Who doesn’t love a good bad date story? I practically live for them. I love these stories, even when they happen to me. I’ve had a few bad dates, like the guy who looked like a Dutch explorer and the guy who “forgot” his wallet, and the first date wedding date, but none really take the cake like the very first real-life-from-online date that I went on. This particular bad date happened a few years ago. I’m talking pre-Tinder/Bumble/Hinge dating apps: The worst date that I’ve ever been on happened when I was ~*younger*~, yes, but overall, it happened when I was much more patient, naive, and willing to ignore the first few red flags. God, I can look back now and laugh – and I do – and this is one of the stories that my friends love to hear, and I’m even asked to retell it to them every once and awhile. There are even some details that I forget about and they remind me. So, folks, I know that misery loves company: let me set the stage for you as I tell you about the worst date that I’ve ever been on.
(Quite) a few years ago, I had left my first teaching position and began working at another district. It was much more enjoyable as I was now at a bigger school with more employees, and these employees were actually around my own age. Soon, I became an indoctrinated member of a game that my new coworkers loved to play. That particular game was called “Why Are You Still Single…? Let Me Set You Up Online/With My Boyfriend’s Friend/Cousin/Brother’s Friend/Etc”. Have you ever played? It was played every week and usually came to fruition at happy hour. (If you don’t know, teachers LOVE happy hour.) At one particularly sauced Friday session, the liquid courage that coursed through my veins took over, and I vaguely remember handing a new coworker my phone. The next thing I knew, I had been signed up for Plenty of Fish dot com and the rest of my evening was spent cringing as my coworkers created my profile and helped me send out some messages.
It’s my personal belief that online dating is fueled by the satisfaction that one gets from matching and messaging. Not only is it an instant ego boost, but it’s also a serious rush of adrenaline. It’s also my personal belief that there are a lot of funny looking (freaks and weirdos) people out there, so one has to some have time and endurance to take online dating seriously. Hindsight is 20/20 and I did not understand this at 26. Over the course of the first weekend that dove headfirst into online dating, I matched, messaged, and vibed with three guys. But one guy, in particular, I really liked.
I’m going to call this guy Frank – why, I don’t know – but Frank it is. Anyway, Frank and I were the same age, his pictures featured him and his family, a dog, kayaking, and his one picture had him staring at a huge slice of pizza like one might stare at a newborn baby or a puppy. He revealed that he was 5’9”, a lawyer, agnostic, and looking for a relationship. Overall, our conversation was peppered with just enough adoration and witty banter. I was off to the races as I agreed to a date with him at the end of the upcoming week – a Thursday happy hour (again, teachers love them some happy hour) at a place in between our two respective locations. And here’s where I should have started really paying attention.
The first hitch in the giddy-up was deciding where to go: Frank suggested a wine bar. While a wine bar is an excellent choice, and something that I would indeed very much like, I lived in an odd part of the state. We have plenty of chain restaurants, many private BYOB places, and one decent place to go, but that place is always packed and I used to work there as a(n incredibly shitty) waitress. I did not want to shit where I used to eat, and since finding a wine bar was out, and there were little suggestions coming from Frank, I suggested going to Chili’s. And do you know what his response was? “Ew, no.” As I think back on it now, there should have lightning and a clap of thunder to foreshadow the upcoming shitshow. Oh, you’re “too good for Chilis?” Sure, Jan. Finally, after some back and forth, during which I said to find another place with an array of margaritas, we decided to look in a different town, and it was settled to go to a place that for the sake of the story will be known as ‘Carter Cantina.’
When I headed into work on Monday, my coworkers wanted to know how my first weekend of online dating went, and when I divulged, I think they were 8000 times more excited than I was, especially when I told them that I had actually set up a date for the end of that very week. When I told them the details, including where I was going, one commented, “Oh wow, that’s a really fancy – like really fancy – place.” And that’s when I slowly realized that I had unknowingly agreed to a first date at the most expensive restaurant in a ten-mile radius. In this particular town, there are seven (7) different restaurants with first names involved, and three (3) of them begin with a hard C/K sound. One of these places is a complete dive, but they usually have good music, the best prices in the town, and pretty darn good wings. I mistakenly had thought that this was the place that we were going, but I was very wrong. Classic mix-up!
Really, what was I expecting? Frank had shitcanned Chili’s faster than you can say Baby-Back-Ribs. So even though I was feeling slightly suspect over the whole, I shook it off and chalked it up to the fact that I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. This guy was trying to take me somewhere nice, and I shouldn’t be a judgemental bitch about it. So as Thursday rolled around, I packed some nicer attire, put on my big girl panties, and went about my day. After all, what could really go wrong on a first date?