To be fair, there were some warning signs that this guy was not going to be The Guy. I once asked him to name what five books he would choose if he could only read those five books for the rest of his life, he listed: two Dan Brown books, a Michael Crighton book, a book about sports and…nothing. He literally could not list a fifth book. This was a conversation by text, too, so he wasn’t on the spot. He could have looked up a book, named a book he had no interest in, or even invented a book. I never would have known that he hadn’t read it, or that he didn’t want to. There was not going to be a quiz. As an avid reader and obsessive book hoarder, this should have horrified me. Does he really not even know the names of five books?
Sign number two should have been that, when talking about his past sexual experiences (which I did not ask about), he wrote that he had “seen various breasts”. Not various pairs of breasts. And not even specific individual breasts. Of course, I immediately pictured some sort of live-action version of a Picasso, a pastiche of unidentified breasts bobbing around geometric shapes. It also should have worried me a bit that he never mentioned that they belonged to any particular women, or women he was dating. They may have belonged to strangers, or just been faceless women on the internet. But for whatever reason, he was unable to attach the idea of the female body to…actual females.
Perhaps the stress of the two-date fiasco affected my judgment, but I made plans to meet this guy at a Thai restaurant in my town (at one point I mentioned that we had a lot of Indian restaurants, and he vehemently opposed that. Another missed warning sign. I might be an idiot). He gets lost on the way there, and I stand in the parking lot watching him make an illegal u-turn. We order, and pick at my food while we talk about our jobs, since I’ve just come from working with a ten year old who thinks it’s okay to take people’s phones, or slam their computers closed in their faces. I make sure to leave long pauses so that he can talk about his own work, but the pauses drag because he has nothing interesting to say, except about how he hates his job because all of his customers are cheap Indians. This is a stereotype I hear a lot, since my town is predominantly Indian, and all of the students I work with are also Indian. I try to ignore it, and figure he’s just frustrated with his situation because he’s basically working in a glorified customer service job.
I forget how it came up, since I was rambling a lot in order to keep some form of conversation going, but I mentioned seeing pictures from an event called “corgi beach day”. I happen to love corgis, and always enjoy pictures of them running or jumping around. They’re just so spectacularly funny looking! Anyway, this event appeared to be just a bunch of corgi owners gathered at a beach, and their dogs frolicking and making friends with other dogs. None of them were dressed in frilly dog outfits, or posing as hot dogs. Just dogs and owners, chillin’. The guy’s face dropped. “Why would anyone go to something like that?” he asked. “I would be embarrassed to be seen at something like that.”
I stared back at him. “Really? Why? It’s just some people with their dogs. No one’s doing anything inappropriate or illegal.”
He shakes his head. “It’s just so…ridiculous.”
I sigh. “Well,” I say, “I’d go. I wouldn’t be embarrassed about it. It seems like fun.” A minute of silence. At this point, I’ve finished two glasses of water, and the waitress has no intention of refilling my glass again. I don’t even have ice cubes left in the glass to poke at. I stare at the grain of the table and move my food around with my fork.
It sounds silly that this kind of thing would be a dealbreaker for me, but it was. I like to do goofy things, and I need to be with someone who’s willing to do said goofy things with me. I want someone around who encourages that side of me, not someone who will roll his eyes at my ideas or laugh them off. Also, how boring and serious is this guy that he thinks a gathering of dogs is embarrassing? There are people in banana suits standing on street corners to advertise smoothies. There are naked cowboys, and people who wear crocs to work. I’ve gone to work in One Fish, Two Fish pajamas, a taco costume, and with a twin dummy strapped on my back. My threshold for embarrassing behavior is pretty high, and I need a guy who isn’t going to run at the first sign of weirdness.
At some point, the waitress brings us the check, and I whip out my wallet. He offers to pay, and I shake my head and take out cash to cover my half of the bill. More silence. I push my straw around my empty glass. “I think the restaurant wants us to leave. They won’t refill my water.”
“Well,” he says, smirking, “you don’t have to obey their rules.”
Why does he want to prolong this torture? Is time passing more quickly for him? Are we living in alternate universes, and his is enjoyable, while mine is tedious and painful? In his mind, are we actually playing with fluffy bunnies while eating chocolate-covered strawberries and listening to the soft trills of a distant harp?
So I do something dumb, and something I though I would never do. I tell him that I should really be getting home. That my mom worries. It’s 9:30 at the latest. To be fair, the first time I went out with this guy, my mom did text me during the date to make sure I’d made it back from NYC safely. We leave the restaurant, say curt goodbyes, and never hear from each other again. Phew.