape you, and when the woman had clearly expressed that she wasn’t interested but the man continued to pursue. Everything else was fair game in her eyes. She asserted that a woman could always make it clear that she was not into a man.

“I don’t know,” I told her. “It’s still not easy. Even now.” I was talking about the present scenario. It was one that I had played out many times. In fact, Sandra had experienced it with me on our first date. I thought a kiss was appropriate at the end of our date, but she didn’t seem to think so, and so I didn’t go for it. I described the end of our last date from my perspective:

I stood there, wanting to kiss you, and in my head this argument was raging. Should I kiss her? Yeah, go for it. Ah, but what if that’s not what she wants. You’re hugging, go for it. Oh no, she’s not into it. ABORT. ABORT. End result? A very awkward hug.

She laughed and said, “Yeah, it was weird because I could hear that conversation occurring in your head.” I laughed. I hadn’t been fooling anyone, which only made it worse. “Yeah, well, you shouldn’t worry so much,” she told me as we entered Buffalo Exchange.

Wait. Was that a green light to give it another go? I had just acknowledged that we were in a scenario where I was nervous about overstepping a boundary, she had told me that everything was fair game and yet I still debated about whether or not she was clearly expressing interest. I was a mess.

Inside the store, I asked Sandra if she wanted to be left on her own but she told me I could help her find some things. That was cool by me and we browsed around the women’s section, critiquing various items of clothing. Since it was a thrift store, there were plenty of things to poke fun at, which provided us with some entertainment. She found four or five items she liked and headed to the dressing rooms with them.

“I’ll wait out here awkwardly for you,” I told her, not even entering the dressing room area. “Well,” she replied, “You can help me decide what looks good.” I could do that, so I followed along and waited outside her dressing room while she changed.IMG_1860

The first canary and pink polka dot shirt, with its large bow, made her look a little like a birthday present. Neither of us loved it, but there was something about the shirt that Sandra found appealing. We would try it again later. Also, I could see her bra right through the shirt. It was a bold move on Sandra’s part and one that I was super into. She tried on a few more shirts and a pair of pants. When we eventually revisited the polka dot shirt, we both decided to go for it.

I realized that I would like a girl who wore a shirt like that because it was just weird enough that it would clue me into her quirkiness, for lack of a better description. Sandra wound up buying a couple shirts and a pair of pants. The whole while, we joked around and I made a number of lightheartedly suggestive jokes. I also had the chance to repeatedly tell her how cute she was and that I thought she looked great.

All in all, it was a very successful trip to the clothing store.

On our way down the block, we decided that we could probably stand to make the journey to SoHo for MUJI materials. At one point during our conversation, I caught myself on the verge of sincerely saying Boston’s favorite adverb “wicked” and then ironically proceeded to use it anyway. She laughed at how “Boston” this was, but then I told her that I had said it on purpose to be funny. Is it still a joke if I was initially going to use it sincerely though?

Wicked was not a word I had used often since graduating high school and something that definitely sprung up more in the company of fellow Massholes, such as my Gay Date. I tried to give myself a break by telling Sandra that I wouldn’t have thought it weird if she had used Northern California’s similarly-lamented “hella.” She admitted that her use of hella was probably similar to my use of wicked and that on her recent trip to Puerto Rico, there were hella hellas being tossed around since all the women she was with were NorCal natives.

As we passed by a place called Porto Rico Importing Co., Sandra wanted to stop in so she could buy some coffee. The name of the place was a bit misleading as they didn’t actually have any coffee from Puerto Rico. I thought that was odd. Sandra remarked that the coffee she’d had in PR was actually better than in Guatemala, which she thought nearly impossible (She’d done Peace Corps in Guatemala).  She asked someone working there for suggestions and ended up purchasing a couple half pounds.

We exited the store and I asked if I could carry any of her many bags. She declined the offer, saying that she was becoming quite used to being a bag lady. The worst part, she told me, was that the older she got, the more practical she became and it only made more and more sense to carry tons of bags. I wasn’t totally sure how that line of thinking was practical, but I figured it had something to do with being prepared and not worrying about looking cool.

Heading towards SoHo, we ended up talking about height and how I was not actually tall enough to be considered tall. Sandra liked tall guys, I came to find out. In fact, most of her life had revolved around tall guys who sucked. She had finally learned (not long ago) that height wasn’t the most important thing in a mate. “Thank God,” I said. She mentioned that the asshole from our lunch discussion happened to be tall and that was probably one of the reasons she continued to go out with him. Come on. I didn’t need competition like that.

Sandra told me that she liked SoHo a lot for an NYC neighborhood. I thought it was cool for shopping but I didn’t know much else. There was the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe — that place was cool — but that was the extent of my knowledge. She asked if we could stop into Sephora, since we were passing by one, and that was fine with me. I didn’t care. Sandra needed sun screen or another topical product I don’t recall.

There was a product called “brow control” or something similar and I asked her what it was for. Were people’s eyebrows really so out of control that they needed something like hair gel to tame them? I mean, some men maybe, but women generally took care of that shit. I couldn’t imagine anything getting that far out of alignment. She said it happened sometimes. I backed off of my critique, but it seemed like a really stupid product.

Sandra took this opportunity to tell me that I had nice eyebrows. “Thanks,” I said, “but they’re not magically like this. I do, in fact, maintain them.” That’s right, guys. The secret is out. I maintain my eyebrows. You should too. It will garner you one compliment every few years from a cute woman you’re on a date with. 

She asked if I waxed them, but God no, that would be way too much effort for what I needed. I used tweezers. But I had been waxed before. Like, bikini-waxed. Sandra was surprised to hear this and asked me where, why and how. It had actually been done just up the street at Bliss Spa and they’d stripped me of everything from the naval down. Everything. 

It was an interesting experience and I explained how I had come to take the plunge, with my friend asking me to do it as a piece for a website. She wanted to know if I would do it again and I probably would have, but only if it was paid for like it had been the first time around. Also, I wouldn’t do the whole shebang again. It was hard to explain, but I told her I’d just remove the extra bits of hair. She understood and said that it sounded like a horrible experience for a guy to go through.

Listen up, dudes! Want to know something great to talk about on a date for at least five minutes? Your pubes! They’re a really solid topic of conversation.

Finally, we made it to MUJI, our primary destination. I had never actually been in one of their stores, but they were kinda weird, right? It was all household goods, I guess, but only select categories. They also had some clothing, which seemed like an afterthought. It was also wicked Japanese. Everything there was so practical and compact, just like the Japanese.

We each tried out a number of pens. I told Sandra that I liked medium tips, which came off sounding sexual, but I swear I didn’t mean it that way. She found a couple ones that she liked, including a highlighter, and we circled around the store in search of the register line. While in line, we saw shelves of t-shirts packed into tiny cubes. Only the Japanese.

Another purchase, another bag. For those keeping count, Sandra now had six bags.

Upon leaving the store, Sandra said that she could use some more coffee and I concurred wholeheartedly. We walked over a few blocks to Ceci-Cela Patisserie which, according to Sandra, was an excellent bakery and cafe that she knew of. There was a bit of a wait to get a table, but it was only about five minutes and we used the opportunity to scope out the baked goods in their cases.

When we were told we could sit, the first table we saw was right next to the back room’s entrance, so we opted for the only other table in the joint, which was in the very back. After sitting, I asked Sandra if she was all right with the choice and she said she was a little uncomfortable. The heater for the room was right behind her and, understandably, quite warm. She took off a layer and said she’d be fine. I offered to switch seats with her as the other table filled with patrons. She again insisted that she was fine. I asked her one more time if she was sure before giving up.

After ordering hot beverages and pastries, Sandra again commented on how warm she was and took another layer off. I had already offered to switch seats several times and kept my mouth shut. If she said she was fine, I could let her be fine. 

Sandra told me teasingly that I had really added to her procrastination. She was supposed to be home doing work and I told her she was boring for spending her Saturday night being productive. At this point, she informed me that those were only her daytime plans, not her plans for that night. She was heading out with some girlfriends later to go dancing. Ahhh. So really, I was eating into her afternoon work time? I asked. I was, but she was happy to be blowing it off to be hanging out with me, I had to presume.

I asked about the night of dancing, if maybe I could tag along, but she informed me that it was women only. No men were invited because they ruined the vibe. Plus, they were probably trying to run game on dudes.

Part way through our snack, Sandra received a text message which said that her friends might be bailing on dancing in favor of a Brooklyn Museum shindig, which would be co-ed. She told me I could tag along in that case and that she would let me know when she figured out all the details.

Our drinks and pastries didn’t last long, but the respite was a nice one, sitting with Sandra in the cafe. It would have been nice to do on a regular basis, I thought. We both used the bathroom before we got going and I noticed that she brought her purse into the bathroom with her. Women always seemed to need their bags in the bathroom. Maybe she was on the pond.

While Sandra was in the can, I paid the bill. When she asked about it, I told her that the whole thing was $15 with tip and I had exactly $15, so I just took care of it. Sometimes chivalry was simply a matter of convenience.

We got going after I made my own bathroom run and I walked Sandra to the train. The train was only stopping at the downtown platform, which was good for Sandra but bad for me. Nonetheless, it made sense to walk with her before I continued my uptown journey on foot.

Standing outside the subway entrance, Sandra thanked me for running errands with her and I thanked her for the date. I’d had a really good time. I was just about as awkward as I had been while saying goodbye on our first date, but this time I thought the odds were in my favor.

I leaned in to kiss Sandra, and although there was some hesitation (the nice kind that could come with a first kiss), I laid one on her. It was nice — a simple, gracious first kiss.

“Let me know about tonight?” I asked.

“I will,” she said.