I was getting coffee with a 22 year-old actor from a small town outside Providence. We had discussed this before: his suburban values, if I had ever been to the Orient. It was the first date I’d ever go on and the proper mingling etiquette had eluded me. His name was Steve. It wasn’t really, but it was a monosyllabic name and started with an “S.” Steve, if you’re reading this, I hope you understand that I can’t protect you. Still, in my attempt to firmly grasp at the reins of my life and establish a sense of adult-like culpability, I will say that it wasn’t entirely you.
You expect to have a really pleasant first date. After all, your parents met that way, blind, oblivious to the fact that all it really takes is bread and butter and a couple of tell-me-about-yourselfs to know if someone is worth anything. This is what I had expected, despite the unconventional way we had met. I messaged you on OkCupid, the popular dating app. I said, “I like the button down in your pic” and we talked for a couple of days. This is were I made my first mistake, not exactly a fatal error, but a misjudgment that says a lot about my values, what I had thought to be important about a person. You told me you liked the same bands and we talked about Godard and how we both didn’t really understand How I Met Your Mother. Nevertheless, the foundations of a relationship cannot be measured in mutual disinterests, or even interests, but in something more fundamental, simple. Perhaps in a mutual desire for each other’s company?
I was ready to fall in love when we met at a coffee shop where they served cappuccinos without the heart-shaped foam. It didn’t matter that you chose such a place, but this nonetheless crossed my mind when I began to sip the hot liquid out of a Styrofoam to-go cup. I noticed you first. You were about 6 foot 4 inches tall. You were growing out a beard too, reddish whiskers. You also had a paunch, a protruding thing that could not be seen in your photos. No matter, I thought. I am not the type of person who will run away from such things, I thought. This is the person I am going to love, I thought.
It’s not that I am naïve or excessively romantic. I am both, but you talk to someone for two days on the Internet and you truly begin to believe that everything else will follow in suit. You’ll talk about light things first: your high school, your Netflix queue, your inability to stay hard if the other person isn’t too. Then you’ll progress onto other topics: the first time someone broke your heart, your mother’s addiction to Candy Crush, your father’s inability to see you as anything more than a tax deduction. It never happens in such ways.
We sat down in a tiny, two-seater. I asked you about your summer because it was September and it seemed appropriate and not out of the blue. You told me that you worked at a winery in Tuscany or somewhere in France. I want to say Bordeaux, but that seems obvious. You talked like this for a while, animated, your hands making cute little actor-y gestures. You told me about your hometown, that you knitted the socks you were wearing. “Show me!” But, Steve. Dude. Man. You asked nothing about me. A date isn’t like a friendship where you ask a buddy how their day was only because you want them to ask you back. There’s an expected quid pro quo. I could have told you about my house, my parent’s decision to cut the vines growing on the outside, the fact that hot liquid–including this coffee–irritated my wisdom teeth, which I hadn’t yet gotten removed. This isn’t what I wanted from you, or from anyone for that matter. I expected great things, a two bedroom two bath, a fucking bidet…
I’ve been on multiple dates since. I am not a serial dater nor am I a complete recluse who has abandoned all hope of finding something “good and safe.” The thing about dating (and maybe about me) is that there is so much wish fulfillment going on. Either things will go swell or they will go sour. Either you’ll meet again at a better place with better coffee or you’ll go home to your roommates, the streaming sites that your parents pay for.
I wanted to share this experience not only because I find it comical, revealing and somewhat sad (in its results)–more so in the way that I built up a person, almost as if he were a Lego figurine that accompanied the Sydney Opera House set my grandmother had given me when I was younger–but also because I still want to share a bidet with someone sweet.