Notable Individual Giving A Talk Date

—Thursday, May 3, 2012—

I couldn’t believe that for a date activity as mundane as a notable individual giving a talk, I had found such a seemingly exciting woman who was willing to tag along. Unfortunately, this date didn’t go according to plan and I nearly had to call the whole thing off.

Radha had found me on OkCupid toward the end of March and sent me an incredibly upbeat message that ensured I would be looking forward to one day meeting her.

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Eblarden!! I love that you implemented your 100 dates idea!! Congrats!!!! I also am very happy that you don’t take yourself too seriously and seem very down to earth and fun. I would like to accompany you on one of your 100 dates, WOW!! I’m down for any of the ones you haven’t done yet…!

I enjoy playing music and traveling very much – and look forward to talking about this more with you.

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Given that Radha was up for anything, I kept her in mind for a number of upcoming dates, but my April calendar was already filling up. I had subscribed earlier in the year for access to Hudson Union Society events, specifically because they often offered various speaking arrangements, and as I was trying to figure out what to do with Radha, I saw an email for an interesting discussion that they were putting on.

It was a month away, but journalist and author Peter Bergen was going to be speaking about Osama Bin Laden and the US response to tracking him down in the years that followed 9/11. It would also be a venue at which to promote his new book “Manhunt.” The event was on May 3rd at 7:15 p.m. in Midtown. It was a somewhat intense subject but I thought it might make for some interesting conversation at dinner afterwards, so I pitched the idea to Radha.

Her response was, verbatim, “SOUNDS AWESOME!!!! What a cool event! I’m excited, see you May 3rd!”

To say that she was enthusiastic would have been an understatement. Admittedly, her OkC user name had incorporated both the words “energy” and “radiant,” so it wasn’t surprising. In fact, it was entirely welcome.

Hudson Union Society events like this one, which would fulfill my notable individual giving a talk requirement, did not pop up too often and so I made sure to clear my calendar. In fact, I went pretty far out of my way to make this date happen. On this particular May night, I had both an improv rehearsal for my Magnet house team and I was also supposed to perform a system upgrade for a client at work. Normally, I’d have been able to run to rehearsal and then get to a computer in time for the upgrade, but I decided to skip rehearsal and have someone cover for me at work. It was a lot to ask, and definitely a drastic shifting of priorities, but the project was nearing its end and I had to make sure this thing got done.

It wasn’t until an hour before our date that the bad news struck.

Radha texted me at 6:15 p.m. to say that she had been stuck with something work related and probably wouldn’t be able to make the talk by 7:15 p.m. I told her that it was okay — these things happened —  and debated what to do in the wake of this news.

If she was not going to make it, should I even attend? Would this count for a date if Radha wasn’t at the actual event? I couldn’t really afford to cancel the date at this point in the project, as it would really set me back. Plus, all the rearranging I had done to clear my schedule would have been for not.

I was very frustrated by the whole situation, though I wasn’t upset with Radha — not at all — only the set of circumstances.

As I often did in times of confusion around the office, I consulted Phil, a very good friend and co-worker. He told me to just go — take the night off and enjoy something. It wasn’t improv, it wasn’t work and it wasn’t a date. It was just for me, he said, pointing out that most everything I did in my life revolved around one of those three things. It was a convincing point.

I decided to go to the event, to hear the Q&A with author Peter Bergen, and I left work shortly thereafter. The Hilton Hotel where it was taking place was only about a ten minute walk from my office and Radha texted me as I entered the lobby to confirm that she was definitely not going to make it. Well, what now? I thought. I asked her what time she would get to the Hilton if she decided to meet up with me afterwards. Up on the 45th floor of the hotel, in what they called their penthouse, I settled into my seat.IMG_1990

If Radha sounded hesitant about meeting up, or if her timing was crazy off, maybe I would try to find a date there in the penthouse. Sitting in the back left corner of the room, I saw many women there by themselves. It was interesting. I had never thought of a talk with a journalist as a good place to pick up women but there were many professional, good looking, no-ring-wearing women present.

According to our host for the evening, this whole thing would last a little over an hour, maybe an hour and a half. He brought Peter Bergen out and they had a little chat. Bergen was the first person, maybe only person, to ever interview Osama Bin Laden on television, back around 1998 maybe, before the Taliban committed the embassy bombings that would put him on the map. There was no YouTube back then and Bin Laden needed a media outlet to get his message across.

It was almost happenstance that Bin Laden’s media person had reached out to the media outlet where Bergen worked at the time, but since that initial interview, Bergen been an authority on Bin Laden and the Taliban. He told us that when he was asked to write this latest book, “Manhunt,” it only took him about a year to do so from start to finish because he was already so immersed in the subject matter.

Radha texted me back near the end of the Q&A, saying that she was in Midtown East, dressed in “intense Indian clothes and make up.” Huh. I hadn’t expected that. Maybe she was from India? In which case, we could transition our night to be my Foreign Person Date, perhaps? I texted her, asking if she was from India and decided that I might as well have dinner with her regardless. The date was a wash in regards to the chosen activity and grabbing dinner which Radha couldn’t possibly make it any worse.

IMG_1991The Q&A with the audience was as interesting as the first portion of the event. Someone asked why we had killed Bin Laden, rather than captured him, which seemed like a pretty valid question. Apparently, it had something to do with the fact that he didn’t give up peacefully, or vocally rather. I guess if he had said something like, “I surrender,” the SEALs would have had to take him in. Instead, he simply did nothing, and although there were guns near him, he didn’t make a move for them. Bergen painted a picture that made it seem as though Bin Laden had simply accepted his fate. I wasn’t sure if I believed all of that, but it was interesting to think about.

Given her last text message, I expected Radha to be arriving at the Hilton around 8:30 p.m. and I had told her to meet me in the lobby. I still had some time to kill, so when, as we filed out of the event space, the woman in front of me asked if I was going to get the book, I decided I would. I figured I would give it to my co-worker David, who had covered my upgrade that night. It would be a nice way to thank him.

This woman and I talked to each other all the way through the line. She was a journalist and had been coming to these Hudson Union Society events for a while now. I told her that I was new to the program, with this being the first event I’d attended. I also told her about my work and we discussed the Q&A for a little while. Not only did we both buy books, but we were also next to each other in line to have them signed by Bergen himself. She was very nice and I probably would have gone out with her.

It occurred to me that I totally could have landed a date at this event. Even if I’d gone after someone else, I think it would have been possible, what with the early hour and the number of single women there. We headed down to the lobby together and though it was almost quarter to nine, I still hadn’t gotten a confirmation from Radha. I had hung out with the line woman for at least 20 minutes, but I had to say goodbye to her in the lobby, as I was meeting someone else.

Radha was nowhere to be seen, so I waited a bit. Then I texted her. Still no response. Then I pulled out the big guns and called her. No answer. Despite the communication breakdown, I was sure that she had simply not been able to respond for some reasonable reason. I really had to pee, so after hanging out with some dad who was also waiting for a person to show up, I decided to use the bathroom. As I was finishing up, I felt my phone begin to vibrate in my pocket. Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait…Okay all done. I zipped up and reached into my pocket to answer the phone.

“Hello?” I answered. “Hi Evan! It’s [Radha]!!” she said on the other end of the line. I was sorry to hear that she didn’t have an accent, which meant she was unlikely to be my Foreign Person Date, and I told her that I was on the other side of the lobby. She was outside by the cab stand and so I hustled over (I DID NOT WASH MY HANDS) and exited through the front doors.

I hesitated in front of the hotel, looking all around for a woman dressed in full Indian garb, but couldn’t find her anywhere. I looked again to my left and saw a young Indian woman in plain clothes standing there, looking towards the hotel door. She looked over at me. She smiled! Radha came running towards me with a big smile and very apologetic words. Holy crap. She was so nice and it was immediately apparent.

Sometimes you could read a person very quickly and Radha was definitely this way. She spoke swiftly, telling me that she had been trying to find a cab for some time and that she hoped I enjoyed desserts because she had brought me a pastry from Financier Patisserie as an apology for missing the talk. Holy shit. She had just met me and this was so, so nice. And it seemed entirely genuine! I didn’t feel like she was trying to buy my favor nor was she flirting, or anything similarly over-reaching. No, she was just kind and thoughtful.

My entire perspective on the evening shifted within minutes and I found myself swept up in Radha’s radiant energy. It was infectious in the best of ways.

Well, what should we do? Eat dinner? Yeah, let’s do that. Okay, let’s walk this way.

We began to walk south and Radha asked me, “Do you like chocolate?” I loved chocolate, I told her. “Oh good!” she exclaimed as she motioned towards the pasty box she’d handed me minutes earlier. “It’s got some raspberry or something on it,” she continued.

I was loving this. Chocolate and raspberry? I could hardly think of a combination I enjoyed more. I opened the small pastry box to find a chocolate tart with raspberry jam and an actual raspberry on top, plus an elegant chocolate flake. This was amazing.

However, I didn’t really feel like carrying the box with me, so I asked Radha if it would okay if I ate it right then instead of saving it for later. I normally wouldn’t have done this, as it felt inequitable to eat a gift I’d just received while the other person ate nothing (and it was particularly odd to do while walking down the street), but something about Radha had immediately disarmed me. I wasn’t the uptight guy most dates knew me to be within minutes of meeting for the first time. There was something about how bright she was that really put me at ease and I found myself joking around with her immediately. For the record, she said I could dig right in.

As I started on the tart, I asked Radha to tell me about what had kept her at work. She told me that there was a fashion show at the United Nations, where she worked doing research on gender equality and HIV/AIDS as a part of a fellowship program, and that a co-worker involved in it had asked her to be a model for India. She thought she’d only have to try on the clothes and do a very brief rehearsal, but it had turned into a multi-hour venture. 

I encouraged her to take a bite of the pastry so she could enjoy it too. “It’s good, right?” I asked. Radha agreed.

We drifted west through Midtown and she asked me how the project was going. I told her that she was ruining the magic, to which she very quickly and very sincerely apologized. It was so sweet and I had to assure her that I had only been joking. We could totally talk about it. Gosh, she had such a good heart.

Radha asked which dates were left on the list and I told her that this one might be, as I hadn’t decided whether or not it would count. I had been thinking that maybe it could be transformed into Foreign Person Date, which was why I had asked her about being from India, or Street Food Date. She informed me that she was vegetarian, which meant that most Midtown street food was out of the question, and she was most definitely not foreign. Radha was actually from Buffalo, NY, which I found funny because Lata, the half-Indian/half-Native American woman I had gone out with a week earlier, her Native American mother was from a reservation near Buffalo. It was a funny coincidence to hear Buffalo come up twice in two consecutive dates, particularly in regards to people of different, albeit misappropriated, Indian heritages. They were also the only two predominantly Indian women I had been out with over the course of the project, so maybe that made it stand out even more.

As we neared Broadway and 51st Street, Radha asked me about my work and about improv. We talked about where we each lived briefly and then she asked me where I worked. I pointed out in front of us and said, “Right up here. I’ll show you in a minute when we walk past it.” Paramount Plaza came into view within about 30 seconds and she seemed mildly impressed that I worked in such a big Midtown office building. She worked at the UN though, so her place of work was far cooler than mine.

Passing by my building, I decided that I didn’t want to be carrying the book or brochure any longer, so I asked if she’d be willing to go up to my office, where I could drop off both at my desk. “Sure!” Radha replied and I quickly realized that she would be the first date I’d ever brought up to my office. Ariana had been there once before, but it was after we’d already known each other well and we weren’t dating at the time. Radha and Ariana were the only two outsiders I had ever brought up there though.

On our way into the building, we passed by my co-worker Lindsey whom I said hello to before asking her if anyone else was still working. “Just Goldhouse,” she said, unsurprisingly. We took the elevator up to the 30th floor and Radha asked about the hours that we kept at my company. I told her that it varied, but considering that it was just after 9 p.m., I was not surprised that at least one person was still there. Working late hours was par for the course and Goldhouse, in particular, was a golfer [Kill me for this joke].

I left the signed copy of “Manhunt” on David’s desk and Radha asked me where I sat. I showed her, dropping off my brochure in the process, and then we headed back out.

As we turned down 8th Avenue, I finally informed Radha that I had a restaurant in mind. She had figured as much, since I had so decisively walked away from the Hilton when we decided to have dinner, but it was nice of me to confirm. She asked if I was looking forward to being done with OHD and I told her that I was, but the main reprieve I desired was from the scheduling.

To give her an example, I told her about my plans for that night. As if she didn’t already feel bad enough about missing the talk, I told her that I had skipped a rehearsal and asked someone to cover for me at work. She was so embarrassed! I felt badly right away and told her not to worry. I had to reassure her a few times that I was happy to make those changes for the chance to go out with her and that I in no way blamed her for what had happened. However, it was the perfect example of how complicated my schedule could be sometimes.

Radha was so great that I was honestly happy that everything had worked out the way had. I already knew, after 20 minutes, that I liked her. We initially walked past the restaurant but a quick search on my phone remedied the confusion and we found Trattoria Trecolori soon enough. I’d been there once before with my team from work and had thought it was quite good.

Our waiter seated us right away and Radha was all smiles. Being all coy and shit, I asked, “What is your relationship with wine?” to which Radha replied that she could go for some. I suggested a bottle, if we thought we’d each have more than a glass, and she agreed that it seemed like a good idea.

She asked me about Boston, since we’d covered where I was from earlier, and I told her that I had lived at home for a while after college. Radha sympathetically said that it was not easy living at home and I agreed with her, perhaps a little too emphatically. I tempered my response by saying that it wasn’t so bad and that it had its advantages. When she then inquired as to what I hadn’t liked about living at home, I asked, “Do you really wanted me to get into it? It’s, like, serious.” She assured me that she was willing to hear whatever I wanted to share. I gave this a moment of consideration and then said, “Let’s order our meals first and then we can get to the real talk.”

Radha agreed and also apologized for being pushy, but I didn’t think that was a concern at all. I was more worried that my willingness to share sometimes made people uncomfortable, so I wanted to make sure she was ready for it before I gave her an earnest answer to her question. She said it was more than okay and told me that she was very open with people as well, so it would be fine. 

Our wine was delivered, tasted and poured. Radha and I toasted to our first date. Immediately thereafter, our orders were taken. Radha ordered ravioli with tomato sauce and I got a seafood risotto. She then did this cute thing where she took a piece of bread for herself, instinctually placed a piece of bread on my plate for me and then quickly took it back because she realized she had forced bread upon me. I reached over, took my originally gifted piece of bread and chuckled lightly, assuring her that while I appreciated her thoughtfulness, I did in fact want some bread.

With that, we dove headfirst into conversation. I told Radha about living at home in a post-dead mom era with a father who was seriously partnered up. There were a lot of challenges, arguments and odd moments in dealing with such a situation but, otherwise, it had been fairly convenient and I was left to my own devices most of the time. My dad wasn’t strict or anything, so that had always been nice. She seemed to understand, quite sincerely, how difficult that situation could be.

Since Radha had seemingly agreed that living at home would be tough, I asked why she wouldn’t want to live at home. Coincidentally, she also said it was her dad — he had cheated on her mother with multiple women. “Indian men,” I said, almost ignorantly, as I shook my head. She agreed with my expression of disbelief, but also, wanted to know why I would say that. I told her it was just a coincidence, but I’d gone out with an Indian woman a week earlier and her father had done the same thing. Radha’s parents were still together though. They were attempting to work through all of it with a therapist and she even conceded that her father had become a better dad because of it. That was good to hear and encouraging to know. I thought my dad had gotten better after a couple rough patches as well. 

We went on to talk about our siblings and discovered that the dynamic between my brother and I was very similar to the one between Radha and her younger sister. In talking about travel, she noted that I had had my list of “Top Places To Visit” down pat, which I told her made sense, because I was asked that question fairly often with all the dating I’d been doing. In regards to her next travel plans, Radha doubted she would stay in NYC after her fellowship ended that summer. She said might go to Kenya to work with a school, as a part of a program that her sister’s teacher was running. That sounded very cool — certainly better than the next weeklong vacation I might have planned.

Though our eating had come to a halt as we both filled up with food, we found that our conversation continued on unabated. We had plenty of wine left, so we worked on that for a while after our plates had been cleared. The waiter came several times for the check and we eventually took the hint, deciding to settle up. Radha wanted to pay for what she owed, but I told her that I’d be happy to pay because she had been such an awesome date. We decided to split it in the end and, even though she felt bad about messing up that night’s plans, I told her we were even. Heck, she had already provided dessert.

Although the night had begun stressfully, having dinner with Radha had really turned everything around. I thought she was so kind, open in conversation and a joy to be around. She expressed interest in coming to one of my improv shows and also invited me to her Cinco de Mayo party that coming Saturday, even though she guessed that I was probably busy (I was). Though I couldn’t make it to the party, I sure hoped she would come to a show in the near future, so that I could see her again. I thought that would be awesome.

On the way to the train, I playfully told her that I was upset she hadn’t shown up in her Indian dress from the fashion show. She laughed and reminded me that the invitation to the Bergen talk had said the event was business casual, and she had a point there. Still, I bet she would have looked pretty cool.

I walked with Radha down to the C train at 42nd Street and gave her a big hug goodbye, thanking her for a great night. I don’t think she would have hated me for kissing her but I also don’t think she was prepared for it either. Better to play it safe, I figured.

In the end, I decided to count this date because we had made an honest effort and merely fallen a bit short of expectations. I asked friends if it should count and everyone agreed that it should. Ultimately, I had gone to the event in question, which my date had missed to no fault of her own, and we met up afterwards for dinner. We would have hardly spoken to each other at the event and, though I didn’t write much about it, I had filled Radha in on the details of the Q&A. All in all, it was the effort that counted and we had done pretty damn well with this one, all things considered.