—Friday, March 30, 2012—
Admittedly, this date was supposed to be with someone else. In fact, it was supposed to be spent with the only person from my high school I’d ever considered an enemy, which would have been perfect for a date in my hometown, but alas, that fell through. Maybe another time. Maybe in another eight years.
I already had plans to be home that weekend, for my father’s birthday party, and I needed this date to happen so that I could stay on schedule. With my original date canceling on me only a day before our planned peace summit, I scrambled to figure out who could go out with me. I tried to think of women I had grown up with who were still in the area, but I exhausted that list very quickly, as most of them were partnered up, unavailable or still out of my league.
With hometown heroes out of the question, I had to start thinking of women in Boston who I could possibly convince to head out to the suburbs for a night. On a whim, I sent an email to Parker, a woman who was the cousin of the ex-boyfriend of a co-worker’s sister. Yeah — that was some connection. She had emailed me all the way back in October of 2011, telling me to reach out if I ever needed a date in Boston. Well, Winchester was only about eight miles from Boston, so I figured I would give her a shot.
I flew to Boston early that Friday morning to work from my company’s headquarters for the day and as I boarded my shuttle flight to Beantown, I did not have high hopes that Parker would be available, or willing, to go on a date that night. My suspicion was confirmed by the time I landed. She had replied to my email while I was in the air and told me that she had evening plans she could not break. It was a bummer, but nonetheless unsurprising. At this point, I had nearly given up on finding a date for that night.
Roughly two hours later, and half-way through writing my response to her, I saw I had another email from Parker. This time, she was saying that her plans had surprisingly changed and, if I was still free, that she’d be willing to go out with me in Winchester. She even included a smiley face in her email.
Boy howdy, how my luck could turn around.
Only 10 minutes or so after emailing her back with some logistical questions, my co-worker Laura, who was the tenuous bridge between Parker and I, came over to inquire about my recently planned date. Word traveled fast, huh? I then became nervous about the lightning quick communication network that was clearly in play because I was hoping that Laura would end up being my Co-Worker Date and I knew that she would find out everything about my date with Parker. Sure, this would have only been a problem if something terrible happened on the date, but I had no idea at that point. I guess we’d just have to deal with that when the time came.
For the time being, I still had to figure out how to go on a decent date in my hometown — something I hadn’t done since high school. I looked up a pan-asian restaurant in the center of town and made a reservation. I also answered questions from some of my other co-workers about my date for that evening, since a bit of a scene had been caused.
I took the commuter rail home from Boston to Winchester after work and realized, thanks to FourSquare, that I hadn’t made that trip since February of 2010, over two years earlier, when I moved out of my dad’s house and into Cambridge.
To be honest, I often went to Boston those days without venturing to my hometown of Winchester, so I was not super familiar with the changes to the town that had taken place since I’d moved out. For instance, I had just learned that there was a bar in town, the first we’d ever really had. I could remember, growing up, that our town stood out as being totally devoid of bars. This was a cool change that immediately elevated Winchester’s status as a place to go out on a date.
When I got to my father’s house, I found my friends in the basement playing music. They were in a band and they were playing my dad’s 60th birthday party the next night. We were throwing a quintessential Winchester party at the Sons of Italy and a few bands were playing, including this group of guys from my high school who practiced in my dad’s basement. It was going to be a fun time.
I sat downstairs while the band rehearsed and I texted Parker back and forth. I was going to sit in with the guys on one number, so after a few tunes, they invited me to pick up a guitar and run though the song we’d be playing together. I texted Parker to tell her that I’d be indisposed and that I might need an extra five minutes. She replied as we were about to begin the tune, telling me that she was about five minutes away. Perfecto.
By the time we’d run through the song twice, I received a text from Parker, telling me she was outside of the house. I put down the guitar, ran upstairs, stepped outside and crossed the street to greet her.
Parker got out of her car and gave me a hug hello. From the few pictures she’d sent me, I was expecting a woman who fit a particular vision in my mind of a South Boston work hard / play hard type who frequented the worst bars on Boylston, in Faniuel Hall and throughout Southie. I thought she was a total babe and way out of my league. Laura had even told me that day that Parker was, “…like, really good looking.”
Yet, when I finally met her and took in her petite stature, kind smile and casual date clothes, I saw how wrong I had been. And I thought she was just so damn adorable. I’d been intimidated by the woman I’d created in my mind, but Parker wasn’t scary at all. I felt my anxiety melt away.
It was crazy, by the way, the image of her I’d created in my mind. Upon further review of her pictures, I saw the error of my ways. For one, there was little evidence in any of the three photos that she dressed like the image in my head or that she partied hard — she had merely sent me flattering pictures of herself in which she was being social. It was what any of us would have done. Secondly, only one photo even made me think, Whoa. This woman is sexy. And lastly, on the other end, one of the photos was perfectly aligned with my in-person assessment of her as an adorable woman I would love to hang out with. Why had I seemingly forgotten about this particular photo? Why had I made her into someone I would be less than compatible with? I have no idea, but let this be a lesson to anyone using online dating (even though Parker’s pictures were sent to me via email) that your initial impression of someone’s photos may need to be reassessed.
Long story short is that I thought I was getting some kind of stereotyped South Boston party girl when in reality, Parker was down to earth and looked more like the dream girl next door.
We walked back across the street towards my dad’s house and I asked if she wanted to meet the band. She said sure and followed me down to the basement where we quietly watched as they finished rehearsing a song. It was a rocker and they sounded really good. When they finished, I introduced Parker to everyone.
My friend Kevin, the drummer, asked which date this was and when I said “Suburbs Date,” we all agreed that bringing Parker to meet the band that practiced in my dad’s basement was perfectly suburban. Then Kevin asked if she was from the suburbs herself and Parker said she was from Keane, New Hampshire. Kevin got an inquisitive look on his face and asked her if she knew The [Kevin’s Ex-Girlfriend’s Last Name]s. Indeed she did — his ex had been in the grade below her. His suspicion realized, Kevin shouted across the room, “That bitch ripped my heart out! If you see her, tell her that I’m great. Surrounded by women. Beautiful women.”
He was, in fact, surrounded by dudes we’d gone to high school with, but that didn’t stop his comments from being hilarious. We all had a good laugh and I had Kevin to thank for starting my date off on a very positive note.
Parker and I said our goodbyes and headed upstairs. She clarified to me that she barely knew Kevin’s ex-girlfriend and never spoke to her anymore. I told her it was fine and that Kevin was only joking. She did rip his heart out though. That much was true.
Taking advantage of the pleasant whether and the calming nature of beautiful Winchester, Massachusetts, we decided to walk to dinner downtown. We left her car right where it was parked on Spruce Street, which unfamously had only one spruce tree.
Only about 300 yards from my dad’s house, we passed by my high school, which was an ugly building but the easiest commute I’d ever had. The route we took to the town center was one I’d traveled again and again throughout my life. I had walked, rode or skated along that route countless times over the years, but I hadn’t walked it in quite a while.
The stroll was pleasant and fairly brief, but along the way, I told Parker that my father’s house was not the one I’d grown up in. Back in 2007, an older neighbor of ours had offered to give my father his house because his family was going to tear it down and build something larger in its place. Our house at the time was probably the smallest in the entire town. It was old, run down and tightly packed. My dad took him up on the offer, knocked down our house, dug a new foundation, lifted the neighbor’s house up and moved it over to our property before setting it down again. It was a fairly odd thing to have happen, but just like that, we had a new house at our same old address.
Most everything was quiet in the center of town by the time we got down there and I told Parker that most things shut down in Winchester by 8 or 9 p.m. It was a frustrating place to be a teenager in that regard.
There were only so many restaurants in town and I’d chosen Imari because it was situated in a quaint location, right in the center of town on a side street. Plus, pan-asian food was typically a safe bet. It was a little crazy when we first arrived because there were a bunch of folks waiting for take out and no apparent host to greet us. Eventually, someone assisted us and we were seated at the nearest two top. I’d been to the restaurant once before, but hardly remembered it. It was decently cute.
We checked out the menus and talked to each other for a while before our orders were taken. In fact, it took roughly 20 minutes, maybe more, for someone to come over and do so. We actually had to get a server’s attention for them to take care of us. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world though, because it gave us plenty of time to figure our what we wanted to eat and to talk about a few things, like the fact that Parker grew up moving all around the world and that her parents were now in Cameroon. They were international teachers and their jobs kept them on the move, which had made Parker’s childhood very interesting. She was telling me about every place that she had lived and we got up until high school in Kuwait by the time we realized that we needed to order.
Once we’d put our order in, we talked about work for a bit. She worked selling ad space for a mobile advertising company in Boston and she had some vague idea of what my company did because of our mutual connection. She further explained her connection to Laura and I told her how Laura had talked her up that day.
I admitted to Parker that I’d been nervous because I thought she was so gorgeous and also, that the project helped me get women who were out of my league. She thought that last part was silly and told me, “But you’re funny though, and if you’re funny, you can get a girl to do anything.” If she had said this with any amount of seduction in her voice, I’d have boned up immediately, but she meant it sincerely and I appreciated the message she was conveying. There was hope for me yet.
Also, I told her how I’d showed her picture to some of the guys at the office and they all thought she was hot, congratulating me with, ”Nice job, man.” Parker laughed at this with humility. She knew she was good looking, but she was modest about it. She had a cool confidence which made her only more likable and more attractive.
She said that her looks didn’t necessarily translate to a plethora of dates though because she had a ton of male friends, and some bitchy girlfriends, and therefor wasn’t approached too often by men because they were intimidated by the company she kept. We talked about the meat markets of Boston and how they were awful places to meet real humans. She lived in South Boston, which was one of the worst places in the world to find love, but she didn’t like the Bud Lite-fueled man-child aspect of it anyway. She enjoyed being near the water and near her friends, who happened to live in Southie as well.
Since she had so many male friends, I asked Parker how many of them secretly had crushes on her and when she told me none, I called bullshit. If they didn’t now, they probably did when she was younger. She admitted that may have been the case, but by this time, anything that could have happened, would have happened. Okay. I could buy that.
We talked about chivalry and whether it was nice or dumb or somewhere in between. She once dated a guy who would stand every time she left the table, which was a bit much. She reminded me of another old fashioned thing about the man walking on the street side of the sidewalk, which I didn’t really understand. I admitted though that I had really failed to nail that one on our walk to the restaurant. I typically preferred to walk on whichever side of a woman didn’t have a purse, so there would be nothing between us.
The conversation was flowing, even though our food had yet to arrive, and I asked if she considered herself the “funny one” in her group of friends, having moved around so much during her life. She was not, she said, but she was the friendly one. Even jealous girlfriends of male friends usually ended up liking her quickly because she was so nice and would win them over. I’d asked her because I had met a few Army brats in the NYC comedy scene and they almost always told me that they developed their senses of humor because they were constantly moving around and they needed a way for people to like them quickly. I supposed kindness worked in the same way.
Finally, they started bringing our food out, but the dishes all came in a disjointed order. Imari was not scoring highly in terms of service, but I was lucky to be there with a great date who didn’t make a fuss.
Over dinner, Parker and I talked about dating a lot. The project was something she was quite interested in, so I spoke pretty openly about it and she told me about her relationship history a bit. We discussed clingers and how to go about ditching them. She had this one guy at the time who she went out with maybe twice and he now wouldn’t go away. The problem was really that she couldn’t bring herself to simply tell him how she felt. It was always better to just rip the bandage off, I advised. I’d been there, and trust me, that kind of thing was not easy, but it was necessary. Parker thought she was a terrible person for not liking him and for leading him on, but she wasn’t — she was just human. I was terrible with those situations too.
We talked about marriage and kids and our views actually seemed to line up a lot. We were both probably too selfish to have children and we both thought marriage was a crock, but seemed nice in theory. Kids simply were not necessary and people who had destination weddings were assholes. I liked this woman.
I figured out a few things over dinner:
- We had ordered way too much food.
- Parker was genuinely friendly and very fun to be around.
- Parker was really, truly right up my alley. I liked her.
We finally called it quits on dinner, after taking our sweet time, and we were the last ones in the place, which didn’t say much because it was not late. “You’re not kidding, this place does shut down early,” she commented as the staff cleared our table.
Before leaving, I mentioned the new bar just down the street that I had never been to and asked if she wanted to check it out for a drink. Parker was up for it and, after using the bathroom and paying our bill, we stepped back out onto Thompson Street. Right next to the restaurant, when I was a kid, there had been a comic book and collectibles store called The Dugout that I would go to all the time to hang out and eat slush. I loved that place and a few of those memories came back to me as we passed the storefront it had once inhabited.
In a rather endearing manner, Parker asked me how my suburban date was going so far and I told her that it was going really well. At least, on my end. How am I doing? I wanted to know. “You’re doing great,” she told me. I couldn’t help but smile when she said that.
We walked to the end of the block and around the corner into Black Horse Tavern. It was named for an old tavern on Black Horse Terrace, I told her as we entered the bar, moments before walking by a photo of the old tavern on the wall. Oh yeah, that place.
The tavern was surprisingly crowded and we were definitely the youngest people in there. The average age had to be at least 45, which was perfectly suburban. The only bar area seating we could find was the ledge of the fireplace, as all proper seats were occupied, and Parker braved the bar to get us a couple beers while I ran to the bathroom. This was when I realized that I had yet to take a picture of myself for the internet and I feared my fans were in a tizzy. So, I snapped a bathroom shot.
We sat and chatted, about some of the same things we’d discussed over dinner, but sprinkled in some new topics here and there. I asked her what she thought of suburbs in general. She wasn’t particularly fond of them, as she’d been a city gal all her life, save a few years in Keane, NH. I went into a rant about how the suburbs sucked and Parker added that they were only good for raising kids. Ultimately, we were more or less on the same side of the debate.
A hilarious group of adults built up in front of us and crowded Parker and I closer and closer to each other. I felt like we were having a great time together, and she so attractive, that in that kind of close proximity, all I wanted to do was kiss her. I know that probably wasn’t on her mind, I don’t think, but I couldn’t help feel that desire.
Kisses or not — hell, mutual attraction or not — I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lucky to be out with Parker that night. It was so serendipitous that my original date had left me in the lurch, I happened to have an old email from Parker, she happened to be have plans change and we happened to get along so well. This was the magic of dating and the magic of OHD at work. This was the kind of thing that made one addicted to dating.
Despite the good times, I could tell that Parker was getting tired, as was I, and when I finished my beer she asked if I wanted another. She still had half of hers left, so I said no thanks. I could sense that it was probably time to leave soon and I didn’t want to try to drink another beer by the time she finished her second half. I also knew that she had to drive back to Southie and be up in the morning for a trip to Vermont.
A few minutes later, Parker apologized and asked if we could head out because she was hitting a wall. I’d seen it coming and told her it was fine. She closed her tab and I held her jacket up, helping her put it on, which I thought was a classy move and something I didn’t normally think to do.
As we walked back through the town center, I told Parker to move over so that I could be chivalrous and walk on the street side. She laughed and then moved her clutch to her other hand to accommodate my preference of having nothing between my date and I. It was a pretty cute moment, guys.
Eventually, we crossed the street and our street side / clutch side efforts were messed up, but it was nice while it lasted. I talked a little more about growing up in Winchester as we made our way back to my father’s house.
I was looking for a less than awkward way to ask Parker inside (My dad wasn’t home!), but settled on asking her if she needed a glass water or anything else before driving home. She declined the offer and expressed that she was eager to get home and to sleep.
Standing next to Parker’s car, I thanked her for making the trip out to the suburbs and, with a brief moment of pause, we both leaned in for a kiss. [At least, my memory has reconstructed it to be entirely mutual. I hope that was indeed the case.] We kissed for a minute, she giggled and said goodnight before getting into her car and driving away down Spruce Street.
Parker texted me when she got home, to let me know she was alive, and I thanked her again before saying goodnight.
After an early flight that morning, a full day at work, a couple drinks that night and, most importantly, the relative silence of a suburban bedroom, I had no trouble drifting off to sleep as I replayed the highlights from that evening’s date with Parker in my head.